Road Trip, Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent last weekend in one of my favorite cities[1], Pittsburgh. The weekend was jam-packed! It started with a graduation in Harrisburg on Saturday, a pre-wedding party Saturday night in Pittsburgh, a 5K Sunday morning, and the actual wedding Sunday night. Talk about exhausting!

Aside from the extra effort it takes to control blood sugars while on the road, and the fact that I was sleep deprived, I was also eating at random times throughout the day and foods that I don’t necessarily always eat. One misconception that I’m always trying to correct in my extended family is that I don’t have to eat at a specific time during the day. I’ll hear them discussing my blood sugar in the background making comments like “She hasn’t eaten all day. I know that’s not good for her sugar!” It even went as far as my favorite aunt waking me up from my almost nap forcing me to eat the lunch she prepared. (She said it was because of my blood sugar, but I know that it was just as much the fact that we’re Arab, and when it’s time to eat, it’s time to eat! No exceptions.)

While I always appreciate that my aunts and uncles want to look out for me, it is unbelievably frustrating when they continue to assume that because they’re older and wiser that they know more about how to take care of Type 1 diabetes[2] than I do. Most of them have never even met someone with Type 1 other than me. They just go by the assumptions that most other people go by: You can’t eat this or that, you have to eat at a certain time of day, and if I’m acting tired or cranky it’s 100% due to my blood sugar. I’m usually patient and it doesn’t make me upset, but I have to say the one thing that bothers me a little is that they haven’t just taken the time to Google it…

Perhaps I sound a bit bratty. But honestly, after I’ve explained it a million and one times that yes I can eat this, and no I don’t have to do that, I’d hoped that maybe one of my aunts, uncles, or cousins, would just do a quick search of “Type 1 Diabetes.” It’s so easy and it quickly dispels a lot of the rumors that people believe because of the confusion between Type 1 and Type 2. It’s funny because even though I attend a million conferences a year, blog about it every week, and talk about it all the time, I still have to explain every single misconception multiple times even to the closest members of my extended family.

On the flip side, I was hugely appreciative when my aunt pulled me aside and genuinely asked me if everything with my blood sugar was OK and if there was anything I needed. It was a nice reminder that even without my parents, and even with all of my extended family’s misconceptions, they’re always there for me and in the event of an emergency I would be taken care of. I appreciated the gesture more than she knows because usually in the midst of our crazy, big family it just ends up being a loud “Hey, are you OK?!” or “Are you sure you can eat that…?”

Even though I know those are all forms of my family looking out for me, it was nice to be pulled aside in calm manner when nothing appeared to be wrong just to get asked if all was fine. In truth, I prefer when the family doesn’t constantly ask about it while we’re all hanging out because I don’t want them to think I’m not OK.

The fact that I have diabetes can be a huge stress for those around me who don’t understand the disease, because to them it’s a much bigger deal than it needs to be. When I’m with my parents I’m sure they’re worried, but at this point we know how it works. They know when I’m OK and when they might need to keep an extra eye on me because I’m trending low. On the other hand, for people who don’t get it, it’s as though they’re just waiting for me to collapse at any minute and that can often be worse than having those around me completely neglect the fact that I have it at all.

It’s like being 5 years old again and not being allowed to make any move without the approval of an adult. Since I’m almost 19 years old and going on 9 years with Type 1 diabetes, you’d think people would accept that I can manage it just fine! But then again, when has logic ever been the answer?

  1. spent last weekend in one of my favorite cities:
  2. Type 1 diabetes:

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Maryam Elarbi: Maryam Elarbi is an 18-year-old freshman in college who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 10. Eight months after her diagnosis, Maryam’s family began attending the “Children With Diabetes” conferences, which changed their entire view on Type 1 and how to cope with it. Over the past eight years, Maryam has been actively involved in advocating for people with Type 1 through these conferences, as well as fund-raising for diabetes research through JDRF’s annual “Walk to Cure Diabetes.” In her spare time, Maryam enjoys reading (especially works by Jane Austen and Kurt Vonnegut), writing, spending time in the beautiful city of Philadelphia, and defeating her brothers in the new “Dance Central 2″ game. (Maryam Elarbi is not a medical professional.)

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