Shine When Others are Counting on you

I try to not spend too much dwelling on the past because I understand that my experiences, good and bad, have led to who I am and the life that I have. I believe that challenges make us stronger and help us become more successful in life. With this said, twice I have come up short for opportunities that I believe were for me. But, I didn’t get them and I only have myself to blame. I made two crucial mistakes and I hope that we can all learn from them whether you are interviewing for a job, trying out for a sports team, or asserting yourself as a leader.

So what did I do wrong? First, I was too honest. Yes, I said it. I was too honest about the skills I would have to develop if offered the position and that was a foolish decision. I elaborated on my areas of weakness instead of only focusing on what I’ve done and most importantly, what I can do.

I am aware of my strengths and thought that the interviewer would agree that my abilities greatly outweigh my weaknesses. I was so confident that my perspective was shared that I conceded that my competitor had certain advantages that I do not have because they didn’t seem significant. It was a foolish decision because the people who were offered the positions grossly exaggerated their abilities and accomplishments, while I was simply being honest.

But, it is not that I missed out on what I thought were perfect roles for me that bothers me most, it is that these are leadership positions and many people have been negatively impacted by the outcome. I am not advocating that you should lie to assert yourself, but you should assume that another candidate is at least, exaggerating the truth. If the position is a perfect fit for you, if you have worked hard to get it, and if others will be impacted by the outcome, it is your responsibility to shine. Others are counting on you.

I have been told more than once “if you don’t like the conversation, change it.” When asked about my weaknesses I should have immediately changed the conversation to discussing my strengths and how I am going to help the company resolve their weaknesses.

Finally, the biggest mistake that I made was I doubted myself. I underestimated my experiences, my abilities, and my determination to overcome challenges. Never again! Please learn from my experiences and do not allow your inexperience in a certain area be the focus of the conversation. You have too much to offer to focus on what you have not yet done.

We all have challenges that we have taken on and overcome. I encourage you to use your challenge as motivation and examples of your strength. My daily challenge is diabetes and it has been for the past 24 years. Successfully living with diabetes has taught me that there is no challenge too large to overcome. In the future, the next time I am asked about my weaknesses or inexperience, my answer will focus on how I overcome the daily challenges of diabetes, how diabetes helped make me a more successful person by requiring me to perform every single day, how diabetes has made me a stronger person by pushing me to my limits, and how diabetes is my unique advantage that cannot be matched. Next time I will shine when others are counting on me! I promise.

Why I’m So Angry!

My mom recently said “honey, you sound a bit angry in that article.” Well, I am angry! I am a passionate person and really care for people who have diabetes. I know what it is like to fight a stubborn high blood sugar all evening and to finally have your blood sugar come crashing down the minute you lay your head on your pillow. I know what it is like to feel embarrassed about having diabetes and to celebrate at your junior high graduation because this means a fresh start where people in high school will not know that you have diabetes. And, I know what it is like to get anxiety every time you go to a doctor’s appointment because you are going to be criticized about your blood sugars and threatened with a future without legs and eyesight if this continues.

Now, I am (mostly) not angry for myself. Rather, I am (mostly) angry for everyone else who has diabetes, especially for those who allow it to hold them back. I am angry for those who are working to find their voice, but haven’t found it yet and allow others to speak over them. I am angry for those who feel embarrassed about having diabetes because someone used their name and diabetes in a joke. I am angry for those who who are holding back on their dreams because someone along the way doubted that they could do it because of their diabetes. And, I am angry for those who have placed a high value in the opinion of others, who go to great lengths just to prove that diabetes does not make them different, while failing to realize that diabetes has actually made them stronger.

So, am I angry? Hell yeah, I’m angry. But, I’m mostly angry for you, and just a little angry when I allow diabetes to hold me back, when I allow others to speak over me, when I am embarrassed to pull out my needles and check my blood sugar in public, when I give credit to people who doubt me, and I am most angry when my goal is to blend in with the crowd instead of being proud of all of my hard work and accomplishments.

Other than that, I am a really happy person!

The Diabetes 2-Second Rule

Many of us bite our tongue. We let a comment go in one ear and out the other. We pretend that we did not hear your insulting comment or joke. But we did. So often we hear comments that range from genuine concern, to ignorance, to flat-out selfish remarks and it is important that we respond. Let’s address some of these comments and when to respond.

First, the genuine concern comment.”Should he really be eating that?” Let me start off by saying that I appreciate your concern. But, let me ask you, should you really be eating that yogurt parfait that has 55g of sugar and the Venti Caramel Frappuccino that has 81g of sugar? Probably not. We all eat things that we probably shouldn’t. It is true that certain foods such as pizza and candy are hard to match-up with the correct amount of insulin, but in moderation, people who have type 1 diabetes can eat anything that they would like. (You may also read my previous article can-you-dont-ask).

Next, the ignorant comment. “If he would just do what he is supposed to do then he would be in better control.” Really? You think it is that easy? How many times as a child did a parent or teacher tell you to just do what you are told? If you were like me as a child, the answer is more than you can count. The fact is that diabetes is with us 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Even if our blood sugars fall within target range 90% of the time (remember 90% on a test is an “A”) many still have a tendency to focus on the other 10% of our blood sugars (the out of range numbers), which leads to ignorant comments about “doing what he is supposed to do..” Managing diabetes is really hard and instead of focusing on the percentage of our day that is spent out of target range, I think it is much more helpful to focus on the percentage of our day that a teacher would give us an “A” grade for and think of ways to do that more often.

And finally, the flat-out selfish comment. “I understand that he needs to check his blood sugar, I just think he should do that in private or in the nurse’s office.” In response to this comment my first reaction is to say “I am sorry if my diabetes makes you uncomfortable..” But, that is a complete lie and is simply the politically correct thing to say. My real internal response to this is “how dare you! If my diabetes makes you feel uncomfortable in any way then I think you should be the one heading to a physician’s office to help you deal with your insecurities. I am NOT sorry! Living with diabetes has caused me enough stress in my life and I don’t need the added stress of worrying about if you are comfortable with when and where I check my blood sugar.”

The next time you are offended by a comment that someone makes about your diabetes, here is what I would suggest you do. If the comment causes more than 2 seconds of internal frustration or thought, then you should address it and make sure that the other person knows that it offended you and it was not helpful. We do not need the added stress. If their comment “bounces” right off of you and you do not internalize their negativity, then I would simply carry on with your day because addressing their comment will slow you down and prevent you from taking on more important things.

I know it can be challenging, but try to not internalize the negativity of others. If you feel their negativity is impacting you, address it. Keep out the negativity and put it right back with them, where it came from.

 

How to Not Become Perfect

Managing diabetes is a skill. It takes practice, focus, patience, and time to improve. But, as much as you will improve, chances are that you will never be perfect. There are simply too many variables such as pump site failures, not rapid enough insulin, and misleading food labels that are working against you.  Perfect diabetes management is an unrealistic goal that will leave you disappointed quite often. Rather, I think it is more helpful to focus on problem solving and learning how to achieve in range blood sugars more often than not.

By focusing on problem solving and how to get consistent blood sugars you will be a much more positive person because your focus is forward thinking, instead of dwelling on the unchangeable past. So many of us spend too much time beating ourselves up over what went wrong. “My blood sugar is 300, I  shouldn’t have had that piece of cake!”

Instead, I think it is much more productive to focus on what you are going to do going forward. “Okay, my blood sugar is 300 because I do not have enough insulin on board. Let’s give myself 2 more units of insulin, drink some water, and check in an hour to see if I am back in range.” By focusing on finding a solution you will much more quickly solve your problem and learn what to do better next time you decide to eat a piece of cake.

Additionally, according to Forbes, problem solving skills and the ability to make decisions are two of the most desired skills organizations look for in graduates.

If you have diabetes I encourage you to list these skills on your resume.

  • Creative problem solver
  • Results Oriented Performer
  • Goal Focused Individual
  • AND, DIABETES MANAGEMENT

Yes, list DIABETES MANAGEMENT in capital letters because you want people to notice it and ask why you listed DIABETES MANAGEMENT as a skill. This is your opportunity to explain how living with diabetes has taught you discipline, how to prepare your mind and body to be a top performer, how to overcome challenges and adversity, how you have learned to be a forward thinking creative problem solver, how you are required to be a high achiever of blood sugars 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, how you have learned the value of regular goal setting to stay focused, and how living with diabetes is a skill that has made you a stronger person.

Diabetes is an advantage! We just need to make others see it that way.

 

 

A Diabetes Timeout

We don’t look like we have diabetes. We don’t act like we have diabetes. And, we don’t talk like we have diabetes. In fact, often the only way of knowing that we have diabetes is if we tell you. But, don’t let our strong  appearance and positive attitude confuse you. Having diabetes can be overwhelming and I believe, deserving of regular timeouts.

A timeout to exercise to help lower our blood sugar when insulin is not working quickly enough. A timeout to relax after an up and down blood sugar trip. And most importantly, a timeout to just focus on us when having diabetes and the demands of life are just too much.

It is hard to admit that I at times feel overwhelmed by diabetes because of fear of letting people down. Some may question my strength and ability to overcome adversity. Whatever. I know  my strength and ability. And I know that I can handle it all, I just need to go at my own pace.

But, let me be clear, diabetes by itself is not overwhelming. It is going to school, playing sports, doing homework, working, meeting deadlines, parenting, etc., while living with diabetes that is overwhelming at times.

Quite often a parent with a child living with diabetes will ask me “my child right now just does not want to do the work to keep their blood sugar in range. What should I do?”

My answer, give them a diabetes timeout. Since having diabetes is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week commitment that can have severe negative consequences if we neglect checking our blood sugar and taking insulin, we just cannot choose to not take care of ourselves. But, we can choose to take a diabetes timeout from many of the other demands in our life without severe consequence. We can temporarily lower our commitments and expectations outside of diabetes allowing us to take care of what is most important, our health.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and in need of a diabetes timeout, I would suggest taking a few days off from school or work, missing a couple baseball practices or games, turning in your homework late or missing a deadline at work. Yes, you may get a lower grade in the class, miss out on making the all-star team, or get passed over for the promotion at work. But, I think years from now you’ll be happy that you chose to focus on you! I know I am.

When to Be Offensive!

This past weekend I met over 30 families who have a child living with diabetes at a camp in the mountains. It was a lot of fun and my favorite part was seeing the children take out their insulin pumps, needles, and glucometers without giving any thought to who else was around or where they were. They just did what they needed to do. For many, diabetes camp is the only time of the year where these children feel “normal” because all of their peers share a diabetes connection and understanding. Camp is amazing!

Prior to going to camp, I spoke with a young girl and she casually said “you know, having diabetes is embarrassing so I usually don’t tell people that I have it.” She said it as if feeling embarrassed about having diabetes is a just a fact of “our” life and we just have to deal with it. I let her finish her thought and quickly replied “I have to tell you my one wish for people who have diabetes. My wish is that people do not feel the way that I often felt when I was younger, which was feeling embarrassed about having diabetes. Having diabetes is nothing to be embarrassed about. There is nothing that you did to get diabetes. In fact, having diabetes is something that should be celebrated. People who have diabetes are some of the strongest and brightest people who you will meet. We are not “different”, we are interesting, high functioning, smart, reliable, determined, strong, and resilient.”

How many times have you overheard someone (who does not have diabetes) complain about needing to get their YEARLY flu shot or ask you if it hurts when you prick your finger? Make sure that they know that our 4-15 blood sugar checks that we do each day are with the the smaller of our daily needles. And tell them, “you don’t need to ask…Yes, it hurts, darn near every time. In fact, diabetes hurts, but 99% of the time we do it without complaint. WE ARE STRONG!”

It makes me sad and angry that people feel embarrassed about having diabetes. My hope is that people do not feel the need to go to the bathroom to give a shot. That they do not hide their glucometer under the table at a restaurant to”‘discretely” check their blood sugar. Why do we have to be discrete? How did the word “discrete” become a positive term? It is offensive! Put the glucometer on the table and let people see the blood. Pull out your syringe and show people that you are not afraid of a needle! Do not let the opinion of others drown out your own inner voice. We do not need to walk around on “egg-shells” trying not to offend anyone with our needles and blood. Like it or not, this is our daily life. If you are offended, you can look the other way. I am staying right here!

I’ll admit it, I am still afraid of needles and always get a second of anxiety just before I press the “inject” button on my pump set and lancet. But, just like all of you, I rise to each challenge and it is time that we let the world know that checking our blood sugar under the table, or going to the bathroom to give a shot, does not make it hurt any less. In fact, it hurts all of us more!

Next time you check you blood sugar in public I hope that you are able to stay in your seat and put your glucometer on top of the table!

The Disgraceful Diabetes Sellout

I’ve met a few diabetes sellouts in my life and there is nothing that frustrates me more. I’ve always been an advocate of using diabetes as an advantage instead of allowing it to work against you. But, when you use your diabetes advantage as a selfish way to get what you want without considering the impact on others who have diabetes, then you are a diabetes sellout. Let me give you an example.

In a previous life, I worked with a guy who had a lot of people under his influence, many of whom have diabetes. He also has a very personal connection to diabetes. Working for a diabetes company, he sounds like someone who would be perfect for this type of position because he has the personal connection, passion, and you would assume he would want to help the diabetes community.

After work one day we were having a drink and I asked him “what other aspirations do you have for ways to help people who have diabetes?” His response, “honestly, the only people that I care about is my family and making sure that I am able to afford everything that they want. Maybe there will be a point in my life where I have time to help others, but right now I only care about my family.”

I was shocked and very upset. First of all, this person was making significantly more money than me and if he is having trouble affording everything that his family wants then I don’t think he ever will. Second, helping others who have diabetes does not require money, it simply requires compassion and thought. Two things that any of us can afford and make time for. Sorry, I’m not buying it!

Just to be clear, I strongly encourage people to use diabetes as their advantage in all aspects of life, whether you are seeking employment, running a marathon, or learning a new skill. But, I do think there are some rules. Such as, if you are seeking a position in the diabetes community that has the ability to impact people who have diabetes, you must care about more than just improving your situation. You must truly care about others who have diabetes and want them to do great things. If not, you are a diabetes sellout and need to work in a different industry.

This person used others living with diabetes to his advantage when it was convenient for him, but then turned his back on the people who he spoke so highly of when he interviewed for the job. He turned his back on us when he got everything that he wanted, and when it was time to lift us up with him, he used us as a stepping stool to get higher. He is a diabetes sellout.

In the end, the diabetes sellout was fired not long after making these rude comments. I hope he knows a good repair man because the bridges he burnt will be tough to repair.