Sunday, I had the pleasure of brunching with a fellow T1 girly whom I met at the Diabetes Expo, I'll call her LT. We obviously talked about the everyday struggles/triumphs/embarassing stories of being T1 and one part of our conversation got me thinking and laughing. We were talking about relationships, how people react to diabetes, experiences with boyfriends, friends, teachers, parents, peers, strangers, you get the picture..we were equally stumped by the following questions: When and how do you bring up the "D" word in a relationship?
I had to laugh because every time I've told someone its resulted in me being the most awkward, self-conscious, stuttering person alive. Let's just say, its made for some great embarrassing tales to share when I need a good laugh. I have to say, usually when I met someone new, diabetes is not the first thing I talk to them about...something about the person or their body language, what they're saying usually has to trigger it in my mind. It's like..all of a sudden you become aware that their eyes are focusing on that piece of tubing sticking out of your belt, or that pod-shaped bump under your t-shirt..and then, out of nowhere you feel compulsed to just blurt out "I'M DIABETIC" before they can get out the "Is that a _____!? (fill in the blank with appropriate cell phone, Ipod, beeper, whatever misconception is your personal favorite) Allow me to illustrate exactly where we decided the dilemma lies.
We discussed the dreaded, evil, nerve-wrecking, awkward FIRST DATE. These are situations which can be disastrous under normal circumstances, add a chronic illness to the mix and whoa, baby. So let's be optimistic, say you are on a first, second, even third date with someone and you have yet to unleash the big "D." You are at a small, romantic little italian restaurant where the menu is a carb-lovers paradise and a diabetic conundrum. You are eating when the inner-conflict surfaces and the questions begun to race through your head. Should I just pull out my meter and test at the table, therefore revealing the secret? Will the person be grossed out by me licking the blood off my finger? Should I take my meter into the bathroom? What if I go low later? Will he think I'm a freak if I pull out my juicy juice box? Should I tell them? Should I not tell them? We've all experienced this, whether or not it was on a first date. The hard part is not telling the person...its waiting, suffering or rejoicing at their reaction.
I had a guy once crack a joke about my "pager" saying that no one but a drug dealer would carry one of those anymore. My friends jaws hit the floor as I stammered....."Its an insulin pump." The hardest part is talking about your diabetes after a comment like that, trying to open up and share when you really just want to kick the person in the shin. I have to give credit to the people who react by trying to understand it before making their judgment about how they are going to treat me. By this I mean, if you don't know a lot about diabetes...ASK! But, please try to avoid "Are you allowed to eat that?" Because yes, while diabetics do watch their diet...I will be the judge of what I can and cannot eat...not my dysfunctional pancreas. And I certainly do not want to feel guilty or judged if I do decide to eat a cookie or a piece of birthday cake. You have to smile at the moments where people go out of their way to make sure you are ok, you've had enough to eat, your blood sugar isn't low or high and that yes, you actually feel quite normal at this moment. While sometimes it is annoying to have people fuss over your health or even show a bit of pity...it just goes to show you that they care!
Don't get me wrong, this is not a rant...rather a reflection. I truly reflect on these awkward moments with fondness because they are worth their weight in laughter afterwards. And it makes me happy to know that perhaps I have educated a stranger, friend, teacher, peer about diabetes, and maybe even, spared another diabetic that awkward moment. What's your method for dropping the big D? Share some of your favorite moments!