Shameless Public Displays of Diabetes

Editor’s Note – In early 2014, a Miss Manners advice column suggested that people with diabetes should wait until they find a discreet place to test their blood sugars rather than test in public view. That column caused strong feelings among the diabetes community on both sides. In this column, author and life coach Laura Kronen takes the opposite position while responding to public reaction to a photo of herself injecting insulin in public.

Chances are if you have diabetes and are not suffering from a severe case of agoraphobia, you probably have had to administer insulin or check your blood sugar in a public place. I will even go so far as to bet that every person with diabetes reading this article has done a public display of diabetes at least once in their life, if not multiple times a day.

Recently a picture of me giving myself a dose of insulin during a night out made the rounds on social media. Almost 2000 people commented, liked, or shared this photograph, with the general consensus being applause for a woman taking good care of herself and not letting diabetes get the best of her. Many parents of children with diabetes said they showed this picture to their kids as encouragement and inspiration. For me, this portrait exclaims, “Who cares if the world watches? I am diabetic and proud of it! I’m doing what it takes to stay alive, no matter who is watching!”

After all, we aren’t embarrassed to breathe in public right? And eating is perfectly acceptable too, isn’t it? Even swallowing pills or using an inhaler is no problem. So why was it then that a handful of people, both with and without diabetes, have a problem with this snapshot?

Laura_Kronen_PDD_300pxSome responders went so far as to say that people with diabetes should ban themselves to a bathroom or go to their car to administer insulin or do a glucose test. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I’m at a restaurant or bar, I often will end up giving myself more than one shot throughout the night. I need to shoot up throughout the night depending on what I actually ate and how long I am there. I am not running to the bathroom two to three times to check blood sugars and take a shot. Being discreet is a common courtesy, just like chewing with your mouth closed. We can all agree there is no need to make a scene by waving a syringe or bloody finger around, but I believe that hiding out in a public restroom or the front seat of your car is sending a message that you are ashamed or believe something is wrong with what you’re doing.

Instead, I suggest that people who get “squeamish” when quarter-inch needles are around should look away. I can assure them that they are not going to have serious health complications by catching a glimpse of someone taking care of their diabetes. The person on the receiving end of that treatment just might if they miss a shot or a dose in an effort to be discreet, though. Diabetes does not get put on hold when we dine out, go shopping, or attend a party. It’s a 24/7 job and it doesn’t wait for opportune and discreet times to cause havoc.

As people with diabetes, we need to spread awareness to those who are not informed about the disease. Even more importantly, we need to be role models and encourage other people afflicted with this disease to take charge of their health no matter where they happen to be. There is nothing wrong with you except that your pancreas decided to take a permanent holiday. Do what you need to survive and live your life out loud!

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Laura Kronen is the author of Too Sweet: The Not-So-Serious Side to Diabetes and has lived with Type 1 diabetes for over 20 years. She is also the founder of the life-coaching organization Be You Only Better that provides motivational, entrepreneurial, health and wellness and diabetic coaching to people around the world.

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