My Creepy Diabetes Art

    I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when I was 17, having just entered my first year of college. Although I have been lucky to have the support of my wife, friends, and family, as well as a really great doctor, my disease management has largely been a solitary endeavor over the years. I scoffed at the idea of camps and support groups when I was younger and took a long journey from being very angry to finally coming to some acceptance and peace about the fact that I will live with this forever.

    There are many silver linings. One, I am a total control freak, so if there’s any disease to have, this is the one for me. Two, my ability to do some math in my head, recognize patterns, and natural tendency towards routine all serve me well in maintaining my health and obeying the necessary rules and regs of living with diabetes. Three, having diabetes has forced me to be mindful about the lifestyle choices I make, from everything I eat or drink, to working out, getting enough sleep, and trying to manage my stress levels, as all of these factors greatly and immediately affect my health.

    I am considered to be “in good control” of my diabetes. That said, it is a daily roller coaster of juggling numbers, handling blood and needles, and trying to stay positive when you have a disease with such monikers as THE SILENT KILLER. I live in fear of a slow and painful death from diabetes related complications. However, fear is an excellent motivator, so there’s another silver lining!

    One of the aspects of living with diabetes that has fascinated me as an artist is all the multiples involved. I test and inject multiple times a day, and therefore produce multiple and identical items of medical waste. My test strips, for example, are tiny little miracles of science. Bits of plastic and palladium that analyze the glucose levels in my blood, and after one drop, one test, one moment, become useless: trash to be discarded. I test 5-7 times a day, and have done so for about 14 years now. 35 strips a week x 140 strips in a month = 1680 in a year. Around 23,520 total strips since my diagnosis. Same thing with syringes. Mine are labeled ultra-fine, single use, although I actually use them about 3 times each. I inject insulin 5-9 times a day, that’s 2-2 ½ syringes a day, 17-18 a week, 70 a month, 840 a year, and probably around 11,760 syringes since my diagnosis. Staggering! These artworks center on quantity and multiples.

    The other thing I’m interested in is the concept of “juvenile diabetes”. That was the official title of my diagnosis because I was under 18 when they found me out. The idea of a juvenile disease is odd to me. It makes me think of a sort of baby version of that disease, like a mischievous and playful version. It also reminds me of sick kids living with disease, and the jarring intersection of a child and her toys and laughter mixed with tests and procedures and needles and pills --all things that children shouldn’t have to deal with, although they are often more positive and resilient about them than adults are. The toys made out of glucometers are a response to that.

    It’s a serious subject that I approach through a light touch in order to make it less taboo. The syringes are commonplace to me, although they may seem frightening to you. In creating a playful object, I hope to make diabetes an easier and more comfortable subject for all of us to consider and discuss.

    Creepy Diabetes Art →

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