Living with diabetes is not always a solo exercise. At times, I wonder how it impacts on those around me. I asked my friend and colleague Michael about this last week. We work together every day and while we rarely (if ever) talk about my life with diabetes, he does see me managing things the way I do. These are his thoughts….

Michael. Sans hat.

Michael. Sans hat.

As a Director at Diabetes Australia – Vic, I have to deal with many different types of relationships, each requiring one of my many hats. (Ed. note: It’s true – he does wear hats around the office. Literally.) I work in an office dominated by very smart women and often find myself putting my foot in my mouth more than once or twice a day. This is no exception with Renza. (Ed. note: Yep!) Renza is a good friend, and the only real friend I have who is living with a chronic health condition. Throughout the life of our three year friendship (is that how long I have been working here?!) I have often found it difficult to decide on the appropriate level of support she needs from me.

I believe in natural justice – when something is wrong, all my sympathetic, problem-solving (buffoon male) triggers start coming alive. There have been times when I know Renza is hypo and I literally have to stop myself in my tracks to think, ‘Is that what she really wants, my sympathy?’ And the answer is no. Renza is a strong and confident woman who can handle anything that comes her way and she needs my sympathy about as much as she needs a bag of old potatoes.

What I have to remember is that, like many other people living with diabetes, Renza benefits more from my empathy than anything else. Simple understanding and acknowledgement of her condition rather than a patronising helping hand or, even worse, the use of apathy as a scapegoat. Yes, sometimes it’s easier to just outright ignore a topic to avoid your own inner anguish, but that’s just counterproductive (and pathetic)! Sometimes, asking a simple ‘Are you okay today?’ is all it takes.

As a friend of someone with diabetes, I know that diabetes is not a topic to be ignored or to be scared of. Yes, diabetes is a very real and serious. It should be recognised as such, but, at the same time, for Renza it is very manageable. I know this because in my friend is in control of her diabetes – there has never been a day when diabetes has controlled my friend.

Thanks, MG! You can read more from Michael over at the DA-Vic blog. That’s pretty much exactly how I hoped that I come across to others about my attitude towards living with diabetes. So, how do you think others see what your life with diabetes is all about?