Flipping the Script on Diabetes
A few things first
A lot of things frustrate me about my Type 1 diabetes. There’s the fact that I have to count carbs and do a mathematical equation pretty much every time I want to eat. There’s the fact that my blood sugar levels go on a rollercoaster ride when I exercise, get my period, when I’m stressed, get a cold, get excited, go on a date, or even when I have sex. When I go high, I feel so drained that I can’t think straight, and I’m so irritable that even I wouldn’t want to be around me. When I go low, I feel like a Dementor is sucking the life out of me a la Harry Potter. But those are things I can actually live with. What’s hard to live with are the insensitive comments that really get to me – when people say things like:
Oh, you’re diabetic – is it the good kind or the bad kind?
Is it because you ate too much sugar as a kid?
But, wait, you’re not fat…?
Hey, what’s that thing on your arm?
I had an uncle once who was diabetic… They had to amputate his leg.
Wow, I actually don’t know how you do it – if I had to give myself shots every day, I would die.
Well, you know, if I didn’t give myself shots every day, I would literally die…
Maybe it’s not that obvious from my tone so far, but I’m actually really shy and quiet. I have a strong, bold voice, but it’s mainly inside my head. I’m 26 and I’ve had diabetes since I was 17. It’s been almost ten years that I’ve been dealing with the highs and lows, the injections, the anxieties, the Dementors, and the comments – those frustrate me and embarrass me. They make me want to hide being a diabetic. But they also inspired me to recently write a comedy feature film script that tackles Type 1 diabetes. That’s right – a comedy. I decided to write it because I’ve never seen a movie that shows what it’s truly like to live with Type 1 diabetes and isn’t a documentary.
More than being a person with diabetes, I am a young woman trying to figure out my life, career, friends, love, relationships and ambitions. I want the audience to get inside my head, a normal person with an abnormal autoimmune disease. I want to normalize diabetes and make it feel relatable, even for people who aren’t Type 1. It is a ‘thing’ that I have to deal with. Other people have other ‘things’. Most narrative films or TV shows that incorporate Type 1 diabetes either misinterpret or overdramatize it, and it is important for me that this film feels real.
Real and relatable
I want to show the everyday ups and downs of life and the everyday ups and downs of Type 1 diabetes. I want to clear up some of the misconceptions and stereotypes. Before writing this script, I created a comedy web series called MONDAYS, which I wrote and starred in. It’s about a young woman like me, in her early twenties, who’s just trying to get through life and the funny, awkward situations that she finds herself in. In the web series, I consciously chose not to include diabetes. I liked the idea of not having to think about T1D, at least for the duration of a three-minute episode. It was an imaginary me. But I realized the one thing that was missing from the web series — that is such a huge part of my life and should be a part of my story — is diabetes.
So I started a journal, writing down as much as I could remember about my experiences with diabetes. Thoughts. Worries. Daydreams. Nightmares. Every weird thing someone has said to me. And all the random and quirky thoughts that pop into my head, many that are kind of out there. Then I took all of that and translated it into this script. The main character, Kelly, is based on me, has a lot of conversations with herself, not in a crazy way, but through funny high concepts. We hear Kelly’s voiceover, she talks directly to the camera, we play out her strange daydreams and fantasies and even animate her pancreas being attacked by immune system soldiers. I want the audience to really get inside her head and understand what she’s thinking and going through.
It’s all really personal, and I open up about things that I have never told anyone, which is probably not what you’d expect from someone quiet and shy like me. But I’m really excited about sharing it, as I believe the very intimate style of the script actually makes it relatable to young women, even if they don’t have Type 1 diabetes. Quarter is a movie about a young woman in her twenties who is going through a quarter-life crisis and happens to be a T1D – not the other way around. Her journey and lesson are that if she can deal with the highs and lows that come with diabetes, she can be strong enough to deal with any high or low that life throws at her. Now that the script is written, the next step is getting it made. Writing the feature script has been a truly therapeutic process for me, as it’s shown me that I am not defined by my diabetes, and having Type 1 diabetes is not a weakness – it’s a strength.