Not long after my diagnosis, we stopped into a busy restaurant near the beach. The windows of the regal old manor overlooked the rocky bluffs and we arrived at the height of the dinner rush. No reservations, but I overheard my mother say to dad: “Let’s see if we can get a table. I’ll tell them she has diabetes and she needs to eat right now.”
Mortified. Ashamed. I couldn’t believe that my diabetes was going to be wielded as a weapon or as a quick pass ahead of those who had the forethought to make reservations. I quickly turned and explained that I didn’t need to eat right away; I hadn’t even taken my shot yet. My parents must have seen the look of fear on my face of being “outed” for no good reason. We headed back to the car and ate somewhere else. I don’t remember the meal we ended up eating, but I swore to myself that I wouldn’t wave the “D-card” if I could avoid it. No excuses due to diabetes.
Have a bad night with highs? Go to school. Power through. Chug liquids and ignore the fuzzy feeling in my head. A low at 3am? Go to work. Power through. You’ll feel better in a while. That was my teens and twenties and thirties. I didn’t want anyone to think that diabetes would make me weaker. Less competent. I may have been exhausted or felt queasy, but I was not going to let it get the best of me. (If I could go to work slightly hungover, I could certainly go to work hung-low-ver.)
Much like I’ve found that I can’t drink alcohol anymore without turning green for days after two beers, it’s also become apparent that I’m no longer able to avoid pulling the D-card. A severe low two nights ago had me canceling plans with friends the next day and let The Kid watch PBS all morning while I parked myself in a supine position on the couch. This summer, we went to Disneyworld and for the first time in my life, I used a Guest Assistant Card (first and last, as the rules changed after we went) to avoid standing in the sun too long. If it hadn’t been for that special consideration for diabetes, it would have been a very short and expensive day. (Even with the CGM, the lows came fast and furious. We would have spent most of the afternoon sitting somewhere not having fun while I recuperated.)
Lows sap the marrow from my bones. Highs have me swimming through molasses. Days where I ride the diabetes roller coaster derail me. I can’t power through anymore. I can only power down and hope that I’ll recharge within a few days.
Truth be told, until recently I couldn’t understand when other people with diabetes would talk about how they missed school or work because of their diabetes. In my head, I’d ask: “Why don’t they power through? I don’t get it. How can it be so bad?”
Ah, hubris. I believe that my fear of being treated differently and pride that I could power through prevented me from recognizing that while we all have diabetes, our bodies react differently. My luck has run out. Turns out, I’m not Super Diabetes Woman.
Now that I can’t bounce back, I see that when the D-card is pulled, it’s (most of the time) for a good reason – because it needs to be. I’ve had to learn that it’s perfectly acceptable to say that I had a tough night with my diabetes and that I’ll need to reschedule a get together. There’s no shame in asking for a little help if I need it. I can be excused from something because of my diabetes if I’ve done everything I can within my control and still end up with a sucky low. Or a sucky high. Diabetes won’t excuse itself, so I’ll have to excuse it.
But trying to score a primo restaurant table? Nope. Still not going to do it. Even if has a beautiful view.
I’ll use my D-card for good, not evil.