Type 1 Encounters in the Wild

WRITTEN BY: Becky Thomson

In 1999, Pokémon came to the UK with the release of the generation “one games” and the first series of the anime airing on Sky One. Whilst I may have never have had a hard copy of the games (I may or may not have played them on emulators — I couldn’t possibly say), my 14-year-old self loved the anime with all its clichéd plots. And I still want my own, real-life Growlithe. So I was of course thrilled at the release of Pokémon Go — a chance for the experience that had only lived in my television and my computer to come to life in the real world? Absolutely! Where do I sign?

I’ve found that connecting with other Type Ones has been somewhat similar in a strange way. Online, I feel connected. OK, a lot of the Diabetes Online Community stems from the US, which can make time differences a problem, but that aside, I know I have options. Between communities like Beyond Type 1 and others, and the various social media platforms, groups, hashtags and such, it’s easy to get a bit lost sometimes, if you even know where to start in the first place. Sometimes you just want to feel connected to someone in the non-digital world. There’s still an awful lot to be said for being in the same room as a person.

I was reminded of that very strongly at my first trip to Friends For Life last month. I left with a refreshed sense of connection with other Type Ones. But what do you do when you feel like your ‘encounter rate’ is that much lower? When you’ve got to search that bit harder? Well as far as I know, no one has written the Type One Pokedex yet (now there’s an idea), but whether you’re hearing a CGM going off, spotting a pump clipped to a belt or finding a test strip that you know isn’t yours, I find there’s something exhilarating about having an unexpected encounter ‘in the wild’.

When it comes to these ‘wild’ encounters, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few of these lately — running in to a young girl with a pump and her father in the queue for Dragon Challenge at Universal Studios was a brief but heartwarming moment of connection. A stranger one came on my flight home from Orlando. With all the freaky bizarre things that people have been called out for on planes recently (doing maths, anyone?!), I had it suggested that I tell the flight attendant in my area that the thing with all the tubing and beeping was just my insulin pump. All things considered, it seemed like a good idea. The response I got? Her 13-year-old nephew pumps and she knows it’s not easy. How am I doing? Can she bring me anything? If there’s anything she can do to help me, just let her know. How about that? As the flight was really quiet, we ended up having a couple of really nice charts throughout the journey. Wasn’t expecting that.

The one that really got me, though? Was a guy I’d just met, a friend of friend, I was meeting for drinks with saying the following: ‘I’ve got to being a bit of a pro with the bolus wizard.’

I was doing a quick site change in an attempt to combat a raging high and what I was sure was dodgy insulin, not making any attempt to really hide it, when I heard those words. That made me do a double take, I can tell you! Turns out that he babysits for a little boy with Type One and knows his finger pricking, testing while sleeping, site changes and boluses. I was delighted! Whilst my friends knew what I was doing, I had anticipated having to give an explanation to the two people I hadn’t met before. Not having to was just lovely.

All in all, I think there’s something really special in the unexpected, ‘wild’ encounter. Sometimes they end up leading to longer interactions and friendships, which I’ve experienced. But sometimes it’s a fleeting, momentary thing. It’s an instance of recognition, of ships in the night: yes, I see you. I know you understand me and what I’m dealing with. And for that moment, whether it leads to others or is self-contained, neither of us is alone.

It’s moments like those, like the guy serving an extremely hypo, fumbling, confused me at HMV (DVDs, music and the like) taking one look at me and handling me a Mars Bar from the impulse buys and making me eat it before paying for my DVD. ‘Me too,’ he tells me, ‘I have the same meter.’ It’s those moments that make me want to seek out more of these encounters, like the Pokémon motto says, ‘gotta catch them all.’

Read 7 Times TV and Movies Got Diabetes Wrong by Thor K. Jensen.

Becky Thomson

Becky Thomson is a 30-something Type One from the UK. Diagnosed at 24, she lives beyond as a theatre-maker, playwright and blogger. You can read more at her blog, Instructions Not Included. (Http://instructionsni.blogspot.com)