Should You Lose Your Mind Over That Dumb Comment? A Handy Flowchart.

Para leer este post en Español, haga clic aqui.

My father is an Irishman and he is full of strange, whimsical sayings that sound incredibly wise either because they are, or because hearing them said in his Southern Irish lilt just makes them sound that way. Surely it’s some combination of the two.

“People love to wonder, don’t they?” is his default response to hearing about gossip. “Well, let them wonder.”

People do love to wonder, mostly about what other people are doing and the myriad of ways in which they are living. It’s an international sport, in fact. The sad part is that wondering is often just comparison (that silly thief of joy) in its early, more innocuous stage. Another thing that people love to do, which often occurs after wondering, is make unwelcome comments. And why not? You can do it anywhere! About anything! You can comment on how Nancy is raising her children, you can comment on the diet that Javi just started, you can comment on the state of Jenny’s new apartment and you can even comment on how your best friend Bob just isn’t living up to his potential—how sad! See? Nothing is off limits! Naturally, then, a chronic illness is fair game. I wish I’d had a handbook as a teenager and even in my early twenties about how to deal with people who say dumb things re: diabetes. Would I have listened to it? Not sure. Handbooks aren’t really my thing but I think in this particular case a bit of reductive how-to may have served me well.

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Como Enfrentarse a “Los Comentarios”

Mi padre es irlandés y tiene un amplio repertorio de sabios refranes. Sonarán así porque lo son o porque escucharlos en su acento irlandés sureño hace que suenen de manera peculiar. Seguramente será una combinación de ambas cosas.

Mi padre dice muchas veces “a la gente le encanta opinar, no?” refiriéndose al cotilleo. “Pues déjales que opinen,” afirma en tono jocoso.

Pues sí, a la gente le encanta opinar, especialmente sobre lo que hacen y como viven los demás. De hecho, es un deporte internacional. Lo que a mí  me resulta un poco triste es que las opiniones radican en una comparación y la comparación, ya sabemos, es el ladrón de la felicidad. Así se podría decir que las opiniones son su forma más innocua. Otra cosa que a la gente le encanta es hacer comentarios desagradables. ¿Y porque no? ¡Se pueden hacer en cualquier lugar, sobre cualquier cosa! Se puede comentar sobre la manera que tiene una madre de criar a sus niños, sobre la dieta que acaba de empezar Javi, sobre el estado o aspecto del piso nuevo de María o incluso sobre el hecho de que tu amigo Bob no esté alcanzado su potencial en la vida—¡qué triste! ¿No ves? No hay nada fuera de juego. Está claro que una enfermedad crónica también es objeto de crítica.

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Oliver Sacks and Spanish Social Security

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A bald man wearing a lanyard slaps a “Donate Blood!” sticker onto my right breast. Headphones in, hands sweaty, and my music turned up, I flash him the “A-OK!” symbol and scurry into the health center. His mouth is moving but all I hear are electric guitars.

I am twenty-five and I have lived with Type 1 Diabetes for seventeen years. Today I am using the national health system in Spain, where I live and work, for the first time. I am more terrified than any human adult should be. I’m afraid that the woman at the front desk will kick me and my American accent out. I’m afraid that, if I am allowed to see a doctor, she will tell me that I must sell my soul in exchange for insulin and test strips.

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Nervios en El Centro de Salud

Un hombre calvo con un cordel colgado a su grueso cuello pega una pegatina en mi teta derecha que pone “Dona Sangre!”. Llevo mis auriculares puestos, mis manos están sudadas, y mi música a tope, le muestro el símbolo de “OK!” y entro corriendo al centro de salud. Su boca aún sigue gesticulado pero yo solo escucho guitarras eléctricas.

Tengo 25 años y he vivido con diabetes tipo 1 desde hace 17 años. Hoy estoy acudiendo por primera vez al centro de salud de mi barrio en España, donde vivo y trabajo. Tengo más miedo que siete viejas. Temo que la administrativa nos eche a mí y a mi acento americano. Temo que, si me dejan ver un médico, me dirá que tengo que vender mi alma al diablo a cambio de insulina y tiras reactivas.

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Dancing Through my Diaversary

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In August of 1998, you would have found me in the back seat of my parents’ white Chevrolet Celebrity, en route to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. I was 30 minutes away from being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, 15 miles away from practicing insulin injections on fresh Florida oranges, four words away from a different life. Your daughter has diabetes, they said. Today when I attempt to reflect on this, 18 years now gone by, I think exclusively of a line from Kanye West’s 2005 hit “Gold Digger” which refers to the moment in which a man discovers that his kid ain’t his. The line is this one:

18 years, 18 years
And on her 18th birthday he found out it wasn’t his!

I don’t want to dig too deep today.

So I’ll just say this:

It’s been real, diabetes. You’re an adult now.  If someone were to show up at my door today and say, whoops, we made a mistake, this disease isn’t yours! I wouldn’t mind. Not at all. But they won’t. And that’s alright. It’s been eighteen years and I’m still healthy and I’m still dancing (poorly, strangely, unabashedly—but dancing nonetheless). If the only thing that comes to my mind today is a wildly unrelated Kanye lyric, I suppose I’m pretty #BLESSED.

18 años con DM1

Si volamos durante un momento al mes de Agosto de 1998, me encontraréis sentada en el asiento trasero del Chevrolet blanco de mis padres, camino al Children’s Hospital de Filadelfia. Allí fue donde me diagnosticaron diabetes tipo 1 y donde pasé unos cuantos días, con mis dedos inexpertos, pinchando la piel fresca de una naranja con una jeringuilla de insulina a modo de entrenamiento.

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A Really Formal (Re)Introduction.

Para leer este post en Espanol, haga clic aquí.

Seven (!) years have gone by since I last wrote in what was at the time known as The Diabetes Blogosphere (do they still call it that? I don’t know anything).

So who am I? Here’s the short story: I’m half-American, half-Irish and, after living in Spain for quite some time, 100% confused. So although I’ve titled this corner of the internet A Diabetic Abroad, this particular abroad—Spain—is now more like a second home for me than anything else. It’s the place where my twenties are happening, after all. But anyway let’s not get too technical about it; I will never flip a tortilla de patatas with the ease of a true Spaniard.

So, why am I back on the bandwagon? I have many reasons, but let’s discuss 3 of them.

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