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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Education on Diabetic Stereotypes

Just before I was sent to the hospital and diagnosed with diabetes, I - like any seven-year-old who needed to read books for school - was starting to read The Baby-Sitter's Club.

Oh yeah, you have no idea where I'm going with this, right?

I love the Baby-Sitters Club novels, I do.  They were really fun to read and they're fun to look back on and laugh at because of how unrealistic they are.  But it's not just the scenarios they were in that were unrealistic.  But particular character; you probably don't even know who I'm talking about.  She was pretty minor.  But she had this disease...really no big deal.

Ok, ok, time to be (a bit more) serious.  For those of you without 90's roots, the BSC novels had a main character named Stacey,  who was the 'city girl' of the gang.  But, as we all know, Stacey was diabetic.  And - OMG, that's like the worst thing ever to be diagnosed with!  No sugar, no good food, having to take shots all day and survive off of chicken and bread!  How did you live!

When some of my classmates found out I had diabetes, a few of them assumed I was just like Stacey from the Baby-Sitters Club ( know; younger and not from NY).  I know they were just trying to be friendly about it, and I suppose I appreciate it on that level.  But on the other hand...ugh.

Thankfully, my teacher that year had a son who was diabetic, so she was able to straighten everybody in the class out.  While I was glad my third-grade nightmare was over, she warned me this would happen again.  And boy, was she right.

Half the time, I don't think people mean to ask such stereotypical questions; they honestly have no knowledge of the disease, and the media does little to show the difference between Type 1 and 2 diabetes.  And usually you don't mind answering these questions, especially if it saves another diabetic the trouble of answering them.  But going on to my 9th year of the disease, I will admit I'm getting less and less...descriptive when answering.  In fact, in my P.E. class this year, I was reminded just how annoying those questions were, as my conversations with a particular girl usually went like this;

Girl: Oh hey, what is that?
Me: Just my meter.  I'm diabetic.
Girl: Ooooh.  So what are you doing with it?
Me: ...Testing my blood sugar.  I'm pretty sure I'm low.
Girl: Is that good or bad?
Me: ...Bad.
Girl: Oh.  *pause* Can I watch you take your blood pressure?
Me: Blood sugar.  And sure...I guess *pricks finger*
Girl: Ahhhh!  I didn't know you were going to bleed!  Doesn't that hurt?

...Yeah.  Don't pretend that's never happened; you know they've asked!  And you've gotten annoyed!  So that leaves the question; what are you to do?

Firstly, like I said earlier, most of these people are not trying to be annoying.  They're genuinely curious what that cell-phone looking thing is and why that pen just made you bleed...they don't mean harm.  Now I know that doesn't make it less annoying, but I always try to remember it when people are asking me questions.  Usually I can get through it.

Now, this leads to another question, often asked by my peers and the occasional teacher; what are bad diabetic questions - because I don't want to make you upset.  Well...I don't think there are bad questions.  But there are dumbs ones I get tired of hearing.  And instead of listing them all out, I've turned to a more...reliable source; YouTube!

Remember a few months ago, when those "Sh*t *insert broad stereotype here* Say" were so popular?  Well don't think we got left out!  The following video is done by another diabetic, and contains every question that has ever made me want to punch a perfectly nice person in the face.  Not because they aren't nice, but because asking three or four of these in under a minute is really annoying.  Along with the 'Sh*t People Say to Diabetics' video, there is also another one, 'Sh*t Diabetics Say'.  And I'd be lying if I said I haven't uttered some of those phrases before.

Sh*t People Say to Diabetics:

Sh*t Diabetics Say: (Warning* - the video below contains mild swearing...but it's oh-so true.)

That about does it.  If there are any other stereotypical questions that have been left out, please feel free to vent to your fellow diabetics below.  Have a good week, everyone!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Five Myths, One Perk (And Mouse Ears)

What's this?  Screaming children?  Long lines?  Stupidly overpriced drinks? This can only mean you're in one place, and lucky for you it's the happiest place on Earth!

Abby, my best friend who came with me on this magical Disney adventure.  Note the $4 frozen lemonade she's holding.  Pure deliciousness, folks.

Yes, Disneyland!  The reason you joined band in middle school, the reason you can no longer listen to that song from OneRepublic, and the only reason your child is going to get up willingly before nine am on a weekday.

No, but joking aside, I really do love Disney.  It's an awesome place, and every time my family goes to California, the first words out of my brother and my mouth is, 'can we go to Disneyland while we're there?'  And though your parents complain and roll their eyes, you sneak a glance at them when you're on Space Mountain, and you know they're having fun, too.  I recently visited Disney with my mom, brother, and my friend Abby (my Dad hates lines and screaming kids, so he stayed home), and it was a blast.

Now, as the diabetics (and diabetic parents) we are, you know where this post is going.  Because we've all heard about it from a friend or doctor or neighbor or whoever you socialize with.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are talking about the legendary diabetic pass at Disney.

I'll be honest; it took my parents forever to convince me to get this.  I was diagnosed at age seven, and the first time I used this was last year, when I was fifteen.  I was nervous.  I thought the cast members would laugh at me.  I thought everyone in the lines was going to hate me.  So up until that point I stuck it out in the lines like everyone else, using those fancy apps that give you wait times and being just like everybody else.  The conversations usually went something like this;

Mom: So Reed, we're going to Disneyland tomorrow, and I just wanted to make sure - 
Me: No.
Mom: Reed it might be nice if - 
Me: No, Mom.
Mom: But - 
Me: I don't want the pass, Mom!  I'm fine.
George (my little brother): Just suck it up and get it!  I don't want to wait two hours for one ride!
Me: No!

...Yeah.  I drove my family nuts on those days.  And as we waited in the California heat, watching the people zip through the empty Fast-Pass line, my brother would look at me and say 'That could be us.'  And I never cared, because I thought it was fine; for one day, I was like everybody else.  And looking back on it now, that isn't true.  So today, I'm going to be sharing five myths about the 'diabetic pass' - be from me or my friends - and showing why they aren't true.

#1 - This thing is going to point out my diabetes to everyone, and I don't want it to

First off, this isn't a 'diabetic fast-pass'.  Not really.  This is, in fact, a Disney guest assistance card.  And if you have diabetes, this is what it will generally look like;

These are commonly given to people with special needs who may have problems if they wait in lines.  They are not going to put a big button on you listing all your medical conditions.  All you need to do is go to the Guest Relations (found in the Town Hall in Disneyland), explain to them that you/your child is diabetic, and the pass is needed in case of an emergency with their blood sugar.  They don't think it's a big deal, the rest of the staff doesn't question you on it (they will usually double-check how many people you bring on the ride, as there's only a certain number you can bring), so why should you worry?  No one is going to ask what's it's for.  They'll just wave you through.

#2 - This is a 'front-of-the-line' pass

A huge myth (and maybe the reason some people seem so bitter) is that this is the golden ticket of Disney.  Let me parade to the front of the line and ride as much as I want.  This pass does not do it.  As you can see above, the accommodation you'll get is the ability to use an alternate entrance.  This does not mean you go to the front of the line!

This version of the assistance card works more like a Fast-Pass, meaning that instead of the regular line, you'll wait in the Fast-Pass line or use the wheelchair entrance on the rides that don't do Fast-Pass.  There will still be a line.  You will wait to get on the ride like everybody else.  The only difference is that the line is shorter, and usually easier to get out of if you suddenly find yourself low.  And if you're low and have to leave, you aren't waiting another hour to try and ride.

#3 - People will be mad at me if they see me use this pass

This was one of my big worries about the pass.  But when I started using it, I came to the most interesting revelation; nobody really cares.

Seriously.  Nobody is going to look twice at the group in the Fast-Pass line.  Half the time, they all just assume it is a fast-pass.  On the rare occasion another person questions me, it's usually because they've got a medical condition themselves, and they want to know if they can get this.  Heck, even the Cast Members don't ask questions.  They just glance at it, make sure the number of people you're bringing in matches the number on the pass (or is less), and they wave you off and go back to gossiping about whatever it is Disney employees gossip about (did you hear Minnie was talking to Donald earlier today?  Do you think she'll break up with Mickey?)

#4 - This pass is no help to me

Actually, you'd be surprised how helpful this pass can be.  There was a time I corrected for a high blood sugar and went low in line (in the days before I used the pass).  And this was a two hour line.  My mother and I had to get out, go find a vendor, buy something, and work our way back through the line to find my Dad and brother.  That caused more of a commotion then it would have if I'd had the pass.

Usually in the Fast-Pass line, there are several Cast Members stationed throughout the line to make sure no one's sneaking in.  They will help you get out of that line, and even help get you something to get your blood sugar back up.  And when you're back up, they'll get you back in the line like nothing ever happened.  Going low at a place like Disney is very scary to think about.  And I honestly don't think about it that much anymore.

#5 - I just want to be like everybody else

I don't need special treatment.

I'm strong.

I have my blood sugar under control; this pass isn't for me.

I can handle it.

Yes.  Maybe you can handle it.  Maybe you do have it under control.  I'm sure you're plenty strong.  I'm sure the idea of special treatment doesn't excite you as much as your mooching little siblings who hate long lines.  That's not the point.

We try so much to be like everybody else every day.  We crave it; to throw away those meters and pumps and Flexpens and say 'I'm normal.'   But the thing is...we aren't.  We can't flip a switch and make this go away.  So what's wrong with, every now and then, giving yourself a break?  Saying 'I deserve this'?  Not worrying about diabetes, and just focusing on having a good time?  This is Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth, remember?  What's wrong with being happy?

Trust me, it may seem weird doing it at first, but you'd be surprised how quickly that feeling goes away when a two hour wait is cut down to ten minutes.

Disneyland for diabetes; filled with friends, family, mouse ears, memories, and shorter lines.  Sounds like fun to me.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Support Systems and You

...Yes, that is meant to sound like one of those self-help books.  (These are the jokes, people)

I've recently been talking to some other diabetic teens around the country, which I think is awesome (the more the merrier, right?), but I was really interested when one of them told me it was great to meet another diabetic kid.  Confused, I asked if there were any other diabetic kids around at school or in the neighborhood.  They said no.  And that got me thinking.

Maybe I'm a bit spoiled;

I'm part of a group called the JDRF Youth Ambassadors.  That's how I met amazing people like Alexis (the author of the amazing blog, Chronicles of D-Boy and Ribbon, but I'm wasting my time; you've all heard of her, right?).  We all help out around our community, and we're all best friends.  The picture above was from our last big thing, where we painting a picture to be sold at the JDRF 2012 Gala (yes, that picture there.  Are we talented or what?).  And maybe the coolest part?  Every kid in that picture up there is a diabetic.

Support is such a huge part of the diabetes experience.  It is virtually impossible to get the upper hand on this disease without support.  I compare it to it's easier to scare people with a big group behind you that looks equally pissed at whoever you're pissed at.  There's strength in numbers.  And this is one number in diabetes that can be as large as you want and it's still good.

Now most diabetics usually have a great support system in their families.  That's important too.  I've had so much support from my parents and aunts and uncles and cousins, I can't begin to thank them enough.  But yet, there's something about being at the same level as your peers, and being able to find new friends with your same interests who have to deal with the same disease you do.  Plus its kind of fun to have a group where you can all rant about those annoying teachers who just don't get diabetes.

I feel like I've made so many new friends in the Youth Ambassadors, and we have a great time at events (just so long as we keep the boys separated; they could tear a room apart in two minutes flat).  And if I've learned anything from them, it's that support from your peers as well as your family is so important.  Now I'm not going to tell you to go sign your kid up to the Youth Ambassador program, and tell you how happy they'll be when they do.  Everyone's different.  But based on my personal experience, it seems like the diabetic kids are the coolest around.

I feel like that's also a part of why I'm doing this blog.  I want to make it something that people can relate to.  I can sit here and type out all the random crap I can about diabetes like some 'professional' websites do, but I feel like that doesn't reach you as much as personal stories and experiences, especially from kids.  When you see those advertisements for the no finger blood sugar meters (which does not mean no blood; I'd love to see them include that in the ad), do you see any teenagers in there?  Any kid or young adult?  What about the 'instructional videos' talking about how diabetes is not the end of the world.  They don't show what a struggle this is.  They don't tell you there will be days where your blood sugar just won't come down no matter how much insulin you give.  That some nights you'll be up every hour checking blood sugars.  That things you used to eat every day will become special occasion foods.

This.  Is.  A.  Struggle.

And having people to talk to about it is important.  Keeping those emotions bottled up is not good.  Trust me, I know.  And when you meet people going trough the same thing, it becomes a little easier.

Before I sign off on this post, there's one more thing I wanted to share.  I recently got this book, No-Sugar Added Poetry.  It's filled with poems from different people all over the world with one thing in common; diabetes.  Some of them are dark, some of them make you think, but it speaks to you.  I think it's something all diabetics need to look at at least once.  If you're interested in the book, check it out here.

Support; the one diabetic number that keeps growing and won't hurt you.