Diabetes Shouldn’t Be Top Secret

Meagan Esler

| Dec 9, 2011

Many people with diabetes admit to keeping their diabetes a secret.  Less than two years ago, I was one of them.  I hated the way people treated me when they found out about my diabetes.  I hated being told that I wasn't allowed to eat things by people who didn't have a clue about diabetes.  I hated the horror stories people told about their acquaintances with diabetes.  I hated people asking me if I had the "bad" kind of diabetes.

We've all heard the "If only they had eaten more healthily, exercised more, and slept properly, they wouldn't have diabetes" comments.  Such remarks are not only largely untrue, but also offensive.  Afraid of such judgment and gossip, many people with diabetes decide to keep it to themselves.  But diabetes can be dangerous when kept a secret.  Sometimes, as much as we try to avoid it, we require outside help.    

As a security officer years ago, I was called to check out a man who was acting strangely outside the building I worked in.  My partner and I went outside and found Arthur, one of the men from the receiving dock, propped up against the side of the building.  We called his name as we approached and received no response.  Suddenly he toppled over, landing hard on the concrete.  Immediately I radioed our base operator to call 911.  Within a short time, the paramedics arrived and loaded Arthur into the ambulance.  

Arthur had diabetes and was insulin-dependent.  He hadn't eaten lunch and had decided to go for a walk alone.  His blood sugar went dangerously low, and we, his co-workers, were unprepared to help.  Arthur didn't speak of his diabetes.  Thankfully, he was fine a short time later.  As a person with type 1 diabetes, however, I really wish I could have helped him avoid this incident.  

A volunteer with diabetes at my current job was assisting customers when her fellow volunteers noticed her acting different.  Because she was outspoken about her diabetes, the volunteers notified me. My co-workers and I brought her into our backroom, where we gave her a bottle of juice that I had stored in the mini-fridge for my own blood sugar emergencies.  She was conscious but confused and didn't seem to recognize us.  As we attempted to have her test her blood sugar after she drank some juice, she was unable to manage getting the blood drop on the test strip.  We helped her test her blood and had her drink more juice, and soon she recognized us again.  She didn't know how she had ended up in the backroom and was a little embarrassed, but grateful for the care we gave her.  

It could have been me in either of the above situations.  Mistakes in carbohydrate counts, delayed meals, and activity variances can happen to any one of us.  Advising co-workers and friends of your diabetes is important. Not only can you insure that you have people ready to help you if you need it, but you can also educate people and dispel myths about diabetes.  

Hurtful comments could perhaps be avoided if more people living with diabetes spoke up.  Members of the "diabetes police" need to be reminded that it is not appropriate to scold, embarrass, or judge people with diabetes. If we don't educate them, who will?


Click Here To View Or Post Comments

Categories: Blood Sugar Emergencies, Carbohydrate Counts, Co-Workers, Delayed Meals, Diabetes, Diabetes, Diabetes a Secret, Diabetes Police, Insulin-Dependent, Myths About Diabetes, Type 1 Diabetes, Type 1 Issues

Take the Diabetes Health Pump Survey
See What's Inside
Read this FREE issue now
For healthcare professionals only
  • 12th Annual Product Reference Guide
  • Insulin Syringe Chart
  • Insulin Pen Needles Chart
  • Fast-Acting Glucose
  • Sharps Disposal
  • Blood Glucose Meters Chart
  • Insulin Pumps Chart
See the entire table of contents here!

You can view the current or previous issues of Diabetes Health online, in their entirety, anytime you want.
Click Here To View

See if you qualify for our free healthcare professional magazines. Click here to start your application for Pre-Diabetes Health, Diabetes Health Pharmacist and Diabetes Health Professional.

Learn More About the Professional Subscription

Free Diabetes Health e-Newsletter

Top Rated
Print | Email | Share | Comments (10)

You May Also Be Interested In...


Posted by Florian on 9 December 2011

I am a T1 using a pump and a believer that people you are with a lot should know about your diabetes and especially what to do when an emergency arises ie HYPOS.
I was diagnosed in 1967 at age 30. There were no meters, pumps, CGM's, and few types of insulin. I was working in the biomedical field and everyone knew about the diagnosis. Thank goodness they did because the HYPOS were the worst part of managing and treating the disease and they did happen. I could feel when I was low. people around could tell I was low, and it could be treated before going to the ER. I wasn't always receptive to treatment. My standard answer to the recommendation, "you better have something to eat." or "take this it'll make feel better." was "NO THANK you", "I'm fine." I survived the early days thanks to family, friends, and co-workers who knew what to do and I am glad that they did.
Thank goodness for the research and new products and devices that are available today for diabetes treatment and blood sugar control. I do feel that 5 to 10 years from now we will look back and say, WOW, how primitive that was. Maybe someday we'll be able to say, I use to have diabetes :)
Continue to support research to find a CURE...we are soooo close.

Posted by Anonymous on 9 December 2011

"If we don't educate them, who will?" So true...and well said! Thanks for writing this article and encouraging others to "out" themselves as a person with diabetes. It just may save their life someday.
Captain Glucose & Meter Boy

Posted by Anonymous on 9 December 2011

I came out of the diabetes closet three years ago. It was scary and frustrating, but I did kindly inform every one of those police "officers" of the myths. Then, I told them that if they had any questions about diabetes, they could ask me. I'm now open about it to everyone. I test and inject in public, in the mall hallways, in a restaurant, at the dinner table, anywhere that I happen to be when I need to test. Hey, if people see me doing it and ask questions, even hurtful ones, then at least that's one more person who can raise awareness. Maybe we'll actually find a cure some day.

Posted by grandpa on 10 December 2011

iam so happy to say my daughter-inlaw worte this colum you make me and my type2 getting worse to reach out for help from my doctor and i do let people were we live in florida that iam inbeteween type1 and type2 and i can thank you for that. give my grandsons a huge and rick

love and hugs


Posted by Anonymous on 10 December 2011

I occasionally keep my diabetes to myself, but I know that's it's crucial to alert some coworkers and supervisors. It's comforting to know that there are other diabetics who keep it hidden. It's a process with disclosure but I'm working on it.

Posted by Anonymous on 13 December 2011

Like the first comment, I was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes in 1970 (his was 1967) at age 29 (he was 30). I always had problems with overweight, and because of that and my age, the doctors decided it must be type 2 because otherwise I would be younger and thin. Oh ho! It was 10 years or more later that I had my first C-peptide test and it was determined I'd always been type 1. I both agree and disagree that you should be "out" about diabetes. Especially in the work place, but also with new friends and acquaintances, I'd keep it hidden until they knew me and my quality of work a bit. That bypassed some of my employers' ideas that I would be a liability in the workplace. Especially in the early days. I often abused my health by drinking coffee with lots of sugar instead of eating lunch at the proper time because my employer didn't want me to stop working just then, had come up with an emergency project. Had I told him no, I have to eat right now, he'd have found a way to dismiss me and get another employee who was "more flexible." That's the way the working world was--probably still is to a large degree. At the rate diabetes is increasing in the population, it won't be long before everyone is either diabetic themselves or will have a close friend or family member who is. That will sure make things different, if not better!

Posted by Anonymous on 13 December 2011

One of the diabetic police is my doctor!

Posted by Anonymous on 13 December 2011

I can relate to your article. Although I don't have diabetes, family members do, and I hear the comments people make. It's hard to be patient in the face of ignorance, but it's important to let co-workers and close friends know about your condition. I admire the writer's courage.

Posted by Anonymous on 14 December 2011

I agree wholeheartedly. We have to be our own advocate and the more people who know we have diabetes and understand it the safer we are. I am a 25-year T1 on a pump and have always been open about the disease and willing to educate anyone who makes those comments that are based on untruths and perceptions. And I've been lucky enough to have coworkers who also could recognize my strange behaviors as low blood sugars (even before I recognized it) and who got me juice when even I didn't think I needed it. It's in our own best interests to educate people and let people know that we have diabetes.

Posted by olefart2 on 21 December 2011

From day one out of the hospital I have displayed my necklace and bracelet.

Add your comments about this article below. You can add comments as a registered user or anonymously. If you choose to post anonymously your comments will be sent to our moderator for approval before they appear on this page. If you choose to post as a registered user your comments will appear instantly.

When voicing your views via the comment feature, please respect the Diabetes Health community by refraining from comments that could be considered offensive to other people. Diabetes Health reserves the right to remove comments when necessary to maintain the cordial voice of the diabetes community.

For your privacy and protection, we ask that you do not include personal details such as address or telephone number in any comments posted.

Don't have your Diabetes Health Username? Register now and add your comments to all our content.

Have Your Say...

Username: Password:
©1991-2015 Diabetes Health | Home | Privacy | Press | Advertising | Help | Contact Us | Donate | Sitemap

Diabetes Health Medical Disclaimer

The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. Opinions expressed here are the opinions of writers, contributors, and commentators, and are not necessarily those of Diabetes Health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website.