Forget the injections, the finger pricks, the constant mental calculation of carbohydrates in your meals. One of the biggest struggles of being type one is the persecution.
Take a moment and think. How many physical chronic illnesses can you recall where the individual is constantly blamed for their condition? I’ve been considering this for over a day now and can’t think of a single one.
Since the age of six, I have been not only persecuted by the people I meet, but by the government as well. The government campaigns so heavily and negatively about type two diabetes- yet, do they ever actually say type two? No. They simply say “diabetes”, casting us all into the same group.
First of all, educate yourself before believing fully in something. Yes, type two diabetes CAN be as a result of obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise. Did any of you actually know that type two has a strong genetic component? That my GP, who is a tall and slender man as well as obviously “in the know” about health, has type two diabetes? The picture the media and government paint of the type two diabetic is grim and unrealistic. I once spoke with a diabetes educator at length about whether type two diabetes is actually a condition you can reverse with healthy diet and exercise. She told me that in her entire career, she has known only two. So many type two diabetics change their lifestyle completely, and sometimes it can improve their outcome but, ultimately, it is rarely reversible.
I digress. The point of this all is: that the way the government perpetrates type two diabetes (by focusing on their weight, by never naming the specific condition), has a negative impact on type one diabetics. Not only do we cop the persecution and judgement of others for our auto-immune disease, but it pits us against type two diabetics. Many type ones dislike any type two diabetics they meet, they think “You could reverse your entire situation, but I am stuck with mine forever”. I was one of these people for a long time. This was because I was uneducated. I was influenced by the advertisements on diabetes, and felt that the harassment I faced was solely due to the type two community.
A long time I have struggled with guilt and self-doubt surrounding my diabetes. It is difficult enough, facing all the medical responsibility throughout every day life. To be accused from an early age of doing this to myself increases the burden tenfold. I have felt ashamed of being diabetic for such a long time, and starting this blog was for myself. To begin the journey to self acceptance.
Shame is an intense emotion. As a teenager, I would date someone for over a month before they found out I was diabetic. As an adult, the only way my co-workers would find out I was diabetic was by seeing my insulin pump and asking what it was. I’m embarrassed to admit that this is something I still do- despite working in a hospital with health professionals! I try to act easy-going, but the truth is that any mention of my diabetes makes my whole body stiffen. I am so wracked with humiliation that I instantly go into defence mode.
Think of a child being told “why don’t you eat healthier then?” when they admit to being diabetic. Think of a teenager confessing to being diabetic, only to have their entire body looked up and down to assess their weight. Think of an adult, a grown-ass human, being asked “Should you be eating that?” every time they lift anything other than celery to their mouth.
I’m a human, just like anyone else. My illness is not an invitation for you to assess my weight, my lifestyle, my diet. I shouldn’t be made to feel guilty each time I eat a slice of cake. I shouldn’t be embarrassed of my body because I’m terrified of someone assuming I have type two diabetes. I shouldn’t have to exercise to earn your nod of approval.
I am the expert in my disease. Not you. So please, ask questions. Be open, be curious. But don’t ever, EVER question my management, or tell me how to live my life. After all, would you tell a non-diabetic they shouldn’t eat such-and-such?