Guest Post: Walking the Type 1 Tightrope.
Thanks to the move we have on tap for tomorrow and the fact that we're up to our eyeballs in packing tape and cardboard boxes (and also that we've accidentally packed Siah into three boxes now ... that cat had better be careful or she'll end up in the moving van), now is a great time for a guest post from a fellow diabetes blogger.
I swear I wasn't trying to get out of jury duty.
See, I was in the juror pool, answering questions about my job, my home ownership status and the last parking ticket I'd received, when the judge asked one question of all of us: "Is there anything we should know about that may impede your ability to serve as a juror in this trial?"
Sheepishly, I raised my hand. "I have Type 1 diabetes," I admitted. "It's not a huge deal, but there may be a few minutes when I'm not able to pay complete attention. I may have to eat something in the middle of the trial."
For a second, no one said anything. Then the judge spoke up: "Hundreds of thousands of Americans have diabetes, and they're able to perform everyday tasks like jury duty. If you need to eat, just let us know, and we'll take a recess."
I nodded, and accepted my fate as a diabetic juror. (Also, I felt like kind of a dumb ass for even saying anything.) While I sat there and listened to the details of the trial and the life stories of my fellow jurors, the weird familiarity of the situation started to sink in. Of course I know that hundreds of thousands of Americans live with diabetes, Your Honor. Of course we're all able to perform everyday tasks with relative ease. Of course I'm a normal person – except for the times when I'm not. Sometimes I have to excuse myself from a meeting or a bridal shower to shotgun a juice box. Sometimes I wear a mechanical pancreas in my cleavage. Sometimes I say things on the phone with insurance company customer service representatives that I would never say to a person in real life. But I'd be darned if some innocent citizen was going to go to jail because I'd miscalculated my breakfast bolus and spaced out on the defense's arguments.
This was a perfect example of the proverbial tightrope we all walk as people with diabetes. Lean too far to one side, and you're Sick. Fragile. Old before your time. Wilford Brimley's biggest fan, with a collection of pill organizers and sad story to tell anyone who asks you how your day is going. Teeter too far to the other side, and your friends, family members and co-workers begin to believe that your diabetes is no big deal, after all. They'll become convinced that your insulin pump does all the work for you, that diabetes is no more of an inconvenience than the task of flossing, that maybe if you just exercised more or laid off the Cinnamon Toast Crunch, your health problems would effectively disappear.
Before I started wearing my pump – and way before I started connecting with others in the diabetes online community – I treated my disease as an accessory. I wasn't embarrassed about it, but I wasn't exactly forthcoming, either. I gave myself injections in cars and at dinner tables the way other people apply lipstick. I kept up with everything, but I didn't obsess over it. Every once in a while, a roommate would complain about my trail of test strips, or someone would shoot me a look while I tested in public, and I would retreat into a more secretive or jocular mode, shrugging off diabetes like it was a case of the sniffles or pesky rash.
Now that I'm in my thirties, I feel like it's a tougher performance than ever. I don't want anyone to assume that I need to eat lunch just because it's noon, but I also want people to know that when I need to take a break from normal life to treat a low, I'm not screwing around. I really do feel like crap, and I really am in a potentially scary situation. Forty-five minutes later, however, I feel as average as they come. (Assuming I haven't overtreated, of course, but that's an entirely different kettle of Swedish Fish.)
I suppose the balance between "sick” and "normal" is just as difficult to achieve as a consistent blood sugar level that's not too high or too low. The story of Type 1 diabetes – and how any person lives with a chronic illness – is a complicated and nuanced one, and it takes decades to tell.
Am I a healthy person who happens to have diabetes, or a diabetic person who happens to have a pretty healthy life? For this girl, the jury's still out.
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Thanks, Jacquie! And for you guys, what's your take on that last bit? Are you a healthy person who has diabetes, or a diabetic person who has their health?