Years ago, before I had children, I was a busy working girl as a department store manager at Saks Fifth Avenue. I was drawn to the job because of the glamour and the expensive clothes and ended up working in retail for almost 10 years. After several years with Saks Fifth Avenue, I started to get restless and wanted to have more money. Saks wasn't offering a high enough salary, so I quit and went to work for Banana Republic. Working as a department store manager at Saks, I was on my feet for most of the day, carrying boxes and stacks of clothes or moving display equipment. I liked the physical part of the work, but I also liked that at Saks, I could retreat to my dark office in the storage room and test my blood sugar or have a snack when I was low. Whereas at Banana Republic, I quickly discovered that I was expected to always be "on the floor."
On a Sunday morning, during my training period at Banana Republic, I met with my new coworkers to redesign the layout of the store for the winter collection. Lifting, moving, folding, and climbing on ladders, I quickly started to get low. I wanted to prove myself in front of this new crew and so I kept quiet, figuring we'd stop for a break shortly. However, we never stopped for a break, and I began to stumble around the store. I hadn't told anyone that I had diabetes. I remember one of the managers attempted to give me directions; I began mumbling, unable to make any sense. He was looking at me funnily and in my head, I was telling myself to "Go get sugar!" My vision started to flash and I felt like I was falling, but something prevented me from asking for help or from helping myself. Finally, I stumbled away, pretending I had to go to the bathroom. Then, I searched through my purse for some sugar, which I ate in private, feeling ashamed and stupid.
Looking back, I wonder how many times I've made situations much worse than they needed to be because of my pride or my shame about diabetes. I realize now that it would have not been a big deal that day to be upfront about needing certain accommodations, but I was unable to ask for help or reveal myself as being needy; because to me, being needy was a horrible sign of weakness.
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