|The Rev. Dan White with daughter Kelly on her wedding day: After "giving away" the bride, he officiated at the ceremony.|
It's been quite a journey since I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1971. I've had to fill in a lot of potholes along the way.
In the beginning, I used pork-based insulin and sterilized my reusable syringe and needle just as my diabetic grandmother had done. Urine strips were the only self-test available. When blood glucose meters hit the market, I almost passed out when I pricked my finger for the first time. My wife said that I looked like I'd seen a ghost! Now, regular finger sticks are like shaving. It's just something you do.
For years, I hid my diabetes, which I considered a very private medical matter. I would not prick my finger or inject myself in a public place like a restaurant. At school, I always waited until the break room was vacant to slip in, test my glucose, and inject myself before lunch. I never will forget the time my principal stepped in and caught me filling my disposable syringe with quick-acting insulin. "What in the world are you doing?" he asked with alarm. I blushed in shame before explaining that I had diabetes.
I suffered from a people-pleasing disorder that included not wanting to offend anyone with bloody finger pricks. That personality issue made life miserable for me. I was able to get past that problem only after my endocrinologist advised counseling with a psychologist because he thought that I exhibited depressive symptoms. As a pastor and middle school teacher, I was humiliated at the thought of needing to see a therapist. The helper of others needing help wasn't in my DNA.
But I went. With the therapist's counsel and my endocrinologist's support, I came out of the closet and quit worrying about upsetting someone with a little blood from a finger prick. To my surprise and delight, I found nothing but support when I revealed my secret to my classes, fellow faculty members, administrators, and even to the public.
Now, on the first day of school, I show my classes my insulin pump and blood glucose meter. I prick my finger, place the blood on a strip, get the glucose reading, and show how the reading is wirelessly sent to the pump. This fascinates the tech-savvy kids today. Next, I tell them about the possibility that I'll have a hypoglycemic episode, how it affects my personality, and what they can do to help me if I start acting like a drunken man. My students often chime in with their own family stories about diabetes. For my students with diabetes, they know immediately that they have an understanding friend and advocate.
They say confession is good for the soul, and confessing my diabetes to others has been one of the most liberating experiences on my diabetic journey. It has both given me freedom and opened doors to encourage fellow people with diabetes. This gives me a great sense of fulfillment in carrying out my life's calling of helping others along their journeys, too. Having diabetes is nothing to hide. Together, we can fill in some potholes and smooth the road for all of us.
The Rev. Dan White is a pastor, middle school teacher, and freelance writer in Appling, Ga.