I never say in job interviews or on my first day that I’m diabetic. Legally I cannot be fired or reprimanded for my medical condition, but I make a conscious choice to pretend it doesn’t exist, like I’m “normal.”
Of course people warn me that I should tell at least someone I work with about my disease. Even though I manage it well, anything can happen and someone should know what to do in that situation.
Eventually, I do. I make a friend or someone asks about my pump or my glucometer, and then that follows with 10 million more questions about diabetes: what’s the difference between type 1 and type 2, can I eat sugar, do I have to take injections, does it hurt, etc., etc.
I’m happy to answer these questions. When I was diagnosed at age 22, I didn’t know what diabetes was much less how it would change my life. Why would I? I studied psychology in college. I was more familiar with the symptoms and repercussions of bipolar disorder than what a normal blood sugar range was. So I’m always happy to share my first hand experience with others. Well, almost always.
For one, I want to rid the world of the negative stigma associated with diabetes. Yes, there are some who do not maintain a healthy diet and healthy weight, and even when diagnosed with diabetes, refuse to acknowledge it. But I’m not one of those people, and I’ve met many diabetics who are not those people. But I’ve also met some who are.
Most Type 1s are diagnosed as kids; most probably don’t remember life without diabetes. But I do. I was 22, relatively healthy at 122lbs and 5’5. I didn’t understand the difference between inorganic and organic or why processed food was worse for your body than fresh items or how even the fresh items still sported chemical residue.
And I’m still 5’5 and 125lbs with an A1C of 5.5. But I am now diabetic. I cannot eat carbs lightly. I moderate my sugar intake and have since cut out most processed food. I exercise when I can. But any insurance company would tell you I’m not healthy. I have a chronic condition so I have a “compromised immune system.”
And yet, I am more conscious of my health – I drink water like most Americans drink soda. I take a daily probiotic, multivitamin, cranberry and B-12 supplement. I haven’t been sick once this year although I’ve had my fair share of up and down blood sugar levels.
I am not the only one. Most type 1 diabetics I meet take incredible care of their health. Sure, we have our bad days or what we like to call our “cheat days.” But we try. It’s the only way we know how to live. As much as I hate my diabetes sometimes, I know how much more miserable I would be if my blood sugar levels were out of control, how fast my quality of life would deplete.
So what am I’m saying? Diabetics are actually the healthiest people in the world? Of course not. No one’s perfect, but I have to live with this disease for the rest of my life – I have to see some silver lining.
And that’s why I don’t tell my coworkers right away. I don’t want to be labeled – I don’t want to be treated with any sense of fragility. I’ve been managing this disease myself for the past five years.
And honestly, I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to explain why I’m different. I don’t want those puppy dog eyes. I don’t want people feeling sorry for me (I feel sorry for myself too much as it is).
But I think what I fail to realize is that they see that I’ve been managing this disease for five years, and they smile. They don’t judge; they respect (or maybe I’ve just been lucky in my work environments).
In fact, most don’t even ask about my diabetes, probably because they don’t want to make me uncomfortable and probably because they don’t want the responsibility if something happens where they need to intervene. I can’t say I blame them.