Once, before I had an insulin pump so I must have been about 13 or 14 years old, I was eating at a diner with my dad, brother, and sister. My brother and I both live with Type-1 Diabetes, so we tested our blood sugars together. However, he was on an insulin pump at the time and I was not yet, so I had to draw up insulin into a syringe from a vial (this was pre-pens, too!) and I did so right at the table.
While I was flicking the syringe to get rid of the air bubbles I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a little kid pointing at me. He asked his parent: “What is she doing?” I was done extricating the air bubbles at this point and made no hesitation in proceeding to take my injection in my arm, leaning against the table to pinch up the skin. I saw the child’s parent watching me with this look of horror on her face.
She quickly turned to her child and said in a hushed, but not enough to prevent me from hearing her, tone: “You see what she did just there? I never want you to do that.” Clearly, she assumed I was doing recreational drugs or something equally egregious. It kind of boggles my mind, thinking about it today. I was clearly a young teenager, sitting with my own parent and younger siblings, what in the world possessed her to think I would be doing such a thing not just openly in a public space, but under the watchful eye of my father? Really‽
I wish I had had the guts, at that age, to turn around and correct her. But I didn’t—instead, I was extremely embarrassed. I remember always being embarrassed of having to do things in public, whether it was testing my blood sugar or taking shots. Having my brother along made it easier, because I was used to him doing it (he’s lived with this disease much longer than I have) but it didn’t make the staring or the insensitive comments more bearable. I remember getting mad at my dad, once, in a restaurant for telling the waitress to double-check that our soda was diet because his kids were diabetic. I remember such comments eliciting strange looks, judgmental glares, raised eyebrows. It got bad enough that I would go to the bathroom to take my shots, or—even scarier—not take them at all.
Last week, after a meeting with my Diabetes Educator, we decided to put me back on MDIs for the next month since my insulin pump has been malfunctioning. I felt the same feelings of shame creeping back in, and even avoided taking a shot in public at a late lunch with my boyfriend last weekend.
In an ideal world, no person living with Diabetes should have to feel this way, ever. Which is why I’m extremely perturbed by the Miss Manners post in which the advice columnist tells the PWD writing to her that he should absolutely go to the restroom to perform the simple blood glucose checks and insulin injections that are medically necessary for him to do, and often need to be done right away, so as not to “disturb” the people around him. Is this really what she considers to be polite?
Whether it be on a plane, bus, train, or at a restaurant—I’m past the point of being “polite” and excusing myself to hide from the world the fact that I have to do these things in order to stay healthy. It’s shameful, it’s not fair to me or anyone else and perpetuates the idea that the things I need to do to stay alive are somehow BAD.
No. Fuck that. I won’t have it. Those stigmas against lancets and syringes will never be eradicated if it’s not made to be seen as normal. Going forward, I’m not going to hide from anyone anymore. I took an injection right at my desk at work yesterday. So take that, Miss “Manners.” Deal with it.