Stereotypes: We Haz Them.
A member of the Diabetes UK outreach group sent me their video about "setting the record straight," featuring a young girl with type 1 diabetes who is being bullied by her peers. They taunt her, telling her she brought this on herself and that she is contagious. She turns to the camera and asserts the facts about type 1.
And I agree with this. My diabetes isn't contagious. It isn't because I ate too many candy bars as a kid or because I had a weight problem or because a black cat carrying red balloons crossed my path on a Tuesday evening. But how often do I turn to the camera ... I mean, person, and set them straight with a well-articulated and poised onslaught of accurate information?
I am not a doctor and I can't spin you a tale of the precise physiological aspects of how diabetes works, but I do know that there's a pile of stererotypes. Though blogging, my job at dLife, and just simply sitting on the subway, I come across plenty examples:
- "Diabetes is from eating too much sugar."
- If you wear a pump, it means you diabetes is "really bad."
- "You can't eat sugar."
- "You can't eat carbs."
- (You can't eat anything, it seems.)
- "Diabetics shouldn't have kids."
- "Aren't you supposed to exercise when you're low?"
- "Diabetes is contagious and you can get it through sharing needles."
- "People with diabetes are unclean."
- "Diabetics are the reason for increased healthcare costs."
- Kids with type 1 diabetes can eventually outgrow their disease.
- "Diabetes is cured by taking insulin shots."
- "People with type 2 diabetes gave it to themselves."
- "All diabetics are overweight."
- "Diabetes isn't a big deal."
- "Did you used to be fat?"
- "No one wants to date or marry a person with diabetes."
- Diabetes can be cured by taking this pill, this chocolate shake (!), this raw food diet, this crap supplement.
- CGMs and pumps are a closed-loop system and by wearing one, I don't even have to manage my diabetes anymore.
- "You're grown up now, so your mother doesn't have to worry about your diabetes anymore."
And the list goes on and on and on ... for miles. I can't even list all the ones I've heard over the last 20+ years because they vary in shapes, sizes, and levels of ignorance.
Chris and I talk about this sometimes, about how much the "average" person doesn't know about diabetes. About how I get offended at times when people talk about diabetes like it's something not worth worrying about or how people who end up with complications are at fault for their body's failure.
"Not everyone understands, Kerri."
"I know, but I really wish they did. And I know that's unreasonable because plenty of people have much better things to do than care about a disease. But I cannot stand when diabetes is made out to be something that I 'asked for' or something I manage so easily with the push of a button on this pump, right? Do we look to healthy? Do we not look healthy enough? I think this is a serious disease and the stereotypes make me nuts sometimes."
After a beat:
"Good thing I'm not bitter, right?"
I want to know what kind of stereotypes you guys hear about. Do you bother to correct people? Do you write letters to let companies know that their marketing campaigns are painful to watch? Do you make efforts to ignore the misinformation or do you work to correct it when and where you can? Or are you practicing your apathetic "pfffft!" and moving on without giving it much thought?