But it could also be called "6 things that drive you bananas about people who don't have diabetes."
Or "They just don't friggin' get it."
Or "If I had a nickel every time someone said that to me, I'd have enough money to cure diabetes already."
Or "DAMMIT! Stop saying that to me!"
Okay, I guess that's enough. As I am so subtly trying to point out, everyone who has diabetes has to deal with the stereotypes, ignorance, untruths, etc that come right along with it. Diabetes is something that is talked a lot about in this country and I think that the average person probably thinks they are pretty well-informed about the subject. Unfortunately, the vast majority of what is out there are myths, old truths, untruths, half-truths or misconstructions. A lot of what that people think they know about diabetes either comes from truths about Type 2 diabetes (NOT Type 1, which is much less common than Type 2) or is old information about how diabetes used to be treated and managed (and when I say "old," think 1980's).
I think that because the majority of the population feel that they are armed with correct and complete knowledge about diabetes, they feel justified or obliged to ask you why you are doing something or tell you what you should be doing. Hmmm, rude? And yet it's hard to blame these folks because 1) I'm sure they think they are helping and 2) they've been fed these same lines over and over by the mass media so why shouldn't they believe that this information is accurate and thorough?
So, on to the 6 things I'd like people to know about diabetes:
- Having diabetes is not the patient's fault. Are there some types of diabetes that could have been prevented? Sure. Is everyone's diabetes that way? No! Either way, is it our responsibility to judge? No! Diabetes sucks enough as it is.
- Diabetes, nowadays, is not a life sentence without sweets. In the ol' days, diabetes used to mean not touching anything with sugar in it (cake, soda, candy, even fruit!) Today we know that anything with carbs in it will affect blood sugar levels in the same way. A piece of bread with 20 carbs in it will affect my blood sugar the same as a piece of pie with 20 carbs. Maybe one will act faster or slower but, in essence, it's the same. Nowadays, diabetes management is about analyzing the food that you take in and taking insulin for it. Diabetics are now their own pancreas. It's hard work but it affords us the freedom to be able to make choices about what we eat. Should we always make bad choices and justify it with extra insulin? NO! But should you really be eating pie for breakfast? I rest my case.
- We all know there are complications, you don't need to tell us about your aunt/brother/cousin/grandma's issues. Every diabetic out there has been lectured ad nauseum about the risks you take when you don't control your diabetes as much as possible. Do some choose not to listen? Sure. But for the rest of us, telling us about people you know with diabetes who've had horrible things happen to them just brings us down. We're trying out best to control the beast and be optimistic at the same time, so please don't pee in our Fruit Loops by reminding us about the bad stuff. People who have cancer know that there is a chance they could die but what crazy, insensitive, jerk goes around reminding them of that? Sheesh!
- There is a big psychological component to diabetes. Diabetes sucks both physically and mentally. It's a disease that follows us around every second of every day. With every action (exercise, eating, illness, etc), people with diabetes must sit and try to calculate how it will affect their blood sugars. And it gets exhausting. Add to that the pressure of maintaining good control during a pregnancy or trying to prevent complications later in life and it can feel like a lead weight on your shoulders. The guilt of a bad blood sugar, the fear of complications, etc, etc . . can do a number on any diabetic's head.
- There is no easy answer. Taking care of your diabetes isn't like brushing your teeth. How would you feel if you brushed your teeth 6 times a day, flossed and rinsed and still had 3 cavities at your next dentist appointment? Sometimes, that's how diabetes is. You can do everything right and still not predict what your blood sugar will do. Will the physical activity of exercise make my blood sugar go down? Or will the stress of the heat and physical activity make it go up? The path isn't always cut and dry. Another reason why diabetes can mess with your head. Please understand that one bad blood sugar doesn't mean a diabetic is being irresponsible or doesn't know what they are doing. It just means that their diabetes is doing what diabetes does.
This is the biggest reason that I want people to know that insulin is not a cure. It doesn't fix diabetes it just puts a band-aid on it. No human being can ever be as good as a working pancreas and, as a result, complications still happen. We need a cure and we deserve a cure!
- Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are totally different animals and function by totally different rules. Look it up! This is probably my biggest pet peeve right now. I really hate having the rules and traits of Type 2 diabetes thrown back at me by someone who thinks they know diabetes. No, if I eat right, exercise and lose weight my diabetes will NOT go away. And you know what? That's true for some Type 2's also! My body doesn't make insulin. That factory shut down when I was 8 and it ain't coming back! If I killed off all your kidney cells, you wouldn't make pee anymore. No matter how healthy, athletic or great your diet is. Same kinda thing! No, having an insulin pump does NOT mean that my diabetes is "really bad." No, a random blood sugar of 200 doesn't mean I suck at managing my diabetes. There are so many differences between the types of diabetes (Type 1, Type 2, Gestational, Monogenic, LADA, etc) so please don't assume that the rules of diabetes that you are aware of apply to every diabetic out there.
PS: If you want to check out some other posts from DOC-ers on D-Blog Day, check out this link!