If there is one thing which really bothers me about Diabetes (and surprisingly this is not the disease itself) is the STIGMA surrounding the word and the reaction of many people who have found out about my condition. I’ve never wanted to be considered in the least disabled nor have I ever felt in the least disabled by this disease. I don’t think DIABETES should ever be thought of or taken as a disability. The second you believe you’re disabled – well then are! The way I’ve learned to look at my diabetes is that SOMEONE ABOVE was telling me it’s time for me to get healthier and in better shape than I’ ever would have dreamed (or tried to be) if I wouldn’t have gotten the disease. The word DIABETES however might cause a lot of people to pity you or think you really are disabled or can’t do things other people do like compete in strenuous sports or physical activities. Diabetics definitely need to be careful but no diabetic needs to live the STIGMA. The expression on some peoples faces after telling them you’re a diabetic is many times one of queasiness. Then just tell them how many injections a day you take and that you prick your fingers (to test your blood sugar) a dozen times a day and then you’ll really see the meaning of going into SHOCK. No diabetic who has his disease under control will ever go into DIABETIC SHOCK but the type of DIABETIC SHOCK non-diabetics get when you tell them about your diabetes is definitely real.
One of things I decided from the onset that I found out I was diabetic (in my teens) was that I wasn’t going to let the STIGMA of diabetes limit me physically. Diabetes (especially type-1) might be life sentence but it sure doesn’t have to be a death sentence – unless you let it become one. I worked out and trained hard all of my life making fitness a top priority. Like many athletes who have had to overcome obstacles I let the disease motivate me into getting into better shape than I probably ever would have been in if I hadn’t gotten the disease. Sometimes I wonder if I didn’t get the diabetes just where I’d be today. I’m pretty sure my life wouldn’t have been nearly as fitness oriented as it has been nor would my diet have been nearly as healthy as it has been. So despite all of it’s short comings and hardships – diabetes and it’s STIGMA’s have made me a stronger person both physically and mentally.
Getting back to the STIGMA of diabetes – there is no question that this disease is surrounded by a lot of FEAR. I won’t go into a discussion about all of these fears but some of them are founded and a lot are not. One of the things I did decide after I got the disease was that I wanted as few people as possible to know that I was a diabetic. Throughout the years it was always a question of who I could trust with my STIGMATIC secret. People I did trust were SWORN to secrecy not to tell anybody that I had the disease. Me and my parents kept my disease TOP SECRET except from close relatives. The same was true for FRIENDS – and I would tell only my closest friends and people who had to know about the disease like my doctors, employers and of course my wife. As for my wife -I guess she would have found out anyway (sort of hard to hide all the injections and between thinking I’m a drug addict and knowing I was diabetic – I think she preferred the diabetes!! )
In conclusion to this short post — I’m pretty sure that a lot of diabetics out there have felt the STIGMA of this disease. I definitely have been a LITTLE obsessed in the past to keep my disease a secret. The days of swearing people to secrecy or having them take a secret OATH (signed in BLOOD) never to reveal my diabetes are now “pretty much” behind me. That said I still don’t wear a sign around my neck “I am a Diabetic” although I DO always wear a “Medic Alert” necklace and think that all diabetics should have one (I wear mine under my shirt but it’s always there just in case). The truth is – even though I still really want my privacy upheld I realize that being a DIABETIC is no sin, definitely nothing to be ashamed of and there’s very little reason for me to live the STIGMA. Unlike years back – today if I need to or must take some insulin I will pull out an injection in a restaurant or public place (when I can’t get to a restroom ) and inject myself. I am not worried anymore what people will think.
Last but definitely not LEAST is that I’ve found that there’s a whole lot of other diabetics out there that I probably or almost CERTAINLY would never have known about if I didn’t talk a lot more openly about the disease these days. I’ve actually been able to help many of these STIGMATIZED diabetics which has helped me too!. It’s also pretty interesting to see how just KNOWING YOU”RE NOT ALONE can help someone feel better…. which I hope this BLOG will also do!!