I love when diabetes goes visible. Artistic interpretations of life with diabetes are my favorite, because they have this way of distilling diabetes down to a single image that says so much. I felt that way when I stumbled upon thediabeticsurvivor’s Instagram account, where simple drawings spoke volumes about the emotional baggage of diabetes. I love how his work peels back a few of the basic top layers of diabetes and exposes the intimacy of life with chronic illness.
Today, TDS (thediabeticsurvivor) is visiting SixUntilMe to share a bit about his life with diabetes, his efforts to raise awareness for T1D, and his art.
Kerri: Who are you and could you share a little bit about your diagnosis story?
TDS: Hi there! I’m “thediabeticsurvivor” and I was diagnosed 18 years ago with T1D and I’m based in London. I’m the only diabetic in my family, which always have been a surprise, everything was a novelty and I always had (and I still have) a lot of support from my family. During the last few years I have been through big improvements in terms of my diabetes management: the pump and the Libre sensors. I’m a full-time Cyborg. Outside the diabetes world: I work as a Graphic Designer. Many years ago, I did my BA in Graphic Design and later on a MFA in Fine Arts. I’ve been always drawn to the visual.
Kerri: I’ve been following your work on Instagram for a few weeks and everything you’ve created really speaks to that hard-to-articulate-yet-ubiquitious nature of life with diabetes. What brought you to Instagram in efforts to share your work?
TDS: Thanks, that means a lot! To be honest, everything started as a kind of “game.” I have been doodling for a while (always related with diabetes) and one day my girlfriend thought would be a great idea to raise diabetes awareness sharing them online. Instagram as a platform seemed the most natural way to do it. Also I realized I could not find designs or illustrations that I really liked. Some of them where just too cheesy or one could notice that were made by people that were not diabetics, that they were just repeating or reacting things that they have read somewhere else.
Kerri: What’s your favorite drawing so far? Which one has resonated most for the community, from what you’ve seen?
TDS: Might be the “Everything is O.K.” displayed on a glucose monitor. I think it brings humour and also some release of the utopian idea of the perfect blood sugar levels 24hrs a day.
Kerri: How do you want people to feel after seeing your illustrations?
TDS: Empathy 100% 🙂
Kerri: What do you wish people would share more about diabetes online?
TDS: I think we already have a great community online sharing plenty of things. In particular, I find videos very useful, for example, last week I swap to another pump infusion set and the tutorial video I found online was fantastic. I do like to read blogs but also scholarly articles about what is going on (there is a lot of new good things happening like the closed-loop system or all new things related with flash glucose monitoring).
Kerri: What’s next for you and your artwork?
TDS: Well, not sure… however, I feel that I would like to maintain an idea that I think is always present in my work: that we -as diabetics- are humans, and that we should be not so hard on ourselves. Recently, after somebody asked me about where to find my illustrations online, I decided to open a Redbubble shop. Few people wanted to wear the illustrations on t-shirts and pouches. I was overwhelmed!
Kerri: How can people find more of you and your work?