Saturday, September 12, 2015

One vs. Two

I just want to clarify here that I am not an endocrinologist (surprise!). I don't even know close to everything about Type 1 diabetes (although I'm attempting to learn all that I can), and I certainly don't know close to very much at all about Type 2 diabetes (although I am also attempting to learn about it too). But people ask me about it, all the time, of course. And so I research, and I read, and I try to answer their questions honestly and fully and point them towards resources (Wikipedia, mainly...) that can help them learn more. So I just felt like I wanted to point something out here. Mainly when people talk to me about my diabetes, I receive a lot of sympathy and compassion. But unfortunately, it can often come with a downside, which is people's attitudes about Type 2 diabetes and what that means. 

I just want to go on record here and say that, diabetes sucks. All kinds suck. And to be honest, in my opinion, it's more of a "spectrum" disease, what with LADA, insulin-dependent Type 2 diabetes and all that whatnot. 

I can't imagine what it would be like to be going through diabetes, all the stress, and the math, and the changes and the responsibilities, and to have on top of that the stigma of most people walking around thinking you did this to yourself. Or even worse, the twin thought attached to that, you deserve this.

Here are some (endocrinologist-approved) facts that I know about diabetes. Guess what? Type 1 is not genetic. That would be Type 2. Yeah....some people are just genetically predisposed to be unlucky in their dealings with carbohydrates. 

Here's another fact. You never "undiabetes." No diabetes is curable. It's true that during diabetes onset, you can stave off the full effects with diet and exercise control. But once you have diabetes, you have it. Type 1, Type 2, Type 1,000,000,000 (that's pronounced "Type tres commas"). 

I'll tell you two stories that I've been told in my life. Here's one: My great-grandpa used to eat whatever he wanted all the time. Every night of his life, he would come downstairs before bed and eat a giant slice of pie and drink a big glass of milk. He was skinny as a beanpole and healthy as a horse. Here's another story, of which I've been told several variations by many people about many people: My cousin has Type 2 diabetes. He eats whatever he wants all the time and just takes the pills but doesn't do anything else besides that. He once went out to dinner with my mom's family and ordered macaroni and cheese and dessert!! Did I mention he has Type 2 diabetes?

I don't know what it's like to have Type 2 diabetes. I can't speak for them. But I can speak to the experience of watching people's face change as I....reassure....them?? (not sure on word choice there but it kind of feels appropriate) that I have "the other kind" of diabetes. The kind that everyone can feel comfortable talking about. The kind that doesn't make people think uncomfortable thoughts about people's access to healthy food and food education. Or who's serving food in our public schools. Or entire mass marketing campaigns and food industries that are built around tricking our brains and getting us addicted to their products, pancreases be damned. Or just the crappy, crappy luck of having a body that doesn't 100% function perfectly. 

So this has been a bit of a scattered rant. But I just wanted to lay things out here, because guess what? No one deserves diabetes. And if you think that people do, then maybe you're the rare exception that actually DOES deserve diabetes, just so you can gain some freaking empathy. That felt mean. But, you know, I don't want to deny the fact that I do have Type 1 diabetes and that's an autoimmune disease, which is distinct. But I also don't want to deny the experience of anyone with diabetes. I am not sure how this belief plays into my future with this disease. But I want the people I care about (aka you, my limited audience) to make sure to check your attitudes, too, even when you mean well and are trying to express how much you care about me. 

1 comment:

  1. Interesting points. Type 1 is more "legitimate" perhaps? It's interesting that in all the commercials for Type 2 medications, the folks are all significantly overweight. They don't have skinny people needing their medications. I'm not sure whether they're trying not to offend the overweight Type 2 folks or what the deal is.

    I have to say, the only "good" thing about the Type 2 diabetes (besides motivating me to eat right & keep my weight reasonable) is that if you tell folks (like at a restaurant) "No dessert, thanks, I'm a diabetic." they say OK, and drop it. If you say "No dessert, thanks, I'm on a diet", they try to talk you into the desert. Not sure what's up with that, either.

    But you're right. Diabetes sucks, no matter which type or what the cause. I remain sorry that you're having to go through this.