I have a secret.
It’s the worst kept secret in the history of secrets though. Everybody (well, everybody I know) already knows it.
The secret is this: I have type 1 diabetes.
This means my pancreas stopped producing insulin, a hormone used to get glucose from your blood into your cells (around my 8th birthday, actually; great present, pancreas!) and so I have to inject it myself.
It’s actually a lot more complicated than that, and the upshot is.. I technically am disabled. People often scoff when they find out, saying things like ‘you’re not disabled!’ ‘you’re perfectly capable!’ and the reality is, 98% of the time I am a (almost) fully functioning human being with a machine attached that beeps occasionally (my insulin pump, Derek, in case you were wondering).
The other 2% of the time though, my blood glucose is either too high, in which case I am grumpy and irritable, I can’t focus and I forget to do things like inject and make myself better, or my blood glucose is too low, which in the short term is much more dangerous because I grow confused and shaky, forget things like what I should do (how to swallow, drink and loss of motor skills are the most scary) or my Mum’s number so I can call for help. It’s in this 2% of the time that it is most obvious that I need extra support. Thankfully, because this happens and the government acknowledges that, I can (and do!) get a lot of support for things like taking notes, storing my medication and little things like that.
I had to apply for Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) after I had got my letter from Student Finance. There was an assessment of needs and a lovely chat with my co-ordinator Patricia where we agreed what I’d get. The most important one (for me, anyways) was my little fridge, which sits under my desk. In this fridge I have 6 boxes containing vials of insulin and several bottles of Lucozade (because it tastes better when it’s cold and hypo-Elli prefers cold Lucozade). Occasionally it might have some chocolate in it as well 😉 I also get extended deadlines in case I have been too high or too low and so can’t work, extra exam time in case I go high or low in an exam, and I’m allowed to re-take exams without the 40% cap-rate (a pass) if I had a particularly bad day or week preceding the exams.
Really though, all it means is that I have extra support so that I can complete my University education just like any one else, and do all the student-y things I would like to. Personally, it has taken me a while to adjust to the whole ‘going out’ thing, but that’s a personal preference. I actually plan to do a pub crawl in the near future (probably after exams!) so that I can evaluate the best pubs for my new role as SSAGS Pub Officer 😉