No diabetes day is more memorable for me (apart from the day I was diagnosed) than the day (or night) I publicly declared “I am diabetic.”
Before that night, no one except my husband, my father and my brothers knew. If anyone noticed that I was no longer a sugar fiend and was leaving rice on my sushi plate, I say “I’m on a diet.” A few non-Japanese friends tried to convince me that I did not need to diet and that the Atkins diet was dangerous (ignoring my assurances that I was not on Atkins). But most people pretty much left me alone.
There was hardly any reason to mention my diabetes to anyone. Being in Tokyo, I do not find it all that challenging to eat. If I go to house parties and expect the host to serve only pasta, pizza and sugar-filled pies (and that has happened only maybe twice), I eat something at home and ask my husband to volunteer a dish. Luckily, my husband is a good cook, so everyone welcomes his contribution. Once at a small dinner party, my husband was asked to cook pasta sauce. We managed to fill my plate with shirataki “pasta” noodles. Hahahaha. No one knew. Aren’t I sneaky?
Eating out is also not a major issue. Almost all restaurants offer something that I can eat. With a few exceptions, the Japanese love their fish, meat and vegetables (not necessarily in that order) as much as they do rice and noodles. Hence, I never worried about going out with friends. That is, until friends decided to celebrate their anniversary at a pizzeria.
Had they selected an Italian restaurant, I would have been fine because there will always be non-pasta and non-pizza dishes I can order. But a pizza place? I did not expect to find anything but pizzas. To add to my worries, everyone was to share dishes. Consequently, before I signed up for the party, I asked whether there will be other food. Yup, pasta. Uh-oh! But one of them is Japanese, so of course salads, sausages and ham (as appetizers) were on the party menu. That was a relief.
At the party, they asked me why this sudden concern for food. Since it was their party and I chose to go, I thought they deserved an explanation. My husband nudged me to just tell them the truth. So, I did.
“I am diabetic.”
Silence. For a few seconds.
Then, our hostess said “Tell me what you can eat.” I had a large plate of appetizers to myself. ☺
My “coming out” was painless. She and the other guests asked me questions, the first of which was “Can we ask you questions?” They wanted to know what type of diabetes I have, whether I use insulin, what I can or cannot eat or drink, how I was doing and feeling, whether I have complications, how long I’ve had it and other things. They were all interested and concerned. Even those I have met that evening for the first time.
No one offered me “expert advice” on diabetes. No one tempted me with “Have a bite of pizza. It won’t hurt you.” No one asked me how I developed diabetes. No one told me stories of their friend’s boyfriend’s mother’s great granddaddy’s diabetes, kidney failure or foot amputation. I could not have chosen a better group to come out to.
“I am diabetic.”
I could not believe I actually said it to non-family members. It was a relief. It was liberating. It was life-changing. Finally, I had accepted my diabetes and was ready to face it head-on.
Now, about three years later, I’m openly writing about my experiences as a T2 diabetic. Who would have thought?