The first people I told I had been diagnosed with diabetes were my parents and close friend, Darren. My parents because they are so very supportive and Darren because I knew he’d be able to give me some perspective.
My parents were very good, very supportive and thankfully just as ignorant about the condition as I was. I hate it when everyone else knows something as a matter of course and I don’t; like carbohydrates are sugar or apple shaped people are more at risk of getting diabetes than other fruit shaped people.
Ok, that last one might be less well known but the truth was that I wasn’t ready to let anyone else know. I thought perhaps I might just keep it as my secret, after all why was it anyone else’s business? I found myself wandering around Oxford Street in London looking at overweight people and thinking, has she got it, have they got it? He must have it or life just isn’t fair. I didn’t know if I should admit that last thought because it’s very cold, but in the interests of honesty and that others might have thought the same I have included it. I guess it’s part of the anger process.
No one likes being fat. No one says, when I grow up I want to be eighteen stones heavier. So when I was diagnosed with a disease that I and everyone else associate with an unhealthy lifestyle my feeling was that I’ve only got myself to blame, and I assumed this would be everyone else’s reaction too. There is with some a genetic get-out clause, but I didn’t even have that. My uncle had it but that doesn’t really count.
So I decided to tell my boss, my parents and Darren only, I would carry this secret, this burden, with me throughout the rest of my life. My parents then told my sister, who told my brother-in-law, who told his mum who was visiting. They all discussed it over the dinner table when I was home the following weekend after I had been diagnosed. At first I was annoyed but being able to talk freely about it my annoyance melted away. It also helped me to realise what questions I needed answered if I was going to be able to manage my diabetes.
Pretty soon I was telling everyone, my then girlfriend, my work colleagues, my friends, random people on the bus. At times I was introducing myself as: “Hi, I’m Andy and I’ve got diabetes!” I wasn’t but I almost did. It’s very interesting the things people admit back to you, their hidden diseases and ailments.
I went a bit mad with telling people and I’ve pulled back a bit now. It’s about getting the right balance. Friends who you go for a few pints with are going to notice that you’re on the diet coke, so tell them. Friends who you play sport with need to know in case you have a turn, it’s also a good excuse when you mess up, ‘I’d have made that shot but the old diabetes is playing up again!’ My advice is to pick your moments and expect the obvious questions in response. What type? Can you eat cake? Can you drink? Do you need to inject?
As for Darren, his advice was that he thinks I might now be able to use disabled toilets. Like I said, perspective.