Harsh critics.

I spent some time with some fellow T1 folks last week during a focus group for a diabetes product. It’s always fun to be with fellow ‘betics, even if you’re a bunch of total strangers being asked bizarre questions like “If your diabetes starred in a movie, what genre of movie would it be?” (Seriously that was a question. I chose romantic comedy. Why? Because that question makes no sense so neither did my answer).

There was a woman in the group who shared her diabetes story with us, and it was truly heartbreaking. She was diagnosed in her early 20s with Type 1, and her parents and extended family not only don’t understand diabetes, they don’t accept it. They chastize her for seizure-inducing lows, tell her she’s not taking care of herself, that she eats the wrong things, and must clearly be screwing up her medications if she’s having so many problems. In reality she is an intelligent woman who is well-versed in carb-counting and insulin titration, and wears a CGM when she can afford it because she suffers from severe hypoglycemia unawareness. My heart just broke for her, because even the most understanding of loved ones can have a hard time wrapping their brain around this crazy disease. Then to be told it’s all your fault and shunned from the family because of it is just the worst kind of ignorance.

Then the topic changed a bit, and the woman changed her tone as well. She said she couldn’t stand the fact that “all these Type 2s who weigh 350 pounds and sit around in a motorized wheelchair because they’re lazy” take away from her disease and the fact that she has very different needs. Specicially, her point was around insurance companies not understanding that she needed 10 test strips a day because she was a Type 1, and that she felt her needs were confused “these lazy Type 2s.”

Um. Yikes. The moderator of the program quickly shut her down, saying there’s a lot of reasons contributing to all that and that was a different discussion for a different day. You can say that again. I just sat there and looked at the woman, wondering how someone who had been so deeply discriminated against for her disease could be so deeply biased and marginalizing to another group of people. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of people making assumptions about diabetes, it’s that those assumptions never feel good, and it’s better to admit you don’t know about something and ask questions (if appropriate) then assume you know everything about anything.

Because I sure don’t. The experience was a good reminder that we all have to watch the way we phrase things. And all of us Type 1s need to remember that no one wants any type of diabetes – 1 or 2. They all suck. Type 2 is an incredibly complex disease involving more than a dozen hormones, centrally mediated brain signals, our environment and our genes. It’s not as simple as workout more = no diabetes.

I think the only universal principle that can be applied to diabetes or any disease you don’t have is this: seek first to understand.

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While it might not be the “right” way for her to think, I fully understand what that woman was saying. The Type 2s that ARE the ones who are lazy and. . .essentially brought it on themselves are the ones who are the face of diabetes. Not just Type 2 diabetes, but ALL diabetes. The media doesn’t differentiate, and neither does the public.

I imagine it’s frustrating for T2s to have people say things like, “Wow, you don’t LOOK overweight” and all the crappy things people say to diabetics, but I feel it’s MORE frustrating for a T1 when people say these things, because T1 literally has no roots in that. If I weigh 150 or 450 pounds, I’ll still be a T1.

T2s can also get to a point where, although they still have the disease, they don’t have to take certain medications anymore. T1s will never have that luxury. So yeah, I get where the lady’s coming from.

Because the way I look at it, a T2, if given the choice, would NEVER switch to T1, but I know a lot of T1s would jump at the chance to switch to T2.

I just cringed at her comments….
I am a type 1 who was misdiagnosed as a type 2 and scorned because the meds didn’t help me. I was told insulin was the lazy way of handling my erratic blood sugars. I lived on a treadmill trying to control blood sugars. I dropped 50 lbs in 2.5 months. I was slowly dying.
It took a smart doc who paid attention to my engineer husband and his graphs and plots to make the correct dx. Took her about 30 seconds.
I am the smallest member of my family but admittedly overweight. My sister is morbidly obese and not a diabetic.
This disease is complicated enough without such nonsense. It doesn’t matter if you are type 1 or 2, it’s still diabetes.
Lazy? Really? What I wouldn’t do to be free of this demon. I’ve never worked so hard at staying alive!

I am continually dismayed at how little people understand ANY type of diabetes. I’ve had a few friends, who after being diagnosed with Type 2 (or pre-diabetes), think that just losing weight will make their diabetes “go away.”

Plus, I never get tired of, “You don’t LOOK overweight, and “you’ll never stop diabetes eating that (as I partake of an ice cream sandwich at a church social)!” The only thing I can do is educate if they’re receptive (and steam is not pouring from my ears) or ignore them if they know exactly what causes and cures diabetes. (…and if they do, why aren’t you telling the researchers so we can be done with it forever?) I don’t have enough hair left to pull out over this nonsense. I’ll just vent here.

Sarah, you bring up a good point – I get so frustrated by ANYONE who isn’t taking care of their disease becuase I’m busting my butt to take care of mine. So from that perspective I totally get it. I think it’s important to really understand people’s backgrounds and what kind of challenges their facing. What sucks is that we all get lumped into sterotypes, and I don’t think stereotypes feel good to anyone.

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