A diagnosis of a chronic condition can be a very personal thing, not necessarily something everyone wants to share with others. Maybe not even friends or family, and depending, certainly not coworkers.
After diagnosis, my beau was my first call. Then our parents and the rest of my immediate family (sorry, some of y’all got messages rather than calls). I headed off as many potential questions as I could: no this isn’t necessarily caused by passing down genes so it’s not your fault, no I didn’t give it to myself from eating sugar (that one needs to stop, just so you know, it helps no one, including Type 2 Diabadasses, and perpetuates incomplete misinformation), no it can’t be reversed or cured until they figure out a way to bring my pancreas back to life, basically my body just decided to attack itself an no one really knows the reason why that happens to anyone.
Turned out, though, several of my worries in answering these unspoken questions was unecessary. There wasn’t a lot known in my family on the whats and whys, but they hadn’t thought to take blame or shift it to me, my diet, or anything I had done.
I told my close group of friends a few days later when I could see them all in person. The response was a lot of, Whoa, and my favorite, “…..Wwwwwwwwwwhhhhhat the fuck??”
I laughed, and boy did I need it.
Yes indeed, friend, yes indeed.
But actually, everyone took it quite well.
Then came the question of if, and when, and who to tell at work.
It’s a very personal thing, and some may choose not to share. I sat on it for a month before I told my boss and before I was ready to put it out on my social media where I keep up with long distance friends. But after one month I decided I was ready and for me it was time. I told my boss, explaining this is why I’ve been off and sluggish and now I have help for that. I let my coworkers find out as it came up (though I did try to be discreet when pulling out my insulin–I completely hid in the bathroom the first month, not something I wanted to keep doing), which then actually opened up conversations I wouldn’t have had with them before. And I made a post announcing it on Facebook, to update those who knew something was up and so that I wouldn’t feel the need to keep hiding this very important life change that I wanted to be able to talk about, to raise awareness as helpful, and to open those potential conversations with anyone who wanted.
I had at least two main reasons why I decided to tell people and let them find out in my wider circles.
I didn’t want to hide. I wasn’t exactly feeling shame or embarrassment (okay, there was embarrassment in exposing my belly for an insulin shot), but there was something about slinking to the bathroom every time I needed insulin or to poke my finger to check my blood glucose that seemed so confining. (Plus it is very awkward to juggle all the pieces involved in a bathroom stall with no or next to no shelf-like space, yeesh.) I was awkward, especially at first, but I didn’t want to treat myself like I did have something to be ashamed of, and I did want to be authentic.
Early on I learned that there are a lot of misunderstandings, misconceptions, and just plain wrong information out in the vast world. And if I was going to have this thing, which I clearly had no choice in deciding, I might as well be useful with it and answer questions with accurate information when asked. (Kind of like being tall and helping someone reach something up high; this is my default, so I might as well make it useful somehow.) And who would know to ask me if there wasn’t something visible to cue the conversation?
So I stopped hiding in the bathroom…gradually. I went from under the table shots to taking up the space I needed to be more comfortable. I started eating out again (particularly where nutrition information was readily available: all restaurants of all styles that do that, you are a glowing kindness!). I had the slightly awkward conversations when eating with someone, “Will it bother you if I do this here?” Everyone always said it was perfectly fine. Even those I had barely met. And even those who have an aversion to needles, bless them. (I still try to ask before I bring a needle out, though I no longer use them directly on myself. Needles are not super fun, I get that, belieeeeve me I get that.)
It took some time, and I was actually embarrassed a lot. Not necessarily that I had diabetes–excuse me, DeTickles, ha–but of what was involved with that and how meals especially are instantly and always more complicated because of it. But I knew I didn’t want to hide for the rest, or even much, of my life. I wanted what I’ve been working toward since I was about twenty-five years old: to be free in my own skin, mind, and soul. And DeTickles wasn’t going to stop me from reaching that.