Is your diabetes secret?

Do you keep your diabetes secret, or are you someone who tells EVERYBODY about your diabetes?  When I was diagnosed, it was 1970 and I wasn’t yet 2 years old.  Although I don’t remember much about being a diabetic child back then, I do remember that there really wasn’t any form of control back then, like we have now.  We peed on yellow litmus strips to tell us if our kidneys were excreting sugar in our urine, which was bad.  I took a shot once a day back then.  That’s all we had for control.  So everyone knowing I was diabetic wasn’t really necessary.  I remember that sometimes I had to go to the nurses station in the gradeschool I was in because of low blood sugars, and I’m sure my teacher every year must have known, but I don’t know if other kids knew?  (We had no idea what “blood sugar” was back then.)

In high school I was up to 2 shots a day, and we had glucometers by that time, but it was an infrequent checking of the blood sugars because it was so expensive.  I don’t remember ever going to the nurses station in middle school and high school.  Maybe I was carrying my candy bars with me by that time?  With 2 shots a day, I still wasn’t carrying a “diabetes bag” yet.  My teachers didn’t all know I was diabetic, because you move from class to class, but some did.  More of my piers knew as well.

Then there was college.  I had 4 roommates, and they all knew I was diabetic.  My co-workers and boss knew, but none of my professors did.  I think I was still only on 2 shots a day though?  70/30 if I remember right?  If I needed glucose for a low, I just found a vending machine.  Not really a need for everyone around me to know still though, just those I’m close to frequently.

Early adulthood is next, and I had a career job.  On multiple shots a day at that time, so the chance for lows is increased.  So I made sure more people knew I was diabetic.  More of my co-workers, close friends, aquaintences, etc.  As the years went on, it seemed I told more and more about my diabetes.  So that many who knew me, knew I was diabetic.  Then I experienced cardiac arrest at age 34, and I decided that after that, everyone I met would know I’m diabetic, so that if I ever need help, they’ll know what to tell emergency workers.  At this point in my life, I’d be surprised if someone I know personally, doesn’t know I’m diabetic.

So the reason I wrote this article, is that I’ve met people that actually hide their diabetes.  It’s usually adults or teens that are newly diagnosed, or are living with their diabetes with little to no help from their family doctor.  Maybe they feel that their diabetes will make people treat them differently?  Maybe they think having diabetes means they’ve failed in being healthy?   No matter what the reason, if you’re one of those people, I want you to know, that people want to help you, and that you may need their help one day.  I’ve been helped by so many people who knew something was wrong and said “Rich, you ok? You need some sugar?”, which made me realize there was a problem before I knew anything was wrong.  This is why I tell EVERYONE, that I’m diabetic.  If you’re newly diagnosed, I understand that you have lots of emotions regarding your diabetes, but I’d like to suggest that telling people your diabetic can save your life.  It can help you make new friends too.  In early 2012, I discovered the diabetes online community (#doc).  I’ve never had a support group for my diabetes.  I’ve always just lived my life, and never knew what I was missing.  Every day now, I look forward to talking to my hundreds of diabetic friends when I get home from work.  I’ve made friends, that really understand what life is like.  We support each other, complain to each other, and are there for each other, when no one else understands.  We jokingly like to blame Halle Berry for everything that goes wrong with our diabetes (#halleberrydidit).  I’ve also recently been invited to join a local pumper group.

So if you’re someone that hides your diabetes, keeps it secret, because you feel it will make people treat you differently, or negatively, you don’t have to.  I’m surrounded by people that are eager to help when I need it, and that don’t shun me because I’m diabetic.  Sometimes you have to educate new people you meet about diabetes, but that just builds the bond between you.  If you’re newly diagnosed, and you’re not sure if you should tell people, I’d like to suggest that you especially should tell people, since you’re still learning about your diabetes.  It’s ok to ask for, and accept the help too.  You may be surprised at how many around you want to help.

********** Now ya know, and knowing is half the battle.  Go Joe!!! **********

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One thought on “Is your diabetes secret?

  1. When I was 13, my 18 year old brother was diagnosed type 1. He didn’t take it very well and became very withdrawn and yes, almost secretive, with his management of the condition. As you can imagine, I was a curious 13 year old, also sent off for multiple OGTT and he wouldn’t talk about it with me. He wouldn’t inject in front of the family and seemed ashamed and embarrassed.

    7 years later, at the age of 20, I was diagnosed type 1. After seeing the way my brother handled it I was determined that I was going to be different. Everyone I knew was made aware of the fact I was diabetic. It was only about 4 years ago (25 years later!) that he finally started opening up to me. Think of all the knowledge and experience we could’ve shared over the years – such a shame.

    I absolutely agree, Rich. Awareness is paramount is managing diabetes. It’s not a dirty little secret. :-) (Julie)

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