Monday, December 13, 2010
The other morning, I was co-running a board meeting for the non-profit organization I work for, and while in the midst of introducing our guest speakers, I began to feel the pangs of a low blood sugar.
I pulled out my glucometer and held it under the table after I was finished speaking, pricked my finger, checked my sugar, and immediately reached for my handy glucose tablets when I saw the 48 reading on my monitor – all this while attempting to stay focused and sound remotely intelligent. Which is quite a tricky thing to do when going low.
As my sugar slowly climbed back up, I realized that I had a blog topic on my hands.
I typically don’t write about balancing work and diabetes here on this blog, mainly because I am afraid that whatever I write here will somehow affect my professional life. I wouldn’t want people to think I’m more or less capable of doing my job because I have diabetes. I focus on what others’ may think or say, rather than my main objective for writing this blog: Learning and sharing on how to thrive with diabetes and life’s challenges.
My strong feeling that I have a topic on my hands won this time – over the hypothetical voices of others. Living with diabetes is my reality, and I hope that whatever strengths, experience, and knowledge I bring to the workplace far outweigh the fact that I check my blood sugars and need to eat certain foods regularly. I believe I’ve been fortunate in that respect throughout my life, and rarely have I encountered people who have forced me to prioritize work over health.
Side note: I know that not every workplace is like that. The American Diabetes Association is a wonderful organization to turn to if you have encountered problems with diabetes and the workplace, such as discrimination, and need assistance.
And then those moments come along, like the one the other morning, where I’m in the middle of working, and I find myself trying to balance feeling the low blood sugar, taking care of it, and all while in the midst of something at work that demanded my full attention.
How do we diabetics do it? How do we diabetics balance work with our health needs?
I’ve come to the conclusion over the years that balancing diabetes at work is about setting healthy priorities and boundaries while demonstrating self-confident assertiveness. Not defensive assertiveness. Or “I’m the victim” assertiveness. Or passive aggressiveness. I’m talking about the type of assertiveness that comes from accepting that you have diabetes and not caring what others may think or say.
Because you care about you.
After years of not accepting my diabetes or thinking I did, but really not, I prioritized health over what others may think or say at that board meeting. I wasn’t embarrassed to pull out my glucometer and check my sugar while sitting with ten or fifteen other people around the table. I didn’t care if anyone noticed. I went ahead and checked. And thank God I did! Or else, my blood sugar may have gone even lower and could have resulted in a trip to the hospital.
And that’s not healthy. Physically or emotionally.
I spoke with one of the meeting participants afterwards and told her about my low. She looked incredibly concerned and told me she hadn’t even noticed. And that’s when I remembered that most people aren’t examining others in the way we may think they do. People tend to be focused on themselves or whatever they’re going through.
So why shouldn’t I be as well?
I’m so happy that I checked my sugar when I did. And I’m proud that I’ve prioritized me.