Recently there has been an article circling the social media sites and diabetes blogosphere regarding a Miss Manner’s article addressing a diabetic’s concerns on whether he should be self-conscious about checking his BG in public. Miss Manners apparently said he should be and the diabetes blogosphere responded en mass that he shouldn’t be, etc. A lot of anger has been directed toward Miss Manners, I think unnecessarily.
I’d like to address the issue, not from the stance of whether we should check in public or not (I personally have no problem with it, but…) as that is not the issue here, but from the perspective of the journey every diabetic goes on to being OK with their disease in public.
As a society we should never marginalize people with chronic conditions and make them feel like outcasts, or that they are inconveniencing people with their disease. Heaven forbid! But, on the other side, as diabetics we should not judge other diabetics for their self-consciousness regarding the things we must all do every day. Just because you are fine whipping out your meter and lancing a drop of blood to the test strip, then wiping your bloody finger on the side of your jeans or sucking it in your mouth…all the while sitting happily at the bar with your friends, does not mean that the diabetic sitting next to you in a bsd person because they are not comfortable with it.
When I was first diagnosed, I hid my disease. Not purposefully of course, but I never talked about it, I never checked in front of people if I could help it, and I wore my pump clipped inside my jeans, facing my body. Chances are you never knew I was a diabetic. I wouldn’t lie to people when they asked, but I didn’t want the questions so I tried not to let it show. I was embarrassed of what people would think, that I was a weird person, a freak, a strange thing to be studied or considered. These are feelings I think all diabetics experience at some point or another. Some simply move on, not giving it a second thought and some struggle for years to feel comfortable allowing other people to see their care. I did for years, then slowly my perspective changed and I became less afraid of other people’s reactions. Now I wear my pump openly, I don’t always check in front of people, but I try to not to make it a big deal, or announce that I am lancing my finger. That’s where I am right now, and that’s okay.
But if someone had come to me a few years back and told me I should be proud of my disease and that I shouldn’t hide it, I would have been very confused. For one thing, I wasn’t “hiding” my disease, I took care of it fabulously, but I drew the line at other people making stupid comments. The other thing is I was still trying to figure out myself as a diabetic; maybe I would end up being a super open diabetic who introduced herself as one, but in those moments I just wanted to focus on myself without the label of diabetic also hanging around. It raised more questions than I was ready to deal with.
Now I haven’t read the original article, but I don’t know where this concerned diabetic is in this process. And neither do we. Come on people, let’s not judge another person’s comfort level for the sake of our own agendas against the evils of non-diabetics. I think both Miss Manners and the response missed the point. We can’t tell people that they shouldn’t be embarrassed, we can encourage them not to be, let them know they are not alone or weird, that it’s normal to be a little self-conscious, but we also need to be respectful of that process and understand ultimately they have to be comfortable with it. Shaming people is never a good idea. Whether it’s shaming for doing something or for not doing something.