Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Diabetes: the Silent Disease

How many times have you tried to hide your diabetes? Smile and fake laugh when someone makes a diabetes-related joke? Avoid a chance to educate someone about it?

Hiding it doesn't make it better. Being silent doesn't make you strong.

These are the two things I'm constantly learning as a person with diabetes. When I was diagnosed, I cried. But after getting over the initial shock of it, I took it on like it was no big deal. I didn't want it to get the best of me. I didn't want it to affect me. Anytime I poked myself with a needle or mentally counted carbs or took a sugar break, I adopted the attitude of, "It's no big deal, guys. I'm fine. Don't look at me. Go on with things like you normally would! EVERYTHING IS NORMAL AND NOTHING IS DIFFERENT."

But as people with diabetes, we know that's not true. Nothing is normal. Everything is different.

It's going to affect us. Sometimes for the better (hello, better eating habits and a stronger commitment to my health) and sometimes it's for the worse (hello, anxiety about low blood sugar and stressing over high ones).

But hiding it and pretending that everything is normal is not the best approach—for you or for anyone else. I can't tell you how many times (in the last 9 years of having T1D) people have found out that I have type 1 diabetes and they say things like "but you're so skinny" or "well, you look really healthy." Newsflash, people who just don't know. I may look fine on the outside, but that doesn't mean I am okay on the inside.

I may go to the gym, but that doesn't stop the high blood sugars that make me feel lethargic and crappy. I may make better food choices but that doesn't stop the lows that lead to shaky hands and back sweat. I can make all the healthy choices I want, and diabetes can still rage on.

But the more you pretend it's okay, the more people will remain uneducated about diabetes and think it's okay to lecture you on food choices or make dumb jokes. When you hide it, you're perpetuating the idea that diabetes is something that needs to be hidden—as if it's a weakness or something to be ashamed of.

Don't hide in the bathroom when you have to give yourself a shot. Don't stay silent when someone makes an untrue or hurtful comment. Don't pretend it's okay when it's not. The only way to change peoples' perceptions about something is to speak up.


  1. I think with proper medication and strict diet control, one can cruise along. (my in laws are both diabetic and they are 90 & 88)

  2. It helps, sure, but it's definitely not so straightforward or simple. Do they have type 1 or type 2? There can be a difference in how the types are treated. And diabetes varies a lot for everyone. Insulin can be a total guessing game. What works once might not work again. Just depends!