“How’s your diabetes?”

It’s not the innocuous question you think it is!

Please stop asking me.
Take a moment to reflect  – what are you actually asking?

This upcoming rant has been triggered by Twitter, like all good rants! I’ve been scrolling through the current Australian Diabetes Social Media Summit hashtag on Twitter (do yourself a favour and scroll down too, lots of great info there!) and a tweet jumped out at me…

What are you ACTUALLY asking me?

Funnily enough, it’s never my friends with diabetes who ask this, it’s the people in my life who have a functioning pancreas. People with diabetes know that this question is unanswerable – what do you say when the thing they’re asking about changes minute by minute?

Are you actually curious? What do you want me to say? Asking me about my diabetes isn’t small talk – it’s not the weather.

For most people, this question is coming from a good place – they care about me, diabetes is a part of me, so they want to know how I’m going. But to be honest, anything I say apart from “Fine thanks” is confusing! I’m never going to give you a detailed account of my BGL levels that day/week/month, because 1) who cares and 2) the only person who does is my diabetes educator. I’ll use words like ‘bolus’ ‘basal’, ‘I:C ratio’, until your head is spinning – and you realised you just wanted to check that I’m ok. 

Diabetes doesn’t exist in a vacuum. I can’t tell you that my sugars are throwing a tantrum, but “I’m fine, thanks”.  It’s not like my life continued on like before, just with a pump attached to my belly and some blood test strips sprinkled around my room. Diabetes affects my life in so many damn ways, so if you’re wanting to know how I’m doing, maybe ask:

“Hey, how are you feeling (about your diabetes) at the moment?”

This does both of us a favour – it’s relevant to what you ACTUALLY want to ask, which is “Hey, I care about you, and I know that sometimes diabetes can be really annoying – are you doing ok?”

What’s the difference? Asking me about my diabetes in isolation is basically saying “Hey! Is that diabetes behaving itself?” like it’s a stubborn cold. The fact of the matter is that diabetes is unpredictable, and you can’t answer “How’s your diabetes?”, because it’s unanswerable. Just because my BGLs are steady while I’m talking to you, doesn’t mean they will be fifteen minutes later. Also, hot tip – if you say “But you said your diabetes was fine!” while I treat a hypo, you’re going the right way for a hypo-delirium punch in the face, or at best a snarky comment.

Also, diabetes is personal. I’m not about to discuss personal chronic illness management to someone I’ve only met a couple of times. Would you ask me how my period flow is? How my bowels are holding up? No? So why diabetes?
To those people who ask me who don’t actually know me that well – here’s a hot tip! I do a lot of interesting stuff with my life, please use your imagination and make small talk about something that’s not so personal. Examples include:

“How are your travels going?”
“Any great teacher stories?”
“What are you reading at the moment?”
“Still obsessed with Outlander?” (the answer is always yes)

You can’t predict diabetes. Asking how it is is useless. Asking how I am is lovely, and does exactly what you were trying to do with the first question. Just much less annoying, and much more likely you’ll get a genuine answer.

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3 thoughts on ““How’s your diabetes?”

  1. Hello Georgia, I’m over 50 and have had this condition for nearly 50 years. It still causes my mother a great deal of consternation that I don’t seem to be able to get it together (as far as she can tell). Let’s not forget that she was doing the mothering worrying bit in the days before the availability of online parent support groups. Even now, I don’t suppose there are many support groups for mothers who still worry about their middle-aged children? ) I think I will send her a link to your post as my own reassurances are sometimes difficult for her to accept given that sometimes I am so clearly not fine (ie. hypo/high). Maybe hearing how it is for others might help her. Kind regards. Tracy.

  2. How is your Diabetes Mr. Phillips? Well next time I talk to it I will ask and let you know. How is your diabetes Mr. Phillips? Great, everyone ought to get some. Yeah I have about 100 replies. None of them seem to stop such stupid questions. Oh well.

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