This isn’t an educational post – I haven’t written about how to gain independence, these are simply my experiences and feelings about it all.
Independence. It’s an interesting concept when it comes to T1. It’s an interesting concept without T1 too but I’m not experienced in that area so I’ll stick to what I know!
What is independence? When should you/will you get independence? Do you want independence? Is independence safe? How do you get independence?
Life is supposed to be pretty straight forward. All these questions are supposed pretty easy. “When you’re ready you’ll know” or something similar is the typical answer to most of those questions. You hit teenager and start to meet up with friends on your own, have your own house keys, make your own way to school, start using public transport alone etc. Eventually you’ll move out and go to uni or something of the sort. Simple, right? Try throwing T1 in the mix and it gets a tad more complex.
Google defines ‘Independence’ as:
The fact or state of being independent.
Personally, I don’t think that one is very helpful at explaining what it means…. so I searched again. Dictionary.com shed a little more light on the matter.
‘Independence’ is, according to Dictionary.com:
1. not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself: an independent thinker.
2. not subject to another’s authority or jurisdiction; autonomous; free
3. not influenced by the thought or action of others
So these subdefinitions all head along the same lines – it’s freedom from others essentially. But how does all this relate to T1 or differ from the norms?
Well, I’ve had problems with independence since I was about 13. Simply because that’s when I started wanting it. At that stage a large portion of my friends were walking to school together, with their own house keys and own agendas (that seemed) completely different to their parents’. I loved the idea of that! We were choosing our GCSE options at school during this time so if I was being asked to make these huge decisions about my future, surely I could just walk down the road unsupervised? Right?
All things like walking to various places by myself posed the same problem (and still does). Hypos. Walking just crashes me, I can be perfectly fine wandering down the street and decide to pause and test and I’ll be 2.1. It’s not every time, but it’s enough to be a concern. So how could I possibly walk home with people who weren’t equipped to deal with lows like that, who didn’t know to make the decision to stop and sit when I would want to blindly carry on? (Yes, I’m one of those people that would carry on as to not be a bother to others. It’s stupid but true…) I just wouldn’t be safe. (Plus I’m a complete ditz and was rubbish at keeping in contact with my mum so she was never sure where I was or how I was doing). So I got very jealous of my friends and their independence. There were countless other examples that I just used to get frustrated by, as I know I have friends who reached certain stages of independence years before me.
Issues with my independence, or my perceived lack of independence, have evolved with my lifestyle. Now it’s all about alcohol, travelling by myself and university arrangements amongst other things. Probably the biggest annoyance is getting around by public transport. Although I’m very grateful my mum plays taxi most of the time, I badly wanted to be able to walk up to the station, get the train there and go and socialise. As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve had the opportunities to do that so this is no longer an issue for me thankfully.
However, I’m constantly striving for more independence and to not need help. But it’s so difficult when in the back of your mind you know if you have a hypo, a severe one, there will be a problem. It’s not just the severity of hypos with the dangers and consequences of them, but it’s also the symptoms of lows affecting judgment, coordination, the ability to think and know what you’re doing. At that point you’ll definitely need help. The thing is, when you’re trying desperately to gain independence and yet it feels like so much is stopping you, it feels extremely limiting. Those are the times that I really feel like T1 does affect my life and my capabilities.
Even if it’s due to the safety issues of walking as a teenage girl or travelling in the evening, even if it is simply down to, for instance, there being a train strike so I can’t get from A to B by myself logistically it will feel like it’s my diabetes stopping me. It always boils back down to T1 even when it is only a tiny factor in a bigger problem or not involved at all. It is always in the background making me think twice about every plan I make or pushing obstacles in my way so it will always be the issue in my mind. It’s very frustrating.
But, when I really sit and think about it I feel like independence isn’t complete self sufficiency. It’s not independence when you’re away from your parents or when you’ve been shopping with friends without any hypos during your travels. (Well, it is – but it’s not always only that). I think it is options. Independence to me isn’t deliberately choosing to be alone because that’s silly, it’s using the resources available to me to stay safe and having the option and the tools to be alone and have my own life separate from others but equally if someone is offering to be with you or help you, taking that opportunity. That’s still independence because you’ve chosen that of your own free will. Plus all the time I rant about wanting more independence or feeling limited, I do have independence. I am free to make choices about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. I’ve noticed that the ability to do that and wanting to do that will happen at different ages for different people, when they feel ready they pursue it more and gain those experiences that develop that independence, then they will find their independence.
So, I think independence isn’t necessarily actions, it’s a feeling. It’s a feeling that comes and goes with what is happening and how much help or support I need but it always is there and is always growing as I go forward in my life. I might be alone or I might need someone there for my safety or even just want the company and feeling of security. But either way who’s to say that I’m not being independent? I chose that path myself.
I realise this was a waffley post, but it’s a bit of a waffley subject to me! So please feel free to ask me any questions. Please don’t forget to like, comment and share:):)