Invisible Travails

The balance between wanting everyone to know and hiding your diabetes.


DeannaBy Deanna Glick

I don't like playing my diabetes card. Even when it's the only card that makes sense.

Like when I'm a little late to pick my daughter up from preschool because I was gathering information for an insurance claim for a CGM. Or when I'm too cranky or wiped out to make idle chit-chat with the other moms in the hall about the Halloween party because my blood sugars have been on a roller coaster ride for days. Or when I lose patience waiting from the Volunteer Queen to stop monopolizing the teacher's time while I'm waiting to ask about Picture Day logistics and I can feel my levels hovering in the 60s.

The thing about diabetes is, no one knows about it unless you tell them. Everyone assumes you're of equal capability. Your illness is invisible. And sharing my travails goes against my grain: it feels dramatic, whiney, victimish, all traits I want to avoid demonstrating in an effort to set a good example for my daughter.

Acknowledging shortcomings as a result of my diabetes has never been my strong suit. Admitting I can't or shouldn't work through lunch or skip exercise like every other workaholic martyr trying to get ahead in the rat race was really hard for me. And whenever I did put on the proverbial brakes, no one seemed to understand. I remember a therapist I saw years ago saying to me, "You have to live your life differently."

She was right. That's because, the truth is, those travails are real. I know this. Still, I care too much about what others think and often have little faith in their empathic ability. Just put it on my long list of things to work on.

We all carry invisible pain. No one knows the burdens we're carrying. I remind myself every day, (yes, every day) that everyone shoulders something: illness, marital woes, financial distress, children's behavior problems, disappointment in our loved ones, death, birth.

The difference is, most of these burdens are things most people can relate to. Diabetes isn't one of those things. Even once people know about it, no one sees my diabetes for the beastly encroachment it is. They don't see me filling my pump cartridge and changing out my site at 11:30 p.m. after a day just as exhausting as any other parent's whose only worry is brushing their teeth before bed (which can be skipped once in a while without consequence, mind you).

Just as I'm finishing up, I hear my daughter wail. Her feet hit the hard wood and she comes charging through my bedroom door.

"Did you have a bad dream, my sweetie?"

"Yeah, I had a bad dream."

She sees my site.

"That's your sticker right there, Mama."

Then she sees me putting the newly filled cartridge in my pump.

"Oh, I forgot my pump downstairs."

This "pump" she refers to is a little piece of pink plastic. Some part from some toy.

"You can get it tomorrow, my sweetie."

We head back to her bedroom, where she climbs into the covers and makes room for me. And, as I drift off to sleep by her side, I'm thankful for what she doesn't see.


Disclaimer
dLife's Daily Living columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: May 30, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
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