I have been meaning to write this blog post for a little while now but have never found the time or the right moment, but in light of Sierra Sandison, a type 1 diabetic who recently won 'Miss Idaho 2014' walking out onto the stage wearing a swimsuit and her insulin pump and posting the photo on facebook; I figured this is probably about the right time to talk about this particular subject.
Sierra posted the photo of her walking down the runway, insulin pump in tow, and wrote how she finally faced her fears and showed off her insulin pump...proudly. From being a part of Type One Teens and (obviously) being a diabetic myself, I know a lot of people feel ashamed or embarrassed of their insulin pump and they don't like to show it, and choosing clothes can be a struggle because anything that shows off their pump is out of the question, and it frustrates me. It makes me frustrated that society's idea of being "beautiful" and "fitting in" means that people who wear insulin pumps feel alienated and their insulin pump makes them feel ugly. It's not true. And it frustrates me even more because an insulin pump is not all that a person is and it most definitely does not define a person's value or their beauty.
I've seen various posts on Type One Teens from some of the girls talking about how they feel ashamed of their insulin pumps- and it might be easier for me to say this and realise this because I personally see no shame in my pump but I used to feel a bit embarrassed when I first got it, but this is what I've told them.
I think of it as though nobody can even see my insulin pump. When I'm out in public I just continue with whatever I'm doing, and there have been many times when I've been out in public and caught people blatantly staring at my insulin pump. It's curiosity. They are most probably looking at it trying to guess what it is, I can almost guarantee that they are not looking at it thinking "That's really ugly" or "That thing on her waist ruins her outfit". When I see people staring at it I either look back at them or I do nothing; I don't move it away, I don't cover it up, I do nothing. Perhaps if I see someone staring at it I should stare at the water bottle in their bag or at their phone- they're normal everyday things, right? They're nothing out of the ordinary, and if someone caught me staring they would probably wonder why I'm staring at something that really isn't all that interesting...that's probably what most of us as diabetics feel like to some extent when our medical devices are being stared down by a random stranger in public, because medical devices like insulin pumps and blood sugar meters are a diabetic's "normal" and I think of it as, my "normal" diabetes life does not stop in public, it continues outside of my house regardless of how peculiar my actions may look- and it frustrates us so much and makes us feel so self-conscious about it because for us giving insulin and checking blood sugar is a part of our daily lives, just as checking e-mail on the train is a part of someone else's daily life. (Although diabetes management is a bit more important than emails- but I'm hoping you get the idea of what I'm trying to say)
At times I like showing my insulin pump, when I look down at it it's a reminder of just how hard I fight everyday to be healthy and I'm proud of that. Plus an insulin pump is a major part of the battle with type one diabetes so embrace it for being such a fabulous piece of equipment! Here is another way of looking at it, random strangers in public do not know that you wear an insulin pump, so they most probably won't be looking for one! And even if they do notice it sitting on your waist or stuck to your arm just continue what you're doing- do not let your thoughts wander into a mad frenzy of "Oh my goodness my pump must look really bad right now!" or "How can I hide it, they must be judging me". Never ever forget that an insulin pump does not define you as a person, it is a small part of you, not the whole picture- and I can guarantee that most of the time, if not all the time, when someone looks at you they see you as you, and not as someone who wears an insulin pump.
You do not need to be ashamed, nor do you need to feel embarrassed of a medical device that is part of the reason that you're even able to go out in public and enjoy your life. And don't ever feel like an insulin pump makes you any less beautiful, because besides the beauty in your face, beauty is found in your general personality, strength, your courage and your ability to handle a life with type one diabetes with grace and your head held high.