10-10-10: 10 THINGS for you to take 10 MINUTES to share with 10 PEOPLE about your diabetes.
That you have diabetes.
If you aren’t comfortable sharing it with a group, share it with just one person at a time. A friend, coworker, or roommate is a great start. You may need them one day, and awareness is in both of your best interests should that need arise.
What type diabetes you have.
Each different type of diabetes requires a different set of rules and things to be aware of. An easy talking point is to share what type diabetes you have, and how it compares to others. It’s also always fun to baffle people with your expert knowledge that yes, you can indeed get “juvenile diabetes” (Type 1) as an adult. Mind blowing! Because it takes so much of our attention to manage our own diabetes, check the ADA web site if you need help educating yourself on the various types of diabetes.
Every one of us has a collection of diabetes stories. People can most identify with what you went through when you were diagnosed. Some of us, like me, were far too young to remember, but maybe your parents or loved ones passed these stories down to you. If not, share how your life has changed pre- and post-diagnosis. I have found that most people are very impressed by how much us diabetics know about our bodies. Toot your own horn!
How you manage your diabetes.
Some of us use an insulin pump, continuous glucose monitoring (CGM), multiple daily injections (MDI), and hopefully all of us with diet and exercise. Share the tools and tricks of the diabetes management trade that work for you. You don’t have to go into the nitty gritty details, but sharing that you know what you’re talking about and how to manage your diabetes goes a long way into the comfort levels of all involved in being able to talk about it openly. I like to show off my insulin pump and BG meter when I am sharing, and curiosity usually gets the cats to talking. This is also when I like to point out that I can eat the same foods as everyone else, as long as I know my BG and count carbs. This goes a long way in warding off the Diabetes Police.
The difference between a low and high blood sugar for YOU.
Although this can dance on the edge of being clinical, it’s something that most non-diabetics don’t know. Try to put into words what it feels like when you have a high or low BG. For example, when I am high, it feels like my blood has turned to molasses, and doing anything is like trying to do it while submerged in Jell-O. Most people can appreciate that description, unless they’ve never had Jell-O. And if that is the case, you get to make a new friend tomorrow by bringing them a Jell-O cup. I suggest Sugar Free Lime or Strawberry Banana.
Symptoms of a low blood sugar.
As scary as a low BG can be, this is quite possibly the hardest part of the “I have diabetes…” conversation, because it is 100% serious REAL LIFE when it happens. Describe a low blood sugar in your own words, and include those symptoms that are most common to you and your diabetes. We’re not all the same. If, like me, you’re prone to nonsensical motor mouth as a symptom of a low BG, share that. Then, if you’re talking too much and annoying your friend, at least they have an out by suggesting that you go check you’re blood sugar so you’ll shut up. Winner, winner.
How to treat a low blood sugar.
Share the important details, such as where you keep your glucose or Glucagon hidden, and that insulin does NOT make your blood sugar go up. I don’t know why so many people think that insulin makes blood sugar go up, but they do. Educate them. Let people know what works best for you to treat a low BG. If juice is your go to low BG fix-it-all, then tell them that, and where they can find it. Your life may depend on it, and it will reduce panic if you need an extra bit of help.
Your medic alert identification.
Point out where it is, whether it is a bracelet, necklace, wallet card, or other form of medic alert. I have had diabetes nearly my entire life, and am as guilty as anyone of not wearing my medic alert ID like I should. So, dig it out of your underwear drawer (or jewelry box, if you’re a girl) and put the thing on. If you don’t have one, go buy one. No excuses. I’ll even guilt you into it: Don’t put the people around you in the position of having to answer a paramedic’s medical questions about you in the event of an emergency. Emergency personnel are trained to look for medical alert ID’s, so get after it.
What you can do despite diabetes.
I think it is so important to let people know that diabetes is NOT a death sentence. It is so very far from a life ending condition, and as long as we manage it successfully, we can do anything that anyone else can. Thanks to modern technology and medicine, we can play sports, have a family, and even be a celebrity. We are only limited by our own imagination. Diabetes only holds us back as much as we allow it to, which coincidentally means that us people with diabetes (PWDs) are notoriously stubborn. I think that’s a side effect we can live with.
Where they can learn more about diabetes.
As much as we know about our own diabetes, none of us knows everything about diabetes. Some great places to refer others to learn more about diabetes are the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, American Diabetes Association, and the Joslin Diabetes Center.