Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Day 2 - Social Stigma When Having Diabetes

When I was diagnosed I was in grade 8. This is a time right before I was about to attend high school, and at that time I was choosing a high school that 4 of my friends were attending and the rest were attending a catholic high school  so it was going to be a new environment where I did not know that many people. My world was already turned upside down with diabetes and it was going to be turned upside down with attending a new school and being around 99% of people that I had no interactions with previously. This was a big moment for myself.
I cannot remember why or how I started to stigmatize myself for having diabetes but it happened nonetheless. I was insecure and shy of injecting around the people who I did not know, afraid of exposing myself as a diabetic, and afraid of answering any questions or being seen any differently if they were to find out I was a diabetic.

Stigmatizing myself for having diabetes was not good for my health. There were numerous times when I would simply not inject if I were out eating with friends, causing the blood sugar to rise dramatically and stay there until I got home or got alone and injected at that. I didn't even do that well at caring for myself when I was in high school - like I realize now that I could have simply gone into the bathroom and injected there and saved myself a lot of ridiculous highs and saved myself from feeling like crap until this insulin kicked in and brought the blood sugar down. For the most part I went home to have lunch, luckily I lived pretty close so I could monitor myself and inject for what I needed there. At school I would resist as much as I could to not bring any attention to myself for being a diabetic. I remember one time I was sitting in class and I definitely could feel a low coming on. I had no form of sugar on my person at that moment and all I did was wait for the class to end so that I could walk home and go get something to eat. That was a very dangerous situation to place myself in and it was all because I was afraid to be seen as a diabetic, I was afraid to be seen as different or needing special attention.

Look, I am not saying that this is going to happen or exist within all diabetics. My circumstances were specific towards who I was within myself. In high school I was afraid to be pin-pointed for being anything, I wanted to stay within the background and keep to myself, due to fears of my peers, fears of the judgements that may exist, fear of my `world` collapsing by being seen as weird by my peers, and that was the largest factor involved within my diabetic negligence, so as I said it was specific towards who I was at the time. With that being said though I did see diabetes as something that was stigmatized. Those fears attached themselves onto the fact that I was a diabetic and it made that fear much worse than what it actually was/is. The stigma of being a diabetic can exist within many degrees and varieties though and it most likely will exist in some form or manner that is similar to what I put myself through

I cannot place blame onto other people even if they did stigmatize me, the problem was myself and how I saw diabetes within myself. I saw it as an illness or a disease that should be stigmatized or seen as needing help or assistance or special treatments. So the problem wasn't with other people, the problem was how I saw myself within diabetes. I wasn't aware of that at the time, but in retrospection I can see this as being true,

So the problem was how I saw myself within diabetes. Over time this became much better once I started to understand what I could do or what some of the limitations were within diabetes, or like what I needed to prepare for when going out or travelling or while working or studying, I started to become more comfortable with myself with having diabetes, started to understand that it really wasn't a limitation or something that I needed special treatment for having, it is something in which I was able to understand myself, something that I could support myself within, something that allowed me to take responsibility for myself on a different level than I previously have. Once that realization came through I have not worried about injecting in front of people, I do not fear people seeing or knowing that I have diabetes because I understand it a hell of a lot more now, I understand that it is not something to fear or to see myself as less than for having - it is simply something that I must work with and work my life with/around. The only limitation that exists about diabetes only exists within my ideas or beliefs about diabetes and/or what it will restrict me within. Taking a look back it would not restrict me from being friends with people it would actually most likely be a cool ice breaker and something in which I could share and open up about.

There was one example that I can bring up - and this was when I was in a hospital getting checked out for a knee injury that I was having and the nurse at the time asked if I was type 1 or type 2 - and I said type 1 - he said that he was sorry to hear that - I replied that I was actually quite grateful to have it because it has taught me a lot about myself that I would have not otherwise seen, and have been able to be responsible for myself in another dimension that I previously have - he said that is a pretty cool outlook on it. So the reason why I share this example is that many people already do see diabetes as something that is detrimental to our livelihoods, or something that we should burden ourselves with, and this is also how I saw it for those years when I really did not understand diabetes nor understood how to practically and effectively support myself within it.

So if anyone who is reading this is going through something similar the one thing that I can see is that I took longer than I needed to to find out what/how to support myself effectively within diabetes by trying to hide it from other people. I wasted quite a bit of time that I could have used to understand what to inject when I am out to eat or what I need to bring to support myself. So push yourself to inject around people, push yourself to lift up your shirt and stick a needle into your stomach regardless of anyone being able to see you - it's simply what you need to do, never mind if someone takes offense to that - it is their own problem if they do. Understand that what you have to do is out of support for yourself, diabetes isn't something that should be looked down upon or be seen as something less than other people for having - it simply is something that we need to take care of and factor into our lives. It is not a burden at all, and if you see it as a burden I highly suggest to research and investigate that line of thinking because that line of thinking is certainly going to affect the relationship with yourself and diabetes .

It is out responsibility to correct our relationship to diabetes and if we fear our self definition in relation to having diabetes then we need to re-assess those fears and embrace having diabetes, not see it as a burden or see it as a stigma, but rather see it as an opportunity for ourselves to understand ourselves on another level, be responsible for ourselves on another level, and provide care for ourselves on another level. It is our own journey to walk and we cannot allow fears of what others may think of us within the disease to dictate what or who we will be within diabetes. So if this fear exists within you as it did within me, learn from my mistakes, take that step to push beyond that fear and embrace yourself being a diabetic and do what you need to do within public or not. As the saying goes - life is too short - so do not place these ideas within your head of diabetes being a stigma - embrace diabetes and become the master of yourself within diabetes - letting nothing within yourself get in the way of your own support.

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