"You do not have the right to think for yourself ...
you do not have the right manage your own diabetes ..."
Those of us with a loved ones- or even those of us who just know someone - that is diabetic have often fallen prey to the overarching need to recommend oversee, cajole, guide, advise, monitor, when we see the need. We feel it our job, our obligation to protect these diabetics from harm's way, not expecting that they are quite capable of handling the vast majority of diabetic situations on their own (unless of course the diabetic is a young child).
We are the Diabetes Police.
As the mother of a Type 1 and the daughter of a Type 2, I certainly have filled the different ranks and roles on the Diabetes Police Force: "Dad, should you really have another piece of fudge?" ... "Are you going to have pizza at this party? Make sure it's thin crust ..." "How were your numbers this afternoon?" ... "Did you take your insulin tonight?" ...
And I'm not the only one who does this. My son and father have stories a plenty of other offenders. Not a family reunion goes by without relatives proffering up disapproving looks at my dad for indulging in dessert. My son comes home almost daily with stories from school of kids who have told him that "You need to stop drinking diet soda, it can give you cancer." (His retort: "And drinking sugar soda can kill me now.") ... or "You know, Nick Jonas also has diabetes, but he can die from his." (Okay, maybe this isn't an example of a Diabetes Police comment, but rather one made in poor judgment).
When it's not words, it can be actions, which are so often well-intentioned. My son had to endure a tough indignation shortly after diagnosis. He was visiting his grandmother when two of her friends dropped by, one of whom is a renowned baker of the most delicious chocolate chip cookies on the face of this earth. This well-meaning baker brought a few dozen cookies to share, hot from the oven. Aware of my son's recent diagnosis, she thoughtfully brought him a big beautiful apple instead. He politely shot some insulin and ate the apple while the rest of us devoured the cookies (I hid one for my son and he had it later).
Kerri Morrone Sparling, blogger at Six Until Me, succinctly portrays this same situation in a video with animated stick figures, where a member of the Diabetes Police steals much of the fun out life by swapping a chocolate chip cookie for a piece of broccoli (now that's a bum deal!).
Diabetics run into the fearsome force everywhere they go -- at school and work, with friends, at the gym or on a sports team, with neighbors -- not just in their immediate family. I guffawed at Mike Lawson's video My Life as a Pincushion: The Diabetes Police when he placed the members of the "Police" into three distinct categories. First is Nagging Nancy (best exemplified above by my role as mother/daughter) - she means well, but can drive a diabetic to a Hershey Bar in seconds flat. Then is Misinformed Matthew, that well-meaning seldom seen uncle that likes to give diabetics advice from a decades-old Reader's Digest. Matthew wants to help, but just needs more recent information. My favorite is "Gloomy Glenda" who "should be avoided at all costs." She will regale a diabetic with horror stories, (like amputation and blindness), and is unable to empathize or even sympathize with the enormity of managing diabetes.
Ditching the DPolice
So how does a diabetic get the Diabetes Police to work with him, instead of against him? Jim Turner's DLife video The Diabetes Police which was quoted above, has some good rules of thumb directed at the force (which I encourage all members to heed the following suggestions):
- Make the following agreement: I [the diabetic] won't cheat ... if you [the Diabetes Police] won't critique (this one will be tough to follow through on!)
- Be a part of the solution (help figure out the number of carbs, or share a portion of a piece of cake)
- Find out more about diabetes as a condition.
- Don't hound the diabetic's every move with "you can't" "you shouldn't" or that awful wagging of the pointer finger and clucking your tongue.
And what should a diabetic do to turn the Police into an ally? That's truly the more important question. They are the ones that must endure people watching their every move.
The master of managing the Diabetes Police is Dr. Bill Polonsky, author of Diabetes Burnout: What To Do When You Can't Take It Anymore. I saw Bill present at this year's Children With Diabetes (www.childrenwithdiabetes.com) conference this past July in Orlando, and he is in the process of putting together several pocket-sized guides for diabetics to share with the various members of the Diabetes Police force.
Here are some suggestions he had for diabetics on how they can handle the DPolice:
- Be honest: start a conversation with the DPolice. Make them understand your frustration. Don't forget to tell the Police that you appreciate their concern, but make it clear how bad it can make you feel.
- Make it evident that you are taking care of your diabetes. Let the Diabetes Police see you testing, taking insulin, counting carbs, etc., and explain why these steps (and many others!) are necessary. Then, those on the Force will come to appreciate all you do to manage your condition.
- Redirect their efforts: Because most members of the Police care for you, they won't stop trying to help. You just need to explain how they can help you instead of critique you. For example if they feel that you are low, ask them to bring you a Gatorade or jellybeans to quickly boost your sugar. Don't nag and say "When was the last time you checked your BG? You're acting like you're low."
- Draw clear cut lines of responsibility. This determines who is in charge of what.
Of course, if a diabetic wants instant gratification in dealing with the Diabetes Police, sometimes a quick quip is best. These are a few from the Glucose Goddess' Top 10:
" I thought sugar-free meant I could eat the whole thing."
"280 is the new 120"
"Kiss my injection site."
"I can only please one person per day ...today is not your day ... and tomorrow's not looking so good either ..."
Anyone else have a comeback that they'd like to share? We in the ranks of the Diabetes Police promise not to retort.
And finally, to turn around the statement quoted at the outset of this post, I feel that all diabetics should adhere to the mantra: "I do have the right to think for myself and manage my own diabetes ...."
Published On: August 20, 2009