Yes, But You’re Wrong


Kathryn (my wife) recently had a conversation with someone during which she (Kathryn) spent much of her time dispelling her friend’s confusion about what my life is like. For example, this person knew I wore an insulin pump[1], but thought it was surgically implanted in my body, that it was a “set it and forget it” type device. (Oh how I wish.) Kathryn also disabused her of the notion that I must adhere to a strict, boring diet. This woman was told that with good self-management, I’ll live the same long life as people without diabetes — I’m not going to die young; I’m not destined to lose a foot or get neuropathy or have heart problems.

These days I rarely encounter new people with whom I end up talking about diabetes. By new people, I mean folks who don’t know much about the illness but who express a sincere interest to learn more. (You’ll be happy to know I’m not that guy, the one who backs you into a corner and then gets on my soapbox to talk about diabetes every time I have a conversation with someone new!)

It’s inevitable, of course, that the novelty of diabetes-as-conversation-topic would wear off. My diagnosis was almost five years ago. It was a hot topic for both Kathryn and me for a good six months. It’s barely on our radar of “things to talk about” these days.

I kind of miss conversations with the truly curious. It always felt good to shed light on misguided apprehensions. That word diabetes: you won’t find anyone who hasn’t heard it who thinks they know what is, except what I find is that almost all the people who think they know what it is don’t.

Apart from this blog, though, these days I live quietly with my illness. Apart from drafting this blog entry, I don’t give much thought to what people — new people: friends and colleagues when they see me breaking out the insulin pump or test kit for the first time — think about me, my illness. If it’s misguided, so be it. I move on.

And I’m glad I don’t fret over and try to cure the world of its erroneous conceptions about diabetes. I don’t have enough mental energy to give over to such a task. Some of you may, and more power to you. Despite their best intentions, though, most people are misinformed about what diabetes is, what causes it, what it’s like to live with it, and what the prognosis is.

Media won’t fix this. I won’t fix this.

In addition to Kathryn’s conversation with her friend, the past week I’ve been reminded a couple of other times that I’m thought of differently because of my diabetes. I get this twinge of a feeling that some people who don’t understand what diabetes is might have this — hmm, I don’t really know how to put this — bit o’ pity, or sadness, or some other woe-is-Eric thing floating around in their minds that I’m destined for one bad medical development after another, a life fraught with misery because he has diabetes.

Of course, because I’m unable to get into others’ heads, and because I don’t live in a world filled with gossip, the degree to which people may feel sorry for me eludes me. And quite honestly, most people probably give only a fleeting moment, if any, to think about me and my illness.

Yet for me, in those fleeting moments when I’m self-involved enough to worry about how others think about me, it bothers me. I wish I had a little pamphlet I could hand folks. In it would be the truth about diabetes. And this little pamphlet? They’d actually read it!

By the way, I’m going to order this mug[2] from the Behavorial Diabetes Institute. I’m going to use it at work. I ought to get it printed on a T-shirt, but I won’t.

  1. insulin pump:
  2. this mug:

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Eric Lagergren: Eric Lagergren was born in 1974 but didn’t give much thought to diabetes until March 2007, when he was diagnosed with Type 1. He now gives quite a bit of thought to the condition, and to help him better understand his life as a person with diabetes, he writes about it. Eric is the senior editor for the Testing Division at the University of Michigan’s English Language Institute in Ann Arbor. (Eric Lagergren is not a medical professional.)

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