Type 1 Diabetes

To The Bouncer That Shocked Me To Tears…

March 24, 2015
Just a teeny tiny little box of juice...

To the bouncer that shocked me to tears on Friday,

I know when I approached your pub you thought nothing of asking for a token search of my bag. I thought nothing of allowing it. That upon pulling out a small carton of apple juice, you figured it would be no big deal to throw it away. Standard procedure, sure. You probably didn’t expect my slightly longer-than-necessary but apologetic and entirely polite explanation about how I was a type 1 diabetic and it was really important that I kept it, incase my sugars suddenly went low, in which case I would need it quite urgently.

I’m sure you’ve had tons of people try it in your time. But, like many bouncers I’ve encountered who have also heard it all before, you could have simply asked me to prove I was indeed a type 1. I’m more than fine with that; you have a job to do. You see, most of the rest of my little bag was taken up with kit that keeps me alive, kit that I can’t leave at home no matter how cute and small and unaccommodating my bag is on a particular night.

I could have easily shown you the medical ID that I carry around in case a member of the emergency services is trying to save my life.  I could have shown you my back up injection, the one that I carry should my insulin pump fail. Or the meter I use to track my blood sugars and to deliver insulin into my body around the clock, or the pricker I use to draw blood from my fingers every few hours. Christ, I could have pulled my skirt up slightly and shown you the pump that’s permanently attached to my body, beeping at inopportune moments and consistently being knocked by door handles and busy commuters. Any or all of that would have very quickly illustrated I wasn’t trying to pull a fast one.

What I wasn’t prepared for was your aggressive, dismissive and short-sighted response. The one that told me to ‘go to the shop and get your jelly beans or whatever it is you guys eat’, or else to not bother coming in. You saw the shock flash across my face, and you heard me tell you I wasn’t trying to be difficult but that I had the solution in my hand; this sealed, unopened tiny carton of apple juice that really was of no consequence to you. Your response? ‘I don’t care, go to the shop and figure it out.’ I’ve seen the things that go on in your bar; I’d say a carton of juice is the least of your worries. If I’d known it was going to be such an issue I would have shoved it in my bra and saved us both the hassle.

This may or may not be a point, but for some reason it really got me – you are a woman. A woman who, just like me, was surrounded by guys who were loud and rowdy. I searched and searched your face for that powerful understanding that we have – humility. There was none. Just aggression, defiance, belligerence. And when you insisted on dismissing my reasoning as irritating at best – after I’d told you that that carton could keep me from passing out – that, at that moment, that became entirely rude. It took the backing of my boyfriend, which possibly coincided with you getting entirely bored of the situation, for you to relent and reluctantly offer to keep it safe in case I really did need it. At which point it was literally taken out of your hands when your boss took the carton from you and put it behind the screen, only to give it back to me in the next second, with a nod and an ‘It’s ok, I get it’. What was so hard for you to understand about how earnest my protests were when he clearly understood?

I’m upset that you got to me; but you did. I can’t say I remember encountering anyone who has ever made me feel like my condition was an inconvenience to their life. And who on earth has such a right? Yet you somehow managed it, and very quickly too. In a situation like that one, you make decisions. You use instinct, and you use sense, and you use humility, like your colleague who gave me the juice back without me even asking. I don’t get upset or indignant when someone misunderstands my condition; mostly because after 19 years of living with it, I still don’t get it either. And I could forgive you for the sheer ignorance of passing such a stupid comment, borne out of a flippant reaction. But your defiance and refusal to listen to what I was saying shocked me to the point that I found myself crying tears of frustration once inside, over a rather humiliating situation that was completely in your power to avoid. But maybe you’d had a shit day. Maybe you’d encountered a particular breed of drunken dickhead five minutes before I skipped up, high on life.

And aren’t I lucky that I can treat a mishap of my condition with chocolate, or sweets? You’re right, actually. I’m lucky that my condition doesn’t stop me from doing stuff like go out on a Friday night and enjoy myself after a week at work. I feel lucky that my condition is inconceivable to you as anything to be taken even remotely seriously. It’s just some stupid jelly beans, right? So why not just go over to the nearest shop and get some?

Firstly, juice is much easier to swallow in those scary and urgent situations when you can’t process your thoughts properly, and everything around you is confusing, and your breath is shallow. Chewing is not preferable or practical because it takes longer, and then your stomach has to break down the solids. Beyond that, eating with such urgency that you can’t even taste isn’t a pleasant experience. I also happen to know that the exact size of that carton, after many years of unfortunate practice, will raise my sugars just the right amount so that I don’t swing too much in the other direction, dehydrate myself and risk damage to my kidneys. Furthermore, I spend a damn fortune on various forms of little life-saving packets – juice, jelly beans, and the rest – and have done for nearly two decades. Then there’s also the gym membership I need in order to exercise regularly, to make sure the sensitivity to insulin is as good as my metabolism will allow, so that my reliance on the stuff is kept to a minimum and I hopefully knock less than the standard 20 years off my life that comes with this thing. Or the travel insurance I have to buy that’s more than double the price of yours.

I’m sounding facetious now aren’t I? I agree, which is why I very rarely, if ever, view my condition in this way. I resent even feeling the need to write this, days later. I don’t speak ‘woe is me’ very well, nor do I want to. But who are you to make me, or anyone else in my position, stand out in the cold justifying something I have to live with and manage and navigate every single minute of every day? Justify carrying something potentially life-saving just because it doesn’t come with a prescription label, in sterile packaging?

It was at about 5am that same night when I suddenly woke up with a dangerously low blood sugar of 2.1, desperately lacking the glucose in my brain that enables YOU to think properly without worry, and breathe properly without concern. I wasn’t able to move my body from the bed any further than to pull an innocuous, battered carton of juice from a handbag at the side of the bed. I just about managed to guzzle it in the pitch black to stop me going into a coma, sweating and shaking uncontrollably while I tried not to wake anyone else. The very same carton that you tried to take from me.

Be kind, sometimes.



  • Reply Vicki March 24, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    I hate that this happened to you, and you were made to feel the way you did…the way you do. It’s horrible when you’re made to feel like you need to justify your condition/the choices you make regarding it.

    I hope writing helped!

    The biggest of hugs!

    Vicki xxx

    • Reply missjengrieves March 25, 2015 at 5:19 pm

      Hey Vicki! Yeh it was a little bit rubbish that’s for sure. I kind of didn’t want to write the post – I don’t feel particularly awful about it now but I thought it might help to raise some awareness. It’s not nice to be made to justify yourself when you’re just going about your business, although I completely understand that questions have to be asked – I’m more than happy to answer them. Ho hum! I hope you’re ok and the pump is behaving a bit better for you? xxx

  • Reply Steve butler March 24, 2015 at 11:27 pm

    Ive had this kind of situation happen to me also, at a nightclub in Preston a doorman questioned my insulin pen, not a great situation to be in when you’re in a long queue but hey ho I survived. Glad you did to.

    • Reply missjengrieves March 25, 2015 at 5:21 pm

      Surely they must go through some sort of training to spot medical devices like an insulin pen?! That shocks me more than my experience – I completely understand why she asked me to initially throw it, it was more her defiance at refusing to listen to any kind of explanation. But there we go. It didn’t effect me for too long – I had a night out to be getting on with! Thanks so much for reading x

  • Reply Helen (@ActuallyBlog) March 25, 2015 at 10:04 am

    I want to scream in frustration at this. Because education around diabetes hasn’t been enough, because it will never be enough when the world at large believes it knows, and judges.
    I could say, thank goodness that you’re more intelligent, and a way better person. I could say it’s her loss, and that her life must be grim if she is the sort of person who is unable to discern the difference between an idiot chancing her arm, and a genuine person with a medical need. And it would be true. But it wouldn’t help.
    Of all the frustrations of diabetes, this is my biggest. Misperception, judgement, and bigotry has to stop; but I don’t know where to begin.

    • Reply missjengrieves March 25, 2015 at 5:25 pm

      Helen! I know it’s so frustrating, education is so important. I really do appreciate that she had a job to do, and also that she wouldn’t at first hand know the ins and outs of my condition; that’s fine. But she just completely refused to listen to anything I had to say when trying to explain, and that’s what shocked me so much. Complete defiance at the whole thing; it caught me so off guard. Hopefully we can continue to fight the good fight and there will be no need for me to write posts like this 😉 xxx

  • Reply Rowan March 25, 2015 at 10:40 am

    I hate that this happened at all – it is not right. I hope the bouncer has thought about this in more depth, but I doubt she has.. It wasn’t like you were trying to take a water bottle in that could potentially have something you shouldn’t have in it! You are great – she sadly is narrow minded..!

    • Reply missjengrieves March 25, 2015 at 5:22 pm

      I think that’s just it – there will always be narrow-minded people in the world, and no amount of education can prevent that sadly! It’s not that I want her banged to rights etc, it’s just that I think it’s important to speak out about this stuff so that hopefully less narrow-minded people will be educated, and in the meantime we can brace ourselves! Thank you for reading :) xxx

  • Reply Claire March 26, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    Utterly stunned and angered at such an un-empathetic individual. Complete ignorance.

    I wonder how some people would cope with type 1 diabetes for just a day if they only knew all the things we have to think of. Maybe they should try the fake-a-betic challenge that I keep reading about.

    I’m with you on the liquids being faster! Damn her for stealing your apple juice! I love the little Gluco-juice bottles right now, they are easier than chewing dextrose and always in my handbag.

    • Reply missjengrieves April 10, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      Hey Claire!
      I still can’t quite believe it you know, but then I absolutely can. I know I’m ignorant about many, many things because it’s impossible to know everything, but I like to think that if someone tried to explain these sorts of complicated and sensitive issues to me, I would have my ears and heart open to learning something, and to having empathy/understanding. But there we go, I suppose not everyone in this world can be taught!
      I so much prefer juice when I’m hypo than food, I tend to feel sick because I, like everyone else eat so fast when the bloods are low! Dextrose are NOT the one as far as I’m concerned! Gimme the chocolate 😉 xx

  • Reply Michael March 27, 2015 at 5:38 am

    Well written post, horrible story :(

    Your story reminded me of the first night I spent in a dormitory in a new school — perfect planning left me changing my pump five minutes after lights out. The dorm counselor came in, and perhaps was a bit harsher than necessary….I ended up crying for being yelled at after having done nothing wrong.
    Best way EVER to break your diabetes to your new roommates!

    I hope that those that lack the understanding to be patient with others will eventually learn….but in the meantime, all we can control is our own reactions, which you appear to have done quite well in this story 😉

    • Reply missjengrieves April 10, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      I feel your pain Michael! On my first day of senior school I thought first break was lunch break, so I went to the nurse and had my injection, realised my error and burst into tears! What a way to start senior school.
      I do believe the best way to overcome ignorance is to education rather than berate, but it seems this lady didn’t want to listen. But never mind, I think this post has hopefully educated a few people who (innocently) would never know the sorts of things we deal with. There are a lot of great people in the world, she is not important!
      Thanks so much for stopping by :) x

  • Reply Barry Gower August 2, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    Great piece Jen. After living with this for over 50 years ( 57 to be exact), in this day and age I have no sympathy for that idiotic bouncer. Name and shame I say, and name the club ( and chain if it is one.) Today we have a Prime Minister who has also been forced to become a member of a club she never wanted to join. Thankfully with modern equipment and technology she is able to take on the job without the fear of unexpected hypos etc. How well she does it, only time will tell, but one thing is for sure – being a a diabetic will have absolutely no influence or effect whatsoever. So the sooner that the world is rid of ignorant bullies such as you were unfortunate to meet, the better.

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