A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog entry about my purchase of an electric cooler that I was going to take on the road with me while I toured with a band for a few weeks. I bought this thing after too many years of just eating the same junk the other guys in the band eat on the road. That meant a lot of fast food, usually skipping breakfast and waiting until about 1 PM for the first meal of the day, and then a dinner around 8. The two meals were usually both inordinately LARGE meals, since they were the only two, and the results were often a roller-coaster blood sugar that drove me crazy.
Well, now a full week and a half into the tour, I’m happy report the experiment is a resounding success! I’m eating three smaller meals instead of two “too-large” meals. The foods I’m eating have some balance between carbs and protein, and a whole lot less refined starches and fried junk. I’m feeling better, and my blood sugars this trip have been significantly better, too. It’s been a godsend!
So what took me so long? Why did I hold out until NOW to finally figure out a routine that works for MY system on the road? I think I know the answer to that, and it’s something that might affect quite a few of us: I don’t like asking for “special accommodations.” I don’t “want to be a bother,” and I don’t want to feel “different.” But here’s the thing: I AM different! Nobody else in the band has diabetes, so nobody else is thrown off like I am with the fast food mega-meals, skipped breakfasts, and “deep-fried, processed everything” diet (to be sure, it ain’t great for them, either, but the effects on the rest of them are years down the road, not immediate like they are for me).
I’ve found myself falling into the same response with small situations, too. I teach piano, and on occasion I’ll feel myself getting low. I usually grab some glucose tablets, and I’m fine. But on one occasion, I was out of glucose tablets. I know, I know, cardinal sin. But I was in a rush out the door that morning, and I just grabbed a container and threw it in my bag. I didn’t stop to notice it was basically empty! And so later that day I felt myself getting low in the middle of a lesson. But I didn’t stop the lesson! I didn’t want to be a bother by excusing myself for two minutes to run to the front and grab a candy bar. Eventually I was low enough that I had to stumble through asking my STUDENT to run to the front and grab a candy bar, which he did (his father has diabetes, actually, so he knew exactly what the situation was).
Asking for what we need can be a tough thing to do. It means we’re admitting to a certain level of “being different.” It means we’re admitting there are some things we can’t get away with — sure, they’re usually the things NOBODY should be doing, like living off of fast food, but we REALLY can’t do them. And being the social creatures that we are, I think most of us worry about “burdening” other people around us. I never asked to stop for breakfast because I knew the other guys wouldn’t want to. Instead, I went along with the routine and paid the price. It’s rather ridiculous, but that’s the power of social pressure, whether it’s real or just imagined.
The thing is, all of those reasons are rather ridiculous. Let’s go through ’em, one by one, and debunk the lot of them. Worrying about “being different”? Well, not to sound too cliched here, but we’re ALL different. The guitarist in the band can’t have shellfish. Nobody expects him to eat lobster! Admitting we can’t get away with bad choices? Well, NOBODY gets away with bad choices in the long run; we just have the advantage of knowing right away that these are bad ideas! Being “forced” into good choices is NOT a bad thing!
And finally, that “social pressure” we feel is usually imagined. When I’ve been severely low, I have NEVER run into anything but concern and willingness to help from the people around me. My bandmates are all good people, and they’re not secretly begrudging me for loading in a cooler, or me asking to stop at grocery stores to refill it with healthy food. I have never been yelled at by a student or parent for stepping out for two minutes to grab some sugar that will literally SAVE MY LIFE and keep me from passing out! The people around us, 99% of the time, are willing to help us, willing to go out of their way a little, and don’t “resent” us for those moments when we honestly DO need that extra “accommodation.”
As people with diabetes, we need to be able and willing to ask for what we need. Sometimes that might even inconvenience some of the people around us, but that’s part of living well with this disease. And trust me, they don’t mind.