04 October 2007

Living with diabetes

Living with diabetes is such a barrel of laughs.

You get to develop the discipline to stick your fingers a half dozen times day, and then to poke a needle into your belly several times day. You exercise a lot of will carefully choosing what to eat based on things other than what would taste yummy -- or opting for yummy and an extra injection. Turning every day, every meal into another grand science experiment on the biology of the endocrine system...

Conversely, you can ignore all of that, suffering deteriorating health and experiencing the reality that diabetes can be a gruesome way to die.

And of course, because there are no promises, turning your life into a grand science experiment can simply make you aware more quickly when things start to go wrong. As an example, I have worked hard to control my diabetes for 11 years now. I have balanced my meals to keep my blood sugar controlled, I have exercised to keep my insulin resistance under control ... and yet earlier this year I found myself restricting foods further and further in a vain attempt to bring my blood sugar down.

One day I had to admit that I was in trouble. A week on basically no carbohydrates had not lowered my blood sugar. Exercise, which used to bring my blood sugar down 50 points or so was having no effect -- and occasionally it was even raising my blood sugar.

Time for a consultation with a doctor...

Anyway, against this backdrop of constant effort for spotty results, you can imagine my frustration with the attitude some uninformed people take.

I had occasion recently to find myself at a luncheon table with several people I don't know. Because the options had been limited at the buffet, I had an odd looking lunch that consisted a slice each of three different types of cold cuts, two slices of fake cheese, and a half a bowl of powdered, reconstituted chicken broth. One of my companions comments on my "eating light", and I mentioned that I was simply trying to eat for my diabetes. (Never mind the HFCS in all the meats and in the broth, we do what we can.)

The conversation at the table quickly went to the subject of all the diabetics everyone knew who "weren't taking care of themselves". Comments about diabetics who "think they can get away with" eating like everyone else. I did my best to point out that high blood sugar makes one insanely hungry for good reason. That it's not so easy to live life ion a constant restricted diet, and that there is no moral credit for and no guarantee for living a life of deprivation.

I don't think anyone heard a word of it.

Worse, it was clear that these people had no clear idea about how to control diabetes themselves -- they hadn't bothered to inform themselves, they were just judging someone else for not living a life of virtuous deprivation. These people sat there eating refined breads, cookies, chips, and pop while trashing friends and relatives for eating exactly the same way!

The one who took the cake? The woman who, between bites of cookie told me "She has no right to eat like it's her birthday every day! I'm an only child and she's making herself a burden on *me*!" I dryly pointed out that if her mother was doing that poorly at caring for herself then her daughter had no reason to worry. Her mother wouldn't live long enough to make a burden of herself. I'm pretty sure she didn't hear me.

I suppose they might have thought that since I test my blood sugar (largely the people they were complaining about didn't - - or didn't admit it to their judges, anyway) and work hard to try to control my blood sugar, that made it OK to trash people who they don't deem 'to be doing a good job' in front of me.

It was hard to choke down my tasteless, nutrition-less lunch. I felt so sad for their relatives and friends...I know I have had friends and relatives who judge without knowing what I know. It makes a tough row even harder. I have to admit that it got to me in the usual way and I ended up eating cheap, nasty chocolate later in the day in a sick kind of rebellion against those who would, in full ignorance, judge. Yeah -- smart, eh?

If you have a friend or relative who is living with diabetes, please don't judge the way they choose to treat their diabetes (or not). Nagging isn't helpful. Want to help? Don't make assumptions that your ideas are really helpful, ask. And remember that no one deserves less freedom of choice because of their health. It may not be the choice you'd make, but in a free country the choice to join in the community of our loved ones by sharing the same foods as everyone else eats is a valid one.

Maybe the best help you could be would be to do some real research about how best to treat diabetes and then make yourself the first member of the community to join your loved one wholeheartedly in the lifestyle and food choices you deem best for them.

Is it too hard for you to make the adjustments you expect your friend or loved one to make? Why?


  1. It is so easy for people to judge others and I'm incredibly sorry that you had to share your lunchtime with these very inconsiderate and ignorant people. Many years ago I worked as an assistant to an HR Manager who shared these attitudes. She was thin and would sneeringly discuss the diabetics in the office whenever it was time to plan our holiday meal functions. Not nice.

    Diabetes is a difficult disease to live with and you will be in my thoughts. Hopefully you won't have to endure further conversations like the one you did on this day.

    THinking of you and wishing you well!


  2. Thank you so much for your kind words, Evie!

    We have to feel sorry for the 'judges' of the world, because the weight they are pulling down on their own heads is going to be enormous and painful.

    I suspect that they are striving to obscure their own (self-perceived) flaws by always pointing the finger!

  3. You're very welcome!

    How right you are that we should pity the people who feel the need to be the judge of everyone else. I would have to agree with your suspicions regarding their motivations as well.


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