For those that were diagnosed at an age where they both remember their friendships before and after diagnosis, teens can often realize how different they can be treated. We spoke to Klaire (16) about her experiences with friendships, as she was diagnosed only three years ago.
Do you feel like most of your friends understand your diabetes?
“I feel like my friends get the concept of diabetes. But, I don’t think they understand the severity of it. Like, when I leave the classroom to check my blood sugar they think that I am leaving to skip class. But what they do not understand is that I’m really going to check my blood sugar and get a juice box because I’m low. They don’t understand that if I don’t leave something bad can happen.”
How do your friends demonstrate that they care about your diabetes?
“When I was first diagnosed my best friend helped a lot when I was low. She would do anything in her power to get me what I needed. But, now she sees it as a peeve of hers. When I’m low at school and I have run out of juice boxes and I need to borrow a dollar, she won’t give one to me (which is understandable) and she will tell me I am irresponsible. Then she will go to the vending machine and get something for her self and I can’t have anything. My friends used to care. But, now I feel like they think it’s old news and they are tired of it. I do always have juice on me, however, once in a blue moon I don’t and I turn into the most irresponsible person ever, so they say.”
When you were diagnosed did any of your friends shy away because of your diabetes? Did you lose any friends?
“I didn’t particularly lose friends. At first I guess I gained some friends because they felt sorry for me, but then they ran off. I really have only one good close friend, she’s my best friend of 11 years and we don’t do anything without each other. She didn’t shy away but her parents where nervous to have me over at first.
How did you explain to your friends that you had diabetes?
“Usually when I explain to my friends that I have diabetes I take out my pump and I explain what it does. I also tell them how I need insulin to live. I go to a small school, so they know I have diabetes, but they all don’t understand what it is.”
When you meet new people (potential friends) do you tell them you have diabetes right away, wait for it to come in conversations or not tell them at all?
“My pump is always in a visible spot. I don’t usually bring it up unless we are about to eat and I don’t want to freak them out by just taking out my meter and checking my blood sugar. Usually people say, ‘Oh what’s that on the side of you? Is that a step counter?’ Then, that’s when I feel like I need to tell them about my diabetes.”
Do you feel like having diabetes limits your ability to hang out with your friends as often or participate in the same activities as them? If so, how?
“I don’t feel diabetes stops me from hanging out with my friends, but it does stop me from doing activities that they do while we hang out. Like, when they want to go swimming and I don’t really want to disconnect my pump for that long I feel left out. Or when my friend says, “hey, let’s go gets some ice cream and cupcakes.” That’s when I feel really left out. Whenever we go out and eat I always feel like the odd ball out of the group. I don’t order things with many carbs at all. I don’t like eating carbs because I hate what they do to me. I have an obsession with having a good A1c (5.6) and I don’t want it to be messed up by eating something stupid like cake. But, I will take a bite and when I take a bite people freak out and say things like, “OHHH NO, you can’t eat that can you?” I get very upset, because I feel like I have explained this whole situation eighteen million times and they still don’t get it. I’m at the point where I would rather stay home and do nothing then to go hang out with people because they are always judging my diabetes.