When my diabetic status is your business.
December 2008 — As an African American woman living a very busy lifestyle and attempting to solve problems in my world and in the world of others, I find myself in different situations from day-to-day which challenge me. One of my biggest challenges is in terms of what I eat, when I eat, why I eat, who I eat with how much I eat at any given time, and maintaining privacy for my diabetic status.
The consumption of food in my environment tends to have nothing to do with sustaining health and vitality but usually more to do with entertainment, recreation, cravings, and contributing to my emotional well-being. I can't believe I am putting this in writing but it is true for the most part that I eat for comfort. As a salon owner and sexual assault advocate, I hear more stories about personal lives both tragic and triumphant. In processing the information I receive I find resolve in the foods I prepare and consume. I have done much better lately by replacing my habitual eating with reading, African dancing, and listening to music. I eat foods that are culturally specific most days but I have just learned recently how to prepare them in a healthier way. In other words, I am becoming more conscious of the things I put in my mouth.
While I have been trying to make better choices, eat better and live better I have found myself needing to explain to folks the reason behind my lifestyle and food intake changes. I know exactly why I am trying to do better: I have type 2 diabetes and if I don't take care of myself, my diabetes will take care of me - and not necessarily in a good way! What comes with that is being brutally honest with myself and those around me. Therein is my dilemma: Do I come out of the diabetic closet and share with co-workers, new friends, and others about my diabetic status? Sharing my disease with others can be tricky but it certainly is a must do if I want to increase my chances of getting the help I need if required.
I don't wear any jewelry to identify my diabetic status because I don't like the styles of the medic alerts. Apparently there are some folks that don't like them either. For instance, there's a young woman in Michigan who tattooed the word "diabetic" on the inside of her wrist and shows it proudly. I am not much for tattoos or the pain associated with it so that option is out. I believe that the reason I am challenged by this particular dilemma is because of the stigma related to having a disease that most people attribute to being overweight or eating out of control or just plain old laziness. While being diabetic can sometimes be hereditary, lifestyle does play a major role as well. That being said, I also find some attitudes, comments, and otherwise well-intentioned people say things to hurt my feelings or they feel like they have to super monitor what I eat in front of them. They also take it upon themselves to tell others about my status without checking in with me first to see if that's okay to do.
So I have compiled a list of etiquette practices that I would like to see happen in my world as I share with more people my diabetic status in the different environments I find myself:
- Unless I am in a health crisis, do not tell everyone you know that I have type 2 diabetes.
- In a public setting where eating takes place, please do not blurt out what I can and cannot eat because of my health status.
- At lunch breaks please do not look at my food and comment (-/+) about what my choices are as if I asked for your opinion.
- If I appear to be having an episode, please get my cell phone and press ICE to see what to do for me.
In turn this is what I will do:
- I will proudly display my diabetic status and get one of those ugly ass bracelets or something like it…better safe than sorry.
- I will share my status when I feel safe and convinced that I will not be talked down to or bombarded with type 2 diabetic horror stories. Although sharing is powerful and transformative, sometimes it is exhaustive.
- I will arm myself with candy and other aids if I experience a dangerous low. And lastly;
- I will work on my attitude and exercise more patience in the future because I know that I am a testimony to some and I am never ashamed of my diabetic status and I can be a powerful resource to those who have been recently diagnosed … so I need to just get over myself and get it together!
Got it Sugar? Good.
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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