Category: Stigma

Diabetes Shame and Blame

Diabetes Shame and Blame

Having diabetes often makes a visit to the doctor a dreaded experience, as there is invariably bad news of one kind or another.  And sometimes the way the doctor talks to you can leave you feeling like you’re at fault.  Or maybe you have a fantastic healthcare team, but have experienced blame and judgement from someone else in your life – friend, loved one, complete stranger.  Think about a particularly bad instance, how that person talked to you, the words they used and the conversation you had.  Now, the game part.  Let’s turn this around.  If you could turn that person into a puppet, what would you have them say that would leave you feeling empowered and good about yourself?   Let’s help teach people how to support us, rather than blame us!

“Oh you have diabetes? I heard you can cure it with diet and exercise? Is it the bad kind? Did you eat too much sugar as a kid? Why don’t you take care of yourself? If I had diabetes I would be a great diabetic.”

If not dealing with a life-threatening illness that has no cure was difficult already—you also have to deal with the shame and blame that comes along with this disease.

Society has made diabetes such a shameful word.

No one really understands the ramifications associated with stigma. How it affects young children and adults who manage this disease.

It all stems off of unawareness, influence of the media, and lack of education. But how can we be point fingers when even doctors are misinformed?

Diabetes is now characterized as sugary food items, Unicorn Frappuccinos, and BigMacs. People joke and assume that they could get diabetes by consuming these. Which is a huge misconception because diabetes can happen to anyone, at no fault of their own.

Many do not know that there are two types of diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes– which is an autoimmune disease, and Type 2– a metabolic condition. Both of which are very complex chronic conditions.

The real issue behind this is that young babies, children, and adults are at risk of dying from not catching the signs of diabetes in time.

Not only that, but diabetes is serious. It’s as serious as any other disease. It consumes ones’ life and demands constant attention. No one should feel ashamed of their diabetes but should feel self-empowered to manage it.

The more we talk about the issues and raise awareness, the more conversations we can start. And hopefully more lives can be saved.

The stigma needs to end.

Where Is The Love For Diabetes?

Where Is The Love For Diabetes?

…Not the love for the needles, insulin injections, finger sticks, and blood.

But love as in compassion, empathy, and understanding for those battling diabetes.

Society has made diabetes such a shameful word. While patients with heart disease and cancer are showered with sympathy and compassion, people with diabetes are often criticized and mocked for assuming they caused it themselves.

The negative perception has a profound effect on how those living with diabetes are able to manage. The misconception that eating too much sugar causes Type 1 Diabetes (an autoimmune disease), contributes to many cases of misdiagnosis and sometimes even death.

Even the fact that Type 2 Diabetes (insulin resistance) can be contributed by eating unhealthy, excessive weight, and inactivity; that’s not always the case. Genetics can also play a role in Type 2 Diabetes, and even significant lifestyle changes may not always help manage the disease.

Diabetes has become a “shame and blame” game. It’s easier to place the blame, feed into what the media says, and make jokes. Leaving those living with diabetes to feel ashamed of their own disease.

But it’s very difficult to overcome the stereotypes with this disease.

For instance, I spent much of my childhood struggling with the fact that I had Type 1 diabetes. I went to school and I felt embarrassed by having a disease others didn’t understand and made fun of.

I wouldn’t check my blood sugar or take needle injections in public. I would get stared at and was teased for taking “drugs” when this drug (insulin) was the only thing keeping me alive.

Years later I started informing more and more people I met about my disease. For many, I hear it was the first time they have ever heard of Type 1 Diabetes. Many also assumed that eating too much sugar caused my diabetes. But I kept pressing because I starting realizing that knowledge is power.

It never occurs to people that diabetes can happen to anyone, at any age. That diabetes can happen even if you eat healthy and exercise. Most of the world isn’t informed on how life-threatening and deadly this disease is. I’m lucky I’m here today, and thankful I was diagnosed in time. I for one didn’t know what diabetes was before I was diagnosed either.

Now reflecting on this issue after a decade, I realize that the stigma hasn’t changed.

I’ve spoken with many in the diabetes community. Half are against the jokes and understand the dangerous repercussions. While the other half feel it’s important to not let what others say get to you. That even if we push, nobody will understand the disease anyways.

But I believe if we’re going to fight everyday, we should fight to make our life and other lives better in any way. The more people know… the more research being done… the more money being raised… the more access to devices and resources… the more awareness being spread about the issues and struggles many go through everyday.

We fight a battle that many don’t understand… but why do we have to fight it alone?

If we don’t push… how is anything going to change?

The stigma has to end.

Where is the love for diabetes?


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Diabetes Isn’t a Punchline To Your Joke

Diabetes Isn’t a Punchline To Your Joke

For as long as I’ve had diabetes I’ve been battling the stigma associated with this disease. Even though diabetes has been around for such a long time, it’s still a hard wall to break down.

The ever so common assumptions:

Sugar causes diabetes

If I eat this — I’ll get diabetes

Diabetes is caused by being lazy, poor diet, and from being inactive.

All of which are FALSE

These assumptions place blame and guilt on those that could have never prevented getting the disease in the first place.

Yes, there are two different types of diabetes. Type 2, which the body isn’t producing enough insulin and diet and exercise play a role in management. But with Type 1 Diabetes an autoimmune disease (which I have) my body doesn’t produce insulin at all. There is nothing I did to cause it and there is no cure.

So this week on World Diabetes Day I came across a post by a popular food Facebook page (not mentioning names) but they posted a video named “The Diabetes Pizza”. My first thought was “oh this must be a nice healthy recipe”. WRONG. It was a video showing the toppings and ingredients that included things like: candy, bacon, and unhealthy food choices.

I was astonished that “this pizza” was representing diabetes as a punchline. Yes, I have a sense of humor and can enjoy a good laugh. But really, on World Diabetes Day of all days? Kind of ironic! It wasn’t the joke that bothered me. I get it. It’s the underlying message for others not aware of diabetes. This is diabetes awareness month after all. Diabetes is not a joke or a laughing matter.

Diabetes Isn't a Punchline To Your Joke

Say for example someone is not aware of diabetes and starts experiencing symptoms. Their first thought might be — “it can’t be diabetes because I eat healthy and I’m not overweight”. These stereotypes and misconceptions can inhibit someone’s perception of this disease and delay diagnosis which raises the risk of complications or death.

I went ahead and brought it to the attention of the diabetes community. Where one parent of a diabetic thought it would be a great idea to post memes and awareness facts on their post to get the message across and many other diabetics and family members soon followed. Yes, it seems redundant and pointless to some. But if at all it can save ONE life, that’s at that really matters.

The post was later taken down the following day, not sure as to why. But regardless, I think that was one small victory in our favor. Not because someone posted something funny about diabetes, and we just didn’t like it. But because we had a voice for diabetes. We raised awareness for a disease that is serious, life-threatening and affects our lives everyday.

It could have easily been a day where someone told a joke about diabetes where many are the brunt of the joke. But instead, it was a day where we stood up for our disease and risen above the stigma.

Happy Diabetes Awareness Month!

Let’s End Diabetes Stigma!

What Living With Diabetes Feels Like

What Living With Diabetes Feels Like

Diabetes is often perceived as a self-inflicted disease. It’s assumed that someone brought it upon themselves by poor eating and lack of exercise. It’s commonly joked about and mocked in conversation with reference to body image and sugary foods.

With so many misconceptions and negative stereotypes, it causes this disease to be greatly overlooked. For those battling to often feel misunderstood and ashamed. From the outside looking in, it may seem that insulin is the solution—however it’s not, it’s my life support. That maybe if I changed my diet all my problems would be solved—unfortunately that won’t cure my diabetes.

To be honest, I had no idea that I would get sick one day and never get better. That my immune system would attack the insulin producing cells in my pancreas. An organ that I didn’t know existed prior to diagnosis and how important it actually is.

That I would have to work at this every day—whether I like it or not. By testing my blood sugar, taking insulin injections, and balancing what I eat.

Some would say “that seems tough” or “I could never do that“. But they don’t realize that I don’t have a choice.

If they only knew that diabetes is much more than “just” that. Diabetes is much more than what managing it looks like on the outside but how diabetes feels like on the inside. There’s a lot of emotion that goes into it. A lot of thinking, a lot of worrying, a lot of uncertainty, and sometimes chaos.

If only they really knew what living with diabetes feels like:

It’s that dry, fruity breath and taste in your mouth. Where nothing can quench your thirst.

The brain fog where you feel out of tune with your own body.

The pain or burning sensation when taking insulin to keep us alive. Constantly feeling like a pincushion.

Having scars left that mimic battle wounds. That are placed on the most insecure parts of your body.

The dazed, confused feeling of where am I and how did I get here. This disease not only alters your body but your mind.

The dependency of not only insulin, but medical equipment, devices, meters, and food when we get low.

Guilt that weighs heavy on us. That is carried from our day to day tasks, our mistakes, and wishing we didn’t have to learn the hard way.

Being extra cautionary towards injuries, infections, wounds, and always having paranoia. Our bodies taking longer to heal.

The pressure builds from the responsibility on our plates. Having every intention to do good, but doesn’t always appear to work out that way.

Patiently waiting for the highs to come down or the lows to come up. How EVERYTHING affects our blood sugar.

The inevitable being presented. This disease takes a toll on our bodies and we feel it. No matter how well in control we are.

The blurry vision and the lack of focus.

The anger that seeps through from the rollercoaster ride of blood sugars and emotions.

The tired feeling from doing this day in and day out for so long and trying to stay strong. With no days off and no vacation.

Having the feeling of everything being wrong but having the inability to put it into words exactly what that is.

I Want To Be Cured—Not Managed.

I can still live a long fulfilling life if I take care of myself to my best abilities. Knowing things could be much worse. I’m grateful for all the advances in technology and the everyday improvements being made in diabetes management.

But we still need and deserve more—we need freedom from Type 1 Diabetes. The burden to be lifted from our shoulders and our family members. Where we can sleep soundly, not having to deal with the highs and lows, and not needing to be on life support.

If more people knew more about this disease. How insulin is not a cure, how it is still life threatening, and what living with diabetes feels like to those battling it every day. Then maybe—just maybe, they will want to help cure it too.

11 Type 1 Diabetic Misconceptions

11 Type 1 Diabetic Misconceptions

I’ve had Type One Diabetes for quite some time now – 14 years to be exact – and within those amount of years I’ve become fully aware of how misunderstood Type One Diabetes actually is. I’ve heard an endless amount of diabetic misconceptions. It’s hard living in a world where you’re placed in a category with Type Two Diabetes as well. Don’t get me wrong, we all fight a hard battle – but it’s each our own. It’s two completely different diseases in my eyes.

I’m here to set the record straight…

(11) Type 1 Diabetic Misconceptions:

1. “Did you get diabetes from eating sugar or gaining weight?”

Type One occurs when your body attacks the cells in the pancreas that produces insulin. There’s no specific rhyme or reason behind why this happens. It’s possible to occur due to genetics or environmental causes, but there is no significant proof to back these theories. But what I ate or my weight was definitely not the cause. This is on the top of the list of most common diabetic misconceptions.

2.”Should you be eating that?” 

Yes, I can eat that slice of cake! The myth that diabetics can’t have sugar needs to be thrown out the window right now! I can eat sweets in moderation, along with proper insulin management.

3.”Does using needles hurt?”

Of course, they hurt but I don’t have a choice in the matter. I don’t enjoy having to poke myself several times a day. But unfortunately, I have to in order to stay alive.

4.”My Grandma has diabetes”

Okay, stop right there. Yes, there are Type One Diabetics out there that are grandmothers, which I can totally relate to. But when you finish the sentence with “well she has Type Two” – “she manages with pills” – or “she just has to diet”,  let’s not compare.

5.”Shouldn’t you have this figured out by now?”

No, I wish diabetes was that easy. It’s like trying to figure out a Rubik’s cube every day, only for something to change, and have to start all over again. I can never perfect my diabetes. I constantly need to make adjustments, and all I can do is try to manage my diabetes to the best of my ability with proper diet, insulin, and exercise.

6.”Can you have kids?” “Will they get Diabetes?”

Yes, you can have children with diabetes. You’re considered at a higher risk, but with proper control before and during pregnancy, you’re less likely of complications. Statistics show the odds may be greater with your children getting Type One, but on the other hand, there’s plenty of Type One Diabetics (such as myself) where this diagnosis doesn’t run in the family. So who’s to really say?

7.My sugars low – “Does that mean you need insulin?”

Absolutely not! That would be life threatening in this situation. When my sugar is low I need the energy from food to be able to function normally.

8.”What’s your blood sugar?” “Is that good or bad?”

Honestly, I really can’t answer this one. I’m constantly aiming for a perfect blood sugar number. Trying to keep my blood sugar in a good range is like walking a tightrope, hoping not to fall. I live in a different normal of what’s “good or bad” with my blood sugars, compared to non-diabetics. I have to maintain a good control while being able to function every day.

9.”Let me give you some advice.”

Are you a Diabetic? Are you a physician? If not, just please stop! Just because you can talk the talk – doesn’t mean you can walk the walk.

10.”It could be worse.”

Of course, it could be. I’m thankful that I have a disease that can be managed and can still live a long life. But please don’t make light of the struggle that I go through. It’s not the best situation, but I’m making the best out of it.

11.”I heard there’s a cure.”

There is no cure, however, there continues to be research conducted in order to find a cure. Currently, there are future prospects, but all we can do right now is keep fighting and pray for a cure in the near future.

What’s are some diabetic misconceptions that you despise? Please share! ***