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4 Ways to Be Kind and Avoid Awkwardness Around Your Friend With Diabetes

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When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2007 in high school, I felt bombarded with awkward interactions involving my newfound illness. People didn’t know how to act, and I still sense an uneasiness from people as an adult. When my diagnosis was fresh, these experiences stung and made me feel weird and misunderstood. So here are four ways to be kind to your diabetic friend. 

1. Don’t ever judge food choices! This is number one for a reason. It is beyond rude to say to someone, “Are you sure you can eat that?” Can you imagine saying that to someone on a diet? It’s the same for diabetics. Unless you are their doctor or their parent, don’t judge. You don’t know if they are on a meal plan and they’ve worked it in, if they are celebrating a personal victory (a great A1c! Yes!) or if they are just having a bad day and need a little break.  You just don’t know. 

2. Be interested. When I was first diagnosed I had all this equipment I had to figure out and bring with me everywhere. I had to learn how to test my blood sugar, calculate how much insulin I needed and give myself needles. Now I wear a pump and a continuous glucose monitor and it makes me smile every time someone is interested in how they work. They are incredible! I’m proud to use them and grateful for how they make my life easier. I love talking about them. 

3. Don’t be grossed out. As much as I love when people are curious, it is the worst when someone responds with horror, like I’m a train wreck with multiple fatalities. Back when I had to use needles, I used them at every meal. That means at school or anywhere I happened to be eating. And if you expected me to go to the bathroom to take some insulin, talk to the hand, people! It is just a tiny needle. It is equally as gross as Sleeping Beauty pricking her finger on a spindle. Get over it! Repulsion is not kind. I can’t tell you how many peoples’ eyes pop out of their heads at the sight of someone poking themselves. This is what I have to do to stay alive. It’s not gross. It’s not wrong. It’s essential. 

4. Get to know them deeper. No one is the sum of their health. Just like someone in a wheelchair is more than a wheelchair. Everyone wants people to know who they really are. Sometimes what’s right in front of you can take precedence over what’s under the surface. If people want to talk to me just because I’ve got a medical device stuck to me, that’s not going to make me feel very good. I am more than just diabetic. I have a perspective that is interesting and unique and this is true of anyone with any kind of obvious illness or disability. 

So don’t judge, take an interest, be kind and use common sense. Make a friend by being a friend. We are all in this together!

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Originally published: May 23, 2016
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