I admit it: I’m a D-vangelist. Everywhere I go, I look for opportunities to tell people about my savior. Insulin saved my life 42 years ago, and am not ashamed to stand up and testify.
A couple of weeks ago I was at a water park, wearing my pod on my arm. The guy behind us in line asked me what it was, so I used his question as an opportunity to educate and advocate. About 10 people had congregated around us, and they all heard the good news of modern diabetes technology.
Over the years I’ve learned a few secrets for talking effectively about my diabetes without being weird about it:
- Wherever you are, be there. Like it or not, you and I take our diabetes wherever we go. You can either accept or reject the role that goes along with that to be an ambassador for diabetes. My opinion: If you decide you don’t wish to educate others about diabetes, you give up your right to complain about people who say stupid stuff about it.
- Let it shine. Don’t hide your diabetes under a bushel … no! (Sorry, I was roped into teaching Vacation Bible School a number of years ago.) Look, I am a PWD (Person With Diabetes). I have been for nearly 80% of my life. So I own that. I’ve never been one to hide my pump, pod, or now my CGM (which I started yesterday). I don’t purposely show them off, of course, but I don’t see a reason to conceal them either.
- Be prepared. When we go out, PWDs are careful to take everything we need—tester, glucose tablets, insulin, and other supplies—with us. I’d never leave the house without being prepared for highs or lows. I think we should also be prepared to tell people a little about the highs and lows of living with diabetes when asked. Who knows more about it than those of us who live with it every day? You don’t have to know everything about diabetes; just share your story … briefly!
- Be natural. Try not to force the conversation. Simply answer people’s questions … and then stop talking. You don’t need a pitch or a speech. And don’t use this as an opportunity to make yourself the center of attention. If people keep asking questions, answer them, and then move on. If they stop asking, view that as a sign.
- Control the Diabeteze. We PWDs—whether we’re T1Ds or T2Ds, whether or not we wear a CGM, regardless of our latest BS (or BG) (mg/dL or mmol/l) or A1C, regardless of whether we’ve ever gone into DKA and had to upload our PDM to our endo or CDE—tend to use all kinds of diabetes nomenclature that PWODs (People Without Diabetes) cannot understand. Communicate to be understood. Drop the d-jargon.
- Be real. A conversation about your diabetes won’t be weird if you just be yourself—unless, that is, you are weird. It’s OK to talk about how you deal with your diabetes, but, of course, keep it generally positive. Sure, it’s fine to say it can sometimes be a pain in the butt, but don’t go on and on about how horrible your life is. Nobody wants to hear it. Who likes a Diadebbie Downer?
- Love. That may sound weird, but what I mean is that as you talk to people, put them first. When you start with a humble attitude, it frees you to simply provide answers for people and help them to understand diabetes more.