I recently had a moment when the gulf between me as a type 1 diabetic and someone else as a non-diabetic widened significantly.
A coworker started trying to figure out a food alternative for me. She'd planned on pizza for a staff lunch, and I told her I couldn't eat delivery pizza and would just go pick something up for myself. (Pizza isn't on some diabetic no-no list, but it's a tough food that doesn't work out for me.) She immediately said, "Well, what can you eat?"
Enter another complication: my own fear of being an imposition. I'm pretty much never going to say, "Let's get such-and-such food instead of pizza," in a situation like this, so I ventured, "Where are you ordering from? I can look at their online menu and see if they have something like a good salad."
But she had no clue where she'd order the pizza from yet, and really just sought after a more general answer that would basically let her order like, "Hi, random pizza joint I picked about 5 seconds ago? I'd like three pizzas, and do you have any salads? OK, yeah, send a salad."
So I explained, "Well... it's just that I have to know what I'm getting, because I have to know how many carbs are in it."
So she asked again, "Well, what can you eat?" And I think, fine, I'll give you a shot. And I attempted to explain what, to me, has become a subtle and mostly quick process...
"There are a lot of factors, but it helps if it's not both high carb and high fat. It's even better if it's not either." Already her eyes started to glaze, probably from trying to think of convenient foods that are neither high carb or high fat. "But the most important thing is that I know how many carbs are in what I'm eating, so I have to be able to either look up the nutrition or order something simple enough that I can make a really good guess based on the portion size."
Her eyes glazed further, and I knew it was time to stop. She was staring at me across this great gulf of diabetes management that suddenly made me feel rather... separate and different. I don't really expect others to know what my food and insulin involve, but I also didn't expect someone to look utterly at a loss when told the basics. (And, honestly, I also wonder if she thought I was intentionally being difficult.) So I let her off the hook (the hook she'd asked for!) with, "I can eat almost anywhere. If you just tell me where the pizza's coming from, I can pick something else off the menu."
But she backed off of that hook even further with, "Why don't you just go pick something up?" To which I gladly agreed.
The fact that this woman knew I'm diabetic and had eaten meals (which includes testing and bolusing) with me before yet seemed baffled by the simplest explanation of how I choose my food reminded me that, when I was first learning this stuff, I was so impressed by the people with T1 diabetes that I've known; they made all that stuff look so easy! But the truth is that they'd simply incorporated it into their lives. The decisions and calculations that were so new and awkward to me were just a part of their routine, so I had no idea how much went into them. Had they started explaining everything to me (before it applied to me), maybe I'd have glazed over.
As I've said many times, diabetes management is doable. I can do it, and you can do it if you have to (and I know some of you do!). But it's still complicated and difficult, and even those people who make it look easy have a hard time of it once in a while.
(I wonder how my coworker would have reacted if I'd mentioned fast-acting carbs vs. slow-acting. Her head might have exploded right then and there!)