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Practice makes near perfect at bedtime

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October 23, 2016
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Recently, a woman at work discovered I have diabetes. I don't hide the fact that I have it at work, but it's not readily apparent. In the interest of safety, I've told several key people outright - and the folks in the near vicinity of my work space know because I don't hide my testing, pumping, or other efforts toward good control. If someone asks, I am usually happy to answer questions, clear up misconceptions, or alleviate concerns.
L, who works on the other side of our fairly large office, and who I don't see that often, came to my desk the other day and rather unceremoniously started into a monologue about my diabetes, It went something like, "Oh, Nicole" Look of concern, "A just told me about your diabetes. You have the bad kind, don't you? You have to take shots and things. Oh it must be so hard with having it the way you do. You have to stay away from sweets and I bet the shots hurt a lot."
Oh Dear. What to do?
"I do have diabetes, L, I've had it since I was eight. It's type one - which used to be called juvenile onset. I don't actually take shots anymore - I wear a pump that gives me my insulin. And it's not so bad at all, really."
"Oh. Well, the reason I came over is because my brother takes insulin and pills, but he got his later, so it's much easier then yours,"
"Well, you know, we all have our challenges. I bet your brother has type 2. And I bet he might argue that my diabetes is actually easier than his."
She laughed at this. We talked a little more about the differences between the two types of diabetes and how her brother is doing and how I am doing. It turned out to be not so bad.
But the conversation really got me thinking. Thinking about perspective and perception and misconception.
Managing chronic disease is such a personal thing. I've heard people with a chronic illness that isn't understood as well as diabetes say that they wish their disease was more like mine; that they'd happily take shots or pump medication everyday if it meant that their disease could be treated more effectively. I've had type 2 diabetics regard me with a look of sheer pity and say that they hope their diabetes doesn't get as bad as mine someday.
It is difficult for someone who doesn't have type 1 diabetes to understand the mechanics of the disease and the day to day mental and physical challenges it doles out; just as it is difficult for someone who doesn't have type 2 to understand those same mechanics and challenges; or difficult for someone who doesn't have (insert the name of any chronic illness here) to understand same. For now, I'll just talk about type 1 and type 2 diabetes. I've seen so much debate on various online communities about the two diseases - which group of us has it "worse" - which group has an "easier time at control." I've also seen discussion around the lack of understanding each group has about the other's disease. As a type 1 who's been surrounded by type 2s her whole life, I have strong opinions and thoughts about these sort of debates,
You might be surprised to find out, for example, that in my eyes, being diagnosed with and managing type 2 diabetes must be equally, if not more challenging, than managing type 1. Really, most people with type 2 are diagnosed after their life's habits are developed and after they've gotten into routines and just as they're coming to a part of life that's supposed to be more relaxed. Throw some diabetes into that mix - and you've got an incredible challenge. Changing diet and exercise routines is a challenge for anyone - when you're older and you've got the prospect of diabetes complications and pressure to meet numbers facing you on top of that - well, it can't be easy at all. So what if type 2 is often treated with pills and not shots? That doesn't make the balancing act any less daunting.
And that's why my conversation with L got me thinking about perspective and perception. There are days when my diabetes weighs so heavily, I would prefer to have any other obstacle to face and I don't think anyone has it more difficult. And there are days when I think I've got it easy - when I 'm aware that it is a gift to have a disease that at least I CAN manage well.
And I know it's like that for all of us. We people with diabetes - type 1 or type 2 - struggle ALONE and TOGETHER (how can that be?) with many of the same demons. I suppose all we can do is our best. Our best to live our own lives well and not name one another's lives "easier or harder or more or less complicated."

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