This is another post by contributing author, Ana Morales.
Have you ever taken the well-known Myers Briggs personality test? I’ve taken it a few times and it has never failed to reveal that I’m an introverted person. I’ve known this about myself even before I took the test, however, and sometimes I wonder how much having diabetes has influenced this part of me. Since I was diagnosed when I was only 3, there’s no doubt that it played a role in my development as an individual. While some people may have enjoyed the attention that came with being a diabetic, I didn’t. In elementary school I had to walk to the office every day before lunchtime to check my blood sugar level and report it to one of the staff members. If it was low they would send me to lunch early and I would have to sit with people I didn’t know, so it got to the point where if I was low, I would lie about it in order to avoid going to lunch early.
Outside of school, I was involved in extra-curricular activities such as soccer, choir, dance, and art classes. I often neglected to check my blood sugar during these times because I didn’t want people watching me or giving me that horrified look when I drew blood from my finger. Over the years I’ve met several people who can hardly stand to look at needles or blood, let alone watch me do something to myself that involved both. I became self-conscious and felt that I should prevent these people from feeling uncomfortable around me and just not prick my finger or give my shots in front of them. If there was a bathroom or otherwise secluded spot available nearby, I would retreat there to do what I had to do without any sort of audience. Sometimes this luxury was not available though, and this is where I put others before my own needs and simply waited until I was alone. Not too long ago I finally realized that this is no way to take care of myself. I still struggle with pricking my finger and giving shots in public sometimes, but not nearly as much as I used to.
Even with some of the people who were closest to me, I couldn’t seem to not be shy about my diabetes sometimes. It didn’t help that some of them treated my diabetes like it really wasn’t a big deal at all. This hurt me in a way that I don’t even know how to describe; after all, I’ve been dealing with not just this disease, but the thoughts of what could happen in the future because of it for the past 16 years. Even though it hurt me, I couldn’t bring myself to say anything to them and make them understand because I felt like I would come off as overdramatic and uptight and it would somehow taint the relationship I had with them. I truly regret not doing anything now. As a diabetic, you have to learn to stand up for yourself and not expect everyone to automatically understand what you’re going through. It took me a while to learn that.
As I’ve been writing this I realized that another thing that has prevented me from being less shy about my diabetes is the fact that I’m not as informed about it as I could be. I think that part of it is due to my sister Sysy’s diligence with learning everything she can about it. In a way I’ve taken advantage of this and never looked into the disease myself. As a result I feel that I can’t accurately explain to people what’s going on with me sometimes. While I should’ve started learning about what I have more thoroughly a long time ago, it’s never too late to start. If you’re in the same situation, take the initiative to learn all you can about diabetes because it’s a big part of your life! Reading the articles on this website is a great start :).
I definitely still don’t have perfect control, but it always helps me to think about how taking care of myself now will hopefully ensure a healthier future for me. As a shy person even outside of having diabetes, I have to be extra stern when it comes to doing things that may draw attention to myself and not let that stop me from doing what I need to do. So, what can you do if your diabetes makes you a little shy and prevents you from doing what you need to? Here’s a list to get you started:
1. Become informed! Learn about the disease that you have and share this information with your loved ones and other people in your life whenever you’re presented with the chance. Having the support of others makes dealing with diabetes SO much easier.
2. Keep your priorities straight. To put it simply, learn when you have to put your needs before others’ and when you don’t.
3. Speak up! You know your body better than anyone else. Don’t be afraid to sound a little harsh if that’s what going to make someone understand how important it is to take care of yourself. If they really love you, they won’t leave you because of it.
And remember, it’s not a bad thing to be shy, just don’t let fear take over your life! You’ll be glad you didn’t.