“But see… you actually take care of yourself…”
I’m different. I said that in my last blog. I know I am because I have something that not a lot of people have. Even less among Latinos. See, I’ve got a rare type of diabetes. I know I’ve mentioned this to a lot of different people. I have not just Type 1, but I have Type 1b that has been shown to be developed due to an environmental cause, like a virus. It is not autoimmune.
Among Latinos, among Mexican-Americans, diabetes affects 18 percent of the population. It’s a pretty high number and that was back in 2010. I’m waiting for new numbers to come out since I’ve been reporting on the same ones from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s time to update those digits because I know diabetes is affecting a lot more that 25 million Americans; I can feel it.
So within my community where Type 2 diabetes is most talked about (so much that many don’t realize there are different types) as just “diabetes” there is a certain misunderstanding of what I’ve got going on. It’s hard for people to understand what I go through and why I go through it since I’m not old or overweight and I look like I’m in pretty good shape.
When I tell my story, they look at me as if they’re proud of me and say, “That’s so good of you! You keep doing good and keep yourself healthy.” I get that from a lot of people with Type 2. I end up telling them that I’m fine; I know how to take care of myself. It’s them that I’M worried about.
The downside to having Type 1 is that anything can go wrong at any time. It’s actually pretty dumb. I mean, you can be doing just fine, numbers fine and everything and still have traces of protein in your urine. That’s bad, by the way. Protein should not leave your body. Ever. Or have bleeding behind your eye. That’s the worst, especially when you hear, “That’s because of your diabetes. At least it’s not affecting your vision.” I get chills just thinking about it.
There are still issues that I have to face and I usually face them alone. Why? Because people see me and I look fine and healthy and cool. “You’re different. You actually take care of yourself.” Yeah, that’s true, but it’s still something that I have to be weary of.
Look, I’m not saying that anyone should take pity on me, because I don’t want it. What I’m saying is that having diabetes is just as serious whether it’s Type 1, Type 2, LADA, Gestational or anything else. I need and want people to know about my diabetes just in case. It sucks to think about it that way, but it’s true.
Also, when I’m talking to people about it, I want them to listen and to learn about what is affecting me and my body and what I think about because usually, I’m telling people I care about an I hope they care about me enough to listen. It can also help people that they know, not just me.
The truth of the matter is, is that if you have it well controlled, people don’t think it’s a big deal. And then, as I mentioned in a previous blog, should something go wrong, you’re to blame for it because you must have done something wrong.
Maybe I’m just complaining here, but disorders like diabetes should be acknowledged and almost respected. I don’t want people to pity me and I want them to understand just how much effort it takes to make my body “GO.” Is that selfish of me? It might be.
It also comes from issues that I’ve had in the past. Once, I had sharp pains in my abdomen. The doctors said it was another serious disease that only affects men between the ages of 35-45. I was 23. The doctor said he was 95 percent sure he was right. My mom screamed second opinion.
The day that I committed myself into the local hospital in Urbana, I had to beg a neighbor to take me. “I have a meeting with my professor that I can’t miss,” she told me. I stood in front of her in pain. “Can you just drop me off? You don’t even have to come in with me. Just drop me off,” I begged her. The last thing I wanted to do was take a taxi to the hospital and I was in so much pain.
Later I ended up getting my gallbladder taken out and that was the end of that. No other disease. No more problems. Weird? Yep.
The last time, I was severely dehydrated. It took will power to get myself to a point of being OK after my insulin wasn’t getting to me due to a bent cannula. I was throwing up and was too weak to go anywhere. I asked a few people if they could come and just be with me, in case I didn’t stop throwing up and had to go to the hospital. No one accepted my charming invitation.
“But you’re fine,” I was told. That’s not the point! Doesn’t anyone get it?
Maybe it’s these experiences that have jaded me into thinking that I deserve some kind of attention. Maybe it’s these experiences that have got me thinking that I’m superwoman. Maybe it’s these experiences that have me believing that I can do anything, alone, and not be limited by my disorder, the fact that I’m a woman or even, even my body.
When you take care of yourself, even others see you as a champ; invincible. Is that good? Is that bad? It doesn’t make me have diabetes any less. It just means that the complications are kept at bay. I may be different in multiple ways, but I have and will always have diabetes. Just because of that, I’m one of 25 million others in the United States.