CDN Student Advice: When and How to Tell Friends About T1D

Zach, Maddy, Abbey, and Casey

Question:

When you meet someone or first become friends with someone do you tell them you're a diabetic? When do you feel is the appropriate time and way to tell people?

Answers:

Zach:

Great question! Honestly, it depends on how comfortable you are with sharing that you have diabetes. For myself, I don’t usually bring it up immediately, but if I feel like I need to test my blood sugar or if I have to give insulin, I will do it even if I’m in front of a new person. Usually this causes the person to ask what I’m doing, and I will explain to them then that I have diabetes and these are some of the things that I need to do to stay healthy.

Often times I’ve seen my diabetes play out as an icebreaker. By opening myself up to discussion about it, I’ve answered a lot of questions that people have and made some great friends because of it! How you share that you have diabetes is up to you, but if you are worried that they might not want to be your friend because of it, I can say confidently that I haven’t lost a friend because of my diabetes. However, if someone doesn’t want to be friends with you because of diabetes, they probably wouldn’t be a good person to have in your life. It’s more of a loss for them than for you!

Maddy:

Since I have an insulin pump and a CGM, I usually get questions from someone about what's on my arm before the thought of telling them I'm diabetic even pops up in my mind. Usually my response is "Oh this is an insulin pump! I'm a diabetic." After that, we just continue our converstaion. Sometimes someone will ask more questions, which I'm always happy to answer.

I've think telling someone that you have diabetes fairly early into your friendship with them is much easier than being nervous that your pump is going to start beeping or that your blood sugar will get low in front of them without them understanding what’s going on. I think it's natural for people to worry that having diabetes will "embarrass" them in some way in front of people, but I've found those feelings go away if you just share it the first time you need to give yourself insulin or check your blood sugar in front of that person. Just like Zach, I've never met a single person who has not wanted to be my friend because of my diabetes. Having diabetes is just part of what makes you unique, and anyone worthy of being your friend will absolutely understand that. You should never feel nervous about taking care of yourself around them!    

Abbey:

I always tell my friends that I am a diabetic. Usually it comes up naturally in the conversation! Either they see me drinking a juice box because my blood sugar is low and give me a funny look and I explain. Or they see my pump and ask questions.

Personally, I like my potential new friends to know as soon as possible because I feel safer. If anything were to happen, they would know that I was a diabetic and make sure I get the proper help. Also, most of my friends have been willing to learn about glucagon. It's up to you when to tell people, but the more people that know, the safer you will be!

Casey:

I think the questions that you asked are really important because sometimes a fear of discussing your diabetes with others can lead to less active management and diabetes control. Also, this question is unfortunately seldom discussed. Often times endocrinologists do a great job of helping diabetics navigate the ins and outs of treating diabetes, but leave us to navigate the social implications of the condition on our own. Before answering your questions, it is so important to remember that your diabetes is nothing to be ashamed of, and it actually sets you apart from others in a good way!

Turning to your first question, my rule of thumb about when I decide to tell someone about my diabetes is, if I had some sort of incident right now, would someone nearby know why it happened? Although it can be tough at times to talk to people about diabetes, and the potential negative reactions, I have made the personal decision that I want to have an ally around if something were to happen. That is a question that you will have to ask yourself, and perhaps it is worth your time to develop your own rule of thumb.

In regards to your second question, I would encourage you to identify how you most naturally address tough situations in your life usually, and then apply that to telling someone else about your condition. For example, I really enjoy humor, so when I am telling someone else about my pump or CGM, I usually make a joke about it being an ancient MP3 player or the fact that I am part machine like the terminator. Just find whatever works for you, and don’t be afraid to apply that to this situation. Best of luck!

Editors note: Have a question about diabetes but don't know who to ask? Submit an anonymous question here and you may have your question answered by our columnists on our blog!

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