Sunday, May 24, 2009

Is It My Identity?

I have just realized something. Online, as Something Different, my identity is like this. Hi, my name is SD, I have diabetes, I am frum, 20(something) years old, and I am not yet in shidduchim.

In real life it would be more like: Hi, my name is SD (no, that isn't my REAL name, silly!), I am 20(something) years old, I work at..... That's it. I won't divulge more, but suffice it to say, that diabetes is not part of my real life identity. I am not one of those girls who wear their insulin pumps on their waists. I am not one of those people who will be sitting around in a group of girls saying "ugh I think I am low, can someone get me some sugar."

I don't either check my blood sugar in public. Again, this might not boil down to secrecy either. Some people simply don't want to see it. (Ewwwww, SD, that is DISGUSTING. Can you do that someplace else?) But really, I am not very public about having diabetes. For an explanation, lets go, once again, to one of MWMF:

(scene: SD is sitting at one of her brother's shevah brochos. She has the good(?) fortune to be sitting right across from one of MWMF, the worst possible kind.)

MWMF: So, SD, what is your favorite subject in school?
SD: (who is 11th grade and doesn't think this question is age appropriate, and decides to give an equally age appropriate response) recess.
MWMF: [uneasy laugh] 
SD: Look! They are serving dessert!
MWMF: But....?
SD: [bites into her not-very-delicious-standard-sheva-brachos-parve-ice cream-dish] Yes?
MWMF: Is that good for you?
SD: [calls to MP at the next table] Is that an empty seat next to you?

That entire exchange actually happened (except for the last line, as there were no empty seats next to MP :-p). And that, in a nutshell(?) is exactly why I don't like too many people to know that I have diabetes. It is bad enough when things like this happen:

(scene: SD and her friends are fighting over the best way to split a danish)
Friend #1: SD, you can't have any! You are high!
Friend #2: Yeah, SD can't have. Now we only need to split it 4 ways. Yay!
SD: Ok, guys this is so not funny. What makes you say I am high?
Friend #3: You're always high SD. Now let's cut up the danish. In 4.
SD: Haha! I just tricked you guys! I bolused (took insulin) for the danish! Now if you don't gimme my share I will be low and one of you will have to give me a glucagon injection!
Friend #4: SD, that is totally playing dirty.
SD: Too bad. Give me my peice of the danish or else I will take more insulin and eat the whole thing.
Friend #1: Forget it. SD, go as low as you like. You aren't getting any danish.
Friend #2: Yeah, we just learned the number of hatzolah in my first aid course.
Friend #3: Um, guys, I dunno. Needles are really disgusting.
Friend #4: Ok, friend #1, you are gonna inject SD?
Friend #1: Of course not! Ewwww
SD: Ok, guys, let me know when you finish arguing. Meanwhile, I finished the danish.....

Point is, there is a simple equation. 
More people knowing about my diabetes=more useless advice=more aggravation

See,I don't need instructions on dealing with diabetes. Nor do I need chizuk. Nor do I need to hear you empathize how tough it must be, and how you know exactly what I am going through cuz your grandmother died from diabetes. Nor do I need to hear about your cousin who has diabetes and is actually married to a boy with very few issues. Really. It's ok. If I want stupidity, I can open a newspaper or something. 

So, to an extent, I try to hide my diabetes from the general population. Not to say that shidduchim has nothing to do with it. Ideally, as I have been instructed by all rabbonim I have heard from on the topic, it is best to go out with the boy first, without him having any knowledge of my diabetes, and then tell him, on or after the third date. (Now, frankly, that terrifies me. I have hears such horror stories about this method backfiring. Plus, I just don't know how people say it. "Uh, I have something I should probably tell you.") The logic here is that he should get to know SD, the person, without thinking of her as SD, the diabetic. That way, diabetes won't factor into the decision to meet, rather, it will be one of the considerations.

Please realize that I am totally not embarrassed to have diabetes, any more than someone should be embarrassed to have blonde hair. This is how G-d made me. This is what he wants me to be. But that doesn't mean I feel a need to wear a sign on my back that says "diabetic". Nor does it say on my business card: Something Different, diabetic. I don't even wear the medic alert bracelet mom bought me. (If you are reading this mommy, I am totally kidding. I wear it daily! Yeah right. But then again if mom is reading this I have bigger problems to deal with.)

On the other hand, I am not obsessively secret about having diabetes. I am not going to whisper to my chosson under the chuppah "oh, by the way, I have diabetes. Quick, break the glass" I won't be divulging this as a big secret to my best friend after I get engaged, and after she promises not to tell anyone. And I am not one of those people who will stay home from a class trip because I am afraid that my pump will set off the metal detectors and someone will figure it out. I believe, if someone needs to know...let them know. If you are my seminary roommate, and I might need you to force sugar down my throat one day, you should know. If you are my close friend and we spend hours and days together, you should know. If you are my boss...well, my mom thinks you should know. In short, I believe that this is just like everything else in life. A balance must be struck.

So back to my original question; is diabetes a part of my  real-life identity? I would definitely say that it is a very small part, if it is a part at all. Why is that? Simply because of the gross misinformation and the hideous misunderstandings that have become so commonplace among the society at large. And yes, as usual...shidduchim does play into it.


Rikki said...

I didn't know I was supposed to be embarrassed about having blond hair?!

chavs said...

I know exactly what you mean. I have a handicapped sister, and though my family is not ashamed of her in any way, I felt uncomfortable bringing her to the airport when I left for sem. Not that I would be embarrassed for my friends to meet her, but I didn't want to be "the girl with the handicapped sister," but rather "the really nice girl who happens to have a sister with a disability." The same goes for shidduchim. We don't hide it, but we don't shove it in the guy's face either.

Mikeinmidwood said...

I can deal with a lot of people, but not stupid ones, and not ones that feel sorry for me for no reason, luckily the last one doesnt happen to often.

Inspired said...

Great Post! I have a lot to comment but I'll keep it short...

I agree, a balance must be struck but is it always possible? I guess I need to count my blessing...a little less aggravation;) (no, I don't recommend it)

No medic alert? I'll tell mommy... not that I wear one:p

frum single female said...

i think that its important that you do write about having diabetes and that in real life if we knew you it would be a non-issue. there are others who are out there who have diabetes and do need to know that its only a part of who they are and that they are still cool.

The Child Inside said...

What becomes part of your identity depends on whether it changes you. I think everything in a person's life becomes some part of their identity, but everything weighs in differently. What you're saying is that diabetes isn't a big part of your identity at all. You answered your own question.

I have the same problem as you. Not diabetes, I mean the problem about other people's misinformation. LD doesn't have to be part of my identity, but if I tell people that it's just the LD and not really me then I expose myself to a whole load of other stereotypes. It's a tough choice.

Something Different said...

Rikki- you most definitely should. Unless you are too blonde to know about the stereotype... ;-)

Chavs- its funny that you say that, cuz I never thought of it that way, but you are so right. I guess it's the same way with anything that people have a tendancy to pity.

MOM-Yeah, I can't handle idiots either.

Insp- Firstly, I was thinking about you when I wrote this post. I almost included something about you, but was scared that I'd embarrass you. Imagine how we almost didn't meet just cuz of secrecy.... :-O
And I guess you are right. Your secrecy means you don't have people bugging you. ;-) And feel free to comment the rest...

FSF- I guess you meant that as a compliment...thanks! :-) If you know people who have diabetes, you can have em email me. I am very good at convincing people with it that they're still cool. ;-) Just ask inspired... (This is of course coming from the queen of coolness.)

TCI- LD's are very misunderstood, huh? I'm sorry. :( I feel for you...

Rikki said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rikki said...

BTW Im the exception to every Stereotype.

harry-er than them all said...

well writing about your diabetes did change my understanding of what it is, and isn't.

but in the end of the day, you choose whether it becomes you or doesn't. I have a friend who is adopted, and he chose not to make it HIS identity. he lives with it, not IN it.

Inspired said...

I'm curious, what did you wanna wright about me, about us meeting? It was quit pathetic...
and imagine 8 years without knowing a single soul with diabetes! My entire outlook has changed ever since;-) (you rock!)

I wasn't always bothered so much with the secrecy. I believe it was much simpler when I wasn't on MDI/pump, which was during my school years. Diabetes never kept me back from anything.

Something Different said...

Rikki- Why am I not surprised?

HTTA- Glad to hear, really I am. :-)
And you are right. It is your choice, ultimately.

Insp- Oh I was just thinking of writing about how you are seriously secretive, but I decided against it. :-)
And yes, next time we meet up I will try to get more than 5 hours sleep in the 2 previous nights combined. :-p