For illustrator Janina Gaudin, “Stranger Things” isn’t only a story about teenagers fighting monsters. It’s also the story of diabetes.
Gaudin, who lives in Auckland, New Zealand, creates comics about type 1 diabetes under the name Miss Diabetes. When the third season of the Netflix horror comedy series premiered in July, Gaudin took the opportunity to create a comic strip that reveals what diabetes and the world of “Stranger Things” have in common.
The Upside Down alternate universe of “Stranger Things,”Gaudin thought, could be a metaphor for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), because they both can be scary, disconcerting and lonely. People with diabetes have to constantly fight “hypo beasts” — aka low blood sugar — all day every day, just like “Stranger Things” regulars Mike, Eleven and their friends have to fight the demogorgons monsters.
“I wanted to show that we are strong, fighting these beasts constantly, but when we do need help,”Gaudin told The Mighty. “We have our friends and family, and even though at times they can’t see the invisible fights we are taking on, they do everything they can to help us fight it along the way.”
Check out the comic below:
Type 1 Diabetes Edition: Stranger Things, Part One
The drawing is of four friends riding their bikes with a reflection of the path they are riding down below them, showing the Upside Down. The caption says, “The upside-down, aka hypoglycemia…”
The drawing is of a demogorgon. The caption says, “The demogorgon — a hypo beast…”
The drawing is of holiday lights labeled with the letters of the alphabet hanging on a living room wall. A speech bubble says, “What does low mean?” The caption says, “Diabetics trying to communicate.”
The drawing is of “Stranger Things” character Barb, with a thought bubble that says, “OMG I’m low.” The caption says, “When the hypo-beast can smell your low blood sugar.”
The drawing is of character Eleven eating Eggo waffles in the woods. There is also a drawing of a flashing monitor that says “Lo.” The caption says, “Eggo hypo binge.”
The drawing is of character Steve about to hit a demogorgon with a baseball bat covered in nails. The caption says, “Dia…”
The drawing is of Steve continuing to hit a demogorgon with a baseball bat. The caption says, “Bad…”
The drawing is of Steve hitting the demogorgon with a baseball bat. The caption says, “… ass-ing!”
Gaudin followed up Part One of her comic series with Part Two the following week:
Type 1 Diabetes Edition: Stranger Things, Part Two
The drawing is of character Will lying on the ground in between trees in the Upside Down. The caption says, “Being in hypoglycemia can be a lonely, disorienting and scary place…”
The drawing is of Will lying on the ground with Eleven sitting next to him comforting him. She says, “It’s gonna be OK… they’re coming.” Will says, “Hurry.” The caption says, “But there are those who understand what you are going through.”
The drawing is of Dustin looking in the refrigerator saying, “She needs sugar!!! I found chocolate pudding!” The caption says, “Friends that find you sugar to keep your blood sugar up.”
The drawing is of Will in the Upside Down with a man wearing a space suit bending over him and saying, “We’re going to get you outta here buddy!” The caption says, “And those that will do anything to help you back to the surface.”
The drawing is of two hands putting a ripped photo of a demogorgon back together and a speech bubble saying, “Wait… what is that?” The caption says, “It is the invisible illness — and those who don’t have it…”
The photo is of Eleven with her hand outstretched, destroying a demogorgon. The caption says, “… don’t know how often we fight and destroy hypo beasts.”
The drawing is of Eleven, Mike and Dustin hugging. The caption says, “But those that do know how amazing you are, and help you fight along the way.”
Gaudin was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1994, and created Miss Diabetes after hearing from a diabetes nurse that many young people with type 1 diabetes weren’t coping well with the challenges of everyday life. Hearing this “tugged at her heartstrings” and inspired her to share her experiences with diabetes through her work as an illustrator.
The invisible nature of diabetes means that people don’t know or see what happens on a daily basis, which can feel quite lonely, Gaudin said. People with diabetes have to make complicated decisions people without diabetes don’t even have to think about.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that allows cells to absorb glucose (sugar) from carbohydrates in your food. Then, glucose is used for energy. Without insulin, the level of sugar in your blood can go too low (hypoglycemia) or too high (hyperglycemia), both of which are dangerous and can be deadly. People with type 1 diabetes must constantly check their blood sugar levels and take insulin in order to keep their blood sugar levels in a healthy range.
Gaudin hopes her comics give people insight into what it’s like to live with type 1 diabetes (beyond the typical message about sugar causing diabetes), as well as support and understanding for her fellow diabetes community.
“I think about a type 1 diabetic who might be having a hard day or is frustrated and just wants to see something that is relatable to their experience. There can be a lot of doom and gloom online about type 1 diabetes, which I think can be counter-productive to well-being,” Gaudin said. “So I want my comics to be light-hearted as well as heartwarming, with the underlying message of ‘You are not alone.'”
For more insight on diabetes, check out these stories from our Mighty community:
- 12 Things You’ll Only Understand If You Grew Up With Diabetes
- The Problem With Using HbA1C as the Only Indicator of Diabetes Control
- Why Being a Mom of 3 Kids With Diabetes Doesn’t Make Me a ‘Hero’