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20 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because You Have Diabetes


While diabetes may be considered an “invisible” illness, to people actually living with diabetes the symptoms are anything but. What people may not realize is that a person with diabetes is constantly monitoring the food they’re eating, their blood glucose levels and the amount of insulin they’re taking — not to mention other daily activities that may affect their levels, like exercise. People likely don’t see everything you do all day long in order to keep your body functioning.

Connect with your diabetes community. Follow Diabetes on The Mighty to ask questions and get support.

Diabetes is not always well-understood by onlookers, partly because people don’t know what diabetes “looks like” in practice. They might see your insulin pump and think it’s a pager, or wonder why you’re choosing to drink soda instead of water. But the more people are educated about the reality of diabetes, hopefully the more support and less judgment you will receive. So we asked our Mighty community to share some things they do that people don’t realize they’re doing because they have diabetes. Be sure to share what you would add in the comments below!

Here’s what our Mighty community told us:

  1. “Always carrying a bag with me. I never leave without it. It has snacks, my pump/glucometer, glucagon, and anything else I might need that day.” — Jerica W.
  2. “I don’t spend money on things that are not necessities. The ever-fluctuating prices of insulin have caused me to think very carefully about when and where to spend money.” — Emily G.
  3. “Peeing all the time. If I eat too much sugar, I pee it out. I metabolize alcohol like that, too, especially beer. I pee it right out.” — Ashley T.
  4. “I’m always thinking about ‘spares’ and where to put them. It may even mean I’m bringing more than people around me. Can I fit a spare pump site in my small crossbody bag to go tonight? Do I have enough low treatments at the office? Did I bring enough supplies on my trip?” — Mindy B.
  5. Also, when I go low, people might not realize that when I say I need a Coke or snack now, I absolutely mean now. I went to McDonald’s one time to get a Coke and food because I was going low, and they were really slow and questioning everything my mom was trying to order. Which was a small Coke and breakfast sandwich. She wound up saying we were in a hurry because I was having a medical emergency. One of the only times I didn’t have my own stuff… I can’t always explain why I need certain things right at that moment. If I say I need something, don’t question it. I’ll explain after.” — Jerica W.
  6. “Chugging a regular soda when I have a low, and looking at a menu and carb counting in my mind the different meals before I choose what I’m going to eat.” — Devon M.
  7. “I carry juice on me at all times. I sometimes look silly walking into a professional meeting drinking out of a juice box, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do!” — Emily G.
  8. “When I’m at the gym standing there trying to determine if I took in enough carbs to do certain workouts without having to worry about drops in my sugar level.” — Audrianna B.
  9. “People don’t realize… that when I say I’m tired, I’m so very tired! I have had periods of waking up from low blood sugar every night for weeks before I could sort it out. The mental fatigue of trying to fix myself added to the physical fatigue of poor sleep can equal terrible, disabling exhaustion. When I go into work yawning and ‘sleepwalk’ my way through the day, my colleagues will say ‘Tired? Yeah, me too…’ but really they have no idea! So what people don’t realize I’m doing is sleepwalking my way through the day on autopilot.” — Becca W.
  10. “Reading most nutritional labels in grocery stores.” — Liz W.
  11. “When I’m eating like I’m in the apocalypse and I found a room full of food, my blood sugar is probably low!” — Michelle A.
  12. “Due to the fact it takes so much energy to eat, I avoid foods that require excessive bite pressure or take a lot of chewing. I also get exhausted very quickly, usually two or three bites. Most people do not understand that I have to eat high protein foods or something that packs a lot of nutrition nutrition in a small amount. Chips or snack foods don’t have any value.” — Misty L.
  13. “I’m constantly washing my hands. A few years ago a cold I caught quickly progressed into diabetic ketoacidosis and a week-long stay at the ICU fighting for my life. I now take every precaution possible to avoid germs.” — Emily G.
  14. “Extending and staring at my hands… to see if they’re shaky.” — Liz W.
  15. “The first thing that comes to mind is deciding whether it’s worth it to argue with someone who wants to tell me about how I can cure my diabetes. Even when it comes from a place of love, the advice is insulting because the implication is that they know my disease, my body, and the field of research more than I do when I’ve spent my whole life learning about and living with it. Unless you’re an endocrinologist or someone actively engaged in diabetes research, I really don’t want to hear it.” — Jess H.
  16. “Wherever I am, I’m always looking out for people either wearing an insulin pump or a Dexcom… I get excited when I find one of my people!” — Michelle A.
  17. “The number of endless calculations we make throughout a day for each meal and every activity we have to do or plan for.” — Michael N.
  18. “Something that people don’t realize I do because I have diabetes is checking my Apple watch or phone, even in the middle of a conversation or meeting. I do this because I wear a continuous glucose monitor that allows for my blood sugars to be displayed on my phone. People also don’t realize that the reason I, a 26-year-old, am chugging a juice box is because I have a low blood sugar.” — Isabella S.
  19. “Sneak Jelly Babies in my mouth when I’m having a hypo but don’t want to draw attention to it!” — Lotty
  20. “I try to find the humor in all situations. Living with diabetes can be such a dark and intimidating thing. It has caused me to truly appreciate the good times and to laugh whenever there’s an opportunity to do so.” — Emily G.