Food personality Paula Deen revealed she has Type II diabetes earlier this week. This wouldn’t seem like such a big deal, except she’s built a cooking empire with recipes that are dripping with butter, sugar and carbs.
I’ve tried a couple. Yummy — but not the healthiest, especially for a diabetic.
And she’s known about her illness for about 3 years now but chose not to disclose it or change her style of cooking to be a little more … light and balanced, shall we say.
Now she’s getting paid a buttload of money to be the spokesperson for diabetes medication. Reports say something like $10 million. And she simultaneously announced the launch of a new site that is dedicated to healthier eating and living.
A friend of mine likened it to a drug dealer opening a rehab.
And I say, “And?!? So what?!?” I still love Paula Deen. I might love her more now than I did before, in fact.
You see, I was Paula Deen.
About 4 years ago, I separated from my husband. The relationship had become emotionally, financially and physically unhealthy; I made the difficult choice to end it before it became completely toxic. About a month after it happened, I was offered a promotion at work. So while I was in the midst of severing marital ties, I relocated with my children and dove headfirst into my new role, which was challenging and demanding to say the least.
And I didn’t tell anyone at work what was going on. Not a word for over a year.
I didn’t think they would be un-supportive. Quite the opposite. I thought they would be too supportive, too concerned at a time where I needed privacy and quiet to hear my own voice and make my own decisions and figure things out and just feel normal from 8am – 6pm, 5 days per week. I didn’t want to deal with having my moods and decisions second-guessed or marginalized because of a personal struggle. I didn’t want every time I closed the door to take a personal call or went outside for a walk to de-stress or took too long in the bathroom to be interpreted as something it wasn’t. I just wanted to be and do and figure it out.
People were mad at me when I finally told them. Mostly because they felt robbed of the opportunity to support me. Others felt like I was a fake, fraud and outright liar for choosing not to say anything until I was ready. It changed the dynamic in a way that probably won’t ever be repaired. I accept that consequence … but I still wouldn’t change what I did.
And Paula Deen shouldn’t either.
It is difficult to experience a major life change when you’re in a highly visible position. People are looking at you to see how you will react and judging all of your actions and interpreting all of your motives through the lens of something that is none of their business and may/may not have any impact on the work you’re doing. And when you choose to disclose immediately, they are looking, judging and interpreting during a time when you are still trying to process and adjust to the change and all it means for you.
Think about it. If Paula Deen had announced her diagnosis immediately, everything she ate and drank would have been scrutinized. If she had announced her diagnosis immediately, but didn’t immediately change her cooking style — regardless of her reason– she would have been vilified. I admire her for taking the time to get herself, her disease and her brand under control.
We all have aspects of our lives that we don’t want on front street. We all have things that we’re dealing with or figuring out and we’re not necessarily ready for the world to know. HR sees this more than anyone else! We hear heart-breaking stories about the lives of our employees. But we don’t tell it. We can’t tell it. It isn’t our story to tell. So we don’t get to decide how it is done. We have opinions. We make suggestions and recommendations. But we don’t tell. We can’t tell.
So I’m not mad at Paula Deen. I’m sure her decision was a tough one. I’m sure she struggled with it. I know I did.
I only hope now that she’s shared her story, she will use her status as a platform to help people. It sounds like that’s what she’s trying to do. I know I am.
And I hope I just did.