Do You Hide Your Diabetes?

By Richard157 Latest Reply 2012-08-12 18:15:53 -0500
Started 2012-08-03 14:45:33 -0500

Do you hide your diabetes?

For many years after my diagnosis in 1945, I did not know another diabetic. I mentioned my disease to a couple of friends when I was a teen, but they looked so puzzled. They did not know what I was talking about, and I doubted they even believed me. So I hid my diabetes for many years, but I did try telling a few teachers in high school and college. They did not seem to understand, and maybe they did not believe me. When I was a college sophomore I had a very bad hypo while taking my first calculus test. When I approached the teacher and explained that my vision was blurred, and I could not read the test paper, he would not help me in any way. That was the only test I ever failed. There seemed to be almost no knowledge about diabetes in my early years.

I dated and told my girlfriends. It did not seem to make a difference to them that I was a diabetic. That was probably because they did not know enough about it to be concerned. The first person I knew who really was concerned was my wife, but only after we were married. She was not concerned before we were married because she never saw me have a hypo. I was high much of the time on animal insulin. I did not tell my students after starting my teaching in 1962. There did not seem to be any reason for doing so. I was alone as a diabetic, except for my family, until I was married. My wife and I have been married for 48 years, and she has been so wonderful in so many ways with helping me with my diabetes. But there was still something missing!

In July, 2006, I found diabetes on the internet. That essentially changed my life, in a very important way. There were so many people online who were diabetics, or they had family members with diabetes. We talked with each other, and we learned so many new things. I believe that at least 80% of what I know about diabetes was learned on the internet. I was helped in so many ways, and my control and my life improved. I became a diabetes advocate to many online people who needed to know the things I had learned. So many parents of diabetic children have found me to be an inspiration because I was diagnosed when I was 6, and am very healthy now that I am 72.

After 66 years as a type 1 diabetic, I am very comfortable telling people about my diabetes, and about diabetes in general. It is very comforting and rewarding to give and receive help online. I will never again hide my diabetes. I hope my online friends feel the same way!

111 replies

Diefleu 2012-08-10 02:05:34 -0500 Report

With that many years experience, may I ask if you could give one piece of advice to younger type 1's what would it be?

Richard157 2012-08-10 13:24:05 -0500 Report

Don't ever neglect your diabetes. Stick with it and learn as much as possible about it. Join online support groups and don't depend completely on advice from doctors. About 80% of what I know about diabetes was learned online. be careful when taking other people's advice. We are all different, and slowly changing your management routine one step at a time is best. Your body needs time to adjust. Join diabetes support groups in your area, and attend a diabetes camp in the summer, if that is possible.

That is more than one piece of advice, I can't single out one as the best.

Nonna2Three 2012-08-09 14:25:40 -0500 Report

Nope, never. But then again, I've only had my diagnosis for 20 months so I had already reached an age where I could care less what most people think (or thought).

jsimms435 2012-08-08 08:53:35 -0500 Report

I don't hide that I am diabetic, but I don't go out of my way to tell others either. I usually take my insulin and meter to lunch with me so sometimes i will explain that it is my meter.

flipmom 2012-08-07 23:59:01 -0500 Report

your story is an inspiration… I dont exactly announce to everyone that Im diabetic.. but im comfortable telling those that matters and to those that asked when they see me testing and etc…

MAYS 2012-08-07 23:47:24 -0500 Report

Was diabetes (type 1) so uncommon in your neighborhood that it was not mentioned?
I do know that it was not discussed or taught in school back then, so how was it in school for you?
Was it necessary for you to hide it so that you could have a drama free social life while you were young and in school?
How did people act, or react towards diabetics back then ?
(social history is so interesting!)

Richard157 2012-08-08 08:48:14 -0500 Report

Mays, diabetes was mentioned by my parents to all our neighbors, but it was never discussed for any other reason. School was difficult. I was so brittle that i did not participate in play periods, or gym. I sat on the side lines and watched. My classmates knew I was different and I was ignored. I felt like an outcast and had very few friends. My teachers had never heard of diabetes. In elementary school my mother went to the school each year and talked to the teacher before the school year started. My friends had not heard of diabetes, but I did have playmates in my neighborhood.

MAYS 2012-08-09 06:17:01 -0500 Report

Outside of your book, and the diabetes related websites that you contribute to, have you ever spoken anywhere or given a lecture on what it was like growing up as a type 1 diabetic during your youth?
It's interesting how much has changed concerning the care and management of diabetes and diabetics and I believe that it should be known from a personal point of view so that others can see that although the treatments and procedures may now seem primitive, it was all necessary for one to do them in order to stay alive.
So much is taken for granted today, but if it weren't for people such as yourself, and the research that was done in the past, we would not have the progress that we have today!

Although many may feel that there has not been much progress in the field of diabetes (type 1 mainly) they must understand that the life expectancy for a type 1 diabetic was not a long one, nor was it an easy one.
My mother once told me that my great grandfather was a type 1 diabetic in the south (Mississippi) and because they knew so little about diabetes then, he was virtually experimented on everytime he was admitted to the hospital, everything was touch and go, as well as uncertain back then (the early 1930's) so I find the history of diabetes and it's treatments interesting as well as all of the information and experience that you have to present here on the subject of diabetes.

I have found this book (as well as many others) to be very interesting:

Richard157 2012-08-09 09:05:21 -0500 Report

I want to be a motivational speaker, but have made very little progress. I am scheduled to speak to our local diabetes support group in October. I wish I could travel and speak to groups all over our continent. A few suggestions have been given to me, but they were all dead ends, so far. I will keep trying. Since I am 72 now, I don't know how much longer I would be able to travel to speak to groups. The expense would also be great, and I doubt that I would get much reimbursement .

roshy 2012-08-07 14:38:30 -0500 Report

i think there is a whole new generation of type one diabetics around now! my father was dx over 50 years and never i mean never tested or shot up in front of anyone, even family members. He kept it from everyone and rarley ever spoke about it to anyone. I think it was to do with the way he was raised. His mammy encouraged him to keep it to himself which in the long run did him no favours because no one understood how hard it could be dealing with highs or lows and as a result the rest of the family are petty clueless about the condition. My brother onced asked did i get a new mp3 player as he pointed to my meter!!! It wasnt until i was dx 8 years ago i questioned him one day when we were out for lunch and dared hin not to scurry into the toilets to take his shot!! he is a little more relaxed about it now but as for me i was always very publicly open about my condition and loved when people took an interest when i was checkin my sugars or poppin a needle!!! its good to see others shoot and pump in public !!! its nothing to hide or be ashamed about!! id encourage others to come outta the closet iswell!!

Richard157 2012-08-07 14:47:36 -0500 Report

Hi Roshy, so my Irish friend is open about her diabetes too. that is great!

roshy 2012-08-12 17:17:54 -0500 Report

Richy!! delighted to hear from you again!!! keep posting because i love replying!!! and if you ever go on tour i want vip seats ok!!

Richard157 2012-08-12 18:15:53 -0500 Report

Lol!!! Funny, VIP seats to listen to old man Richard. You might be the only person in my audience, so let's settle for lunch at your favorite restaurant. ok?

lotsadogs 2012-08-07 02:47:13 -0500 Report

I dont hide or not hide it. If it comes up then thats fine. I have another medical condition that i am so afraied to ever bring up that the diabetes doesnt bother me. I was overweight from a lot of medication i was on before diabetes diagnosis. So, i had a lot of cruel comments that it is my own fault etc. I weigh 200 lb now, but was at 250 at some point.

Richard157 2012-08-07 14:50:05 -0500 Report

I gained weight too, and then I was a type 1 with insulin resistance. Using metformin caused me to lose the weight, maybe it helped you too.

jayabee52 2012-08-07 04:14:40 -0500 Report

Well lotsa,

certain medications can have some rather unfortunate side effects like weight gain. (Even the insulin many of us need can do that)

One of the worst IMHO is prednisone, but my 2nd wife "Jem" had to take it for control of her Lupis and RA and COPD. It was the only thing which would work for her as she was allergic to evertything else.

I want to congratulate you on losing 50 lbs!



rayray215 2012-08-07 00:08:21 -0500 Report

i hide it i deny it to the fullest if i had my way my own mother wouldnt find out but my fam nos an i live in a small town so i few ppl no but i have a lot of ppl come up an say i here ur diabetic and idc wat they think or here i deny it an always will im embarresed about it aswell as my other diease its humilating

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2012-08-06 11:29:38 -0500 Report

Some I tell, some I don't. It depends on the circumstances. For instance I shared with a hospice resident one very long night. Also with one of my resident's with Alzheimer's. They both are/were PWD besides other conditions. They appreciate/d learning I could understand some of their fears. I also share some of my other medical history with my residents. Knowing that if I say ''I understand how you feel'' because they know I've been there helps when pain and fears keeps them from much needed sleep at night.
I also share with my extended family. Just in case they ever hear ''Welcome to the wonderful world of diabetes'' someday. Having a little prior knowledge made it slightly less than totally overwhelming to me.

techguy87114 2012-08-06 10:57:12 -0500 Report

While I don't hide it, I dont normally bring it up unless it needs to be. I havent found i to be a great conversation starter.. at least not yet. The office and family know of course. The only real time its brought up is when the family goes out to a restauarant or something & I'm asking questions regarding the menu.

Great discussion! I am proud to be who I am, Type 2 and all. :)

Set apart
Set apart 2012-08-06 05:43:53 -0500 Report

Almost a year now as a T1, no I don't hide it! I dont advertise it it, but everyone knows at work since that was the first place I ever got my BG read by our RN! I'm not ashamed, I want to be the different face of what people think we should look like, healthy, happy, and
Energetic! Having D is difficult, nut it's a diagnosis, not a plague! I remember my grandma having T2, had welts on her legs cuz people just didn't know and understand diet and the impact on D! I want to know and love DC for teaching me!

dietcherry 2012-08-06 13:26:56 -0500 Report

Interesting! I shared below that I tell folks Im the new face of D when they tell me I dont look diabetic——great minds think alike huh? ;)

Set apart
Set apart 2012-08-06 16:44:17 -0500 Report

Well I sure do think so, I get a lot of the same questions or comments like you. "You don't look sick, or you don't look like you have diabetes." Hmmmm is there a face that goes with D that I'm missing out on! LOL!

herigoagain1 2012-08-05 19:49:18 -0500 Report

I don't hide the fact that I am diabetic but it seems like there are some people out there that you can't talk in front of. I think it is just their lack of education that it makes them uncomfortable because they don't know what to say to you.

Jccandals 2012-08-06 21:00:11 -0500 Report

I found the opposite to be true in my case, they tend to overreact to the fact that I am diabetic and treat me like it will have big issues in the work place and that I may be incompetent, I don't like that feeling!

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-08-06 10:40:07 -0500 Report

Sometimes people don't say anything because they either don't care or don't want to offend. People are only educated based how interested they are on the topic. There is tons of information available for all kinds of diseases and disorders.

People may not be uncomfortable, they could be thinking they should be checked or they simply don't want to tell you they don't care. People are never going to listen to anyone talk about something that doesn't interest them. Those who are interested will ask questions.

You cannot make people learn about something of no interest to them. These are the people who won't learn about something unless it directly affects them. There are topics that I have no interest in so I am never going to waste my time learning about it.

herigoagain1 2012-08-06 20:11:17 -0500 Report

I do agree that they might be afraid to offend but I still think a lot of it is education. I have a daughter and my wife who are both epileptic, The first thing out of someones mouth is "I'm sorry" It is just kind of confusing. Why are they sorry? I think this is to cover their embarassment. They simply don't know enough about the topic and are afraid they are going to say something to offend. I also agree that alot of people don't want to know. There again I think it's a fear. What they don't know won't hurt them. The first thing I did was google diabetes and read everything I could find but that's just me. People place a certain stigma against someone who they think is sick. I am not sick, I have diabetes. I live a pretty normal life but they don't know that. I always tell them to ask me anything they want and I will try to explain.

Richard157 2012-08-06 08:08:50 -0500 Report

I agree. I don't know what to say to people who have cancer, or other diseases with which I am not familiar. So I can understand people who are non diabetics when they discover my diabetes.

Setzer 2012-08-05 15:42:12 -0500 Report

I usually wear my necklace outside my shirt and if people ask what I wear it for I'll tell them but I don't go walking around announcing it to people.

Jccandals 2012-08-06 21:06:30 -0500 Report

I need to get a necklace I like the necklace or the bracelet bit, trying to get my type one hubby to wear one, maybe I can say they are matching love bracelets :)

mystikfairy61 2012-08-09 19:21:10 -0500 Report

You can go to or just go to Diabetes Wellness. They have necklaces and ID cards, as well as pamplets etc on diabetes. The only cost for the necklace and ID card is $2.95 S&H if you do it online, or a stamped self addressed envelope mailed to them. That's where I got mine and my hubby's necklaces. They aren't like the ones that you get from Medic Alert, they say on front (I have diabetes, please check my sugar before treating me) and have Diabetes Wellness on the back. Just thought I'd pitch that in for ya!!

Jccandals 2012-08-06 21:05:01 -0500 Report

I feel like I need to tell my coworkers because if they run into an issues relative to it, I went to a work training, and apparently my lunch did not catch up to my medication or something of the sort, and when the trainer was asking questions to our group, I only heard.. blah blah blah, I wanted to tell her to slow down.. luckily there was another gal in the group who is a type one and noticed immediately that my color didnt look right and that I was not reacting correctly, and she went to the snack table and grabbed me a cookie.. I instantly felt better, I told her later the lady sounded like the teacher on the Peanuts cartoon
But I only recently started to become sensitive with my diabetes, previously I have done well but I gained 10lbs with my overnight job :( so that may be the change

2012-08-05 14:51:14 -0500 Report

I don't hide it. There's no reason to. It's not some kind of disease you had to hide like leprosy. So if someone asks me if I want an alcoholic drink or a slice of pie, and I say "no thanks" & they ask why, I tell 'em. (But I don't throw it out there either.) It's not something to be ashamed of. Lot of people have it.

red flower lady
red flower lady 2012-08-05 13:11:52 -0500 Report

I don't hide it, but I don't throw it right out there either. It is something I have to live with also being a type 1, and do so daily and am able to take care of bg checks, injections, etc without bringing unwanted attention to myself. My family and close friends are aware of it and how to help if needed. I don't feel the need to tell everyone just for conversation or attention or use it as an excuse. That being said, I will educate people if needed. If I'm going to be in a situation where it could be an issue, then I will inform the person in charge.

My biology teacher in college was an ortho surgeon and looking over the results of a procedure I had, he saw that I was a diabetic, so when I was in the lecture/lab he would tap me on the shoulder if I got so involved and didn't notice a bg change. He never mentioned it when anyone else was around and would talk to me after class. He let me know that if I needed help he would work with me. I greatly appreciated him and the help he gave me with diabetes and my orth needs.

Richard157 2012-08-05 16:59:09 -0500 Report

I like that so much! You were very lucky to have that teacher.

red flower lady
red flower lady 2012-08-07 01:43:58 -0500 Report

Yes, you are right. I loved that he appreciated my privacy while at the same time keeping an eye out for me while helping me to succeed. It would be great if all teachers could be that way, drs or not:)

ChrissyRI 2012-08-05 12:39:54 -0500 Report

I was, initially, so discouraged about even having it…however, it made me angry. And it made me even more of a fighter than my spirit already is (I've always been quite outspoken on things I feel are an injustice). I felt that the best defense against this thing is education and prevention. I will stop it in my family in its tracks, by making sure my kids are aware and routinely checked (my 8 yr old was recently tested and was neg.) Then, I take my fight to the public. I let people know the truths and misconceptions as I have learned them and try to share information I receive from here and other areas. Indeed I am angry. Angry enough to stop the circle.

Richard157 2012-08-05 17:06:49 -0500 Report

We have to have some fight in us to be able to have a good life with diabetes. Your fighting spirit will help your children with their lives too.

Type1Lou 2012-08-05 11:29:25 -0500 Report

No, I never did and never will. Probably growing up with a diabetic Dad in the 1950's and 1960's, who did not hide his diabetes, set the stage for me. Dad retired during the 1960's and was still very active in city government and in organizing the "Golden Agers". When he died in the 1970's, he was a very young 81. I never felt having diabetes hindered or impeded me in my relationships and in my career…it was just something I had to deal with and accommodate.

mystikfairy61 2012-08-09 19:29:03 -0500 Report

Lou, I agree. My dad was diagnosed T1 at age 13 in 1953 (before I was born of course) til he died at age 29 in 1969. My grandmother had it when I was born, my mom got T2 at age 36 and both my brothers are T2. So I definately was used to being around it. I knew that one day, with my family history that I would more than likely get the diagnosis as well, so I accepted that for what it was, and didn't let the fear of being diagnosed stop me from enjoying life. I am 51 and was diagnosed in April this year, and my hubby was diagnosed the same month, he is 53. We are working daily to make the changes we need to make in our lives to be as healthy as possible. Enjoyed the article!!

Type1Lou 2012-08-10 11:12:41 -0500 Report

Congratulations on facing your condition and dealing with it. I have a friend who is dealing with her husband's Parkinson's and that is far worse in my opinion. By making the right decisions and with help from our health team, we are able to manage our disease and live a near-normal life. I was diagnosed at age 27 and am 63 now, so I've lived with it longer than without.
Life is good!

Armourer 2012-08-05 01:34:37 -0500 Report

I don't hide it. I try to be discreet about it if in public as far as taking insulin injections or my BG. Now my father-in-law can't be seen by anybody with the problem, not even family.

2012-08-05 14:58:07 -0500 Report

Armourer~~ doesn't that close the gap between your father in law & his family & friends? Cause there is a lot of people who have it. Now here's the worse case in scenario. "What if he were diagnosed with the illness?"

Armourer 2012-08-05 19:54:24 -0500 Report

He has diabetes, and takes two insulins. Just he won't inject or take his BG in public or around family. At family get togethers he thinks it is funny to cheat on his diet. At a recent extended family outing at a restaurant he order a large banana split with whip cream. On the other hand I ordered a small taco salad. I injected under the table, he went without. Supposedly he has prostrate cancer, but I don't know, he won't talk about it, and know one in the family is suppose to know he has the problem.

2012-08-06 18:10:17 -0500 Report

Wonder what his BG was after consuming the banana split? (Hypothetically wondering) I do the same thing you do. Im not on insulin, but when out w/family & friends I, too, check my B/S under the table.

ChrissyRI 2012-08-05 00:52:25 -0500 Report

And I absolutely broadcast it to the world - my words in my blobs and other outlets may help someone else understand themselves or their loved ones.

ChrissyRI 2012-08-05 00:52:47 -0500 Report

Blogs * not blobs lol

jayabee52 2012-08-05 01:03:14 -0500 Report

you DO know Chrissy, that you can go back into your postings you have posted and click the "edit" link which is below every posting you post (with the execption of the Orginal Posting)?

Click the edit link and then when the box changes to a blue background with white letters, click the text box again (or you'll wipe the whole posting out) and when it returns to black type on white background, find what you wish to correct and either highlight it and "delete" that which you wish to correct or back space and replace it with what you intended to say.

That is why the edit link is there.

ChrissyRI 2012-08-05 01:04:42 -0500 Report

Im using the android app for my phone. The edit link is not included on this, only on the website, but thanks :)

ChrissyRI 2012-08-05 01:07:20 -0500 Report

There is actually quite a bit missing from the phone app that is on the website. No gifts, no inbox, no edit, and a very vague profile…

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2012-08-06 03:46:09 -0500 Report

I still have the app. But I usually just use the regular browser so I can have all the features the app doesn't. It still can be frustrating working with the smaller screen the smart phone has compared to my laptop.

ChrissyRI 2012-08-05 01:11:58 -0500 Report

For sure it may, especially with auto-correct lol. (Which is why my phone typed blobs in the first place) eh. Maybe one day they will update it with more features.

ChrissyRI 2012-08-05 00:49:45 -0500 Report

I never hide the fact that I have diabetes…you know why? Because, in order for me, personally at least, to survive this thing, I have to accept that it is a part of me… it doesn't consume me, but is part of who I am. With that having been said, would you hide who you are and live under a pretentious identity to feel normal to others? I wouldn't. If people ask me questions (which they often do), I smile and answer as best as I can. I wasn't born with this. I acquired it somehow. If my story and/or knowledge can help someone else to realize "yes this can happen to anyone" and make them think twice about their eating habits, then whatever time I have here has been well worth the strife. :)

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-08-05 17:13:00 -0500 Report

Chrissy, I honestly think people who hide it are ashamed they have it. You can't hide being blind, a para or quadriplegic, had missing limbs, wore hearing aids, very thick eyeglasses, had a speech impediment from the public.

I totally agree with you. If you hide who you are from people and be a pretentious person when people find out, they won't accept you for who you really are. Sooner or later you false appearance will come out.

I have never hidden that I am diabetic simply because, I don't care if you know, I don't care what you think about my being diabetic anymore than I care about what anyone thinks of me. I am who I am and I just happen to have diabetes.

I am out and about all the time, people around me know that I have it and they know what to do if something happens. As stated in a previous post there are people with diabetes who do not wear any medical alert jewelry. If something happens and they are with friends, the friends won't know what is wrong unless they are diabetic so your care will be delayed until medics arrive.

Keep doing what you do because that is what you choose to do and someone somewhere will benefit.

herigoagain1 2012-08-07 12:08:21 -0500 Report

I was such a sweet aholic before my diagnosis. The neighbor who we have lived next to for over 20 years came out one day and asked me if I would like some of their cake. I politely told them that I shouldn't have it. They piped up at the same time..What are you diabetic all of a sudden". I laughed and told them yes. They were embarassed at first but then they started laughing and decided to put their cake back inside the house. I think it was one of the funniest ways for them to find out. We all just kind of laughed about it. It sure was a tension reliever.

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-08-08 11:29:54 -0500 Report

That was funny. At least you were not offended. People don't know why you are refusing something and come up with off the cuff responses. They do this out of embarrassment or offended because they think you don't want something they prepared. People always offer me food and I say no thanks I can't have that because my sugar level will erupt like Mt. Hood. They apologize but I assure them their item looks absolutely delicious. People who know you are diabetic will not offer you foods they know you can't have.

I have actually been at a meeting and there were cookies for everyone and a small plate with 2 cookies for me with my name on it. People asked why I had a special plate and they were told I am diabetic and can't have the regular cookies. Two people said they were diabetic and the host of the meeting said had I known I could have provided a snack for you. They said they didn't want people to know. I smiled and said when you hide something in the end you lose. I ate my two cookies and they had no snack. This is why I don't care if people know I am diabetic.

ChrissyRI 2012-08-05 17:16:07 -0500 Report

I agree. I see nothing taboo about hying diabetes. Sure, it can be depressing…im not a stranger to those feelings. It hits me. At the same time I agree that people you associate with definitely need to know in case of medical emergencies. Very good point there.

old biker
old biker 2012-08-05 07:54:35 -0500 Report

Great attitude !!!

Richard157 2012-08-05 09:40:47 -0500 Report

Thanks Chrissy, I wish all diabetics handled interactions with other people that way!

ChrissyRI 2012-08-05 10:18:27 -0500 Report

It's not always that way, but I try to be positive about it. Does me no good to be depressed all the time. I have my rough days as well, but I quickly try to snap out of it and remind myself that it is a part of me, not entirely me. Hang in there. :)