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People Will Stare
The girls and I went for frozen yogurt after a tasty dinner at Panera the other night. It was three best friends talking about love, careers, and futures while diving into strawberries, chocolate sprinkles, and gummy worms. I reveled in the fact that these ladies have been by my side for the past nine years.
Sometimes I can’t even believe that it’s been that long. We’ve been through it all together: high school drama, college woes and separations, a marriage, long-term and long-distance relationships, broken hearts, and a lot of frozen yogurt. These ladies thrill me and restore my soul in a way that only true, unending friendship really can.
As we consumed our treat and chatted about what neighborhoods were still in our school district (re-zoning has changed a lot of our school demographics), I pulled out my needle and syringe for the second time that evening. One of the girls, who is also a nurse, asked “Do people look at you when you do that?” She wasn’t asking out of disgust or irritation. She’s seen plenty of injections from me over the years. She just wanted to know from my perspective: how was it?
I didn’t really think before I responded with “I don’t know” and a smile. But when I left that evening, I felt a slight pang that my answer seemed flippant. I do know, but maybe I just don’t want to know. I know that people have watched me closely as I pull syringe and vial out of my kit or draw blood at the point of a needle for a meter check. I know that people sometimes stare. People are curious.
Doing injections and checking my blood sugar is so natural to me and such a deeply ingrained part of my life that I just don’t notice anymore. Every now and then I glance up to see open mouths or curious eyes, but usually, my head is down and I’m calculating carbs so I don’t care if they stare. It doesn’t particularly bother me or upset me if they do. People are people.
Passing judgement or making rude comments is another issue, but staring or being curious when you see a girl with a syringe at the dinner table isn’t that big of a deal. So, yes, I know that people watch sometimes. But I don’t know if they actually look at me. Are they staring at the blood and needle or are they looking at what that means? Do they understand?
That’s not what my friend was asking, but that’s my sticking point because I think that’s where the question comes from. I think those surrounding us as diabetics are so ingrained with us to see a syringe at the dinner table that seeing other people take note can be daunting. It puts the spotlight on them when they aren’t even the ones being watched. Again, that’s not exactly where my friend was coming from, but I’ve heard it in the past.
I heard it a lot when Marvin made comments proclaiming to the table that I should “put away my drugs” or “stop shooting up.” He joked, but I think it all comes back to the spotlight. My injections, my diabetes brings attention to me and those around me even when I don’t ask it to. That spotlight can be difficult for some to manage when they haven’t developed the diabetes habits themselves. My family and friends don’t notice or care when I inject (or at least they’ve never told me so), but when other people start to care, it can make the whole group uncomfortable.
The challenge is balancing how easy it is for me and those who’ve lived this with me for so long with the uncomfortable feeling that newer people feel. Dating, friendship, coworkers, bosses…everyone has to find the balance with me. Most importantly though, I have to be creating the balance within these relationships in order to ease that spotlight feeling and letting them know that this is life and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.
Because there isn’t and it’s okay if people stare. Let them.
Michelle Kowalski, a writer, editor and photography hobbiest living in Phoenix, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in February 2005. In January 2008, as part of her quest to start on an insulin pump, Michelle learned that she actually has type 1 diabetes. (Read More)
Nicole Purcell lists having type 1 diabetes last when she's asked to provide information about herself - because that's where it belongs. (Read More)