I’ve had type 1 diabetes for 18 years and whenever I hear bad news about someone with diabetes it hits me hard.
The other day at work, things were going well when a woman doing some temporary work at my shop came to me seconds after beginning her shift asking if she could please make a phone call. I said it was fine and pointed to a phone she could use as long as it was a quick call.
She was noticeably distraught as she began rambling about her younger brother who was having serious diabetes complications and was hospitalized that morning. Her brother was about my age so it really hit home. She continued to tell me about his “out-of-control diabetes” while myself and a volunteer who knows about my diabetes, stood jaws open, exchanging glances and listening in horror. It was noticeably uncomfortable for both of us to say the least.
I wish I could say she stopped, but she didn’t. I know it was out of concern, but she began ranting about all his failures with diabetes. As quickly as I could compose myself I interrupted and told her about my own diabetes. I told her controlling diabetes was like rocket science and that I felt sad for anyone that was forced to live with such a difficult illness. Control sure is a funny word when it comes to diabetes.
I found out she herself has type 2 diabetes. She admitted to also having troubles with her own control, finding it especially hard during the summer months since her family has wonderful barbecues and parties filled with tempting foods. She said she was no longer on insulin. Unfortunately she seemed somewhat misinformed about insulin use. I explained that insulin didn’t mean someone failed.
She mentioned her brother drove a truck for a living, something he would no longer be able to do with his level of complications. We ended our conversation with her wishing out loud she could be at the hospital, which was many miles away, with her baby brother, and both of us near tears.
I spoke to my husband on the phone that day at lunch. I had to tell him, through the tears that I’d choked back earlier, that I was trying. I had to tell him that even though he might not always see it, all the highs and lows really do bother me because I want desperately to be in good control of my diabetes. I don’t want to go down with people talking trash about my carelessness. I am trying. I’ve been trying, for a long time. I still have a terrible time controlling it on some days, but I always try. He sympathetically agreed and comforted me as he always does.
I walked into the kitchen later that day to see the woman stuffing some chips into her mouth. “I’m being bad,” she said. I shook my head and said, “You’ll get no judgment from me. Diabetes is ridiculously hard.”
We do our best. Don’t blame the person, blame the diabetes. We have to live through diabetes while doing the best we can. We’re not bad because we do something less responsible, less cautious, less perfect once in a while. We’re not bad, we’re human.