As it is the first day of Diabetes Awareness Month, I figured today would be a good day to return to writing. And as it is T1D Day, I figured I would discuss the stigma associated with diabetes.
First, let's consider what a stigma is. From a quick google search, it is "a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person." The first thought that comes to mind for me usually is the stigma that was placed upon those with mental disorders, something that they had no control over. Over time this stigma was lessened as people grew to understand the causes of these mental disorders, but even today I know it's still there.
And it's definitely prevalent for people with diabetes. On social media, people will take pictures of some sweet treat and put #diabetes after it. Or they will say, "I'm going to get diabetes from eating this." Or in response to a diabetic, "You can have that. It has sugar in it."And so on. There is definitely a lack of understanding here. Many people don't really know much about diabetes. They know the word obesity is often associated with the word diabetes. They don't pay attention to which type, or even how it is associated to that type. Even with Type 2, you cannot assume the person to be overweight. There is a genetic side there too.
But those that blame and shame us Type 1's by saying that we ate too much candy as kids or that we did something else to cause us having diabetes are the ones that really infuriate me. They are the ones that are keeping the stigma alive. I wish I had the time and patience to educate each and every one of them, but that just isn't possible. This kind of disgracing makes living with a disease that is already hard to live with, that much harder.
Those of you that know me may think that it is pretty easy to maintain because I always make it seem that way, but I'm always thinking about whether or not I counted something right, or did I give myself the right amount of insulin or ten thousand other things. I have plenty of gadgets that do make my life that much easier, but it's not that way for everyone.
I prefer to use my diabetes to make me stronger than to let it pull me down. I know many other Type 1's that do the same. But we all have our moments where it gets to us. When people go around perpetuating the stigma the surrounds diabetes, especially those that should know better (health professionals), it gets a frustrating. I would say I've had it pretty easy myself when it comes to these situations - my family, friends and doctors have always understood everything pretty well. There were rarely any "you can't eat that" situations. It was always "how can we find the right time for you to eat that." And for that I'm grateful.
Given that yesterday was Halloween I figured it best to ignore twitter for a bit because there would be far too many people writing "#diabetes" on pictures of their loot from the night. One day I hope people will learn to educate themselves before making a "joke" that just isn't very funny.
- Keep flying steady