Diabetes Awareness Day: Misconceptions Abound
We got a little bit caught up in discussion with our new report yesterday, but we did not forget about Diabetes Awareness Day. In honor of the day, we wanted to share some personal stories about the misconceptions and frustrations we have encountered with diabetes. Share yours too – some people have a ton, but everyone has at least two or three incidents to contribute:
KATEY : I was diagnosed six and a half years ago, in the middle of candidate training for my black belt. The first question I asked the doctor was “can I still do my black belt test?” I was 9 years old at the time, and he said probably not. Two weeks after my diagnosis, I earned my black belt, then got my second degree black belt a few years later. I’ve learned that while others may ignorantly think that this condition will hold me back, I can do whatever I put my mind to.
NICK: I generally don’t like sour and dour stories, and for the most part, any of the ones I have regarding ignorance to diabetes are more amusing than anything.
On the funnier side of things, one time a girlfriend of mine told her mom ( the night before I’d be coming over for dinner) that I happened to be a diabetic. When we showed up, it turned out her mother had been terrified of what to cook for me, had chopped out any sugar or carbs from the meal, and made sure everything was low fat, sugar, calorie etc. because ” she didn’t want to put me in the hospital”. To this day if she happens to be around and I say ” I’m tired”, she rushes me a cup or orange juice as if it’s a cure-all.
Generally, I’ve never run into particularly poisonous ideas about diabetes. Yeah, when I first tell people I usually hear the, ” I thought you had to be fat to get that?”, but nothing major beyond that. Perhaps my colleagues will have a little bit more to share on the subject.
STOYAN: You would be surprised by the amount of things people don’t know about a disease, especially one as well-known (by name at least) as diabetes. Granted, when most people hear the word “diabetes” they probably think of the type 2 version, and assume that type 1 is something similar with slight differences.
I definitely have noticed the issue of a lack of real understanding creep up when friends or relatives notice that I am buying or ordering a food item, and immediately go “but that has sugar in it!” or tell me to “get the sugar-free kind!” I try to correct them, at least sometimes, that first of all sugar is not the main problem, and second of all that it is the quantity of a specific food that I need to watch, but my explanation doesn’t seem to register as firmly as the widely spread mis-equation of SUGAR=DIABETES. I try to tell them that it is not as if I am a drug addict who is sneaking an extra smoke in, as that’s how their remarks seem to make me feel sometimes.
They wish well, though, so I can not fault them for it. I figure there will always be myths surrounding a sickness or condition that will continue being played out no matter how many times you tell people otherwise. If we can convince the public that the most important thing is finding a cure, I would be more than happy with that.
DREW: With diabetes, it’s hard not to feel a bit overwhelmed sometimes. Because the disease is so multifaceted—and growing in scale—it becomes a challenge that involves management of the self, but also of others as well. Be it your blood sugars not behaving or a scary, sweat-soaked and dizzying low, the constant and unpredictable nature of diabetes means the disease demands everlasting attention and shifting levels of understanding—why did my blood sugar act this way? What can I do to be better next time?
In terms of outsiders to the disease, explaining what exactly makes diabetes happen is an impossibility in of itself and in some ways explaining its management can be even harder. With only 10% of those with diabetes having type 1, the connotations the general population has of the disease are that of type 2. Unfortunately, type 2 has grim associations and buzzwords for many people, among them: obesity, laziness and too much sugar. As diabetics we cannot help that people are going to think these things, but we can try and promote the awareness that the two types are vastly different entities. Explaining our methods of carb counting, careful food preparation and constant doctor visits (endocrinologists, ophthalmologists, etc.) to ensure diabetes isn’t effecting more than just our pancreas can help people to understand the severity of the disease. Sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes they just want to think eating a donut will kill you.
As diabetes grows the need for awareness will be paramount. Eventually, be it type 1 or type 2, almost everyone will be connected to someone who is suffering from the disease if they aren’t already. This is why uniting for a cure is more important than ever. That, and I don’t know how many more times I can be asked from non-diabetic friends and family, “But what happens if I take insulin?”