The other day, I sat in the dentist chair (a place I dread with every fiber of my being) and chatted with the hygienist.
She double-checked my medical history, highlighting the fact I'm a type 1 diabetic. Then, she asked about any recent hospitalizations, and I admitted I had recently been in the hospital for about a week with complications due to my diabetes.
All was fine until the end of the visit.
The dentist informed me if I took better care of myself via a low-carb diet and exercise, I would be able to "fix" my diabetes. (Yes, she said "fix.")
I replied in an agitated tone that I would never live a day without carb-counting, insulin shots and finger pricks. Her confused look made me realize just how naïve and ignorant people can be.
She had no idea what the differences are between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. She honestly believed a healthy diet would solve all of my problems.
Newsflash: Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are astronomically different.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when you are insulin-dependent, meaning you have a lack of insulin.
Basically, if you have type 1 diabetes, your pancreas does not produce the insulin you need to regulate the metabolism of the carbohydrates you put in your body (which is why we have to do insulin shots when we eat).
Your cells do not absorb sugar properly, which affects energy production.
On the other hand, type 2 diabetes occurs when you are non-insulin-dependent or insulin resistant, meaning your diabetes is a result of your body not producing enough insulin or ineffectively using insulin.
All things considered, type 1 diabetes is not preventable, but type 2 diabetes is.
Both diseases are difficult to control and handle, but the distinction between the two is important to note. Type 1 diabetics hear a lot of inaccurate and ridiculous statements, and it can be extremely frustrating.
It's always beneficial to be more aware, so here is a list of the most absurd things people have said to me about my diabetes throughout the past five years:
1. But... you aren’t fat?
Thanks, but anyone can get diabetes. You can be skinny, fat or average sized; it's a nondiscriminatory disease! Even the most healthy, fit person can get diabetes.
Remember: The pancreas' inability to produce insulin causes type 1, not because of someone's size.
2. Did your parents give you too much sugar growing up? Did you eat too much sugar as a kid?
Yes, you see, the 50 Pixy Stix I ate between ages 4 and 8 caused me to develop diabetes at 16 years old.
No! The amount of sugar I ate growing up did not in any way cause my type 1 diabetes. Too much sugar intake does not cause type 1. We can eat just as much sugar as any other person!
3. You can’t eat that, can you?
Watch me eat an entire piece of a double chocolate fudge cake with ice cream and then ask me again.
Yes, I can eat that — and I will. I have teeth, don't I? Just because a certain piece of food has sugar in it does not mean a diabetic can't eat it.
As long as we take insulin before or after the snack or meal, we will be fine. Sure, our blood sugar may escalate more than the average person, but that's what we deal with. It's not your concern.
4. Does that hurt? (In reference to finger pricks or needles.)
Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't. But, that doesn't mean you need to ask or gawk. Don't stare at people when they're injecting their insulin shots; it isn't necessary. It's part of our routine.
Sure, it's fine to ask questions every once and a while, but you don't need to obsess over it.
It can make us feel insecure when people stare at us or make faces. I'm sure people don't realize it, but it really can be uncomfortable. Try to be respectful when we are testing ourselves or giving ourselves a shot!
5. It could always be worse, right?
It could be worse, but it could also be better. As diabetics, the minute we are diagnosed, our entire lives change.
We may not be facing imminent death, but we face a multitude of lifestyle changes. We have to check our blood multiple times a day and count the carbs in absolutely everything we eat.
It's definitely not easy, and it's not something that will ever go away. It's something we will spend the rest of our lives dealing with, and while there's always something worse, there is also always something better. So, please don't say, "Well, at least it's not [insert horrible disease here]."
It might actually be very bad for some of us, and many people fail to understand how difficult it is to successfully manage diabetes.
6. I hate needles! I don’t know how you do it.
This is definitely not the way to start a conversation with someone who is diabetic, nor is it an appropriate thing to say while I'm injecting my insulin.
I hate needles, too, but I do it because I have to. It's not a choice to give myself insulin; it's a necessity. If I didn't have to inject myself, then trust me, I wouldn't.
The day I found out I was diabetic, I cried because I was so fearful of needles. I didn't even care about the diagnosis itself; I was just terrified I would have to "stick" myself multiple times a day.
However, you do get used to it and it slowly becomes a routine.
7. Can I watch you test?
Sure, you don't need to ask. Odds are, I'll whip out my kit regardless of your opinion.
We have to test all the time, mostly at restaurants. So, just know if you're out with a diabetic, you'll probably see a finger prick!
8. My grandma has diabetes; I know exactly how you feel!
That's debatable. Sure, your grandma may have type 1, but odds are she has type 2 and was diagnosed much later in life.
Also, just because someone in your family has diabetes, it doesn't mean you automatically understand everything we go through on a daily basis.
Try not to be a know-it-all when it comes to something someone else is dealing with. It's very frustrating when people try to tell me how to live my life and deal with my diabetes.
I'm sure you would be annoyed, too, if people told you what to eat and when to exercise! Just be aware that you don't know everything and sometimes, you really can cross a line or overstep a boundary.
9. Do you have the good kind or the bad kind?
Honestly, I cannot say whether there is a “good” kind of diabetes or a “bad” kind of diabetes. Both are rather unfortunate in terms of lifestyle appeal, but I do believe type 1 is harder to manage than type 2.
However, that doesn't mean one is good and one is bad; it just means we were dealt unfortunate hands in life.
An obstacle was put in our way, and we have to overcome it. Asking this question is like saying, "Do you have the good kind of cancer or the bad kind of cancer?"
There is no nice way to ask this, so it's best to just keep it to yourself! Or, if you're that curious, just ask whether it's type 1 or type 2.
10. Can I catch diabetes?
This is probably the most outrageous and rude question I have ever been asked. Yes, someone actually thought by sharing my drink, I would pass on my diabetes. It’s not herpes — it doesn’t spread by contact.
Do not ever ask diabetics this question! They will probably just want to hit you.
These are only a handful of the ridiculous questions I have been asked since I was diagnosed. I'm sure there are so many more I have not added, but these are the main ones that have stuck with me.
I hope this will help people to realize there is a difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Sometimes, the things you say really do have an effect on those around you.