What NO ONE taught me about Diabetes

When I was diagnosed with Diabetes, back in November of 2009, I poured myself into learning as much as I could from all sorts of Diabetes literature, websites, and communities such as this one, to better care for and manage my disease. I knew I would have to make many dietary and fitness changes, as my father also had this disease and we had to help him regularly with meals, meal planning, insulin, etc. Of all the things I learned, there is one thing NO ONE told me, and that I had to learn on my own: How Diabetes would change my personal relationships.

Of course, when we think of these changes, we often think in terms of food at social events, or of judgmental people who may blame you for getting Diabetes; and these issues are well established realities. However, the effect Diabetes has on personal relationships can go much deeper than that. While Diabetes may bond you closer to some people in your life, such as your spouse or your kids (and thank God for that!), it can drive many other relationships apart.

One of the main issues, is that as a society, we don't like to talk about our problems, and much less our illnesses, and we sort of sweep under the carpet those things which make us uncomfortable. However, it's very hard to sweep Diabetes under the rug, when we have to always think about the carbs we're eating, or the medications or insulin we must take to go along with those carbs, or the potential for dangerous lows, or highs. Diabetes forces us to be open with friends, and family, coworkers, and sometimes even others that we wish we didn't have to tell any such private matters, at all. Diabetes often puts us on the spot, and how people react to these revelations, in kind, can span the colors of the rainbow.

You may have people who ...
  • React in disgust to you, and never want to speak to you again, or want anything to do with you, or the rest of their family (this is especially true sometimes, in the dating scene). You don't need these people in your life... Forget about them;
  • React with fear, at having you around, because they feel incredibly uncomfortable to be around your situation. They may not want to change the way they cook meals (or think somehow, that it is expected of them to change the way they cook meals), or think that you will be uncomfortable around those meals, and will not want to participate. You may reassure those people that you are fine, eating sensitive portions of certain foods, or bringing your own dish to share with others, and it might reassure some people... but it doesn't guarantee you will be invited to any other social event that person might be hosting;
  • React with discomfort, or outrage, at the level of care you give yourself (ie, testing before meals, or post meals, or counting carbs, or using insulin in the open, or avoiding certain foods), because they deem you as obsessive, or it casts a light on their own eating habits, or their own self care (or lack thereof) if they also have Diabetes. Some of these people may take some lax care of themselves, and refuse to even shed any light of possibility that what they are doing is not enough, or that others might see that, and compare it to their own poor care.
  • React as the Diabetes or Dietary police, either because they themselves have Diabetes or a relative does, and think themselves the absolute authority on how to handle the disease, and will not rest until they have thoroughly embarrassed you (because they KNOW you caused your own Diabetes) and somehow they think you need to be taught a lesson in front of everyone, at dinner time, on Thanksgiving day, so that you quit 'not taking care of yourself.'

And the list goes on, and on... and, for the most part, it becomes our jobs to have to rebuild those relationships, somehow, and reeducate all those people about so many things... Some relationships will be worth it, and some will not, and we need to learn to make those assessments. Life brings change, and sometimes, pervasive change... We can be sad about change, and that's alright; however, we should leave all bitterness aside, and be thankful... Thankful because sometimes, life's curve balls are like necessary spring cleaning: we do away with the old, and tattered, and broken, and in with the new.

I haven’t had anyone say anything to me. I tell anyone I talk to I’m a diabetic, even the person thats giving out samples at the grocery. I have never had a hurtful word said (To my face) I certainly feel for those that has had this happen to them. I have always been an open book about my life ( and I could write a best seller) I could care less what others think about me having this decease. They can just look at me and think I probably have it. I am obese and have been a good part of my adult years. If someone was to be so bold at the dinner table or at a party to say something hurtful to me, I wouldn’t want to go back to their party and they certainly wouldn’t want me back there after I got through telling them how rude they r. I was made fun of about my weight way back when, and it did hurt. Just haven’t been made fun of for having diabetese. Skinny people have it too. I guess thats the point. Not only fat people can get it. People can be so rude. Hey I’m getting old and don’t go to many parties except for families, and they love me and wouldn’t hurt my feelings. They r scared to…hehehehehe Good reading though…ty

I have to admit, I haven’t had any of those people in my life. Oh, sure some will ask if I can eat something, only because they are preparing a dinner or dessert for an event…but that’s pretty normal.

What I have had is the excitment of being able to tell people about what I have learned about diabetes, and asking— sometimes begging them to be checked out. Many have, some haven’t, and a very few told me to forget it.

What I wish I would have known about diabetes when I was diagnosed is that it isn’t rocket science, you and I and millions of others have a disease known by the same name, but none of us are going to react or be controlled the same way, even if we are on the same meds. I wish someone would have told me that being on a diet, exercising, taking meds, and BG’s isn’t going to be the same this year, next year and into the future. That this disease changes as time goes on. I would have been prepared for the changes that my body goes through because of the diabetes. I wish I would have known that no one is the “Perfect Diabetic”, that everyone falls short of being completely on a program, that docs are n’t the only ones who have to do homework in this area, that flowing with the disease is easier than battling with yourself over it day in and day out. I wish someone would have told me that I was normal, it was a normal that was me.

I have so been there –

At work when we have a professional day and all go out to lunch I am not invited. I think they think I limit where they can go (come on, everywhere serves a salad) or are uncomfortable eating with a diabetic for some other reason? But they’ll say “Hey, lets go to -----, uh, oh, can you go there?” Last time it was just easier to go out on my own than embarrass them or cause an awkward moment.

And the Diabetic Police are the worst. I was at a restaurant and at the salad bar (with outstanding choices by the way) and a friend came up behind me and jumped me and wanted to know what I had on my plate! For heaven’s sake! I answered, my dinner. She made a smart remark about - just being sure . . . and I ran for my table before she could poke with her fork.

You also have to explain and educate your family. Its really hard to have a conversation with my sister. She is also diabetic but according to my mom she has problems and poor numbers. Once I asked a simple how is everything and I got snapped at that she was fine and her doctor says all her numbers are fine. Ouch. I just was wondering how her classes were going. Sometimes relationships with other diabetics are rough. Its said cause we could be support for each other.

The nice part is that you do bond with some people and get new friends and forge new relationships. And they are friends, resources, cheerleaders and support. And that’s pretty cool. Here’s to the new!

when i was diagnosed, my doctor recommended
"TYPE 2 DIABETES: THE FIRST YEAR" the lady who wrote is a member of tudiabetes I have minor gaps in my memory and can’t remember her name, sorry. anyway, it covers all aspects from depression to meds, and diet. i found it at barns & noble but you may be able to get it thru amazon.com. I recommend it highly.

UR Friend
danny w