• Bowie Matteson

The Diabetic Ego: How Fitting In Holds You Back

Type 1 Diabetics are not the same as everyone else. I joke that I'm part robot as I look down at my mid-section adorned with an Omnipod insulin pump and Dexcom G6 CGM.

Not to mention the psychological burden. At 8 years old, I was given the responsibility of an organ forged by thousands of years of evolution. I wasn't old enough to learn my multiplication tables yet. Here I am with my well-being, my life, in my own hands. Too little insulin and I'm sick, too much insulin and I die.

I worried I would go to sleep and not wake up after experiencing my first hypoglycemic episode.

And yet every diabetic knows the feeling of wanting to fit in. Wanting to pretend like it doesn't matter. Be in school or at work and think "Nah, they don't need to know".

A diabetes diagnosis is a heavy weight to carry. The self-reliance and mental fortitude that results from carrying that weight gives us the perception that we have the strength and the pride to carry it alone.

Even the diabetes educators and endocrinologists want us to fit in. My first educator, Kathi Davis, was adamant that my childhood would be "just like the other kids".

My challenge to that is that if our main focus is on fitting in, aren't we costing ourselves in attention paid to a more important issue. Perhaps the fact that we're diabetic in the first place?

Aside from my usual point of focusing on a cure, as opposed to a treatment, acknowledging and accepting your diabetes makes for a better time caring for yourself. Surrounding yourself with people who know you and know how they can help, frees up so much mental space for you. Mental space that you can dedicate to actually taking care of yourself instead of worrying about what you'll do if you get low here or what people will think if you have to excuse yourself to handle a high there. Remember, stress and anxiety have a direct effect on your blood sugar. Get comfortable setting yourself up for success by eliminating as many stressful things as possible.

I often think that so many diabetics feel like they can't talk about it because they don't think they're any good at it. I know that's why I didn't talk about it. 10+, 15+ years with the disease and still forgetting to pre-bolus, or heading out for a trip without any back-up fast-acting carbs. What an amateur!!

But you're wrong. If you have diabetes and you're still standing, please talk about it. No one is good at this. It's an ever-evolving process. A 6 month diabetic probably has a leg-up in the technology department to a 20 year veteran. That same 20 year veteran definitely has something to offer the 6 month-er on handling social situations, traveling and diet. Please collaborate.

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