Things I Wouldn't Say, If I Were You.
The past few weeks have taken me out of my normal element and tossed me into a potluck of people. Not all of these people had diabetes. Actually, I think it's fairer to say that many of these people didn't have a clue what diabetes is all about - especially not type 1 diabetes.
For some of these people, I felt a lot of empathy. Some knew that diabetes is a serious disease but admitted to not having a strong knowledge base about the condition and it's nuances. I talked to these people and we learned together; they learned about the specifics of diabetes and I learned to never take my bubble for granted.
But then there were the others. The ones who run their mouths without thinking. And I don't mean in that "Oh, they don't understand the DETAILS of what it's like!" I don't have an unrealistic expectation that people will know as much about diabetes as we do. I just mean that there are certain social graces that appear to be missing when it comes to diabetes. For some reason, and this is only from my perspective, it seems that diabetes is constantly viewed as "not that bad." Again, not looking for a pity party, but diabetes is not the common cold. It's not just "taking a pill" or "just take your shot and you're fine." It's not "simple" or "easy" or "better this than (insert other disease)."
It's what we live with every day.
And it sure as hell is not my fault.
And when I tell you I have it, your first reaction CANNOT be:
"Oh. My cousin died from that at the age of 47. He just didn't take care of himself."
NO. I'm sorry. That is an unacceptable answer. I'm sitting here, right in front of you, thirty years old and cusping on 23 years with type 1 diabetes, looking healthy and happy and always surprising people when I tell them I have a chronic disease. NO, you don't get to respond immediately to my "Well, I have type 1 diabetes, actually," with a story about someone's demise. I wouldn't say that, if I were you. You aren't helping. You aren't even polite.
"But Kerri, not everyone understands. Not everyone knows what to say."
Come on. I'm not stupid. If I said, "Well, I have breast cancer, actually," the response wouldn't be this knee-jerk of blame. It's a disease, and whether you understand anything about it or not, why would you immediately tell someone that it's going to kill them? Isn't there something socially inept about someone who responds that way?
The answer is yes. And I'm tired of explaining myself to these people.
If something happens to me as a result of this disease, no one gets to tsk tsk and shake their head, murmuring, "She just didn't take care of herself." Diabetes-related complications are not my fault. They are the result of diabetes. My blood sugars are high and low at times because I have diabetes, not because I'm doing everything wrong. We all work very diligently to compensate for our busted pancreases, and I will not - not even for a second - allow someone to wipe away my life's efforts with a shake of their head and whispered blame.
So you. The person who wants to ask me about diabetes and then counters with horror stories. I'm quickly running out of grace. My response to you remains the same as it has always been.
"I'm sorry about your cousin (or uncle, grandparent, college roommate, coworker, person you read about on CNN, cat) and I'm sorry for your loss. That must have been hard on your family. But I think it's best for me to focus on being alive. Alive and well. Don't you agree?"