I think that like most conditions, Diabetes deals with a number of stigmas. For people who don’t have Diabetes or someone in their family or inner circle with Diabetes, they often have more questions than knowledge. This is rather surprising, considering 90% of the population in North America have the world’s information and knowledge at their fingertips, through smart phones, computers, tablets and social media.
The unfortunate reality is that a great deal of information online can be wrong. I think we can all admit that not EVERYTHING you read and/or see on the internet is accurate. This is one of the reasons I try very hard to cite my sources when I write about something (a practice that not every blogger follows). And every now and again, people tend to verbalize what they’ve heard, despite not knowing whether it’s actually correct or not.
I’ve always said, if you want to know, then just ask. I’ve always preferred sharing the information and being up front than having someone make an off-the-cuff comment about MY condition without knowing what they’re talking about. This is why I occasionally like to share some “Diabetes etiquette” so that anyone reading may learn a bit, direct from someone who’s living the condition as opposed to the good old internet.
Indulge me, for one moment as I step up on my soap box and present to you the top 10 comments a person with Diabetes hates to hear (from my perspective):
- “Did you eat too much sugar as a kid?” Shaddup! I’m not sure if this is a belief that came out in the 70’s and 80’s or what… In fact, I don’t recall EVER hearing anything about it when I was a kid. But I can tell you this much: modern research has proven that the consumption of sugar does NOT cause Diabetes. That applies to both Type-1 and Type-2. One interesting factoid though, is that the overconsumption of sugar may lead to weight gain. And some research has shown that excessive weight gain can be a component of Type-2 Diabetes;
- “Wow, I thought that folks with Diabetes were fat?” Seriously??? How would this be an okay comment whether I have Diabetes or not? Commenting on someone’s weight has been rude and inappropriate long before the advent of the snowflake, but this kind of piggybacks on point #1. Although weight gain can be a contributing factor for Type-2, it doesn’t mean that everyone with Diabetes will be overweight. And not everyone who’s overweight will have Diabetes. I’m no olympic swimmer and the light knows I’d enjoy a slimmer waist line, but I’ve enjoyed the benefit of never being overweight. So, there;
- “Should you really be eating that?” Sure, you could get between me and my much-beloved cinnamon roll from Greenspot Cafe, first thing in the morning… But that could be ALMOST as dangerous as getting between me and my coffee, first thing in the morning. Yes, Karen, I absolutely SHOULD be eating that! In all honesty, unless you have significant difficulty controlling your blood sugar levels, you can eat whatever you want. It’s a pretty simple equation: take the amount of insulin required to counter the carbohydrates you’re ingesting. That’s it. There’s no worse reason for ME to eat a powdered, jelly-filled donut than there is for you;
- “I think I’d die if I had to take so many needles…” Hmmm, that’s a really interesting comment because I would die if I DIDN’T take the many required injections, test my blood sugar often and have devices attached to my body. Yes, even though I may look healthy, I spend day in and day out combating a condition that WILL eventually be the cause of my death. There is no cure, there’s only treatment. And don’t get me wrong, that treatment extends my life from the two weeks I would likely have WITHOUT insulin to the decades I have from using it;
- “You know, I read a great book on how you could cure your Diabetes naturally.” No. Just, no. There is no cure for Diabetes. Let me repeat that, in case you didn’t read it straight: THERE IS NO CURE FOR DIABETES!!! There are a lot of books out there boasting cures, specifically for Type-2, but 99.9% of them are bogus. I say 99.9% because there is some correlation between diet and weight loss allowing a person to reverse the symptoms of Type-2, but there is no actual cure. Eating your bloody diet of quinoa, tofu and lawn clippings won’t suddenly heal my immune system and start my pancreas back up;
- “Oh, my aunt had Diabetes, and she did this or that…” I don’t need to hear it. I’m not sure why people feel the need to share stories about other folks who have Diabetes, but everyone I’ve ever met with Type-1 has been unique. Oh sure, our symptoms are mostly the same and insulin therapy is generally the treatment, but how we deal with our overall condition is ours and ours alone. Much like everything else in life;
- “Oh, it could be worse. You could have (insert horrible disease here)!” Yes, you’re right. I could have cancer. On the other hand, I don’t. But what I do have is a life-altering condition that I’ve been living with since early childhood and affects EVERY aspect of my life. I live with it and deal with it. I’m quite good at it. But I haven’t ever woken up thinking how lucky I am not to have something else. Such comments are comparable to someone who’s had an arm cut off and saying, “Hey, it could be worse! Your head could have been cut off instead”;
- “Oh, is yours the BAD Diabetes?” This one would almost make me laugh, if it weren’t so ridiculous. I’ve never been entirely certain what people are referring to, when they make this comment. And even today, I still have people ask. What the hell is the “BAD” Diabetes? Let me weigh in on this one since, you know, I have Diabetes… There is no GOOD Diabetes. Only good people fighting it;
- “You don’t look like you have Diabetes…” This is another laughable one! I’m always left speechless when someone cracks out with this little gem. If they spot my pump or see me testing my blood glucose, it almost never fails. I’m not sure what someone with Diabetes is SUPPOSED to look like, but I can tell you that it’s nothing you should expect. You don’t “LOOK” like anything out of the ordinary if you have Diabetes;
- “Are your blood sugars off?” Although this would be a reasonable question to ask someone with Diabetes, especially if they seem a bit off, this question has often been directed at me when I’m in a bad mood. And we all know how good of an idea it is to tell someone who’s in a bad mood that they’re IN a bad mood… Although fluctuating blood sugars can certainly contribute to my mood, it doesn’t automatically mean that’s why I’m cranky at that moment. Maybe you’re just being an asshole. But I digress…
I may come off sounding high and mighty in relation to some of this stuff, but when you’ve been dealing with comments like this for 37 years, you can pretty much custom-choose your soapbox. Diabetes is like anything else. If you’re curious about something, just ask. I’m always more than happy to share knowledge, especially about my condition. It’s a lot better than offering unsolicited advice, especially if you aren’t Diabetic yourself. ☯