To celebrate International Women’s Day 2022 we caught up with Talia Baussmann who shared her story with us.
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I was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes when I was 12 years old, right after year seven school camp. I knew nothing about the illness, besides its apparent connotation with jellybeans and “being overweight”.
So, for me at 25kgs, having “diabetes” was not on the cards. We had no family history, no indicators from GPs, that this would be a possibility. I had only received one or two comments on how thin I was, and they were not from a place of concern. My dark under-eyes and paler – than – usual complexion was brought down to the newness and stress of starting high school. My thirst never ended and my trips to the bathroom were frequent. I, once a star student, could no longer concentrate in class and found myself spaced out most of the time. Older kids would stare or smile at me sympathetically, without any idea of what was wrong with me.
“On the bus back from school camp, I desperately asked everyone if they had water. They did not. I texted my parents “Please bring a big bottle of water with ice!”. They forgot. An innocent mistake which at the time, felt like death.”
No amount of liquid would fix the dry, scraping feeling in my throat. I stayed home the next few days after, as I had developed what seemed to be the flu. Water tasted like metal and food made me ill. I had to lie down after walking upstairs, as I was so out of breath. Little did I know, this minor cold had kicked-off the disease that had been hiding in me for months, waiting for a push.
I have found that many people, including GPs and some doctors, still don’t know that much about Type One Diabetes and some aren’t so educated on the disease. Which is why it’s so frightening that when I visited the GP, they did not even think to test my blood sugar, but rather diagnosed me with pneumonia, prescribed me with antibiotics, advised lots of sleep and sent me on my way. If I had not kicked up a fuss, forced my parents to take me to the hospital and trusted my gut that night, it was likely I would not have woken up the next morning. I entered the hospital and was seen promptly. I was finger-pricked and diagnosed within minutes. The doctors explained that I was close to being comatose and was in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), my blood had become acidic.
“Upon entering the hospital, I knew nothing about Type One Diabetes, my friends knew nothing about Type One Diabetes, my family only knew bits and pieces. And now, I had been given a whole new life to study and fail and succeed at.”
One of the worst parts of the disease, is how little is known about it. I am constantly asked ignorant, uneducated questions that stem from years of stigma and false narratives shown in the media. I want to answer respectful, curious questions, if people are willing to listen, to educate others, be supportive and try their best to end their internal stereotypical ideals about diabetes. There needs to be more education on this disease, it has too long been associated with Type Two Diabetes and/or being overweight, not exercising or being older. There is no real cause for Type One Diabetes as far as we know, it was mostly luck and genetics. If I had known a little more, if my GP had asked me a few more questions, thought of the possibility of the disease… I may have just got in a little earlier, a little less sick.
I have many creative and intellectual outlets, such as singing, writing, acting, poetry, working out, modelling/fashion, studying psychology/French, and starting my own photography page. These have become essential to my wellbeing. They allow me to express myself, diabetic or not and indulge in other parts of my identity that can be overlooked when you are “unwell”.
In a small moment, my life and my family’s life had changed. This disease did not come alone, it brought sleep deprivation, fights, tears and mental health challenges to me and my parents, who dedicated so much of their time to care for me as we went through this transition. It brought about new perspectives and questions on life and death.
Why me? What did I do at twelve years old to deserve this? Did I do something wrong? Again, why me?
I lived a normal, unaffected, healthy life for twelve years. What changed?
I still ask myself these questions sometimes. I’m sure a lot of Type Ones and chronically ill people do. Unfortunately, there is no real answer. I have found its best not to dwell on these thoughts. I choose to live my life with diabetes, not allow diabetes to be my life.
“In saying this, I do have an illness, one that I will have forever, and I want to live a long, healthy life. I try to keep my blood sugar levels in range, as I find the more you ignore the disease, the more apparent it becomes. But things happen. You need to look after yourself, care for yourself but also forgive yourself.”
I live a healthy life currently, but I will always have ups and downs, it’s an inevitable part of the disease. Having a support network is a massive help, and I am so grateful for that.
Even though I would much rather live without it, Type One Diabetes has taught me a lot of valuable lessons and has helped me shape me into who I am today. I hope one day, more people can understand the disease, and support those who live with and battle it every day.
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