Some keep it to themselves. Others are quite open. Here's why your self-identity with diabetes could be amazing.
This morning I opened up Twitter. I’m used to seeing debate threads with dozens of comments presenting perspectives to support or combat the original poster’s (OP) statement. But the one that really caught my attention this morning was from someone who decided to laugh at someone else for self-identifying as having diabetes in their twitter bio. The twitter-verse jumped on it quickly.
OP: ...just seen somebody with ‘diabetic 🏥’ in their bio hahahahaha. If this is a trend now...gonna put ‘anaemic’ in mine.
Hannah: 1. This disease is 24/7...it’s hard not to feel an identity to diabetes. 2. This is how we find each other. Community is the best, highly recommended if you find anemia difficult and all consuming.
Sierra: I grew up in a rural area & felt completely alone when I was diagnosed. Having a chronic disease is difficult & isolating. The online diabetes community is the reason I’m alive today… Also, having diabetes & doing the work for a broken pancreas is a HUGE full time job. We put ‘diabetic’ in our bios because we are proud of the perseverance we have shown & the strength we have gained from living with the disease.
Blair: ...fight a battle every day finger pricking yourself to test blood 5 times a day calculating what you eat for each of your 5 injections every day, to prevent yourself from stroke, heart attack, blindness, limb loss and death they’re probably pretty proud of what they achieve.
Becca: There’s a huge diabetic online community, it’s so we can identify each other & follow each other. I’d 100% not be here anymore if it wasn’t for the twitter diabetic community (:
And the replies go on and on. Eventually, after attempting to defend her position and getting the overwhelming response, the OP replied, “think some people took this the wrong way, sorry if I offended you, was only meant to be a wee joke.
Everybody's a comedian.
Self-identifying with Diabetes
Some people think those of us who raise our voice are too sensitive. Others agree it's our place to do so when our struggles are highlighted as a joke. Take whatever position you feel is right on the sensitivity of both the OP and the diabetes online community, but here’s the bottom line. You get to choose whether or not you self-identify as someone with diabetes. There are risks and benefits.
You can’t control the way people react
People may have been misinformed about diabetes and react with prejudice
You may become subject to advertisements based on such personal medical information
You can find community
You can find understanding
You can engage with your health more directly
You can clear up misinformation
You can find meaning and become an advocate
You can help others who are struggling, or be helped in your struggle
You can make yourself safer when people know you may need help sometimes
Why I Self-identify
I actively and commonly self-identify as someone with diabetes. The twitter-verse response above is something I’ve long felt. The community and friends I’ve found are beyond any negative risk factors. I’ll take ALL of those risks because my community has my back. And, it’s an amazing and numerous community to have.
On a more personal note, here’s why I have chosen to self-identify as someone with diabetes.
When I kept my diabetes quiet, I found myself skipping important care steps in public. Steps like checking my blood sugar and injecting insulin. Now that I’m more public with it, I take those steps whenever and wherever needed. My health and A1c have drastically improved since I started doing that.
When I kept my diabetes quiet, I felt alone and isolated. But once I started talking about it and putting it in the forefront of my identity, I immediately found my community. I found understanding and commonality with other human beings who struggle with the same daily tasks as I do. I’ve been able to have incredible conversations and friendships both online and at meetups.
When I kept my diabetes quiet, I didn’t always know how to take care of myself. Now that I have a community, my knowledge of diabetes management has grown exponentially. I have learned new ways to think about, approach, and take care of diabetes. Even more important, I’ve been that help to others who are newly diagnosed or feel alone, isolated, helpless, and exhausted by this chronic condition that never relents.
When I kept my diabetes quiet, people around me didn’t know what to do in case of an emergency. Sometimes, low blood sugar comes on quickly, before we have a chance to handle it, before our cognition depletes and we can no longer make decisions. I’ve had friends and coworkers jump into action quickly to save me. I’ve also been that friend or coworker for others.
Ultimately the choice to self-identify as someone with diabetes or to keep it quiet is yours. Your circumstances may be a driver for your choice. Maybe I’m just lucky. I know I am. But, if you find it safe to do so and you feel you could use the support, or have something to offer to others, come find us. Community and health await.