When first diagnosed with a chronic disease such as type 1, there is a lot of coping to do. You are confused at first. This is your life. This is your new life. This is the way it will be for the rest of your life. Eyeing a plate-full of spaghetti and seizing up the carb count. Checking your blood sugar several times throughout the day, and taking shots of insulin every time you eat.
Its a lot to absorb.
And it’s a lot for others to absorb as well.
I’ve never specifically tried to hide my disease. But there are circumstances where it is just not easy or socially acceptable to introduce yourself by your disease. Only people who know me well, know that I have diabetes. Because we have come to some circumstance where I have had to make it known, for my own health, that I have a severe condition. For example, at lunch I will pull out my meter and take a finger stick and pull out a device that looks like an ipod, attached to me with a single clear tube to take insulin.
Seeing how this might seem scary to someone unfamiliar with the disease?
The plain cold truth is that people without diabetes just don’t understand. And quite frankly, if I didn’t have diabetes it would probably look scary to me too.
That is why it is hard to introduce my self. “Hi, my name is diabetes—-I mean, uh, I have diabetes” “I mean uhhhhhhhh my name is Sydney.” That’s what it would sound like if I was frank right off the bat. But its hard to reach that point of familiarity with a stranger in which it feels okay to tell them. I recently got a small job, and at the place where I work, no one knows that I have diabetes. I don’t know them that well yet. And what would they say if I told them? This is why I sneak off to the bathroom every couple of hours to take a blood sugar and insulin injection.
At prom a few months ago, I went with a date. A friend, whom I knew pretty well, we were close, but not “Hi, my name is diabetes close.” When I took my blood sugar at the table, he looked at me like I had four heads. I said, “Oh yea, by the way, I have type one diabetes.” He smiled and said, “Oh, that’s OK. My grandma has diabetes,” at which point a good friend from across the table said “How has this never come up before?”
There were several things wrong in this situation. One, he identified my type of diabetes as the same which his grandma had, which was most likely type two. Second of all, we were still getting to know each other and I couldn’t have just said, “I have diabetes,” could I? Third of all, my friend called us out on this DRASTIC piece of important information that he apparently should’ve known. Like she was thinking, “anyone who knows Sydney knows that she has diabetes,” which should just be a given, but not necessarily.
I have shared this feeling with my mom, where she says, “It is scary to other people too. So all you have to do is let them know that you are OK. “