So, when Sean asked me the question "If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?", I said the first thing that always pops into my head when asked something like this which is "I would change the fact that I have diabetes." Sure, I'd like to be smarter, thinner, wealthier, more beautiful and speak more languages just to rattle off a few, but the first thing I always want to change is being diabetic (or having diabetes, however you want to say it). I thought about not saying it, about saying something else less revealing, but I believe in modeling for students the type of behavior and responses I want them to demonstrate, so I thought I should just be honest and tell the truth. I don't want to have diabetes, and I wish I'd have spent the last 18 years of my life without it.
Well, the English level of my students was fairly low so no one knew what diabetes translated into in Chinese, so I went into this oddball rendition of the diabetic condition, which was a hodgepodge of sign language, body language, staccato English, charades and demonstrations to explain to my students what diabetes is. It's funny--one of the first things I did was clarify that there are two types of the disease (didn't want to get into gestational)--type 1 and type 2, and how I have type 1, not type 2. I guess I'm sensitive about it since there are so many misconceptions and stereotypes associated with having diabetes. Key phrases I heard myself uttering (and trying to act out) were "pancreas--showing the general area), "body attacks, errr, destroys, the cells," "since childhood," "too much sugar in the blood," "test blood sugar ten times a day" (demonstrate the motion), "take shots six times a day"(shot motion)", exercise," "eat food carefully" and "a lot of work."
Rather ridiculous, actually, watching me try to explain this disease in simple English and I'm sure my charades mixed with simplified information would have amused all of you, but then I just felt sad. Maybe because I ended with "a lot of work" and a discussion on how I'd like to be healthy with no disease. I also felt exposed a bit, as it was the first time I was so very open about my diabetes on the first day of class. I guess I feel like since starting this blog, joining tudiabetes and reading so many of the other blogs that are out there written by folks just like me, living with diabetes day in and day out, I have gained more courage to "out" myself and talk about what it's like for me living with this disease.
Though Asians are not in the population of people who have a predisposition or higher likelihood to develop diabetes, there is a marked increase in Taiwanese people who are developing chronic illnesses and also many who are becoming obese and adopting poor eating habits (I am NOT saying this leads to diabetes). I also just want my students to know me. After all, like it or not, they see me as a representative of Americans, a cultural ambassador of sorts (God help us), and I don't mind if they learn more about diabetes through me, as well.
I didn't tell them that I slept poorly last night due to hypoglycemia, and woke up with at 164 from overtreating it. I didn't share the fact that my bloodsugar at the end of my first class was 324 (stress? PMS hormones? Ineffective insulin dose? Dawn phenomena?). I didn't tell them that I couldn't eat any breakfast or lunch because it might spike my sugar even higher (I finally ate a small lunch at 4pm). I didn't tell them that when I go to the bathroom, I always combine it with a glucose check, and possible correction injection. Didn't inform them that the lumps on my arms are due to 18+ years of multiple injections, and that after a while, you run out of new places to try. I also didn't explain that all the water I was drinking was because my dry mouth felt like a cottony web of neverending string, and that I was doing my best to be peppy and enthusiastic, despite feeling a little legthargic and tired.
But I told them the basics. More than I usually care to share. It felt strange to discuss it so openly and in such a dramatic fashion, but at the end of the day, I'm glad I did. I'm tired of carrying shame over having this disease. I'm sick of the guilt I feel when I look at a high number and automatically assume it's my fault. I'm over feeling like I have to hide it or that I'd better not disclose it because of what others might mistakenly think. I outed myself today, and took one step closer to the self-acceptance I so seek from, well, myself, of course, more than anyone else. Though I pray for a cure, I also know that I'm living with the disease now, and it may or may not happen in my lifetime. Until that day, I know that diabetes is a burden I must carry, and though I've found others out there to help me feel less alone, I know it is up to me to give myself the care and acceptance I deserve. No doctor or number or cure can give me that. It is a gift I must give to myself.
All I can say is I'm working on it.