Diabetes is an invisible illness, but it’s also very visible. There’s no subtle way to test your blood sugar or inject insulin, and it always results in questions. I love questions, I welcome them – but I’m always conscious of talking about it too much. I couldn’t put my finger on why I become anxious about talking all things diabetes until last night, when I was at a bevs and bonfire night. My pump was hanging off my jeans (easy access so I could bolus for that cheese and dips platter…), so it was more visible than usual. As I bolused for a dessert, a few people started to ask me questions about it.
“What is that?”
“So does that test your blood sugar?”
“Do you always have to wear that?”
I was having the BEST chat, and as we continued to talk and I showed them where my cannula was, I realised why I always steer the conversation away from my diabetes before this point.
People usually start to get rude.
These people were different. They were respectful of my knowledge. They were actively listening to me – they weren’t waiting to jump into the conversation with a story about their diabetic grandma, or how they’d ‘rather die’ than have diabetes. They were genuinely interested, and soaking up everything I was saying.
The difference between this conversation and others I usually have was staggering. By this point, I usually have a male man-splaining the finer points of his cousin’s great-aunt’s ‘diabeetus’ to me, or a woman dressed head to toe in Lulu Lemon lecturing me about the evils of sugar. People always tend to make the conversation revolve around them, and 90% of the time I end up sitting there listening to someone explain my own disease to me. I’m exhausted from trying to correct people – and when they’re that adamant, they don’t want to be educated anyway. I’m now a master at sculling my glass of wine and saying “Oh my drink is empty, please excuse me!” and avoiding them for the rest of the night.
This conversation was refreshing. Type 1 diabetes was the only thing these people wanted to know about, and were genuinely curious about my day-to-day life. The only comments they made were complimentary – things like “Wow! Your brain is crazy!” when I showed them how to carb count, and “You guys must be so resilient” when they realised that we inject ourselves all the time. To be honest, I walked out of the party feeling like a bit of a legend. Diabetes is my everyday, but I often forget that it’s actually a big deal. We ARE legends, we do so much everyday to keep ourselves alive and healthy, and it’s nice to be reminded of that sometimes. This is the kind of ‘educating’ I could do every day – to people that just want to understand. Education and listening has to go both ways.
Note to non-diabetics – if you don’t have diabetes, don’t explain it to me.