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Things That Bug Us

Jan Chait

August 5, 2008

Some poor, hapless bug meandered onto the front porch the other day—no easy feat, since the porch is totally screened in—and, just its luck, met up with three kittens. It was one of those roundish, hard-shelled bugs and turned out to make a perfect hockey puck. The kittens were having a blast batting it around among themselves, but I daresay the bug was not as thrilled as being turned into a plaything as the kittens were in discovering a new toy.

Don’tcha just feel like that bug some days, getting batted around by doctors and well-meaning friends, family and, sometimes, perfect strangers?

I think it comes from a disconnect between today’s diabetes treatments and yesterday’s thought processes. Apparently, everything else changes, but diabetes care remains the same. In some people’s minds, that is.

Assuming your health-care provider is up to date on diabetes care (and don’t count on it), he tells you one thing…but then you run into the aforementioned well-meaning friends, family, etc., who know better, darn it!

Take Shawna, for example. She’s about to set off for a visit with her in-laws, who she describes as “usually fun for the most part, and we have a good time visiting with them.”

But there is this one little thing with her mother-in-law: Shawna’s diabetes care. “Last time we went, there were some very tense moments between us,” says Shawna, who uses an insulin pump to help manage her Type 1 diabetes. “No matter how many times I explain, she can’t understand why I don’t have to eat at certain times or why I can drink alcohol if I have diabetes.”

MIL also can’t seem to understand that all carbohydrates raise your blood glucose, whether they’re in the mashed potatoes or in the dessert. And when Shawna tries to explain that her blood glucose behaves better if she eats vegetables, MIL answers that “potato is a vegetable.”

“After spending so much time explaining to her how I don’t eat certain things, I found myself secretly treating a low in private so she wouldn’t question why I was eating candy,” Shawna says. “I’m sure she would have thought I was ‘cheating’ and that I eat what I want when it suits me, but don’t eat what everyone else is eating (like pizza and pasta) just to be difficult.”

Sometimes it even feels like you’re the one playing hockey puck…with yourself. Changes can sometimes be difficult to wrap your own brain around.

Back in the era of two injections a day, I had to watch the clock and eat on time—or else. Then I switched to multiple daily injections, which made things a little easier. And, when rapid-acting insulin replaced the fast-acting Regular, it was even easier. But dinner was still a problem: Dinner was at 6 PM. Always.

Then came the ultimate flexibility: an insulin pump. I could sleep in. I could eat any time I wanted. In fact, I skipped dinner the day I started pumping. But it was a bit difficult to stop the habit of eating dinner at 6 PM. It was even more difficult for my husband to stop getting nervous at 6 PM when he saw that I wasn’t eating. (For some reason, he isn’t fond of dealing with my hypoglycemia.)

The worst, I think, are the strangers. Why do they think it’s their business to tell us how to treat our diabetes? Yes, “should you be eating that?” is annoying. But there are other looks and comments that are even more annoying.

As a Type 2, I get the disapproving looks that say, “you did this to yourself.” (Yes, I suppose I should have picked my ancestors better.) Type 1s get “if you’d just watch what you eat…” type of comments.

Oh, you can explain all you want, but their minds are probably made up. After all, what do you know? You’re just the one with diabetes, following doctor’s/dietitian’s/CDE’s orders.

If only you could be rude and just tell ‘em to “bug off.”



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