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  • In the summer of 2011, my family decided to join a land tour of Greece as well as stop by in Istanbul, Turkey, for a few days since we had to transit there anyways on the flights to Greece and back.

    On the long flight back, we decided to have our dinner at a cafeteria in the Istanbul airport. From my memory, it reminded me of the IKEA cafeteria, but I may be wrong. A lot happens in the mere span of two years. The food was decent, like a cheap buffet, and we sat down to our meals at one of the corners of the seating area. I didn't notice the couple at the table right in front of us, at first.

    After we finished our airport dinner, I had to do my injection. As I got the kit out, my mum pointed to the man at the table opposite us, and saw that he had the exact same flex pen as I did, and he was doing his injection out in public, on the right side of his stomach. When I looked up to see what she was describing, he just finished his injection and was pulling the small needle out of his stomach. I watched.

    Even though I still went to the bathroom to do my own injection after that, I remembered what my mum described; what I saw.

    And I wanted to learn from it.

    Immediately the next time I had to do my injection, I told my parents I wanted to do it in public. No more hiding in toilets or changing rooms or whatever.

    No more.
    No more.

    When school began at the end of August, that was what I did during lunch times. My friends were surprised, intrigued, and accepting of it, I guess. All at once. I just began doing it in public. I realised that I didn't want to keep hiding it from people, like I was embarrassed by something I am born with and have no control over whether I wanted it or not. I didn't want to treat diabetes like a weakness, you know? By hiding it, it was admitting to everyone but most of all, admitting to myself that people could hurt me if I revealed it to them.

    Truth is, nobody can hurt me with my disease. Why? Because I control it. They don't.

    I had bad experiences in year 7 and 8 (grade 6 and 7). My mum didn't want her friends to be questioning her about me and basically, "what was wrong with me". They were the sort of friends that would ask her in detail about my chronic disease and would secretly revel in her "bad luck" of having a kid with a disease, like a permanent defect that rendered the child unable to do well in anything in life. In year 8, somehow, word got around that there was someone in the year with diabetes and one of the boys went around asking everyone if they had it. One day, he came and asked me. Of course, I denied, just like everyone else. What was I supposed to say? I just said what my mum told me to say all the time. Just pretend like you don't have it and do your injection in the bathroom. Simple.

    The injections were simple. The psychology of having and living with it, not really. I was embarrassed because the boy asked me if I had it in a very condescending way, and I was afraid that if I admitted to it, everyone would know and look down on me for it. Pity me. Treat me differently, like a freak, like I'm not normal and can't do the things that they do. Any change, really, I was scared of. I had a pretty good reputation back then so I didn't want anything to happen. Year 8 was still a young age to accept any big changes.

    In 2011, I was ready. More ready than I was, a few years ago. And my views on my own diabetes was different from my parents. I understand their protective intentions about my disease, but here's what I think of it:

    It's not my weakness. It's my strength. It was my strength all along and I just never noticed it until that time in the cafeteria of an airport, when a stranger showed me that there was nothing to be embarrassed of; that if you accept and love yourself, you don't need anyone else to do it too.
    Some of the things I do, I do them because of my diabetes. And I would not swap it out for a life without it. A life without diabetes. It's close enough for me to imagine, but I don't want it.

    This is an expression of gratitude to that man who showed me that my disease is not something I should be embarrassed or afraid of. It's part of me, and I should learn to love and accept it as well. Thank you, stranger.
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