“You know what bugs me?” asked Michelle. “People who think they know what’s good for me when they have no clue.” I can relate. Sometimes, medical problems aren’t as bad as how other people react to us. Have you had experiences like these?
• Discrimination: “Oh, we didn’t invite you to go out with us because you can’t eat that kind of food.” Some prejudice can be seriously harmful, as when you are denied a job because of diabetes. Other times, it just hurts emotionally.
• Food police: “Should you be eating that?” People who think they know better than you what you should eat and aren’t afraid to tell you.
• Food sabotage: People who seem to think it’s their job to get you to “lighten up” about your diet. “C’mon, you know you love cheesecake. At least you used to (before you stopped being fun)…”
• Needle phobia: Kind of like breast-feeding mothers not being welcome in some places, some people find it hard to be around people who are injecting insulin or checking their blood sugars. They hate needles and blood and will tell you so in words or nasty stares.
• Dating issues: This is really hard and deserves its own column. Worrying about how to discuss diabetes with potential loved ones or friends can be stressful.
• Knowing what you should do: People who consider themselves diabetes “experts.” They have cures they found on the Internet or warnings about complications (that you already know about, of course). They think they know diabetes better than you do and know you better than you know yourself.
People like that might often remind you to check your blood sugar because of something you said, when you’re legitimately annoyed about what they are doing.
One problem here is that sometimes these folks DO know something you haven’t found yet. I can imagine someone telling a friend with diabetes about bitter melon, based on this blog entry. I would hope the friend listened. But people always need to ask, “Are you interested in hearing something good I found about diabetes?” or something like that. Don’t just start in giving unwanted advice.
• “Helping” that makes things worse: People always want to open doors for me when I’m in my wheelchair. Many times they are blocking the doorway that I need to get through. Similar things can happen with “helping” diabetes. Of course, not helping when help is needed can be worse.
It’s hard for others to know when help is needed and how to give it. We should help them help us by telling them what works for us and what doesn’t.
• Seeing your diabetes and not you: That’s one of the hardest things. People who have known you for years start treating you like you’ve changed. People who don’t know you may be afraid to get closer. How do you remind them you are still a person like them?
Good things people do
People are usually good for us. They can give practical or financial help, emotional support, and useful knowledge. They can give us a sense of connection and something to appreciate about life. An occasional hug isn’t bad either.
Also, I wonder how often what we see as other people’s reactions are actually our own fears and doubts coming back to us. Or how often we let other people annoy us when they are just being themselves or having a hard day. Maybe it’s the way we react that makes the problem worse.
It’s not about putting people down. We need them. But how can we get them to react to diabetes in more useful, happier ways? What have been your experiences with other people’s behavior toward you and diabetes?