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I Heart Diabetics (?)

August 12, 2011

Bearskin Meadow Camp produces and sells some wildly popular diabetes swag.  For instance, I scored myself three coffee mugs that say “Don’t Talk To Me Until I’ve Hd My Insulin” (how well this sums up my life these days…) Top of the list of Bearskin merch, however, are a series of sweatshirts and Ts with the copyrighted slogan: I Heart Diabetics. (Think “I ❤ New York.” Same thing.)

When I was dropped off at camp some nine weeks ago, the very first person I met (my boss) was wearing one such sweatshirt.  I thought it was cute, but kinda odd.

Why “heart” diabetics?  Why not “heart” all people?  Certainly I didn’t think diabetics deserve our love more than any other people.  I don’t especially love people just because they’re diabetic (although I sure am grateful to meet them).   And I wouldn’t go so far as to say “I Heart Diabetes” (especially not today, when it was all I could do to choke back tears while explaining to my parents how hard it is to NOT litter their house with test strips. I felt pissed off and angry at the world for not understanding.  It’s especially hard when my parents, who granted never had to manage my disease, prove how little they know about diabetes management. It’s not your fault mom. But man, I miss being in a diabetic bubble).

Back to the sweatshirt. When I first saw it, I figured that the message was meant to make the younger kids feel warm and fuzzy, and left it at that.

Then I got immersed in the Bearskin cult.  (Read: mountains. dirt. altitude. diabetes. kids. dancing. laughing. singing. romance. silliness. bubble. magic.)  Diabetes became my world (like it wasn’t before, right?).  Diabetes became something to laugh about, to joke about with one another, to incessantly discuss and endlessly support each other on.  When they came out with an “I Heart Diabetics” sweatshirt in my colour (brown) a month ago, I bought one.

It’s one thing to strut around diabetes camp wearing diabetic swag.  It’s another to be in the real world, trying to pimp your disease like it’s the next Justin Bieber record.  I wore my brown sweatshirt home on my 25-hr journey from the Sequoias to Fresno, Fresno to SFO, SFO to Chicago and Chicago to Montreal.  It was my first time “real-worlding” the diabetic pride thang.  Like my gay and lesbian friends who sew their pride colours on their backpacks and stick them on their front doors.

It was while schlepping through Chicago O’Hare though, that the true power of my diabetes sweatshirt kicked in. Somewhere on my way to Terminal 2, someone passed me and said “NICE sweatshirt!”  It was a cute boy, my age-ish, and he was beaming.  I beamed back, and on we both pummeled towards our respective gates.

He was probably a diabetic.  And I was probably making his day.  He was probably, for that one brief moment of seeing my sweatshirt, flooded with the same relief and love that I’ve felt the past nine weeks of being in a diabetic bubble: SOMEONE ELSE GETS IT.

And so now I “get” the sweatshirt message too.  It’s not about “hearting” one group of people more than another, or loving a group of people because of their disease, or even suggesting that diabetes is hip and cool (let’s face it: it’s crappy and annoying, but could be damn worse).  It’s about reaching out and saying We Get It.  We are in it together, and we’re not alone.

And that’s perhaps been the greatest gift I’ve received all summer.  One I’m still deeply processing, and am bursting with gratitude for.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 12, 2011 8:57 pm

    I heart this.

    How can I get one of those coffee mugs? I kind of want one, desperately.

    • August 12, 2011 9:02 pm

      well, Ilana, you can contact the Diabetic Youth Foundation (www.dyf.org) and see if they’ll mail one to you. TOTES worth the shipping costs.

      Or better yet, you can come visit me REGULARLY in Kitchener (I will be living a block from the GO train…) and I will make you coffee in one of those mugs. SERIOUSLY, LET’S BECOME BETTER FRIENDS!!! Diabetes man, it’s the shiz that brings folks closer.

  2. August 12, 2011 9:06 pm

    I definitely will have to come visit! Hey, I don’t know if you are anywhere near Toronto this coming week, but Kelly from the Diabetesaliciousness blog is coming into town and has been talking about hosting a D-meetup on the Wednesday or Thursday. If you’re interested I can forward you the final details when they come.

    • August 12, 2011 9:24 pm

      oh, no, not in TO this week. But in general I would love to stay updated about this stuff, so do forward info along like this. I’m totes hoping to get connected in the Southern Ontario Type 1 scene (aka the coolest scene EVER, booyeah). And yes, I will expect you to visit (but I will no doubt make many escapes to the big city, especially in my first months there…).

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