Monday, November 23, 2009

"Brittle?" Really?

I started this post months ago when I started my new (at the time) job. It's usually a slow and sometimes awkward transition when the folks I work with start to realize I'm diabetic. Sometimes it just comes out in conversation and other times they will see me check my sugar or take a shot. Or, more embarrassingly, they find out because I've been a complete airhead, left my insulin at home and find myself running through the halls in a panic trying to find someone, anyone to help get me more! (See here.)

Well, for the first few weeks at this particular job, for whatever reason, I kept having some very frustrating run-ins with my coworkers. Now, just so you know, my personal favorite is the term "brittle" diabetic. (Note: that was sarcasm.) It's so freakin' antiquated, it just makes me cringe. Somehow within the first few weeks of this job FOUR of my coworkers had already asked me if I'm "brittle" once they found out I was diabetic!! Why, you ask? Well, two asked when they saw me test and I was low, one asked because she saw me test and I was high and one asked because she thought I was testing my blood sugar "an awful lot"! WTF?!?

Now, I know that my coworkers are NICU nurses and are used to working with patient's who happen to be smaller than your last hamburger and diabetes doesn't really come into the picture. But, c'mon! They're still nurses!! And "brittle"? Really?!? It took all I had in me to keep from saying, "Geez, when did you learn about diabetes? 1972?" But then I remembered that I'm often referred to as a "young'un" and they probably were the class of '72 and I should probably shut up before I get my butt beat. Or worse, Death by Dirty Looks.

Obviously, none of them has any idea of what it's really like to be diabetic. Not in a Julie Roberts movie, but in the real world. Highs and lows are a part of life for me, for every diabetic. I don't know any diabetic whose management is down to such a perfect routine that they are never high or low and don't ever need to check their sugar. Um, hello!?! That's what being diabetic is. And since when is checking your sugar too often a bad thing that is a sign of sickness? Um, no. I'm in pretty good control (my last A1C was 6.3, thank-you-very-much) and wanna know why? 'Cuz I check my damn sugars every 2 seconds.

Because after 18 years I've learned enough about diabetes to know that just because I *think* I've done all I need to do, it's more likely to snow in hell than for my bloodsugar to actually behave. So I am constantly whipping out my meter. All you non-diabetic folks out there have a pancreas that is kind enough to do the job for you every minute of every day. Well, since mine decided to crap out 18 years ago, I figure the more often I check my sugar and correct it, the more my body will behave like yours. Obviously I can't check my sugar every minute but about 6 or more times/day is my norm . . . and that's when everything is going well! The number goes up to 10 or more when I'm having a bad day.

Even better, when I tried to educate a few of my coworkers they all nodded their heads and swore that they believed that of course I was a good little diabetic but that I should have seen this other nurse that used to work there. Her diabetes was so bad that she needed an insulin pump! Gasp! And she was very noncompliant because she would eat cake whenever there were birthday parties and they all tried to get her to see the light but she would just say she could eat whatever she wanted and whip out her pump!! The horror! . . .

Do you see what I'm working with here?

And it wasn't just one but several people who told me "stories" about this particular diabetic who used to work there. I would try to politely say that I used to be on the pump and it isn't at all a measure of how severe or well-controlled someone's diabetes is. And in fact the way most diabetics are managed today, we can eat what we want in moderation and we count our carbs and bolus for it. When I was done explaining, again, I got sympathetic (yet disbelieving) nods from everyone I talked to.

There were a few moments of humor in all these exchanges, though. The really funny part came when I asked where I could get some OJ or milk because my blood sugar was low. (FYI, I work in a hospital and we have access to snacks and juice boxes for patients so I have just learned to grab one of those if I need to treat on-the-go at work.) Anyway, my coworker asked what my bloodsugar was and I told her 60. Well, she proceeds to fly off down the hall, around the corner, buzzing around so fast I can barely keep up with her. In the process, I see her stopping other nurses, asking where the patient nutrition room is and telling them that there is a diabetic nurse in the NICU who is low and needs a juice! Juice, dammit!! She finally gets to the patient nutrition room where she slows down long enough to whip open the fridge and in the process notices I'm right behind her. She gets all wide-eyed and tells me to "go sit down" because she "doesn't want me passing out" on her! I told her that I was really okay and wanted to follow her so I knew where to go in the future if I ever need a snack. And I couldn't stop grinning all day and and making fun her the rest of the day. I tried to explain it wasn't an emergency but, again, with the strange looks.

I know every diabetic out there has run-ins with people who just don't get it or like to judge or give unhelpful opinions or advice. So I'm not really sure why these run-ins had me so riled up. Maybe it was because every single person used the term "brittle" which I loathe. ::double cringe:: Or maybe it was because it happened like 4 times in 2 weeks. Who knows?

So, fellow D-bloggers, does anyone ever accuse you of being "brittle?" Are there buzzwords that drive you nuts? Does one high or low blood sugar send your friends/coworkers/family into hysterics? Or have you ever felt like you try to tell a non-diabetic what it's really like and you can tell they don't believe you?!?! When it comes to diabetes awareness, I really wish that the general public would just calm the hell down and the media or whoever is responsible for this massively misinformed public would fix it or just shut up and stop making it worse! Because it's driving me crazy!

~Layne

1 comment:

  1. Great post - and I know we've all been there!! I've never been called brittle though - at least not that I can remember. But a few years ago, my husband and I were at a lake cottage with a guy who works with my husband - and is a T2. I had been running high all day, so when I tested before lunch and saw a 76 I gave a little cheer. "Hey, 76!!!!!" As a recently diagnosed T2, I guess Larry had never seen a number that low and he started freaking out and asking what I needed. LOL I was like "No, I'm happy to be 76 and all set for lunch!".

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