“Diabetes in the wild” is a phrase I first learned about several years ago from, of course, the diabetes online community.
The phrase refers to those moments when you’re out in public and suddenly, randomly, you happen to spy another person with diabetes. Perhaps their pump site gives them away, or maybe they’re doing a fingerstick check. The person could have a diabetes tattoo, or they might be doing an injection. Whatever the scenario may be, these moments can be kind of exciting because they often trigger me to think, hey, there’s someone just like me right over there – it’s like that instant knowing that this person knows better than anyone else what daily life with diabetes is like that results in an inexplicable comfort, that feeling of realizing you’re never alone. And it’s truly a powerful feeling.
More often than not, these diabetes in the wild moments also come with some level of interaction with the other person. Maybe I’ll toss a compliment their way (nice Omnipod!) or the other person might ask me a question about my diabetes devices, because they’re curious about them and considering whether or not they should try it. These interactions are almost always super polite and the awkwardness is minimal…
…but naturally, there are times when diabetes in the wild moments are not so nice and just plain weird.
Here’s the story behind my most recent, bizarre, and mildly uncomfortable diabetes in the wild experience.
I was at the grocery store on my lunch break, taking great care to somewhat hustle up and down the aisles because I had a short window of time in which to complete my shopping. The store was pretty empty and for the most part, I was able to go from aisle to aisle without bumping into other people.
Until John and Jane (not their real names, I actually have no clue what their names are) appeared.
John and Jane were what I like to call…spatially unaware. They had zero regard for my personal space and apparently, no manners, which I deduced from the fact that I had to move my cart and my body so close to the shelves of one aisle that I was practically touching the shelves in order to make way for them as they trod down the aisle in a wide berth as opposed to walking down single-file (like I would’ve done had I been with another person).
I was mildly annoyed, but it definitely wasn’t a big deal. I continued shopping and was dimly aware of the fact that John and Jane were going down a haphazard path, ignoring the arrows on the floors of the grocery store that indicated how to navigate up and down the aisles.
As I made my way to the next aisle, I realized that they were approaching me again, and even though we were the only three people in the aisle, they got extremely close. This time I was absolutely annoyed. I couldn’t understand why they felt the need to encroach on my personal bubble like that, but it got worse when I heard Jane say to John, directly behind my back, “Look, that’s a Dexcom like Stevie wears.”
I could feel my cheeks redden as two pairs of eyes ogled at the Dexcom sensor that I was wearing on my arm. I froze, wondering if I should acknowledge the comment, but before I could do so they were both wandering away.
The incident left me confused and a little angry. I couldn’t understand why they felt the need to discuss my Dexcom right within earshot of me – really, they literally talked behind my back. They could’ve waited until they were further away from me to talk about it if they wanted to, when I couldn’t overhear them and feel uncomfortable by the whole exchange, which left me feeling like I was a caged animal at the zoo. I can’t remember a time when people had so openly stared at my Dexcom like that, and it’s a weird feeling…and it’s one thing to stare, and a whole separate issue to comment on it without addressing me directly.
I don’t know, maybe I was being overly sensitive about the whole thing, but I can’t help how it made me feel. It would’ve been a much different story had they maybe talked to me about it – I can imagine spending a couple minutes talking with them about their little Stevie and ending the exchange by telling them to take care or sharing some other pleasantry. Who knows how it could’ve been different. But one thing it taught me is that diabetes in the wild moments, as fun as they can be for me, they can also be not so great for others. I’d hate to think that I ever made anyone else feel awkward or strange about their diabetes because I called them out on it.
I think that context is key when it comes to experiencing diabetes in the wild…sometimes it’ll be totally appropriate to talk about it in public, other times not so much. We all just have to be a little more careful about determining the right contexts.