Out of sight out of mind
Is your diabetes out of sight? Mine was for the longest time. I kept it hidden from the world but also from myself. It is not easy to be self-delusional but if you practice hard enough and dedicate yourself to the task you can ignore your diabetes.
I was reading an important blog earlier this week that talks about a person who ignored their diabetes. The name of the Blog is “Frustrated with diabetes and teaching” and the web page is:
I suspect it is one of the more honest blogs listed in our large catalog. The blogger tells us how they avoided diabetes management by ignoring diabetes. A quote from the blog is:
“I feel like a failure because I have discovered over the years that I cannot balance teaching and my diabetes no matter how hard I try. I don't go to the gym like I used too because I don't have time and I'm exhausted by the end of the day” (Tloveskid, 2014).
Reading these words reminded me of myself and it is one of those times when I wish I had written what another blogger posted. As I have written many times my drop out occurred shortly after diagnosis and lasted for more than 20 years. You have no idea what it takes to ignore diabetes for 20 years. The sheer energy required is massive.
I think many of us engage in a kind of hidden denial of our disease. I do not think I am alone in doing that. I fear that this effort to hide our disease is the expensive hobby of many of ours. I hope you as the reader of this blog are truthful first with yourself then others about our disease. I know however that is not the case for all of us.
Why do we do this? I have no idea. Are we hiding it from others, or ourselves? It is one thing to hide it from others, but it is most dangerous to hide it from ourselves. What is the truth? Well for one, our truth is that ignoring the disease means we do not have to face its consequences until the troubling results visit us. We all know the horror stories. But here is the part we never seem to get. We never get the positive side of taking care of ourselves.
We never hear about the incredible survival rate of diabetics who are diagnosed today. We seldom hear that we can have children, have careers, enjoy healthy relationships and live long lives if we take care of ourselves. This part of the story is seldom heard and almost never spoken of.
But why do we neglect this part of the story? Why is it we are not willing to tell ourselves and others the things that scare us? Could we ever start one of these conversations with the people in our lives? If we are hiding our disease, I doubt it.
I wondered the other day if there is an example of a denier out there. Turns out there is a famous example of diabetic denial. I bet you do not know this story, but to me the story offers hope to all of us deniers.
Stephen Furst played the infamous Flounder in the comedy Animal House. Mr. Furst was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic at age 17 and at that time he became a diabetic denier. The reasons he became a denier are many but he discusses this denial in a USA Today interview in 2001 (Moran & Shoop, 2001). In this article Mr. Furst tells of his diabetic denial from age 17 to age 40. In the USA Today article says at age 42 he had a neglected infection which almost caused amputation of his foot (Moran & Shoop, 2001). He says his wake up call came when the doctor exited room after discussing amputation and Furst got a telephone and ordered a carry out Chinese meal for 5 (for himself of course) (Moran & Shoop, 2001; Thompson, 2002). This meal was intercepted confiscated by a nurse who later removed the telephone and telephone book from his room (Thompson, 2002).
Following this incident Furst went on to lose 150 pounds and alter treatment for his type 2 diabetes so that he was able to go off daily doses of insulin (Thompson, 2002). Now let me stop right here. Obviously the author of this article is misinformed as is the author of the story heading. We know that type 2 diabetics are still diabetics even if one no longer uses insulin. I had to be true to the headline in my reference it is not an endorsement of this stupidity.
In addition to diabetes, Mr. Furst was diagnosed in 1999 with kidney disease.
“In 1999, Stephen was diagnosed with kidney disease. "They told me to restrict my fluids and watch my sodium, but I ignored them," he says. Stephen didn't listen until his doctors told him to choose between dialysis and dying" (Geiger, 2014).
Things only got worse when his sister, who also had diabetes and kidney disease, committed suicide at age 54. That was his wake-up call. He trained to do dialysis at home and signed up on a transplant waiting list. He received a transplant in August 2007” (Geiger, 2014, Web Page).
The bottom line? Denial almost killed Mr. Furst and while it did not almost kill me it was a dangerous belief. How many of us will it harm before we find a better way to deal with it? I propose an unproven but logical first step. Why don’t we as a diabetic community add mental health treatment to tool box of potential diabetic treatments? For some of us, me included, I needed the mental health component before any kind of physical health could take place. I have said it before and will say it again and again, mental health treatment may not be required for all of us, but it is required for some. It was required for me, I wish I had gotten it.
Geiger, Debbie. (2014). Stephen Furst: Laughter Is the Best Medicine, Profile, Diabetic Living. Retrieved from http://www.diabeticlivingonline.com/community/celebrities/stephen-furst-laughter-best-medicine?page=0%2C1
Moran, W. Reed, & Shoop, Stephen A. MD adviser. (2001). Stephen Furst redirects life after diabetes, Interview, USA Today. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/spotlight/2001-06-26-furst-diabetes.htm
Thompson, Mariko. (2002). Floundering no longer a Diabetic since age 17, Actor Stephen Furst shares how he cleaned up his act and dropped 150 pounds. Retrieved May 9, 2014, from http://www.thefreelibrary.com/FLOUNDERING+NO+LONGER+A+DIABETIC+SINCE+AGE+17,+ACTOR+STEPHEN+FURST...-a095181940
Tloveskid. (2014). Frustrated with diabetes and teaching. Retrieved May 8, 2014, from http://www.tudiabetes.org/profiles/blogs/frustrated-with-diabetes-and-teaching