I heard a woman speak recently about the need to ask for what you want, to ask for the kind of recognition and feedback you need from the people who matter to you. It wasn't a long speech, 3 minutes perhaps, but it really struck me deeply nonetheless. Her point was that it's our responsibility on some level, to bring visibility to the things we need, to ourselves and others. Though people might not always respond to us in the way we want, the most important thing is that we've made our needs known to ourselves, out loud, in the light of day. I like that. I think it makes sense.
So in that spirit, I approached my 22nd anniversary of my diagnosis a little differently this time. Normally I don't tell anyone about it. My husband knows and now, thanks to this blog, I can tell my friends in the diabetes OC and they too understand how significant that is. That is normally enough. And quite frankly, the subject is an awkward one with anyone beyond this forum. I've never exactly known how to say to my friends or family that "today is the anniversary of getting diagnosed with a difficult disease". I imagined that they wouldn't know what to say and everyone would just feel more awkward around an already difficult subject and given the significance of the day, who needs that?
But as I say, I decided to try something different this time, thanks to that little 3 minute talk I heard the other day. I decided to let my brother know the importance of the day even though he's never really engaged with me much around my disease. My brother and I haven't always been super close though he's really important to me and I know we love each other a lot just the same. I was 27 when I was diagnosed and had already lived separately from him for many years. In a weird way he, like the rest of my family really, understands intellectually that I have diabetes, but practically speaking has no idea what that really means. He's never seen me struggle with low blood sugars or curse the inevitable highs. He's never watched me take a blood test thousands of times over or insert a new pump site, or rip one out either. No, my brother really has no reference point as to what the last 22 years have really been about.
My brother lives in another city so I emailed him last Thursday about something else we'd been discussing and then at the end of the note, simply mentioned that today was my 22nd anniversary of my diagnosis of diabetes. I said I was proud of how I'd handled it but sad about the experience too. That was it. I pushed the send button and went off to a day full of meetings. When I returned to my desk around 4:00, to my surprise, a gorgeous bouquet of multi-colored tulips was there to greet me. My brother, who has never been good at remembering birthday's or anniversaries, my brother, who is not demonstrative in that way, did the absolute, perfect thing. He noticed and acted. Because I'd opened up the possibility for him to do so, he did so. Because I let him in on my world, he had the chance to be kind and supportive back. He didn't have to know the details, he just had to know what was important to me.
On the card that accompanied the bouquet there was a note from him saying how proud he was of me for doing so well with this difficult disease. To say that I cried is an understatement. The fact that he understood this and that he felt pride in my approach, meant so much to me. I know it sounds silly, but I really didn't know that he felt that way. We haven't talked about my diabetes much in the past so to find this out, to see it in words and gesture, really made my heart skip. One small act of sharing, allowed for another act that not only made my day better, but also taught me something important about my brother. Even though he hasn't been a part of my day to day struggle, he has noticed in his way. I guess the world isn't always how it appears at first glance. I guess it's worth asking for what you need every once in a while. In this case, it most certainly was!