Do You Tell
Your choice to discuss your diabetes is also your chance to educate others.
with Amy Tenderich
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
August 2005 —It seems like the more we talk about it, the more it becomes a defining factor of our identities. Who wants to be "that diabetic woman" (or man) to people you barely know, right? Still, it is an integral part of who we are. So whom do YOU tell?
Self-disclosure can be a touchy issue, I know. And I don't mean any legal requirements to notify health care plans or potential employers: I'm talking about how comfortable you are "coming out of the closet" with your diabetes in social situations and in everyday life.
For my part, I've always been totally out there, perhaps because I was just too old for all that self-consciousness baloney by the time I got this disease. Or perhaps because after breastfeeding three children in public places, I just couldn't make no never mind about having a condition that calls for a tiny little shot. Generally, when I need to test glucose levels or inject, I just unload my purse on the restaurant table and get to work…
But, I find that I'm slowly starting to crawl back in the closet. What I've discovered is that despite all the press it's getting, most people don't know a whole lot about diabetes. Not that anyone has ever been offended, mind you, but once I've done my "demonstration," the rest of the meal or social event consistently turns into my amateur version of Diabetes 101. I get a lot of silly questions ("can you ever eat jelly again?"), and then I get sympathy for having such "bad" diabetes. I know my companions mean well, but most of the time, all I really want is a few minutes' recognition of my condition, and then a pleasant non-diabetes-centered evening.
So I find myself slinking off to the bathroom when it's time for the needlework, simply to avoid dealing with the impending reaction/distraction. But I'm realizing that there's a whole lot more to this issue than avoiding tiresome questions.
Work, School, and the Dating Game
An evening out is one thing, but we constantly have to decide when and how to talk about our diabetes — with friends, colleagues, teachers, current, and potential love interests, etc. — which means a compulsory process of educating non-diabetics. Some of us are very private and don't like to feel different, so the idea of educating other people about diabetes causes a lot of stress.
If you feel this way, you may be relieved to learn that it's widespread and serious enough to be fundamental to many diabetes counseling programs.
A medical social worker explains: "We try to help people strike a balance between maintaining their privacy and disclosing factual information to the people who need to know." Right… you don't have to tell-all, but you can't pretend you're not diabetic, either.
Another piece of reassuring advice is knowing that you don't have to (or even pretend to) like it. Being honest is certainly more satisfying and a lot less tiring than pretending you feel fine when you don't. It's OK to say that you despise having diabetes.
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