“I’m LITERALLY afraid that I’m going to hurt you!!!”
These are all phrases uttered by my dear friend who was ultra-curious about the site change I had to do in the middle of our hangout. She wanted to watch me do it, but I stepped it up a notch by asking her to play a key role in it: I invited her to remove my old pod from my leg.
“Just do it, it’s just like ripping off a band-aid. I can guarantee you won’t hurt me.” I said, in an attempt to reassure her. I also swore I wasn’t lying just to make her feel better, because I’ve rarely ever experienced a pod-rip-off that truly hurt.
“But there’s something in you, right? Like a needle?” Her face creased with worry. I smiled and told her that yes, there was a cannula that was in my skin, but I couldn’t feel it.
“Let me start it for you,” I said, when I realized she still wasn’t quite ready to rip it away. I peeled up an edge of the adhesive and she started squirming.
“You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to -” I said, but just as the words left my mouth, she finally tore off the pod. Much to my chagrin, a drop of blood appeared and she squealed as I began to apologize profusely and explain emphatically that it didn’t hurt, it’s just that sometimes blood will appear and nothing can be done about it.
“I can’t believe you have to do this every 3 days…” she said, her eyes widening in wonder. I told her I’ve done it so many times now – literally just over a thousand, according to my calculations – that it’s no big deal. I’m used to it. It’s just life with diabetes…lots of repetition and more math than I’d like.
I accepted my reality a long time ago, and I’m truly at a place where it’s no big deal.
In my humble opinion (and experience), the best kind of diabetes conversation happens when it’s least expected among a group of people who are willing to listen and learn about it.
I was fortunate enough to have this exact type of conversation with my newly formed volleyball team after our first match of the season. (Side note that until then, I’d never played volleyball in my entire life. I was a ball of nerves the whole time, but I think that joining the league will have a positive impact on my mental health, social life, and diabetes, so I’m excited to see where the season takes me.) We were gathered around the table in a bar, enjoying a pitcher of beer and learning more about one another, when diabetes entered the conversation – as it almost always does, eventually, when I meet new people.
We probably spent less than 10 minutes on the subject of diabetes, but the whole time we did talk about, I felt extremely thankful to be surrounded by people who asked thoughtful questions, demonstrated curiosity to learn more, and made a pointed effort to ensure my comfort throughout the whole conversation. The energy that the group was emitting made me feel good as I shared my experiences and showed them my Dexcom and Omnipod devices, the latter of which isn’t always easy to do around new people because I can be a little self-conscious of how they appear on my body. But it felt natural to be open and upfront about all things diabetes, as I’ve experienced it, because everyone genuinely cared to learn more.
That’s what made it such a lovely conversation; in turn, it will also serve as a great reminder to me that telling new people about diabetes doesn’t always have to be an intimidating or stressful ordeal.
Diabetes can interfere with so many aspects of daily life…including friendships and relationships with others.
I’m an extremely fortunate person: I’ve never had my diabetes be a “deal-breaker” for a friendship or a relationship. I’ve never had much difficulty in explaining it to others or receiving support from friends when I’ve needed it. Of course, the level of support that I get from people in my life with T1D is much different compared to the support I get from people in my life without it, but both types of support are invaluable.
Recently, I had an Instagram follower ask me for my advice on how to help friends understand T1D: what it’s like and what’s appropriate to do/say to a person with diabetes. She expressed her frustration with a friend who doesn’t seem to understand that just because she has diabetes it doesn’t mean that she can’t enjoy sugary treats from time to time. So in response to her anecdote, I decided to round up my five best tips on how to navigate T1D and friendships/relationships in which there’s a lack of understanding and a little too much judgment.
#1: Be open, honest, and willing to answer questions. In almost two-and-a-half decades of life with diabetes, I’ve learned that this is the most important thing I can do when meeting new people and forging friendships/relationships. It’s not like my diabetes is the very first thing I say to people (“Hi, I’m Molly and I have diabetes” sounds like a South Park gag)…but it is something that I make sure to casually cover early on in the relationship. Opening the door to communication about diabetes from the get-go seems to have helped me avoid tricky situations in which I have to spend too much time correcting misunderstandings about life with diabetes and not enough time on fostering my connection with an individual.
#2: Show all aspects of life with T1D. My philosophy is to never hide any part of my diabetes from friends. I let them watch me when I do fingerstick checks, site changes, and more. I involve them when I need help correcting a low blood sugar or need to take a moment to do a bolus calculation. I’ve found that this really helps my friends feel included and they tend to show more interest and genuine curiosity when I do my “diabetes stuff” around them. It creates natural learning experiences for my friends and they get to see firsthand just how much work it can be to take care of my diabetes.
#3: Tag along to endocrinologist appointments. I understand that this might not be possible right now in this “new normal”, but in the past, I’ve had my significant other come with me to endocrinology appointments. The most memorable experience was seeing a diabetes educator with my significant other so I could be retrained on how to use an emergency glucagon kit, and so he could learn for the first time. It was really eye-opening for my partner, and ever since then, I’ve encouraged others to invite their loved ones or the person/people they live with to attend appointments every now and then. And hey, since so many doctors’ visits are virtual these days, maybe it’ll be even easier for more people to tag along to these appointments than before.
#4: Make an introduction to the DOC. Some of my friends are more social media savvy than others, so for those who have shown interest, I’ve introduced them to the diabetes online community on Instagram. There are sooooo many profiles there ALONE – forget Facebook/Twitter/other diabetes blogs – that do an incredible job of shedding light on the significant and mundane (and everything in between) parts about daily life with diabetes. These accounts have helped them truly get diabetes in a way they hadn’t previously and I think it’s made my friendships stronger, healthier, and judgment-free.
#5: Correct misconceptions – gently. Even my closest friends, or the ones with the best of intentions, have slipped up now and then and said something to my face that is simply not true about diabetes. And that’s okay, they’re not perfect (and they certainly know that I am not). When this happens, I use it as a teaching opportunity and let them know why what they said is wrong or factually incorrect. I find that the gentle, patient approach helps to reinforce whatever it is that I’m telling them, so at the end of the day, it’s a win-win for all parties.
They didn’t say that to me, but they didn’t have to…it was written in bold all over their faces.
Recently, I dined outside with people who are close to me (I’m not going into specifics as to who exactly they were to maintain some level of discretion). I was explaining to them that come the winter season, I probably won’t be dining out much out of COVID concerns.
I’m just not ready to dine indoors yet. In fact, since March, I’ve only set foot into a physical store, dwelling, or other establishment a dozen times. For me, the risk associated with spending time inside when it’s completely avoidable just isn’t worth it.
But what sucks about this is the judgment I receive from others. Just like I did in this scenario, the looks on their faces make me feel like I have to defend myself. I wanted to scream at them, “you try having a chronic illness and dealing with it during a global pandemic!”…but of course, I’d never do such a thing, and I’m very glad that they don’t have to worry about that.
I do wish, though, that they – as well as other people who are quick to judge individuals like me who are scared and overly cautious these days – would use a little more grace and humility when conversing with those of us who are high risk.
Please try to put yourself in my shoes.
Please understand that not only am I considered high risk, but I’m in direct contact with loved ones who are also considered high risk.
Please know that, yes, I do have a desire – a very strong one – to get back out there and do “normal” things.
But think about the things holding me back…a chronic condition that requires a lot of my time and energy, for starters.
And think about how there are millions of other people like me who share this great responsibility for an underlying health condition that they didn’t ask for on top of a great fear.
We’re entering week #5 (or is it 6?) of work-from-home life here at Hugging the Cactus.
Truth be told, I’m feeling a bit burnt out this week.
After a decently nice weekend, I entered Monday feeling rather…blah. Which was annoying because I’ve actually kind of enjoy Mondays recently.
But rather than embracing this one with open arms, I treated it more like Garfield the cat would…ew, Monday again.
The bright side was that I still had acts of kindness to do that will surely make my week better as it goes along.
Monday, 4/20 – Act of Kindness #15: I texted a friend today. This friend is someone who I usually only talk to in group settings, but because I know that the individual has really been struggling lately, I wanted to let the person know that they’re on my mind (again, keeping it kind of vague here on purpose to protect this person’s identity). We ended up making plans for a virtual tea party later this week, which I know will be mental health bolster to us both.
After exchanging just a couple of messages with this friend, it dawned on me just how important it is to check in on our family and friends – not just during the hard times, but also on a regular basis. Because who doesn’t like knowing that someone is thinking about them? Or that someone cares about them? I think that a lot more people struggle with feelings of loneliness than we might realize, so if sending a thoughtful text or picking up the phone to call someone is all it takes to make a person feel a little less alone, then it’s a small gesture that could have a big impact on the well-being of many.
Tuesday, 4/21 – Act of Kindness #16: In keeping with my “checking in” theme, I decided to combine that with my appreciation for the talented bloggers within the diabetes community. There are just so many awesome blogs out there that I don’t get to visit often enough! So I spent a portion of my Tuesday afternoon catching up on blog posts from various members of the DOC from the month of April. After reading them, I did my best to leave comments on each post because as a fellow blogger, I know how much I enjoy it when I receive comments on my writing. It’s always a good feeling knowing that someone out there cares enough to read my ramblings, so I figured other bloggers might like getting a note on their most recent posts.
While I was reading and commenting, it also occurred to me that I could review one of the diabetes podcasts that was kind enough to have me as a guest a couple months ago. I left a rating and a review on Apple podcasts for This is Type 1, and hopefully, the hosts will see it and it will make them smile.
I’ll wrap up today’s blog post by sharing the blogs I visited and left comments on, because I think you should check them out, too!
Hey Cactus Huggers. How’s it going? Is everyone holding up okay?
(I’d ask if you’re “hunkering down” but that phrase is just overused these days. So I’m just doing a standard “how ya doin’?”)
It’s hard to believe that many of us have been quarantined for more than a month now. Surprisingly, I’m holding up okay. Sure, I miss going places, and I would really like to hug a bunch of the people who I’m missing more and more with each passing day. But I know that self-isolating is the right thing to do for the time being.
Besides, I’ve had work and some personal projects to keep me busy, and that always helps.
And you know by now that the acts of kindness challenge is among my personal projects at the moment! Here’s what we’ve got for Wednesday and Thursday of this week…
Wednesday, 4/15 – Act of Kindness #10: One thing that my family and I have been particularly grateful for throughout this crisis (besides each other) is the fact that we have food. It’s a basic need that so many people in this world go without, and we often take for granted that we not only have it, but we have a wide variety in choices of fresh produce, cuts of meat, dairy products, snack bars, and some treats, too. We’re so dang lucky that we can afford to keep our kitchen well-stocked and to have access to so much in the first place.
That’s why I chose to donate to my town’s community food bank as Wednesday’s act of kindness. I was actually able to double my donation, thanks to my company’s new COVID-19 giving and volunteering program. So not only am I fortunate enough to be in a position to give back to my community, but I’m also privileged to work for a company that’s actively supporting the communities where its employees live and work.
Thursday, 4/16 – Act of Kindness #11: I admit that yesterday’s act directly benefited me. Allow me to explain.
When I started doing research on different acts of kindness that I could do without in-person contact with others (because obviously it’s important to protect ourselves and our loved ones right now), I was surprised by how many suggestions revolved around things like calling, emailing, and texting other people. I guess I hadn’t thought about it this way before, but setting aside the time to let someone, anyone in your life know that you’re thinking of them is a huge gesture of kindness and friendship. So, inspired in part by the notion of reconnecting with old friends, I helped make that happen last night when I video chatted with three T1D pals who I literally haven’t seen in years.
It was awesome to reunite and catch up on everything that’s happened to all of us in that span of time. And it was a major reminder to me that I know some extremely cool people! One biked across the country a couple years ago with another group of T1Ds (you may have heard about a little thing called Bike Beyond), one has participated in the Boston Marathon not just once, but multiple times (!), and the other has helped an amazing nonprofit grow from a wee tiny thing into a pretty huge freaking deal. It’s truly an honor that I can say that I don’t just know these people, but they’re friends, and friends that I’m glad I made time for (and hope to hang out with, virtually and in-person, more often).
Things have been strange lately, and are strange now, and will continue to be strange for some time…but at least the company we keep, whether it’s physically under the same roof, a few miles away, or across the country, can keep us in positive spirits and make things feel…well, a little less strange.