I recently watched a documentary film on the PBS series “Independent Lens” called Little White Lie. The film tells Lacey Schwartz's story of growing up in a typical upper-middle-class Jewish household in Woodstock, NY, with loving parents and a strong sense of her Jewish identity — despite the open questions from those around her about how a white girl could have such dark skin. She believes her family's explanation that her looks were inherited from her dark-skinned Sicilian grandfather. At the age of 18 she learns that her she was conceived as a result of an affair and her biological father is an African-American man. The remainder of the film documents her struggle to reconcile the hidden pieces of her life and heal her relationship with the only father she ever knew.
It is an amazing story, but more poignant because of the incredible level of denial--from her family, and herself. She absolutely refused to believe what she saw in the mirror. That things were not as she wanted to believe they were. But she desperately clung to the idea that she was white, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
I see you now. You are shaking your head in disbelief. “How can someone not realize what is as plain as the nose on their face?”
It happens every day. We all hear the statistics--especially as it pertains to disease. Thousands of people with undiagnosed Diabetes. Tough love alert: just because a doctor has not diagnosed an ailment, doesn’t mean that you don’t know there is something wrong with your health. We just ignore the symptoms. Recite after me: blurry vision, weight loss, frequent urination, fatigue… Its no secret. Some are honestly so out of touch with their bodies that they don’t notice that they are feeling bad. The rest of us choose to live in Denial.
Some of us have received the diagnosis, but choose to just keep living the way we have been living. No exercise for me, no sir. And yes, I will have another plate of pasta, don’t hold the cheese. Because to change my lifestyle would be admitting that I have a condition that needs to be managed. I’d rather move to Denial.
And some of us try to make it work. We try to eat right. We try to exercise. We take our medication. But its not enough. We have to try something different. Its fatiguing, expensive and sometimes overwhelming. We continue to engage in the insanity of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Our address is Denial Lane.
News Flash: Denial is not a tropical island. Its not a mansion in an upper crust neighborhood. Its not even a river in Egypt. Its a place, where, if you choose to live there, will eventually cause you much more pain and sorrow than the other place you can live, which is called Reality.
Living with a chronic condition is not fun, not easy and a daily challenge. But ignoring the condition doesn’t make it go away. Groups like Diabetes Sisters offer the kind of support that can help you stay out of Denial and learn coping strategies for a healthier life. Family, friends and colleagues can offer that kind of support as well.
Everyone in Lacey Schwartz universe: family, friends, teachers etc. shared the secret that kept her from discovering who she really was for many years. She now surrounds herself with supportive people who give her strength to embrace her true identity, and honor her upbringing. With the right kind of support, we can all do the same with our diabetes challenges. The first step is acknowledging that the challenges exist, and working toward finding the medicine, exercise and diet that will help us be the best we can be.