Diabetes is judgmental. Someone recently shared with me the brilliant insight that diabetes is the disease that is most publically judged. By publically, I mean that pretty much everyone considers themselves a diabetes expert. How many times have you tested your blood sugar and had a friend, family member or complete stranger (my personal favorite) say “what is it supposed to be?” or “is that normal?” And as soon as this nosey (but lovable) person gets all up in your business - you shamefully realize that your meter is flashing a number that is NOT in the “supposed to be” range. Consider this: if you met a person with cancer – would you recommend treatments to them if you weren’t a cancer patient yourself? Or, if they told you they were a cancer patient would you respond by saying “Oh, my grandmother/father/aunt/uncle/mother died from that.” Fingers crossed, your answer is no. I am not discouraging people from inquiring about my diabetes – I love sharing with those who care to be interested. Knowing that my friends, family, etc. want to learn goes a long way especially since it can be mentally and emotionally exhausting to share so much.
One of my doctors at Joslin shared with me a hysterical little pamphlet called “diabetes etiquette for people who don’t have diabetes.” I have compiled enough material to write a novel filled with funny stories about the questions and reactions people with diabetes get on a daily basis when we share our diabetes with the real world. No matter how long you’ve had diabetes – there is something in this pamphlet for everyone. For example, Don’t #1 -“Don’t offer unsolicited advice about my eating or other aspects of my diabetes.” If you’ve ever attended a social function of any kind – I guarantee you ate or drank something that prompted someone to say “can you have that?” Or maybe you didn’t even get to eat it before someone looked at you as if you kicked a puppy because whatever you were about to enjoy resembled frosting with sprinkles on top.
The reason why my doctor shared the etiquette do’s and don’ts with me is because we were discussing the internal anger, guilt and disappointment that people with diabetes feel about their blood sugars when they are not “normal”. One can’t help but feel like a loser when your A1C is not in the “recommended” range and every diabetes pamphlet in the world says you should be able to achieve this through exercise, medication and diet. We all know it’s not that simple but it still feels pretty crappy. It’s hard not to feel disappointed when you think you did a kick-ass job bolusing for a meal only to find a few hours later that your blood sugar is 250.
This “bummer, dude” feeling can be influenced by external sources or it can be a strictly internalized emotion. Either way, it certainly takes a toll. I find that in these situations – laughter comes highly recommended. Visit http://www.behavioraldiabetes.org/ to download the diabetes etiquette booklet and have a good laugh at someone else’s expense – just don’t tell them I told you to do it.