Thursday, January 23, 2014

Diabetes Complications & Judging One Another~

For the record, I love D moms and dads - I LOVE THEM -And I learn from them every single day. 
Also: You never know what a person is carrying around with them - diabetes or not - so leave your judgment at the door and keep your heart filled with empathy and compassion. 
I was talking to a DParent I’d literally just met minutes earlier while attending a friend of a friend’s get-together a few weeks back. We’d been chatting for all of about 16 minutes when DParent said something like: Well.. You don’t have any D complications... do you?? 
I mean you took care of yourself....You did what you were supposed too...Right? 

And in that moment my heart hurt so much I thought it would break.
It wasn't the first time a person (or a D parent - or a person with diabetes for that matter,) had said those very same words. But no matter who says it, it hurts to hear if you've been in the diabetes game for decades - And the D judgement from your own, even when it's unintentional pierces your heart and puts you on the defensive. 

I was simmering and I didn't want it to boil over to the surface, nor did I want to flip my Diabetes Bitch Switch
I didn't want to fight, especially with one of 'my own." 
I’d just met DParent. I couldn’t even remember her last name - And I probably would have answered her question if I hadn't felt it was dripping with diabetes judgement - And I knew that she didn't hear the judgement in her own words.

I wasn't just mad at the question. I was mad at my 14 year old self for sins committed long ago, when I blamed my sister Debbie for her diabetes complications and her alcohol issues. 
I was mad at my 20 something self and her skewed view of people with type2 diabetes that was less then kind and understanding.

And I was mad at myself for what I could and or should have done in my own diabetes past. 

Knowing what I know now about diabetes in all dimensions, diabetes and depression and diabetes burnout verses what I knew then brings all sorts of emotions and D guilt to the table.
I took a deep breath, looked D Parent in the eye and calmly asked: Why do you think that people with D complications didn’t try their best with the tools they had at the time?
Seriously, would you think less of me as person if I told you I did have D complications than if I didn’t?
D Parent: Well.... It’s just that people with diabetes comp

And I stopped her right there. 

Me: It’s not so easy to scrutinize someone with diabetes complications when you take a look at the history of treating diabetes. 
When I was growing up,(and pre - me for that matter,) in the Diabetes Dark Ages, we didn’t have technology like meters and cgms to manage our blood sugars, we tested urine. 
Insulin pumps were neither precise nor compact and they weren’t covered by insurance or available to the masses. Sliding insulin scales, like glucose meters were relatively new (don’t even get me started on accuracy issues,) and there were only 3 insulins on the market when I was initially diagnosed. 
I reminded D Parent that the diabetes diet back in the day was incredibly restrictive and how all of the above made living with diabetes hard - And that it was still hard - even with all the flexibility that today’s D diets have.
And that sometimes that even D technology in all it’s glory makes diabetes even harder to deal with mentally. 

And then I continued rambling and said that in the Diabetes Dark Ages, nobody treated the mental side of diabetes - And no one considered the mental toll diabetes took on a person with diabetes or their loved ones. 
Diabetes Burnout, like diabetes itself and all its forms, was (and by those that are uneducated, ) was and still is, considered a lazy man’s disease and a cop-out. 

And that genetics and sheer dumb luck also comes into play with diabetes and complications.

Me: Honestly DP, don’t we get enough judgement from people who don’t live with diabetes? We shouldn’t judge one another when it comes to diabetes, regardless of the type or the diabetes complications. It isn’t PWDs (people with diabetes) sans complications verses PWDs with complications. 
We have to help one another, not judge one another for what we did or didn’t do in the past. We have to focus on what we are doing now to help our future.

And then I took a breath and D Parent looked at me with glassy eyes and apologized. 

DParent told me that she’d never considered all of the above. She was less than 3 years into her son’s life with diabetes and that most of what she’d been told about D complications blamed the PWD or the parents of the PWD and that she was still learning - And that it was hard and that she was scared. 
And her words allowed me to look at her with new eyes - And myself. 
I gave DParent a hug and told her that even with 36 years in, I was still learning too. 
And that my D passion might easily be mistaken for judgement - And I really hoped that wasn't the case, but if she felt at all judged,I was sorry and that she was doing a great job and to hang in there. 

 And then we smiled at one one another as we held each others hands. 
Then the talk turned to the snack spread and guessing the bolus for the spicy hot-wing dip, which eventually led to talk of the DOC and before we knew it an hour had gone by. 
In the end we both left the party with new perspectives and new lessons tucked in our hearts and our heads -  And with a new friend's digits in our smartphones~   


Laddie said...

Wonderful story and I am so glad that your "new friend" was able to listen and learn from you rather than being defensive. There are very few of us who have never made mistakes in judging others when we have incomplete knowledge and forget our compassion. The DOC has definitely helped make me less judgmental through the years.

Renee said...

Bravo!!! For educating someone who can't possibly "get it", given her brief intro to Diabetesland, and for championing solidarity among ALL who tread diabetes I like to say "those who have NO complications-irrespective of self-care- are fortunate to have been swimming in the right gene pool!"

Alecia said...

Well done my friend... and yet another reason I admire you. xoxo

Katie said...

Whenever I am asked a similar question I always answer, "a diabetic is always doing the best they can at that particular moment in their life."

Colleen said...

And, as always, you are really quite amazing. Really!

Brad Meter Boy said...

As usual, you articulate so well the unsaid experiences of many. Thank you.

Elizabeth said...

I've come across this myself. If I were to have any complications it's "my fault" which completely offended me. At the time of said comment I wasn't as strong, or so I thought, as I am now so I ignored the blatantly rude remark. I wish I had said something. I'm so glad that you did. It makes me beam with happiness that amazing people like you are in my corner. You stood up for all of us with diabetes. Thank you. Glad she was able to understand a little about D lives too.

StephenS said...

Love this story. Imagine your impact. This parent will take what she learned to others, and they will relay that to even more (I'm getting flashbacks of a shampoo commercial from the 70s). Sometimes, advocacy really begins with one. Thanks.

katerinas said...

I think you are missing the point. As a Dmom I can tell you that you feel helpless and in need for some stability in your life. I think this mum was looking for reassurance that at least if she does what she is told to do her child will be ok. Nothing to do with judjing but as she said trying to comfort herself by findinng adults with diabetes that do not have complicatons. The other scenario I think is too scary.

Dennis, pwD said...

Really well said k-2; you reflect on many of my thoughts. Yes, we PWD "survive" and enjoy life by being aware of who we are as individual persons 24/365. Oh, those dark ages of struggling with diabetes as a teen and not seeing results of a blood-test until the following day(I'm 57 years T1D)and trying to cope with thoughts of possibly living to age 25 or 30. Complications, sure but I don't let them hold me back.

Jan said...

I agree with katarinas. As a Dmom, I am filled with such dread and fear for my child, that I look for reassurance that if I and my child do everything right, those complications won't happen to MY child. I'm 7 years in, and have learned that diabetes management is so fraught, and complications so hard to predict, that fear and dread just become part of our life. BTW, I read and enjoy your post every day. Keep up the good work!

Kelly said...

Amen Sista!! I always find myself reminding people that my Dad did everything right, his kidney failure, blindness, amputations were NOT a result of his management but a result of what Diabetes can do as a chronic, life long, constant disease. -Sigh- Im so happy to have YOU in our D community!!

Scott E said...

Well, Kelly -- if she had to learn this lesson, I'm glad she learned it from you. Forceful, emphatic, and memorable, but leaving things on happy, friendly, and mutually-supportive terms. Nobody could have gotten the message across quite like you could.

But with that said, I'm sorry you had to get a blood-pressure rise out of it. That part just isn't fair.

RunningWithoutSugar said...

I understand. I get the similar reactions from many people who find out that I'm a Type 2 diabetic. Many of them say that I'm free of complications because "I take care of myself, not like others". I often wonder what they'd say if, despite me doing what I'm doing now (the same things that they credit for me not developing complications - yet), I have complications. The thing is, why do we have to judge others to begin with?

k2 said...

I appreciate everyones comments & points of views!
Katarinas & Jan - I'm not a parent of a child with D, but I know you guys are scared and worried - I totally get that - The fear and guilt of D complications is part of a PWDs life as well.
I love that we can share, discuss and learn from one another!
Kelly K