Liar, Liar: Responding to Insensitivity

This article was written exclusively for Information About Diabetes by Julia Flaherty, a type 1 diabetic college student, editor of the Arts and Entertainment section of her university's newspaper, blogger and promotions director.

I was appalled when sitting in a lecture a few weeks ago only to turn almost 180 degrees around in my seat to hear a person behind me promptly discuss with their friend about how they faked having juvenile diabetes to get out of a class.

"I told the professor I was low, and she let me go home," they said.

Low blood sugar, also referred to as hypoglycemia, is a medical emergency that results from a deficiency of glucose in the bloodstream. It is not a pleasurable experience, certainly not one you would dream about yourself.

To lie about having a chronic condition to get out of a class you chose to be at is both insensitive and nonsensical. Please leave, but don't make up an excuse for your laziness at the expense of the people you are unaware of around you.

Low Blood Sugar: What It's Really Like

Certainly this person did not know I have juvenile diabetes. I did not bother to tell this person or their friend that I manage the condition on a daily basis and have since I was 10. Instead, I gaped at my professor's lecture, not because of the impressive simplicity of their bulleted lists on a PowerPoint, but due to the ignorance of this person sitting almost directly behind me.

If it is true that their professor let them leave lecture from this class, it seems all of them have misconceptions about the condition.

When I have low blood sugar, I stay in one place and eat a snack to bring my levels back up and stabilize them. I always carry something with me in case. Hypoglycemia can affect people with the condition in different ways causing anything from blurry vision to sweating, fainting spells, shaking, impaired judgment, loss of consciousness, sudden nervousness and more. Unfortunately, the list continues.

The last thing you would want to do is drive yourself back to your apartment, which is what they told their friend they said to their instructor. Driving with low blood sugar is a threat to yourself and other people on the road.

Misconceptions Are Everywhere

Maybe I'm nosy for listening or insensitive to their lack of knowledge about the condition, and to be fair and honest with myself, I can say I probably wouldn't know much about it if I or a family member or close friend weren't managing it.

Was it my responsibility to make them aware? Would it be someone else’s if I weren’t managing the condition myself? How sensitive do we need to be for one another?

Their lack of exposure and misconception inspired me to analyze the times I have heard juvenile diabetes mentioned as a subject of focus outside of my internal reality. I answered myself too quickly, slim to none.

Hardly do I see or read about a character in fiction writing or film who is managing the condition, and when they are represented, often their disease becomes them.

Diabetes Does Not Define Someone

Let me say now that having a chronic condition does not define you. You are not your disease. I am not mine.

I like to write, watch Alfred Hitchcock films, drink blueberry-flavored coffee and roll my eyes at puns I will probably never find funny. Most people do not know I have juvenile diabetes unless I tell them or take out my insulin pen or blood glucose monitor in front of them. I will let you in on a not-so-secret-secret, though: Juvenile diabetes does not have me.

It was like that since day one. I was diagnosed in January 2004, less than a month after my 10th birthday. At the time, I was using syringes to take insulin shots. I grabbed ahold of them responsibly, surprisingly ready for the challenge.

Little did I know what was in store, but I am proud to say I have been keeping myself healthy since my adolescence. I have had my weak moments. I think we all have, whether we manage a chronic condition or consider ourselves plain or ordinary.

Spoiler alert! You are not ordinary, whether you have juvenile diabetes or don’t. You should be proud of what makes you different, even about what makes you similar to others, because establishing a human connection is a special quality and sustenance for pleasurable living.

Be Yourself While Respecting Others

Still, I beg to this person not to lie about having a chronic condition, as it is defaming to the people who manage it with perseverance and strength every day. I encourage you all to be sensitive to the people around you. I encourage myself. It is difficult, but playing the blame game won’t help anything.

Despite my frustration, and how much I wanted to tell this person to shut up and drive instead of lying to drive away, I realize now that is not the key to making anything better for anyone. Living with this condition is better than surviving with it, and I am positive that we all can do the world a little better by acknowledging what makes us insanely human.

I am insanely human because of who I am, not because of my condition. My condition is a part of me, yes, but it is not the whole me, the Julia who loves to blog and wishes she knew more French and could travel to Europe to discover it more.

Whoever you are, whatever your circumstance, remember and recognize the people around you who make up the fabric of your environment contributing to your human experience, whether they are passive or active members of your life. Sensitivity matters 360 degrees around.

Photo: Pexels

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