I carry a lot of things in my purse. A lot of things. The most important things are all diabetes supplies: 1) Glucometer; 2) insulin pen; 3) insulin pen needles; 4) finger pricker needle thingies (wtf are those actually called?); 5) alcohol swabs; 6) glucose tabs (for low blood sugar); 7) glucagon (for emergency-level low sugars when I have passed out or something…not as good about remembering this all the time). That’s just my diabetes care stuff. Take that plus the items any other woman might logically carry in her purse, and you can imagine how hefty said purse might become.
Over the course of time, I’ve found that carrying around all this equipment and sharp objects can lead to some awkward situations. Awkward, mainly because the average joe doesn’t understand diabetes care, and might in fact feel rather squeamish when they discover that it usually involves (for T1s) injecting stuff into one’s body. I have come across this lack of understanding in many situations…here are just a few.
This is the place where I most often encounter uncomfortable stares when I whip out my insulin pen at the table, proceed to hike up my shirt, pinch my belly fat, and jab myself with a needle. Normally I try to be as discreet as possible. Sometimes, if I’m dining with people who I don’t know well I will do the injection in the bathroom. Don’t get me wrong – I totally get where this aversion comes from. I nearly burst into tears the first time I had to use insulin injections and had to get a nurse to do it for me. Plus, I can see how it might make someone lose their appetite to catch a glimpse of this activity. I try to use my best judgment to determine when it’s appropriate to inject underneath the table or hustle off to do it in private. Regardless, it’s awkward. In the one instance, I risk grossing out everyone around me and feeling ashamed. In the other, I have to break the conversation and lug all my diabetes care crap to the bathroom for awhile.
Any place with a security checkpoint.
Ever tried carrying a bunch of needles through security at the airport? Well, I have. It’s pretty damn awk. Thankfully, I think the TSA has had enough experience with bizarre luggage to differentiate between sketch things and legitimate medical devices…but there’s a first time for everything. To avoid an issue, any time I travel I have to carry with me a letter from my doc stating that I have a prescription for these devices and that they’re medically necessary, blah, blah, blah. Just to cover my ass. In a different situation, I was going to the circuit court to get my name changed after my marriage and had to explain to the security guard what my glucometer was. That was certainly an illuminating experience for both parties.
One thing that I run the risk of when taking insulin is getting low blood sugar. This situation can be exacerbated by exercise of any kind. Any time you exercise, your body becomes more sensitive to insulin. I can usually mitigate this problem by eating a higher carb meal or snack right before exercising and taking little to no insulin. If I do get a low, however, I have to be ultra prepared. That means I have to have high carb sweets or snacks easily accesible, and someone with me must know what to do should the unthinkable happen and I pass out from low blood sugar. I once had to ask a co-worker prior a company canoe trip to watch a video on how to perform a glucagon injection just on the slim chance that I might have an incident. As a person who prides herself on being relatively self-sufficient, this dependency on other people to look out for me is something I may never fully get used to. I don’t like to think of it as being limiting, but sometimes I really can’t imagine just taking off for an overnight backpacking trip on my own or anything like that.
I recently informed my boss that I am diabetic – something I had kept private from company higher-ups since I started working with the firm over two years ago. At the time, my diabetes management was not a limitation. It still isn’t really a limitation…but it’s always been a concern. It’s become especially problematic with the wild schedule and commuting I’ve had to deal with over the past year. To tell or not to tell is something I’ll revisit in later posts. It certainly has the potential to generate some awkward, although sometimes necessary, conversations.
Awkward moments happen…I suppose they are part and parcel of having a chronic illness in general. It’s difficult not to have slightly wounded pride when I have to ask for help, or explain why I have to stick myself at meals to a bewildered onlooker. The fact that diabetes is such a misunderstood condition I think has a lot to do with this issue more than anything else. But I also need to keep in mind that these sorts of situations are just part of my life now. I can deal people’s reactions by being indignant or hurt, but that wouldn’t be very productive. I’m still not certain how to resolve issues of discomfort with talking to people about diabetes, but I think this blog might help start me on the right track.