The Best Kind of Diabetes Conversation

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.

It’s not always easy to have a conversation with new people about diabetes.

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.

Don’t Feel Sorry About My Diabetes

This blog post was originally published on December 17, 2018 at Hugging the Cactus. I decided to repost it today because this is something that will ALWAYS be relevant – in fact, someone just said to me earlier this month that they are sorry I have diabetes! I wish people would stop apologizing for something that nobody can change, and something I accepted long ago…read on for more about why I never want people to feel sorry for me because I have diabetes.

Today’s blog post is going to be short and sweet, and about a subject that I think every person with diabetes deals with whenever they tell someone new about their diabetes.

It doesn’t matter how diabetes comes up in conversation. Whether it’s in a joking, serious, educational, happy, sad, or angry manner, the person I’m talking to almost always says…

“I’m sorry.”

I’m not sorry that I have diabetes, so you shouldn’t be, either.

Sometimes, I think it’s because society has instilled this weird reflex in people to apologize for something that they didn’t do. Other times, I think it’s because people just don’t know how else to respond to something that may be sobering or grounded in reality. But the simple fact of the matter is…

People need to stop apologizing to me, and other people with diabetes, for having it.

Here’s why:

  1. It doesn’t make sense.
  2. We weren’t given a choice – it’s a simple truth that we’ve learned to accept.
  3. It makes me feel strange, because it’s almost like the other person is taking accountability for my diabetes.
  4. I believe that human beings apologize too much, in general, and it diminishes apologies when they matter most or are most sincere.
  5. I’m not sorry that I have diabetes, so why should someone else be?

While I genuinely empathize with and appreciate people who apologize as a knee-jerk response, I’m just here to gently tell them that it isn’t necessary. Save “I’m sorry” for times that it’s warranted, and not for something like having diabetes, a matter in which no one has a choice.

Full Disclosure: I Have Diabetes

“Full disclosure: I have diabetes, so I have to be extra careful and wear a mask and gloves.”

“Full disclosure: I have diabetes and it can be tricky for me to handle it when I’m drinking alcohol.”

“Full disclosure: I have diabetes but I love baking treats using regular sugar instead of sugar substitute.

“Full disclosure” – what is it about this phrase that has made me utilize it several times when meeting new people in the last couple of months?

The term itself means to reveal the complete, factual truth to an individual or individuals regarding a particular matter. But why have I associated it with my diabetes? Why has it become a conversation crutch for me in which I rely on it to introduce my diabetes?

Pink and Peach Freeform Art Instagram Post
Hey, Cactus Huggers…did you know that I have…DIABETES?!

I guess that’s because I’m trying to let the person or people that I’m talking with know that my diabetes is something that I feel I have to reveal to them in my own time. I want others to know that a lot of the time, my diabetes makes my decisions for me, particularly in cases that my blood sugar might be directly affected because I did or did not do something.

I also depend on the phrase as a bit of a segue – it transitions the topic of conversation to diabetes for at least a couple of minutes as I answer any questions that someone might have for me about it. It’s casual enough to reassure the other person that it’s no big deal, but it’s also a contextual clue that I’m about to disclose an important tidbit of information about myself.

I’ve always been interested in the language of diabetes – the words and terminology that are innately part of this chronic condition – and I’m well aware of the power of using certain words over others (e.g., I try to use “person with diabetes” instead of “diabetic” because it’s important to separate an individual from the condition). So I’m adding “full disclosure” to my personal diabetes dictionary because of my realization that it’s become a mechanism for me in conversation that I can use to smoothly introduce my diabetes.

I’m a word nerd for a reason, cactus huggers.