Things You Shouldn’t Say To Diabetics: Thoughts After 7 Years with the Disease
Hi Alliance members and everyone else. My name’s Drew and I will be doing the personal post this Friday on the common misconceptions and myths that people echo to diabetics.
I’ve now been a type 1 diabetic for a little over seven years. In that time span I’ve learned a lot about both the disease and myself, often coming to an understanding that the disease has truly begun to define who I am and can be, for better or worse. It’s obvious that diabetics would understand the realities and limitations of their disease better than the average non-diabetic, but as the visibility of the disease grows as more are afflicted by it, I’ve found the lack of knowledge and at times outright ignorance surrounding diabetes to be somewhat appalling.
Last week the JDCA featured a Facebook post sharing an article entitled “Dumb Things People Say To Diabetics”. The post elicited much reaction, furthering the fact that nearly every diabetic deals with those who have a misguided or uninformed view of the disease. Like anything else, it’s always one thing to think something and a completely different thing to actually say it. I present my own personal list of the head-scratching things I’ve heard pertaining to my diabetes, organized by escalating levels of frustration.
LEVEL I: I Understand Why You Would Think That
“Aren’t they close to curing diabetes?”
While this statement is admirable in its optimism, it’s simply not entirely true… yet. Many diabetics can relate to the empty promise of a cure “within 5 years” or another arbitrary number that they are told during their diagnosis. Some of these people have now had diabetes for 10, 20, 30 or 40 years. This is one particular line of thinking where both diabetics and non-diabetics would benefit from continually educating themselves as a cure develops.
In the “JDCA’s Initiation Report” we voice the need for a more focused timeline. The 2025 present in so many of our handles comes from our initial findings that none of the drugs currently in US clinical trials meet our definition of a Practical Cure. Considering this, and the time potentially required to commercialize a drug to be deemed a cure, we found that setting a cure-by date earlier than 2025 to be too ambitious.
This misconception is driven in part by that slightly misguided and unrealistic optimism, but perhaps even more so by the diabetes charity and cure research universe that we’re trying to shake up.
LEVEL II: Thanks For Your Concern But Yes I Can Eat This
“So, what’s the deal? Can you like, not eat sugar?”
“Are you going to be okay if you eat this?”
“Would you die if you ate this piece of cake?”
No, I wouldn’t die if I ate that piece of cake but it does look positively delicious.
These quotes, perhaps heard the most of any of the ones I will list, are just a basic lack of knowledge of how the disease works and how it is managed. Non-diabetics seem to assume that the diabetes predicament comes down to a matter of can eat this and can’t eat that, when it’s truthfully much more open but also much more complicated. Eating is a matter of know-how (carb counting, how much you’ll be eating, when to take the insulin) and circumstance (coming off a high or low, kind of carbs you’re eating).
Eating with diabetes is not the doomsday scenario that many think it is. While the freedom is not unlimited, it’s certainly not as dire as the aforementioned and oft repeated quotes would indicate. The fact that eating with diabetes is intricate yet unpredictable prolongs the annoyances that stem from these simplistic generalizations of how the disease effects those that have it. File these incorrect musings as “unsolicited advice”.
LEVEL III: I Can, I Should and I Will
“You sure you should be doing this?”
Diabetic or not, everyone knows their own body best. No diabetic wants to have less drive and confidence to do things that a non-diabetic can do. To question a diabetic in this fashion is, however unintentionally, sowing the seeds of doubt that their condition has made them inferior and less able. Certainly there are moments where the internal debate becomes difficult, but one should always assume that a diabetic has weighed the necessities and consequences for whatever they have a desire to do.
LEVEL IV: Under a Stoic Face I’m Actually Screaming “No, No, NO!”
“Did you get diabetes because you ate too much sugar?”
“Did you get diabetes because you were overweight?”
“My uncle had diabetes, but now he’s cured.”
“My grandma has diabetes. She doesn’t have to take shots, why do you?”
I’ve heard this ad nauseam over the years and it still hasn’t become any easier to continue the discourse civilly. Perhaps the people that echo these sentiments don’t mean to be misinformed or insulting but there’s a tremendous disconnect between their perception of the disease versus the actuality of the disease.
I’ve found this be a widespread issue pertaining to how people judge and understand diabetes in the most general sense. It could be confusion stemming from a semantic issue (type 1 vs. type 2) or a basic lack of information regarding diabetes. Regardless, the vast majority of diabetes cases globally are type 2 (285 million, or 90%) leaving many to blanket the characteristics of type 2 onto type 1.
Recently within the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) and between diabetics overall I have seen some discontent between type 1 and type 2’s, as if type 1’s feel they are being marginalized. In some measure they are correct, but the fact is that both sides have been grouped under the same umbrella, rightfully so or not.
Diabetes for the foreseeable future isn’t going anywhere and numbers from 2011 show that the number of cases is growing. Type 1’s should try to be cordial and informative, however difficult it is, when engaged in conversations like this. Educate and encourage others to increase their understanding of the differences, and how more and more diagnoses prove the need for comprehension and a cure.
There are plenty of other things diabetics often hear, but Accu-Check does a good job of compiling some of the other major ones.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go eat that cake slathered in chocolate, giving myself diabetes again while adding to my abject obesity.