How A Raisin Can Kickstart Compassion for People with Diabetes (and Without)!

Amylia Grace Yeaman Health Guide
  • Diabetes isn’t everything.


    It isn’t my life. It’s a part of it.


    It isn’t my nemesis. Though it sometimes feels like it.


    I don’t spend my days fixated on my diabetes.


    Though diabetes demands much more time, energy, and money than I care to admit to the casual observer.


    Which doesn’t mean diabetes doesn’t affect my life (and the lives of those who love and support me).


    It does.


    Every. Single. Day.


    Physiologically and emotionally, it’s always there. There is no vacation from diabetes. No day off. Diabetes is often the one constant in my life.


    Sometimes in the background, secretly affecting me. Sometimes all up my grill.


    Sometimes the erroneous assumptions and labels the world puts on diabetics make things much worse than they might otherwise be for those of us living life with diabetes. Assumptions and misinformation abound, whether the diabetic is living with Type 1, Type 2, gestational, or LADA. They’re all different beasts battling the same demon. So to speak anyway.


    The accusations and assumptions politicians, my fellow Americans, and the general public make based soley off the fact I have diabetes have been hitting me hard these days.


    Maybe because we're in a recession.


    Maybe because it's an election year. 


    Maybe it's because I'm feeling vulnerable.


    The fact my A1C is under 7 and the best it's ever been is not what the world sees or cares about. They notice the extra ten pounds I'm carrying. The insulin pump sticking out from my pocket. And they're off. 


    Labeling diabetics as fat and lazy drains on the American economy.


    Often assuming diabetics brought the disease on themselves. Insurance? Pay for it yourself and stop inflating the premiums and copays by getting diabetes and not taking care of yourselves.


    There seems to be this underlying assumption that we “deserve it.” That diabetics are all sedentary, unhealthy and overweight and could "cure their diabetes" if they just stopped eating donuts.


    I remind these folks that sometimes people live up (or down) to the labels society puts on them. Sometimes we label ourselves with harsh words, too.


    Still, most days I wouldn’t wish diabetes on my worst enemies. Though I have my moments.


    Moments I wish the world better understood what life with diabetes was like.


    Moments I wish for understanding and empathy almost as much as a cure.


    Like when I’m snappy and cranky with a numb tongue and the sweats from a bloodsugar of 36 mg/dl. 


    Or when I’ve spent the entire morning chasing down a bloodsugar of 400 to no avail and am spent.


    These are often the moments I'm at my most unloveable. And most fragile.


    It's a tough place to be in for me and for those who love me (though they may not always love my behavior and choices).


    In moments like these I channel my inner Lorraine Hansberry and recall my favorite scene from her play, A Raisin in the Sun. If you're upset and angry at someone (it could be yourself) and need to kickstart the flow of compassion and empathy from your veins, let "Mama" from "A Raisin in the Sun" help you. 


    Allow me to set the scene:


    Mama, despite the loss of money, expresses the pride in the moral fiber of her children. With no limit for her contempt for her brother Walter, sister Beneatha lashes out at him with a barrage of despicable names.


    When she takes a breath in the midst of her tirade, Mama interrupts her and says, "I thought I taught you to love him!"

    Beneatha answers, "Love him? There is nothing left to love!"

    Mama responds, "There's always something left to love. And if you ain't learned that, you ain't learned nuthin'!"

    She goes on, "Have you cried for that boy today? I don't mean for yourself and the family 'cause we lost the money. I mean for him; what he been through and what it done to him."

    And the zinger, "Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most; when they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain't through learning--cuz' that ain't the time at all! It's when he's at his lowest and can't believe in hisself 'cause the world done whipped him so. When you starts measuring somebody, measure him right, child, measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is."


    Like Beneatha, we all need a stark reminder now and then that we don't always have the full story.


    Next time the temptation strikes to assume you know more than you possibly could about why someone is the way they are or why they have a certain disease, remember that in most cases you can't possibly know precisely why someone is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes or other chronic conditions like Crohn's disease or fibromyalgia because doctors and researchers are still trying to figure it all out. We know some things, but we don't have the full picture.


    If compelled to measure another individual, better error on the side of compassion and benefit-of-the-doubt than to entangle oneself in the snares of assumptions and accusations. The world needs more love and compassion. Now more than ever before.
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Published On: August 22, 2012