Fighting the stigma surrounding type 2 diabetes
September 2013 — The young woman sitting across the table from me noticed the diabetes tattoo on my forearm and commented that her mother also had diabetes. "Type 1 or type 2?" I asked. "I'm not sure," she responded. "It's the self-induced kind." I almost hit the floor! However, I managed not to kiss the linoleum, but instead responded with, "She has type 2. A lot of people assume we caused our diabetes." Hearing it put that way, and realizing I was now implicated as a self-inducer, my new friend blushed.
Self-induced diabetes is an interesting concept. Is it really possible? Is that even the correct term? I think that self-inflicted diabetes, much like a self-inflicted gunshot wound, would be more appropriate. However, a pregnant woman can be induced into labor, or self-induced. She doesn't do it to herself, someone does it for her. If she does it herself, is it self-inflicted labor?
I have always been taught (unsuccessfully) that people should not stare. It is supposed to be impolite. When people wear tight or revealing clothing, or clothing with words or logos in places it is typically inappropriate to mention, are they inviting stares?
If we can cause our type 2 diabetes, thus making it a weapon or tool, does this mean that children will threaten to give themselves diabetes if they don't get their way? In addition to locking up the liquor cabinet, will parents also have to lock up the sweets, pastries, etc.?
Instead of jumping off a bridge or overdosing on drugs, will suicide attempters consume large quantities of chocolate cake, doughnuts, or bags of sugar instead? I predict a lot of upset stomachs. However, the first responders may enjoy any left-over treats.
I attempted to educate my friend about predispositions (hereditary, sedentary, overweight, etc.) that may lead to type 2 diabetes. I tried not to chastise her for blaming her mother for having this chronic condition. It's bad enough to have to manage diabetes and suffer the consequences of it intruding on your life.
Did it work? I doubt it. Public opinion is against us. So many type 2s do a bad job projecting a positive image. We talk about having type 2 diabetes while eating high-carb foods, with our bellies over-lapping the tops of our pants. I have found it difficult to order dessert, or purchase other forbidden fare, while keeping my left forearm turned over to hide my type 2 diabetes tattoo.
We need to do better — I need to do better — by eating responsibly in public and at home. For us, eating high-carb food equals blindness, kidney failure, heart problems, circulatory problems, amputations, and even death. It may taste good going in, but the consequences are extreme. We definitely need to clean up our act, improve our image, and recapture our health.
Will the public respond in a positive way? That is doubtful. But we will still benefit from our efforts, and possibly educate enough folks that at least a few others may avoid getting type 2.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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Because I wear my Dexcom on my arm, I’ve slowly adjusted to the fact that people will ask me about it. Sometimes it’s the rude and inquisitive “What’s that?” and sometimes it’s somewhat sincere curiosity “Is that a (insert random type of medical device that they assume)?” Sometimes it bothers me more than others depending on how they ask and how they respond once I’ve told them what it is. I have limits to how much myth-busting I want to do in everyday conversation and how much rudeness I can...