“Is that a pager?”
I had pulled my pump out of my pocket to what I thought was discreetly bolus for my dinner. I was at a large dinner seated with friends, strangers, and acquaintances. That question has always been a great opener to a usually educational conversation about type 1 diabetes, a conversation that I never minded having and actually often looked forward to. But this time I didn’t even look up from my pump as I worked out the carbs and calculations in my head.
“No, it’s an insulin pump,” I replied, not even bothering to lift my head.
That’s all I said. Not, “No it’s actually an insulin pump, I have type 1 diabetes and I give insulin this way instead of shots.” Not, “Hah no, its an insulin pump, I have type 1 diabetes and I have to give insulin when I eat.” No explanation, no education, no discussion.
“Oh sorry, it kind of looks like one.”
“Don’t worry, she gets asked that a lot.” My friend seated next to me took the opportunity to chime in.
I should have said that to him, I should have made sure that he didn’t feel awkward, that he knew that I didn’t feel awkward by his question, but I didn’t. I finished entering my bolus and put my pump back in my pocket. And that was the end of it.
It was not my typical response when someone inquired about my diabetes. I wasn’t trying to be rude, I wasn’t offended, or embarrassed. I’ve thought about my response, or lack there of, for the past few days. Why was this time different? Why this time did I find myself to be slightly…well, annoyed?
It’s happened many times where I’ve known a person for years before they find out that I have diabetes. That’s because most of the time, you can’t necessarily tell. I keep my cords tucked away, my pump in my pocket, my infusion sets covered by my clothing. But other times, I don’t care who sees. I test my blood sugar at my desk or on my lap at the table. I wear my pump clipped to my side, my tubing dangling below the edge of my shirt. And when questions are asked, I explain. I teach, I answer questions, I demonstrate and I educate. I usually like doing it, I like talking and sharing my experiences and life with diabetes.
But not that night. I didn’t want to talk about my diabetes. I didn’t want to explain what it was and what I was doing. I didn’t want the next 20 minutes to be about me or about diabetes or about anything related to it. I didn’t want my diabetes to be at that dinner, at that table.
For the past month, I haven’t worn my CGM. And while I still tested my blood sugar, it was less frequent. It was a month of not constantly being summoned by buzzing and beeps. It was a month of a sort of denial of my blood sugars. Without my CGM to tell me otherwise, I had a tendency to trick myself into believing that they were in range when mostly likely they weren’t. It was a month of drastically less lows, but probably more highs. But it was a quiet month, a necessary month. A month where everything wasn’t about my diabetes. Where my focus and energy, for better or worse, was spent elsewhere.
So when I was asked if my pump was a pager that night, I didn’t want a diabetic discussion and my response reflected that.
Today, after a month, I took my CGM back out of the drawer and started wearing it again. Today I stopped pretending like diabetes isn’t a part of my life and can be ignored, even for a month. I know I don’t always have to talk about my diabetes, that I can decide when I want to keep it to myself and when I want to share it. But whether it’s today, or tomorrow, or the day after, not talking about my diabetes does not mean that it isn’t there and that it will go away.
“It’s not a pager, but I get asked that a lot. I have type 1 diabetes and this is an insulin pump, I can tell you more about it if you’re interested…”