It’s hard being the new person at work. It’s even harder when you’re the new person and you have diabetes. Whenever I start a new job, thoughts race through my mind: Will I go low while I’m training? Will I have quick access to snacks? Will I be able to check my blood sugar without an audience? How about taking an insulin injection at the lunch table? It isn’t easy feeling forced to expose so many personal details to people you just met.
I don’t mind checking my blood sugar—I just don’t always feel like sharing my numbers. To the general population, if you have a high or low blood sugar or two, suddenly you’re labeled as an “out of control diabetic.” People without diabetes don’t always understand that high and low blood sugars come with the diabetes territory more often than we would like. Explaining this just makes them think you’re in denial.
During my years with type 1 diabetes, I have worked as a security officer, a call center financial representative, a 911 dispatcher, and a retail manager. I’ve had plenty of experience being the new girl with diabetes. At one job, after I’d explained my diabetes to a coworker, she saw me eating a small slice of cheesecake during a party at work. She immediately charged over to me and hollered, “You’re not supposed to be eating that!” I was shocked. She had completely ignored my initial “I just have to check my blood sugar, count my carbohydrates, and take my insulin” speech. I had to explain to the entire table that I wasn’t about to self-destruct from a small piece of cheesecake.
At my current job, I was training a new woman to do some computer work. I was thinking about our upcoming lunch break, wondering how she’d react to my blood sugar test and insulin injection, when a musical jingle sounded. Thinking that it was her cell phone, I said “If you need to get that, go right ahead.” “No, it’s okay, it’s my insulin pump” she said as she fished a bag of gummy candies out of her pocket. Insulin pump? How awesome is that? She told me that she’d been diagnosed over fifty years ago, and we were instantly like old friends. All through lunch, we talked about diabetes and about our relief that we didn’t have to explain anything to each other.
While we can’t always be lucky enough to be trained by another person with diabetes, it comforts me to know that it can happen. I was recently promoted to a new position at my company, and while I feel very blessed to have the opportunity, I am a little nervous about the training. Regardless of my nerves, though, I’m going to keep my head up and do my best to educate my coworkers about diabetes. It’s a part of my life, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.