5 Ignorant Things You Should Never Say To People With Type 1 Diabetes
Waking up every day and being part of America's population of type 1 diabetics brings its own unique and rare challenges to day-to-day life. Wether it's taking shots five times a day or dealing with the highs and lows of our blood sugars and emotional state, it can be exhausting.
But on top of that, we as a community must defend our own disease more than you think. See, we share a medical term with another disease, type 2 diabetes, which is completely separate from us. But, that form of diabetes has the biggest stigma and notoriety.
Personally, I don't think there's been a time when I haven't had to explain the difference between type 1 and type 2 to people. It's sad. I'm practically begging people to understand that what I have is an autoimmune disease that I did nothing to spark. No matter how much salad I eat or how much I exercise I do, I will never be able to be free from this burden like people with type 2 can.
That's why I have stayed quiet for most of my life about my disease. I get the same questions over and over again. Here are five of the worst things you can say to someone with type 1 diabetes:
1. "Can you eat that?"
Hell yeah, I can. What people don't understand about type 1 is that we can eat whatever we like, as long as we check our blood sugar and take our insulin. We are normal people who just have to take a couple extra precautions, and asking why we aren't limiting ourselves is insinuating that we aren't allowed to live normal lives.
It's type 2 diabetics who must carefully watch what they eat so they can become healthier and eventually reverse their diagnosis. This is something I cannot do. So yeah, I can have a piece of cake.
2. "OMG, I'm afraid of needles. How do you take shots?"
Well for starters, I do it so I can live another day. It's not like I think it's fun or cool. Most people who were diagnosed were afraid of needles at some point, too.
But, it's about conquering those fears and doing what's needed so we can try and get on with our day. After years and years of it, it doesn't even hurt anymore. It's not like an IV. It takes five seconds, and then you're done.
3. "My grandparents have diabetes, too."
Haha, oh do they? This is my least favorite out of all of them, simply because one in four Americans who are 65 or older have type 2 diabetes. So immediately I ask questions such as, "Which type?"
Never in my life has someone said anything other than "It's type 2, I think." So, no. Your grandma and I don't have the same thing.
4. "You're grumpy. You should check your sugar."
Yeah, don't ever say that to anyone. While the fluctuations in someone's sugar levels can affect mood in many different ways, it's no one's place to say someone is acting a certain way because of an outside influence. It makes it seem like I'm not allowed to have emotions unless they're somehow caused by my sugar being too low or too high.
Belittling and type 1 too often go hand in hand. So, you can just lay off and let me handle myself, thanks.
5. "Well, you know ______ is a cure for diabetes."
While the other things I've mentioned make me more angry than sad, this one just makes me flat-out sad. One time when I was in fourth grade, a girl in my class told me she heard on the news that "iceberg lettuce cures diabetes" while I was checking my blood sugar.
You should've seen my face. I was so happy.
I was also 9 years old and didn't know that wasn't possible, as I was newly diagnosed. So, I went home and told my mom the great news, and she looked so sad when she told me that wasn't possible.
The truth is, while we are so close to a breakthrough, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes. So, don't lie and say okra or some other bullsh*t is going to be my saving grace. Save me the trouble because I'll not only be so disappointed, but I'll also want you to just stop talking.
All in all, misinformation is to blame for comments such as these. We have all heard them and know them too well. But as a community, we ask that you separate us from the disease that is not earned from the one that is. So, if you've ever asked these questions or said these things, please rephrase them.
Maybe it's a small price to pay to listen to such ignorance. Because while there is negativity, the type 1 community is one of the most supportive ones I have ever seen. We will continue to empower each other to move past these things together, while probably explaining the tubing that's around our belts. But that's OK because we would rather inform than hide.