Cutting Him Off
Handling diabetes horror stories
January 2013 — A few years ago I found myself making ends meet (or at least get closer together) by doing safety inspections on HUD homes around Minneapolis. Through a variety of causes the homes had been abandoned, were generally neglected, and sometimes unsafe. But they were destined to hit the housing market again, and that's where I came in.
My job was to inspect the property shortly after they were acquired into the program, document any safety hazards and necessary repairs, then visit periodically to check for any vandalism, environmental problems, or storm damage.
These properties were owned by the government, which made them targets for lawsuits. If someone tripped on an uneven patch of pavement, or poked themselves on an exposed nail, or fell down stairs that didn't have a handrail, or any other possible scenario you can think of, there would be a lawsuit.
With that in mind, my training was pretty intense. Every so often the regional manager would come to town and meet with all of the inspectors to go over a few properties. We all had to be on the same page, and everyone had to say up to date with guidelines and standards. One visit with a new regional manager will be stuck in my memory for a long time.
His name was Walter something, and he was a nice enough guy. Easy to work with, seemed to have a good sense of humor, and treated everyone fairly. Unfortunately, he had a lot of experience watching diabetes destroy people he knew.
I can't remember how the topic came up, but once it did, he just wouldn't stop with it. You know how it happens – they start telling you about all of the people they know who have lived with diabetes, and all of the bad things that happened to them.
Why do they do that?
Is it because they want to convey some sense of familiarity with it? Do they think they understand, which would be a really nice thing (if they only did)? What on earth makes them think that hearing all sorts of terrible things is helpful? You wouldn't do that to someone who just told you they have cancer. I just don't get it.
Off he goes telling me about his aunt who lost her vision from diabetes, and his grandpa who had his leg amputated which started a slow downward spiral until he died a short while later, and another guy he knows who lost both legs below the knee, and another lady who can't feel her feet, and another who's on dialysis... on and on he went.
At some point I cracked a little bit. I interrupted him and told him that I didn't need to hear about all of these terrible things. He tried to keep going, but I cut him off again. I told him that it didn't help me to hear all of the scary tales, and that his stories were not my diabetes. Times are different, type 1 and type 2 are different, I am different.
It felt really good to cut him off like that, and I think I'm going to do it more often. Don't go down that path with me, or I might let you know how I feel about your story.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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Years before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, The Other Half came out of a doctor's appointment with a diagnosis of "borderline diabetes" and an ADA exchange diet sheet. His health insurance agency followed up on the diagnosis with a glucometer and test strips. After a year or so of trying to follow the diet plan and test his glucose levels, things appeared to be back in "normal" range, and stood there until a couple of years after my own diagnosis. Shortly...