This weekend, I went to my nephew's wedding, which involved a four-day trip from Maine to Pennsylvania and variety of adventures. When we got to my sister-in-law's place on Saturday, it was jammed with family, friends, and strangers. One of the latter — a relative of the bride's, I believe — conversed at length with my husband on the topic of diabetes after seeing me taking Eric's BG. The gentleman in question was a big dude, former wrestler, about 55 years old, outgoing and talkative — and, having developed diabetes (variety not specified, though he was on insulin) in his mid-30s, was delighted to hold forth about his 2 1/2 decades of experiences with the disease.
This was not a problem. My hubby likes to talk too, so he was happy to chat about D... until the gent started informing him how Eric's diabetes SHOULD be managed. Mark tried to explain that Eric, being a child, was subject to different parameters than an adult. He mentioned that I had worked closely with Eric's doctor and nurses to write a book on how children's T1 diabetes is managed. He pointed out we'd been dealing with this disease for almost five years now... all to no avail. Our new acquaintance was absolutely certain that his way was the RIGHT way, and if we were doing it differently, we were not doing it right.
Oy. And vey.
Mark took me aside and suggested, in the interest of interfamilial harmony, that I stay away from this guy so as not to get into a contretemps over diabetes management. I laughed a little and noted that the guy clearly hadn't heard the saying "Your Diabetes May Vary" that is bandied about in the online communities. I generally thought Mark was making too much of it, but he said to me, "This guy is one of those people who won't let it go if he thinks he's right and you're wrong." That... is not something I deal with well. So I noted the man and stayed away from him. Until we were leaving for the actual event, and I walked past him with Eric, and he hailed me saying, "Is that your boy? How's his sugar?"
It was, perhaps, fortunate that I'd had a really good night's sleep and a nice breakfast, and thus was in a good mood; Mama Bear was still in her cave. Instead of pointing out it was actually none of his business, I smiled and told him, "pretty good, pretty good," thinking that would be enough to satisfy random curiosity. Instead, he launched into a diatribe about his own BG, and how he'd had crazy highs and lows and really lousy control. I deflected this by noting that we'd switched to a pump when Eric was young because of similar problems, not realizing that bringing up a pump was, to him, a gauntlet — he now needed to show me that he knew more about the tech than I did. "Oh, you got one of them? I know how those work. They ..." and he proceeded to tell me the basics of pump use [which I already know] and how they're now trying to make an artificial pancreas [know that already too] by combining it with a continuous glucose monitor. He ended this riff with, "You know, you should see if you can't get him on one of those CGMs. It probably would help."
"Yes," I said, smiling over my shoulder as I ushered Eric to the car. "We had one. It did help. But we had to stop using it because Eric developed an allergy to the lead that monitors the interstitial fluid." That silenced him, at least momentarily, and I took the opportunity to jump in the car (we were heading up for the field where the ceremony took place) and say, "Nice talking to you" before he could catch his breath. And, thereafter, made a point of avoiding. Because I didn't see any good coming of being cornered and bullied.
The experience got me thinking. We come here to TuDiabetes because we want to vent and to talk things over with people who've been there, done that. But what makes the site work is, first and foremost, most people understand the concept of "Your Diabetes May Vary" — and respect the experiences of others. Most people give advice out of their own experience, but I have never seen anyone dictate to another user, "You're doing it wrong. Do this instead." [I suppose it probably happens, but I haven't seen it.]
If there are unwritten rules of giving diabetes advice, I would imagine some of them are as follows:
1.) Give advice if it's asked for, but if it's not, give sympathy, or support, or positive reinforcement. If you can't do any of those things, make a funny and give laughter. But keep in mind, if you're the advice-er rather than the advice-ee, you're GIVING, so don't use the interaction as an excuse to pat yourself on the back (that's a taking kind of thing).
2.) It's OK to tell your experiences. Just understand that theirs may not be the same, and that it's all good if it's not. This is ESPECIALLY true if you're talking about different types of D, which I rather suspect we were! Swapping stories is nice, but not if you're planning to beat the other person on the head with yours; make sure it's a two-way street.
3.) Don't condescend if you're passing on information. Ignorance is not a crime (more like, a curable condition), and there's always someone else who knows more than you do... and you MAY know less than you think—so won't you feel stupid when that is made clear?
4.) NEVER TALK DIABETES AT WEDDINGS OR BIRTHDAY PARTIES. The downsides are just too great. You already have to deal with all the usual internal [and sometimes external] voices asking, "Should he be eating that?" "How many carbs...?" "Oh, geez. Buttercream frosting..." and a post-cake high that is absolutely awe-inspiring. No need to add to the angst by "going there" about diabetes.
I'm sure there are more, but these are the ones that spring to mind at this point.