Many of us with diabetes try to make a point to others that the social ramifications of living with diabetes are issues in need of attention. Yesterday, I was thinking about how true this is while travelling back in my mind over the last few years.
Let me explain.
Three years ago I was two months pregnant with twins and starting to deal with major nausea that lasted for 3 months. It’s hard to go out and socialize when a twin pregnancy causes you to throw up and fight a blood sugar of 30 or 40 every other night. Then my belly size became an issue along with dislocated vertebrae. It was hard to walk or stand or sit comfortably. Worry also plagued me and by the time my kids arrived, I had really lost contact with the outside world.
It’s ok you know, I don’t really regret it. I was super focused on the tasks at hand: Choose amongst a boy and a girl list of baby names, keep blood sugars near normal at all times, eat healthy, buy two of everything, stay calm, meditate, pray, wish on every star.
While I don’t regret it because my kids came out great, the reality is that I was living an experiment in isolation. This obviously continued through one of the hardest times of my life where I was so busy and so weighed down with post partum depression and therefore didn’t see people except once a week at the grocery store. You should have seen the look on people’s faces as they stood horrified as I chatted them up in the check out line as if we were long lost best friends. People wondered why I didn’t just have people over to the house. This was difficult because during the first 4 months after giving birth, I was pumping breast milk round the clock and dealing with painful mastitis and basically wandered around like a topless zombie. I didn’t want to scar anyone for life, you know? After that, I was dealing with such a severe exhaustion and crippling carpel tunnel and tendonitis that I couldn’t fathom having anyone except my family, see me in a such a pitiful state. The last time people saw me I was looking my best at my wedding and honeymoon and to show my new, contorted self was seemingly unbearable. Looking back, I know that worrying about this was silly and superficial but in the moment, I was suffering and stuck in a fog of sorts.
The socializing has gradually increased as managing two of the same age has become easier and now it’s left me to reflect.
This experience made me feel that managing diabetes was easier. How? Don’t we all do better with support? I had plenty of support I think. My husband Alex, my parents and siblings. I even have a type 1 support in my family-my sister Ana.
But here is what I touched on when I reminisced:
-When I tested my sugar in the middle of an important office meeting, the thought would run through my mind, “Are they wondering if I can keep up with the demands of this job?”
-When I drank juice in the middle of class in college, people who had seen me test and give insulin would often exclaim, “OMG are you ok?”
-While eating out at a restaurant, I’d occasionally get strange looks from nearby eaters while I injected my insulin discretely at the table.
-In the middle of fun dancing at a club, I’d think, “I don’t want to put my fun on hold and test…should I test? How’s my sugar?” sometimes resulting in high blood sugars afterwards and a good self-scolding.
.And so many more…
So while pregnant and spending all my time at home, my parent’s house, and the doctor’s office I realized I could relax more. I kind of welcomed the break to do all of my diabetes things in private or amongst those who were used to it all. I didn’t know I had been a little exhausted of feeling self-conscious all these years. But I was.
I was tired of trying to smile at people when testing my sugar so that they wouldn’t give me the pitiful “awww” look. I was tired of telling my concerned soccer coach that I needed “a minute” to get my blood sugar up. I was tired of eating candy in class and wondering if people would think that my weekly candy or glucose tablets were the reason I was a little overweight. I was tired of volunteering for every teacher who asked for help to prove to everyone that I was capable. I was tired of being out in a group of people and being a verbal ninja trying to explain why it really was ok that I was eating a cookie. I was tired of worrying that someone would see signs of my diabetes and suddenly change their opinion of me.
These last 3 years, I have rested. I feel recouped and re-energized. I have mostly healed the young child and teenager with diabetes who suffered more psychologically than physically. I am more mature and have more willingness to advocate for those with my condition than I did as a child, teenager, and younger adult. I know how to advocate for myself, too. I am ready to get back out there and mingle again.
I’m a little scared because it’s been a while and diabetes and isolation makes the shy person a little more shy. But, you know what? I try to remember there are millions of us out there. Millions of shy people and millions of people with diabetes.
Most likely, the person taking extra notice of me and my huge purse, medical alert bracelet, and speckled fingers is just curious or possibly thinking, “Oh wow, she has it, too”.