Or how about a feeling a little uncomfy when you’re asked, “What kind of diabetes do you have? The bad kind?”
And, my personal favorite, “You can’t eat that, can you?” Cuz spoiler alert: I can eat that. And I will eat that.
But hey, listen, this isn’t anyone’s fault. If anything, it’s ours! As the kind folks with the sleepy and/or busted organs, it’s our job to be knowledgeable ambassadors about our lovely invisible non-friend, diabetes.
The fact of the matter is, diabetes isn’t top of mind for anyone but us (and like, Endocrinologists, but they’re paid to do that…). It’s important for us to educate ourselves, and the people around us so that we feel comfortable in our day-to-day care.
Diabetes is written up in the media all the time. And it’s often framed like this: “Global obesity on the rise…NOW WE’RE ALL GONNA HAVE DIABETES!!! RUN!!!” With this sort of alarming tone, sense of panic, and generally higher coverage of type 2, people have a very understandable misconception about what the whole story is behind this disease.
So let’s start with some basic facts. Ready? PUT ‘YER LEARNIN’ CAP ON!
WHAT IS DIABETES?
noun (and serious pain in my fingers/love handles)
a metabolic disease in which the body’s inability to produce any or enough insulin causes elevated levels of glucose in the blood.
- Type 1 Diabetes – the body does not produce insulin. Type 1 diabetics are treated by daily insulin injections to stay alive.
- Type 2 Diabetes – the body does not produce enough insulin for proper function. Many type 2 diabetics can manage their diabetes with diet and exercise. A small percentage are on oral diabetes medication, or insulin injections.
- Gestational Diabetes – this type affects females during pregnancy.
WHO GETS DIABETES?
- Type 1 Diabetes – most people are diagnosed before they’re 40 – primarily in their childhood or teenage years
- Type 2 Diabetes – typically diagnosed in adults, but with increasing nutrition and obesity numbers, more children are being diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes.
- Gestational Diabetes – women during pregnancy
HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE DIABETES?
- Approximately 382 million world wide
- Only 10% of all diabetics have type 1
BUT I HAVE TYPE 1 DIABETES, HOW DO I TELL PEOPLE?
Great question. This is actually insanely tough for most of us. Even me! When I first moved to NYC and got a new job, I had all new eyes and ears sitting around me. I had totally forgotten how to explain myself because it had been years. I was definitely nervous, and a little shy about it. But, I did what I normally do…don’t talk, just whip Derek out. Yeah, that sounds abrasive and borderline inappropriate, but I’m going to do my thing my way no matter what. Truthfully, I hid in the bathroom for the first few days until I didn’t feel like such an alien. But, after a few months I feel more comfortable, and all I’ve done is invite genuine curiosity, and of course, many laughs as well.
So, how do I have the talk? Here are some of my tactics:
- Make a joke when someone looks at you quizzically as you test your blood sugar:
Oh! Yeah, I have diabetes. I’m bleeding on purpose, it’s okay. I promise I’m not trying to sign a friendship contract with you or anything. Nothing to worry about over here, just getting a quick meter read before I put this sandwich in my belly.
- Joke part 2 can happen when they follow-up with, “Oh, my cousin has one of those things, he’s a diabetic too!”
Nice! Is he single? I’ve been looking for love since my Pancreas broke up with me when I was 17. Clearly we never ever got back together. Oh, he’s 12. Sorry, that’s weird.
- Feeling like a comedian? How about this response to, “Does it hurt?”
It feels like something between getting your finger shut in a car door and a shark bite. JK, nah, it doesn’t hurt…only sometimes if I don’t change out the pokey thing for too long. Then it feels like I’m stabbing myself with a pencil! #YOLO
- Annnnnnd yet another joke when they watch you pull your pump out of various locations on your body:
Sorry, my beeper went off. I’m actually a plastic surgeon. I didn’t tell you?
And the list goes on.
To be honest, I don’t really know how to deal with things in any nature other than humor, which I totally understand doesn’t work for everybody. Sometimes it’s really nice just to say:
“I’m a diabetic. I’ve had it for ____ years. I test my blood sugar a couple of times a day and I take insulin to make sure that whenever I eat pasta, bread, crackers, chips, etc., the sugar in my food is processed just like it is in your body. Insulin is the hormone that unlocks cells to let sugar in and give them energy. Feel free to ask me more about it!”
Personally, I think hiding my diabetes just makes it harder to talk about as time goes on. Friends old and new are certainly not going to change their opinion of me for sharing a major part of our lives with them (at least I hope so….*crickets*). If anything, something I’ve found, is that my crew takes pride in knowing what to do when I need something: high, low, need to swap out my infusion set, and so on.
Some of us are very private, and that makes it really hard to talk about something that is definitely very personal. We all manage our diabetes differently so there is not one way to communicate out to other people what it is and how it works. At the end of the day, it takes time to build confidence to do it, but sometimes, it’s just like diving off a diving board…you just have to jump.
Facts n’ stuff came from here: