For the most part, diabetes is an invisible disease. Pumps are not always easy to spot, calloused and freckled fingers can easily go unnoticed, and unless you whip out your syringe or pen for a public MDI those around you usually don’t know you have diabetes unless you share that information with them. With this in mind, the DSMA Blog Carnival posed the question:
Does your employer/school/friends know you have diabetes? Why or why not?
These days I certainly fall on the side of diabetes-oversharing, if there is such a thing (I kind of pretend there isn’t). It not unusual for me to discuss diabetes with complete strangers. But this wasn’t always the case. I was diagnosed when I was 11 years old and, like most teenage girls, I desperately wanted to be just like everyone else. And so, I did all I could to hide the fact that I am diabetic. I ate what everyone else ate - even though back then I was supposed to be on a strict eating plan. I hid in the bathroom to test my blood and take my injections, or I just waited until I was back home in the seclusion of my bedroom to do them.
When I left for college, I decided I’d turn over a new leaf and I’d tell everyone that I had diabetes. That went well for about the first few months or so. But then, I once again wanted to be a “normal” college kid. I wanted to drink beer at a party (even though I hate beer) - and at that time I believed people with diabetes couldn’t drink. So while I didn’t exactly hide my diabetes, I also didn’t talk about it much because I felt I was doing a lot of things I wasn’t supposed to be doing and I hated when people asked me about it.
Graduating college and going out into the adult world didn’t mean I became adult about having diabetes. Nobody at work knew, and I went back to testing and injecting in the bathroom. Until one day, when I got really sick and ended up in the hospital. I decided it was time to start getting serous about taking care of myself, and that it was time to stop hiding diabetes. I told my closest friends, who were supportive and understanding (and also pretty shocked to find out I had hidden it from them for years). As for my co-workers, I told a diabetes half-truth. I let them believe that I was newly diagnosed during my hospital stay. I know it sounds crazy to replace one lie with another, but in my mind it was a good way to be open about diabetes without the shame of admitting I had hidden it for years.
I didn’t truly feel comfortable letting people know about diabetes until I found the DOC and became friends with other diabetics. Finally I understood that having diabetes didn’t make me broken or less of a person. I learned how to take care of myself and still enjoy things like pizza and chocolate and martinis. I felt empowered as a patient and I felt the need to blog and share and advocate for all people with diabetes. And now, I just dare anyone to try to get me to shut up about having diabetes!!
This post is my March entry in the DSMA Blog Carnival. If you’d like to participate too, you can get all of the information at http://diabetessocmed.com/2012/march-dsma-blog-carnival-2.