Friday, 1 July 2011

To Tell or Not to Tell: Diabetes Disclosure

I kicked off the week by attending an overnight camping trip that was part of training for my summer job at a day camp.  Camping with 28 strangers can be a little intimidating, and as a type 1 diabetic it brings up that tricky issue of disclosure.  Do I make a big announcement to all the staff: “Attention everyone, I’m a type 1 diabetic which is why I can chug juice like a champ”, do I try to be stealthy about it and answer questions as they come “Excuse me Miss but did you know you have a tube sticking out of your side?”, do I find a way to slip it into conversation, “Speaking of volcanoes, I’m a type 1 diabetic!”
I have, in different situations, used one, two or a combination of the above to disclose the fact that I have diabetes.  Usually people are interested or curious when they find out I have diabetes, sometimes they are indifferent, and occasionally they are judgemental or weirded out.  It’s the few experiences I’ve had where people have reacted in the latter two manners that fuel the nervousness I have about telling people I’m a type 1 diabetic. 
On the camping trip I chose to only tell the senior staff members, for safety purposes, and then I just answered questions as they came. Some people noticed me testing and asked if I was diabetic, and I found it very refreshing to not only have people recognize a tester and make the connection to diabetes, but also to have people asking ME if I was diabetic, as opposed to me always informing others that I’m diabetic.
I also found out that another staff member is a type 1 diabetic.  Since I don’t know very many type 1 diabetics that are in the same age bracket as me, I always get overly excited when I do meet such a person, and I’m happy to report that he too shared my excitement upon discovering that we’re both type 1 diabetics. 
The camping trip was successful in having all the staff members get to know each other, and my disclosure technique was successful in having nearly all the staff learn I was diabetic without having to make a big announcement.   

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