All of my friends seem to wish that they were somebody else. It is evident by what they share online. Daily, and sometimes even hourly, I’m seeing a “You are _______.” post on somebody’s wall or news feed. Insert into the blank a Star Wars character, Disney princess, Marvel superhero, Downton Abbey character, Game of Thrones character, Lord of the Rings hobgoblin, or Chinese food combo. I’ve even done one myself; I am Han Solo from Star Wars.
While it was fun and all, I hope that all of these “Who are you?” character quizzes cause us to think for a minute about who we really are. Sure, we can aspire to be like these superheroes and villains, who are really just exaggerations of the best and worst parts of ourselves. At the end of the day though, I hope that we consider that we are a sum of all of our parts, not just one dimension of some fictional character that someone is going to argue nearly four decades later about whether or not they shot first in a bar scene. (Han DID shoot first, by the way.)
Speaking of characters, I like the people I am friends with online. Social networking is important to me, and allows me to feel a connection to people when I can’t be with them in real life. I have friends all over the world, and it’s just a physical impossibility for me to be with them and experience all of the amazing moments of their lives as they happen. That is why I am so thankful for social media, because they can share their adventures, and I can feel like I know that they are doing okay (or not, sometimes), and can be a part of their world virtually and emotionally when I can’t be physically.
Social networking is important for my life with diabetes as well. Living with diabetes (regardless of what type of diabetes it is) can be very lonely. Diabetes is one of those situations where I can do everything right, and still feel like I’m doing everything wrong. Diabetes is also a situation where little wins are cause for celebration, and not everybody in the world is able to understand why. The advantage of social media and the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) is that there is always someone else out there in the great big internet world who is experiencing the same thing that I am, and gets it.
People with diabetes (PWD) need people with diabetes. People with diabetes understand the frustration with a high blood sugar that I’ve had all day because I carb’d out on pasta last night. People with diabetes understand that low BG that I keep feeding and feeding to the point that I’m actually sick of eating. People with diabetes understand that having sex while wearing an insulin pump may not seem all that sexy. They also understand that saying you are bionic as you disrobe with said insulin pump makes for a pretty good pickup line.
Trust me, I’ve done it.
Every day we get up and work hard at becoming someone else. We send our representative out into the world to go to work, go to school, go to meetings, go on a date, go pick up the dry cleaning, or go grocery shopping. We rarely let our true self out of the cage to run free in the world. That would be like opening Pandora’s Box, and we would never get that level of crazy back into its proper container.
The crazy thing is that we sometimes get so carried away with trying to be someone else, be what the world wants us to be, and fit into someone else’s expectations, that we forget to be who we really are. I was in a meeting the other week with a salesperson from a publishing company, and as I was sitting around the table talking with her and my library colleagues, I went low. The low outran my CGM, and it didn’t alarm until I wasn’t able to talk and make sense anymore. It was so incredibly embarrassing, it was frustrating, I sounded a lot like a malfunctioning R2-D2 with not being able to get my words out, and it made me want to crawl in a hole and die.
Fortunately, I had my coworkers, who I am so grateful for, who were there to help, and tried their best not to make me feel anymore self-conscious about it than I already did. That type of ugly low is one reason that I’ve hid diabetes for the greater part of my life. It takes a conscious effort for me to NOT hide my diabetes, even from those people that I spend more hours with than anybody else. Those ugly low BG episodes are not at all how I want people to remember me. What I did and said while I was low is not the impression of me that I want people to leave with, not ever. But sometimes I don’t have a choice. Sometimes, low BGs happen. These moments make me hate diabetes.
More importantly, these moments make me take some time to make sure that I don’t hate myself. Because diabetes is not my fault. A low blood sugar is not my fault. What I do and say while I am low, as hard of a pill as it is for me to swallow, is not my fault. A low blood sugar is a side effect of insulin. It is a side effect of too much activity and not enough carbohydrates. It is a side effect of having diabetes, and having to try and make precise decisions about what your body needs (insulin and food) manually, using numbers and math, while everybody without diabetes is able to do it automatically.
I wish I was a superhero sometimes. I’d like to be Wolverine, where I could just heal myself and fix my immune system and cure my diabetes once and for all. I’d like to be Han Solo, where I could pirate diabetes supplies all over the galaxy for the people who need them most, and get the girl and the Wookie best friend in the end. At least I’ve got this mini-Wookie.
No matter who I wish I could be, the reality is that I am me. I have diabetes, and likely always will. I will have low blood sugars that I need help with, and I will have high blood sugars that I need insulin and patience to deal with. Just as important, I will always need other people with diabetes. Whoever they wish they could be in their own world, in mine, I am glad to know them for who they are.