When I think of etiquette, the dining room scenes from Downton Abbey and flashbacks of my cotillion days are what come to mind. I was taught to be polite for other people's’ sake. When we’re young, we’re taught not to pick our noses or cough without covering our mouths or anything else gross in public. Making other people comfortable is what politeness is all about. Humans like structure and rules because it’s comforting to know how those around us will act, which is a completely rational evolutionary trait.
But the world is not the dining room table at Downton Abbey. People with diabetes require exceptions to rules to stay alive. A lot of times, quick and immediate action is necessary to avoid a life-threatening situation. Sometimes you can’t leave the room just to check your blood sugar. And the stares from strangers or even relatives can be discouraging. But remember that you are the priority in that case, not the other person’s feelings. You have the right to remove yourself from a toxic situation that is not conducive to your wellbeing.
The best way to deal with harsh comments or staring is to confront it with the goal of educating the other person about diabetes. First, recognize that they are feeling uncomfortable, but then remind them that what you are doing is necessary: “I have to give myself shots to stay alive, and if that means doing it here and now, that’s what I have to do. I’m sorry if it makes you uncomfortable. You can look away if you can’t handle it.”
I’ve known someone who had to say this to her own roommate multiple times before it sank in. I have had to say this to friends, too. Every person with diabetes has been in this spot. It’s something that we shouldn't have to deal with, but the more we deal with it, the less frequently it will happen.
So, diabetes etiquette doesn’t exist. It’s not your job to make other people comfortable if it’s detrimental to your health. Remember: you’re the one taking a needle to the leg. Their pancreases work. Do what you need to do.