Yesterday, I was at a meeting where the audience was decidedly not a diabetes one. And in explaining my experiences with diabetes, I had to give an overview of what type 1 diabetes is and how long I’ve been living with it.
“I was diagnosed at the age of seven. It will be 32 years this September …”
After the presentation, an attendee approached me. “So you’ve been sick your whole life?”
The phrasing caught me off guard.
I don’t think I’ve ever considered myself “sick.” Diabetes is a disease and I understand the denotation and range of connotations of that word, but “sick” struck me in a strange way.
I feel sick when I have a cold. When I had pneumonia in college. That time I threw up in my purse. Whenever my eyeball re-rips. Stuff like that. Diabetes doesn’t make me feel like I’m sick. Maybe it’s because it’s always been the constant, the thing that has always been the health issue on tap so much so that it has become part of the established background noise.
Or maybe because it’s been relatively quiet as a disease, especially when I consider what it’s capable of accomplishing.
Checking blood sugars? Taking insulin? I don’t feel sick. Even when I’m really low or naggingly high, I don’t feel sick, exactly. Those moments are rotten but they have passed so far. There’s a strange barrier that I’ve put up, mentally, between the diabetes stuff and the “real people sick” sort of stuff.
“I’ve had diabetes for most of my life, yes.” I said, letting the definition of “sick” linger a little longer, uneasy about what may come, unsure if I’ll make room for that word.