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October 26, 2016
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What Type of Vampire Is Your Diabetes?

In his initial post as Diabetes OC featured blogger, Christopher Snider (@iam_spartacus) writes about many personal traits which define him. At the end of the litany he states that not one of is self-identifiers is "person with diabetes", noting that it is not "the defining characteristic of my core".


Many of us believe that we are not defined by our diabetes. Others, who have lived with diabetes since before they were old enough to remember, find that diabetes is a defining characteristic, in that their personalities and psychological development was shaped by being a young child having to cope with a chronic autoimmune disease. It almost sounds like it could be a perverse children's argument (--"I am not my diabetes!" -- "Are too!") that could go on ad nauseam, or more likely, ad hypoglycemia or ad DKA.


It's kind of odd for me to associate "TV vampires" and "diabetes", as I'm not that much of a "vampire" fan -- but if there's one thing I'm known for, it's making strange connections. In this case, the connection is the variation in how a vampire is defined and understood from fictional universe to fictional universe.


In Forever Knight -- my introduction to vampire-based fiction --Nick, Lacroix, Janette, and the other vampire characters are pretty much the people they were before they were "brought across" (made into vampires). They retain the memories and prejudices of their human (pre-vampire) lives. While fans argue about how effectively they are able to adapt to modern philosophies, legal constructs, moral sensibilities, and aesthetics, the characters are essentially human, with the characteristics of vampirism overlaid. The characters themselves argue about whether the vampiric aspect of their mutated physical selves -- "the vampire", in Nick's terms -- is separate from their psyches or souls, and whether or not they actually have souls. It is a similar construct to those of us who consider diabetes to be a factor in our behaviors and (to a lesser degree) our outlooks on life and the way we adapt to life, but who do not consider it to be the overwhelming factor in our self-identification.


Contrast this with the vampires in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off, Angel. I've not followed the series, so I may get some of the details wrong, but the analogy should still hold. For the most part, Buffy-verse vampires are demon spirits who have inhabited human bodies and have either suppressed or destroyed the psyches and experiences of the humans who originally inhabited those bodies. The exceptions -- vampires like Angel who were "cursed" by having souls, and therefore some level of conscience, are the oddities whose presence is meant to help develop the main, mostly high-school-aged, human characters. In Buffy, the demon is the vampire, and the demon is the person. It is the "I am my diabetes; my diabetes defines me" philosophy.


I don't expect there to be much argument against a childhood diagnosis having a significant impact on one's psychological development. Children with diabetes don't have as many options of spontaneity or of disobedience as their normoglycemic peers. Some part of them has to be "grown up" -- at least enough to understand the need to check their blood glucose levels, how to draw up and administer injections (or operate their pumps), how to count carbs, and how to correct for highs and lows; also, to learn to put up with the discomfort of self-care and the feelings of social isolation that these processes can engender. At least in this sense, they indeed are their diabetes, as their diabetes has formed and shaped them.


Those of us who were diagnosed later in life may have a different outlook. We may have the defiant attitude of vampires who were "turned" or "brought across" against their will, or the reluctant attitude of someone who found out that an eternity of nights is not all it was cracked up to be. "Diabetes", regardless of how we address the issues of self-care, is something separate from us. We may be defiant enough to consider it to be a separate being, occupying the same space as our physical bodies and getting in the way of us living the life we want to live.


We may, however, just consider it a new aspect of our existing beings. And just as the "more well-adjusted" vampires in the Forever Knight universe see the limitations of their nocturnal lifestyles in the context of their enhanced physical powers, so too do some of us see the limitations of living with diabetes in the light of enhanced understanding of our personal health and our ability to live healthy lives.

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