"I have family members with diabetes, but they don't take care of themselves," he said. "They eat whatever they want, and they never test their blood sugar, and they never go to the doctor."
The unspoken thought, capping the end of that sentence, felt like, "So they deserve whatever they get."
I had a hard time keeping my mouth shut, even though I was at this dinner with people I didn't really know, and who didn't really know me. They were aware of the fact that I have type 1 diabetes, but it wasn't a big discussion point throughout the day, so I think it was a little snippet of information that fell by the wayside by the time dinner was served.
"But how do you know that?" I blurted out.
He stopped and looked at me. "What do you mean?"
"How do you know they don't take care of themselves? Or go to the doctor? Or test their blood sugar?"
"Because they don't. I never see it. Not even at holidays."
I didn't want to be That Person. I had zero desire to be the one who raises her voice at dinner table with strangers, preaching on about the misconceptions society has about diabetes, and about all the different kinds of people who live with it, blah blah blah. I wanted to have dinner, and hang out, and have a good time.
But I don't like the "yeah, but the majority of people with diabetes DON'T take care of themselves" argument, because I take care of myself. I try, and I do. And I know so many people who take care of themselves the best they can, and so many who, despite dedicated efforts, still run a rough road. Perfection isn't achievable, and guilt is inescapable. Chris encourages me to not take these kinds of discussions personally, because he hates to see my feelings scraped, but it's hard not to take it personally. I have diabetes. They're talking about diabetes. Even when I try, it's hard to keep my viewpoints objective.
"Did you see me test my blood sugar at the table a few minutes ago?"
"Yeah. I have tested twice, actually, at this table. While you sat there. And that orange juice I had before? Which might not have seemed like the 'right' food for a diabetic? I was treating a low blood sugar. You don't always see what we do to take care of ourselves. But there's a lot that we do. I swear." I smiled at him, but inside I was begging, pleading for him to see me as a person who, however my life wrings out, didn't "deserve" a damn thing.
There was an awkward silence.
"Twice? You tested twice?"
This time, he smiled warmly, erasing all awkwardness. "Maybe they do stuff I don't see, too."
I smiled back, wanting to jump across the table and hug him.
"I hope so."