Talk Like a Textbook, Not a Diary.
Last night I attended the bi-monthly women’s support group meeting hosted by the wonderful ladies of ACT1 Diabetes. This week’s discussion was about depression and diabetes, and featured a guest speaker, Helene Ciporen. But I’m not actually going to talk about our discussion today. I’m saving that for when I actually have time to flesh out my post.
As we were leaving for dinner, I chatted with three other ladies. One girl explained how she had run a race in Central Park over the weekend, but hadn’t done very well because of roller coaster blood sugars. Makes perfect sense. It happens. She said that when she arrived home, she bumped into her landlord, who asked her out the race went. She said that it hadn’t gone very well because she had a high blood sugar caused by a rebound from a low blood sugar and that things were all over the place. The landlord was apparently very concerned and said, “Are you sure you are eating the right?”
Clearly, not the issue. But I, in turn, said, “Why would you ever get into that much detail about your blood sugars with an Outsider?”
In all honesty, I barely discuss my blood sugars with my boyfriend, let alone people who know nothing about diabetes.
Another girl said that when she talks about diabetes, she discusses it as “the body does….” not “my body does…” which helps separate herself from any unwarranted assumptions (you know what they say about assumptions…).
I thought that was brilliant, and said, “Talk like a textbook, not a diary.”*
I’m as open and honest about my diabetes as the next person. I think it’s important for people to know I have diabetes, in case something were to happen. I think it’s important to explain what to do in an emergency situation. But that’s it.
I don’t see whose business it is what my blood sugars have been that day. I don’t talk about my finances, my weight or my menstrual cycle with anyone except close, close friends and family, so why would I go around talking about how my blood sugar was high this morning. First of all, most people won’t even know what that means, and the people who think they know what it means are probably wrong. Sometimes I will share if my blood sugar is low, mostly because it has a noticeable impact on my physical condition. Usually it means “I ain’t walkin’ nowhere no how.” So sometimes I’m late for work, but I just say that. “I was low.” End of story. No cause, no details.
I have observed that these situations can actually cause more harm than good when it comes to teaching people about diabetes because it’s not done in the proper context. They have heard stories about diabetes, and then suddenly here you are with an “episode” and it’s very easy for people to make stupid assumptions and say stupid things.
For me, it’s easier to explain diabetes when there isn’t something going on with me at the time. I find that I usually explain things rather defensively when I’m trying to explain a low or high blood sugar when I’m actually low or high. Which goes back to my initial theory: talk like a textbook, not a diary.
Another girl mentioned that she had been sick from ketones and had called into say her “body was off.” Why not just say you’re sick? I don’t know about ya’ll, but I usually don’t get into that much detail about why I’m sick when I call in sick. You’re sick. Ketones is a perfectly legitimate reason to be sick. If you have sick days, take a sick day. You don’t need to detail about how your insulin pump fell off or you forgot to plug your pump back in after having sex or whathaveyou. You’re sick. You might be Diabetes Sick, and not Normal People Sick, but at the end of the day, unless it’s going to have some definite impact on how my relationship with whoever I’m speaking to, I’d rather just not get into it.
If you have to explain about diabetes and ketones, do it when you can really explain to people how diabetes works, and what happens when there is a sudden absence of insulin, and how and why that can occur. It can be jarring for people who don’t have a clear understanding of how diabetes works, and rather than ask you for more information, they’ll hang up the phone and think, “Wow, her diabetes must be really bad if she has to miss work” when that isn’t the case at all.
Diabetes is an invisible illness, so the only information people will have about what is going on with your health is based on what you tell them. Make sure you’re not giving them the wrong idea. We’re healthy, we’re strong, and we’re awesome. That’s all they need to know!
How much do you share about your blood sugars (and health in general) with people not in your immediate circle?
* This was apparently the funniest thing I have ever said in my whole life because they cracked up, and Karen insisted that I use that as a title to a blog post, so here you go.