From Abby: Mind the Gap.
Working as a healthcare professional and a person with diabetes, Abby has seen diabetes from, and on, all sides. Today, she's writing about how her view on diabetes has changed in the last few years, and how it shapes her advocacy efforts.
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So as I work more with people who have type 2 diabetes, and as I grow older and wiser, with my "juvenile diabetes" not staying in it's juvenile place and insisting on tagging along into adulthood, I think I've come up with a theory.
There is a gap closure between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes with age.
When you are a kid with diabetes, everyone assumes you have type 1. Nobody really questions it, especially under the age of 15. Or at least in my life, that was the case. I got the occasional "oh my cat/Grampa/uncle has/had that" blah blah, but for the most part, people knew that my kind of diabetes was "genetic" or whatever. Once I entered college, things got a little grey, though. I got a lot of, "Oh ... which kind of diabetes?" or, "How long have you had it?" or ,"Wait, can you eat that candy bar?".
Then I became a real life grown-up. I wear dressy pants to work and I have a badge that I swipe in and I pay my rent with checks (those silly things that debit cards replaced). I. Am. An. Adult. (#gross). This new status also came with a lot of really annoying and not necessarily accurate "but you're not fat" types of comments when my dead organ status was revealed. I'm sure most of you can relate so far.
Here is where my theory comes in. When I was younger, I felt absolutely no connection with the type 2 world. It is a different disease, generally diagnosed at a different life stage, requires very different treatment and can sometimes be delayed with good health habits. Early stages of type 2 are pretty much nothing like type 1, and as a child, that's all I could see. Even as a teenager, and frankly until about two years ago, this is what I thought. Until I had to start defending myself against ugly, judgmental comments. Now I understand. Now I want to fight for all diabetes to be treated fairly.
I know plenty of people with type 1 who are very overweight, eat terrible foods and don't work out. I know that these people can take insulin and keep fairly stable blood sugars and not feel guilty about it. I know an equal number of people with type 2 who eat well, work out, are at an average weight, and still need insulin - probably a ton of it. This case bears a lot of guilt that they (according to social commentary), "could have worked out more and stayed off of insulin" so on top of the social judgement there is a huge personal guilt factor happening too ... or so I'm told.
So now that I'm an adult, I am judged for carrying the diagnosis of diabetes, and people with type 2 are judged for being on insulin. While they are still not the same disease, are not medically treated the same, and have entirely different influencing factors, I think we need to remember that those stereotypes hurt everyone. It took me about thirteen years to realize this, but I wish I had learned it earlier.
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Has your perception of diabetes changed over the years? Do you think society's views have changed?