Playing Thru - February 2010
Love Me, Love My Diabetes
By Kerri Sparling
This article, reprinted with permission, was originally published on dlife.com.
He didn't know much about diabetes at all, which surprised me because my world was draped in it. I leaned on the desk as we spoke, my insulin pump clipped to the side of my pants and slightly visible. I wasn't thinking about my exposed pump but more the fact that he had such a nice smile.
"That's an insulin pump, right?"
I wasn't sure what to say. He was very handsome and I was doing my best to be flirty and charming, within the confines of my office, at least.
"It is. I've been diabetic since I was a little kid."
He nodded, his warm brown eyes smiling at me.
"A friend of mine used to date a girl who was diabetic. She wore a pump exactly like yours."
And that was it. It was out there. He knew. And he was still smiling at me.
It has always been a part of my life, for as long as I can remember. Every birthday party, every holiday, and every day at school was one with diabetes. That doesn't mean it was an intrusive, offending attendant, but it was there nonetheless. That is how diabetes has affected my life since I was a little kid - it's just a part of what's going on. Testing blood sugars, taking insulin, and managing all these numbers. It was as much a part of my childhood as playing in the yard and riding my bike.
For me, life has always included diabetes. The lives of those who love me include diabetes, too.
He asked me to dinner and I said yes right away. We talked about movies and music and made comfortable jokes and fiddled with our silverware instead of holding hands. He told me about his family, I told him about mine. He was a filmmaker and a fitness enthusiast. And I was a writer and a diabetic.
As we talked, I tested my blood sugar before the food arrived, quietly gauging his response as I waited for the meter result.
I wanted him to know right away what diabetes looked like.
I wanted him to see that it was a big part of my life but wasn't a defining factor in who I was. But I also needed him to know that it was a part of my life that required a significant amount of attention. His response, as far as I was concerned, would determine whether or not I wanted to pursue anything further.
He smiled at me and I was immediately put at ease.
Over the course of the next few months, we began to weave the fabric of our relationship, with diabetes as a running thread. He learned to test my blood sugar and numbers like "100," "30," and "276" started to mean something to him. I showed him my insulin pump and how it worked. He started keeping a bottle of juice in the fridge in his apartment and asked to be shown how the glucagon kit worked.
As the relationship became more serious, my daily diabetes duties became seamlessly integrated. We learned to bring a cooler to the beach for my pump. We knew that I preferred to disconnect the pump before intimacy. And he learned that my sweaty forehead in the middle of the night meant I needed juice. This is part of our relationship.
Some diabetics keep their diabetes to themselves, disclosing at discreet intervals and building up to a comfortable moment of "telling." Others wear their diabetes diagnosis on their sleeve and make it part of their introductions. It can be a clumsy conversation or it can be handled with confidence, but being close with someone means they know what your life involves. For me, diabetes is something that needs to be disclosed almost immediately. Love me, love my diabetes.
"Do you ever think about it? The whole diabetes thing?" I asked him one night over dinner.
"Kerri, I don't know if this sounds bad or not, but I don't think about it. I know what we need to do and I understand how it works, but I don't think of you as diabetic. You are just Kerri."
Didn't sound bad to me.
Kerri Morrone Sparling has been living with type 1 diabetes for over 23 years. She blogs daily at her well-known diabetes blog, www.sixuntilme.com. She and her husband, Chris, are expecting their first child in May 2010.