Body Image, Travel, Type 1 Diabetes


September 17, 2015
Ibiza Sunset


I could tell by the inflection that she was slightly nervous.

‘Yeh?’ I replied snoozily, eyes half-closed, having slowed my reactions in the way that relaxing on a sun lounger in the Ibizan heat demands of you.

‘I hope you don’t mind me asking, but, what’s that thing on your back?’

I really didn’t mind her asking. I’d rather she ask than think that I was wearing an ASBO tag, as we joked later. We spent the next ten minutes having a really nice, curious and interesting chat about my pod-dependant type 1 life.

I was, as in not unheard of when one sunbathes, in a bikini. Normally my concerns about being around other people in two tiny cuts of fabric extend to remembering to breathe in all the damn day. Because: cheese and wine for life.

But this year there was an extra thing to worry about. Well, two. Firstly, the fact that I was in said bikini in front of my colleagues, due to being in Ibiza on a work trip. (The sun lounger would suggest otherwise, but this was a rare bit of down time. When in Rome, etc).

Not only were we all sat around the pool in our smalls chatting to the boss like it was entirely normal, but I also had the suddenly extremely conspicuous shiny beacon of an insulin pump stuck to my person, reflecting that sun and cheerfully hanging off me like it had no care in the world. I felt conscious of it for the first time since it helicoptered in on my life and made itself a permanent fixture nine months ago, after 18 years of being attached-but-not-permanently-attached to injections.

Why the worry? Well, sashaying (read: stomping) about with my insulin pump on show is still a fairly new experience outside of gym changing rooms and my flat. It may sound weird if you’re used to pulling out your pump with every meal, but with the tubeless Omnipod you stick it on you, put your clothes on and pretty much forget about it for three days, using the blood glucose meter to dose remotely.

The only other time I’d geared myself up for such exposure was a holiday in April where the sun failed to appear, and as such the two-piece was left neglected in the suitcase in favour of cardigans and tights (not even joking). Like Malta, I had planned for the more recent Balearic bikini-donning by attaching my pod to the small of my back, apparently undeterred by the resulting disasters of the aforementioned trip, where a combination of fake tan, awkward luggage and aggressive commuters saw me go through four pods in 24 hours.

Why move a thing you’re not ashamed of, then? Why take it from your tummy, where you know it’s comfortable and it works, and shove it behind you where it’s less comfortable? It’s not like I keep it a secret – this blog would suggest the jig is up. If someone asks me about the thing of a Tuesday afternoon, I’ll happily whip it out to give them a glance (WEEEEYYY), so what’s the issue just because it’s already on show?

I think that was just it. When not under the cover of clothes, it’s like that massive spot that unveils itself on the tip of your nose between the three hours you took getting ready for your first date, when you looked in the mirror 8,938 times and turning up to meet the potential suitor in question. It’s just there, asking people to look closer, singing its tune and taking its moment in the spotlight. People instinctively glance twice, without realising, and then they can’t stop looking, brow furrowed as the cogs turn and they try and figure out what it might be.

There is no negative connotation in this whatsoever. But you, you’re in a bikini, busy wishing you hadn’t eaten that cheese plate the night before after all and feeling a little bit weird about having so much flesh on show around your colleagues, and THEN you’ve got a seemingly foreign object attached to your person. You can’t run around the entire pool explaining the pod to every stranger who may or may not have opened their eyes long enough to clock it. But you’ve also got nowhere to hide.

In my head it went: there’s not letting this condition define you, and then there’s letting this condition be the first thing people see when you stroll towards them from the bar to the pool for the first time in your pod-fuelled life. Yes, they will see it eventually, when I turn around, or jump in the pool, or climb out of it, or do anything other than lay on a lounger, but I just wanted to give myself a moment first.

Yes, I’m Jen, and I’m diabetic and rather proud of it. But I’m Jen first, always.

Fast forward six weeks, and I’m sitting on a plane to Spain, for fun this time. And this time the pod was on my tummy, where I’d put it two days previous without giving any thought to the fact that I would shortly be bikini-clad once again. This time it remained on my tummy when I got to the beach later that day and plonked myself down on the lounger. A new pod was also attached to my tummy – not my back – when I needed to change it the following day. I clocked a couple of people doing the curious double take, not least my fairly recently diagnosed type 1 cousins who are both on injections. One declares it’s definitely not for him, the other starts asking questions, to which I happily sit and answer as best I can. Everyone else? I just let them look, or not look, and carried on trying to hold my tummy in as I stomped into the sea.

Curious to some, meaningless to others. Look if you want, don’t if you don’t care.

I guess we all just need a bit of time to suss it out. Myself included.

Ibiza Sunset

Ibiza. Good at sunsets.

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