It happened again tonight. I’ve only had diabetes for about 16 months now and I’ve probably been asked upwards of 50 times. And now, tonight, you can make that 51. I was at dinner, after church, and I pulled out my super posh insulin/meter kit, tested, and started to calculate what I was about to eat. An acquaintance said to me, “You have diabetes?” I recited my brief explanation for how it’s actually what brought me to Seattle, blah blah blah. And then, of course, he asked:
“So, is it hard having diabetes?”
There was a pause. I suppose it’s getting to where I feel like I’m pulling up a script and reading off the page. You know, it’s the scene where the diabetic turns to the audience and gives her monologue on what it’s like to live with diabetes. This was especially true tonight because now my other friends at the table had turned to listen to my response. The question brings to mind so many things: the old Peggy McIntosh piece where she describes (#21) how unfair it is to ask any one person to speak on behalf of some minority group made up of individuals who see the world in different ways; all people with diabetes, but especially my brother, who lived with Type I for 16 years before I was even diagnosed and whom I never thought to ask how hard it was; and the amazingly accurate summary provided by fellow blogger, Sam Gellman, who wrote the following:
[pullquote]Perhaps you’ve had my typical conversation: “Yes, I give myself shots, no it doesn’t really hurt, yes it’s ok if I eat cake, yes I can drink that beer, well I wouldn’t say having the disease is no big deal, but no you shouldn’t feel sorry for me…” Next topic.[/pullquote]
Maybe I could just start reciting Sam’s monologue–it’s short and sweet and conveys the message I need to convey.
Instead, I started into my own monologue. I mean, this guy meant well and was simply trying to learn about my daily life, I’m sure. For these past 16 months, I have almost always lived my diabetes “out loud” and I really don’t mind answering questions or even diving into detailed explanations of beta cells–if that’s what’s requested. I actually like talking about diabetes and my clinical trial and how you never know where life will take you and blah blah blah. Sometimes, though, enough’s enough. I can’t even imagine how many times you Type I vets out there have had to answer this question, but I’m already tired. There have got to be some good, brief, polite answers you use that I can memorize for later.
Or print out on a small card that I will hand to people when they ask.
These are excellent ideas that I somehow missed before. Thank you both, sincerely, for your thoughts. Laura, I may be demonstrating my diabetes infancy, but what is the DOC?
Thanks for writing about this! I’ve been trying to answer that question for 31 years. Good point about being asked to speak for all members of a minority group! For me that’s what makes this question such a challenge. Since I found the DOC, I feel like I’ve learned to speak more mindfully on behalf of all the PWDs the questioner hasn’t met yet. Before the DOC, I was always inclined to rely on my you-don’t-look-sick, invisible-disability privilege and say, “Oh, it’s no big deal, I’m very healthy as long as I stay on top of things.” Now I’m more… Read more »
When I saw your post, I thought the question was: “Can you eat sugar?” But thanks for citing my post. I’m not totally sure what the best way to answer it is and it always depends on my mood I find and how much I like the person I’m talking to. I’d say for the past bunch of years I’ve started to go with the “it’s ok… and then switch the topic,” but I’m a bit different from you in that I don’t really like talking about it much. Eventually they realize I don’t want to talk about it. I’ve had it for 12… Read more »