Diabetes shame is a real thing. It surfaces in the face of criticism, perfectionism and unrealistic expectations of others. No one wants to deal with this illness, and it isn’t fair that there are people who can eat whatever they want and never gain weight or get diabetes. There seems to be a general consensus that a weak nature or lack of knowledge is the root of diabetes. It is not true. Some of us just got dealt a different hand of cards; genetics, culture, family lifestyle, belief systems, traumatic events or, like me, just being in the wrong place at the wrong time and encountered a nasty virus when my defenses were down. But it is easy to beat yourself up, thinking that you should have been somehow better, somehow different or somehow luckier. These feelings lead to guilt and the worst of them all – SHAME.
Power in how YOU choose
This topic recently came to mind when I responded to a Facebook post asking for snappy comeback when people asked about a visible diabetes device to monitor blood sugar (CGM). This is my reply:
IMHO, truth is best. It is what it is and nothing to be ashamed of. If we feel we need to have a “comeback”, it means there is still a battle raging within you. Could it be people are just curious? “It’s a glucose monitor. I have diabetes. I am so fortunate to have this! Cool huh?!” By not answering, you have put the thought in their mind that it is something worth hiding, which just makes them more intrigued and likely to talk about your encounter in a negative and gossipy tone. Your reply 100% reflects how you feel about yourself. Don’t hate on me for not having a snappy comeback!!! But you really have a LOT of power to influence how others see and treat you! PS – I have been on diabetes devices for over 20 years. I get you!
In my experience, just stating the truth is the best way to deal with feelings of shame. Shame makes you believe there is something to hide, something wrong, something bad. These beliefs influence our behavior and these beliefs are WRONG! We all do the best we can with what we have. Every person is on their own journey trying to figure it all out. When you choose to behave differently and speak YOUR truth, as frightening as it might be, the experience will shape what you believe. When you speak truth there is a huge burden lifted, the shadows of shame begin to melt. It takes courage and time, but that is where it starts. When you live with less guilt and shame, you step into your power. It feels so much better to drop the worry of how to respond or wandering what will people think.
Will it all be sunshine and roses? No. Some people are dealing with their own inner battles and will just be downright rude. But you can’t fix that any more than you can fix what ANYONE on this planet thinks. So you may as well address any diabetes shame with honesty, get a true reaction from people, and come to know their true character. Then YOU have solid information to take the next steps. That could be distancing from that person, educating them, having deeper conversation or a myriad of other choices. It’s risky but in the long run, it is SOOOOO much easier that hiding in a web of lies, half-truths and sarcasm.
Go be you!