Chronic Illness discrimination?

My film studies graduate class will be over next week. I turned my final paper in last night and need to start studying (today!) for the final….Last night we discussed the film, Lone Star and I actually left early because Will has strep throat and my boys don’t like to be with a babysitter, grandparent or not, when they are sick.

Anyway, the point of my story is that there is another woman in my class who has diabetes. I found out about it the first week of school because we were sitting next to each other and she was eating and kind of apologized about it, explaining that “I need the sugar, I’m a diabetic.” I told her I was diabetic too and we both smiled, as if we’d discovered we were both newly pregnant. I was excited in the way I’ve been on the past on the few occasions when I’ve met another women with diabetes in person. I snuck glances at her out of the corner of my eye, listened extra close whenever she spoke in class and wondered where she was when she was late.

That first class was the only time we spoke about diabetes. Our professor had us fill out some questions about ourselves to get to know us better, questions like what was our favorite movie, book etc. One of the questions was, “what is your defining characteristic?” I didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t sound cheesey, ex. “green eyes” (My professor is very good looking!) so I wrote that I had type 1 diabetes. A week or two later, my professor was lecturing about something, I can’t remember what, and he compared the topic to diabetes, to needing a cure and I blushed, sure he was talking abut me and then I remembered my classmate and looked at her, maybe she’d written diabetes as her defining characteristic as well.

From then on, whenever my classmate talked in class and stumbled over her words, or the point she was trying to make, I was convinced that her blood sugar was low and was embarassed. I had no proof but my own suspicions and wanted to nudge her leg under the table, to arch my eyebrow at her and get her to stop talking, she wasn’t making any sense. It got so bad that all semester, I’ve suspected her of being low and dismissed her arguements, listened to her with less focus than when I listened to someone else, someone different than us.

It reminds me of the time I went on a blind date with a guy who had diabetes. He was a great guy, cute, nice, smart…all those things but I just couldn’t do it. He took me for a boat ride, up the river and packed a picnic lunch, and when we both reached for our shot bags, I wanted to run. I never returned his calls after that. I knew I was being horrible.

It reminds me of when I see my sister give her shot or lick the blood from her finger tips after she’s tested her blood, and I cringe, it’s gross. It makes me stop, and turn away when I give my own shot in front of my friends. It makes me wonder what they are thinking, and I hope their thoughts are kinder than mine.


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