Type One Diabetes Myths – What It’s Really Like As A Type 1 Diabetic
I’m sick of being judged and misunderstood for having type one diabetes. I’m not going to sugarcoat this…
At school, I remember my teacher talking to the class about being healthy. She said to eat your five a day, to do exercise, and to get plenty of sleep, because nobody wants to be unhealthy.
“People who are unhealthy become overweight, and can get nasty things like heart disease and diabetes, like Juliet has got.”
Everybody turned to look disapprovingly at me. I felt like I’d done something horribly wrong. But what did I have to feel guilty about?
I have been a type one diabetic since I was seven. A lot of my memories pre-diabetes have faded, and I struggle to remember a life that didn’t involve blood test strips and insulin vials. It’s a manageable, yet inconvenient disease, but the biggest bother to me will always be other people’s misconceptions. Queue the rant.
Now, let’s make something clear from the beginning: I know that non-diabetics have no reason to be experts on the disease. Of course, there are many diseases about which I’m sure I’m very misinformed myself. However, a lack of knowledge is all the more reason for people to stop telling me how to deal with my condition. Funnily enough, as a diabetic, I know more than you. So listen and learn, people.
I can eat sugar. Stop judging me when I do.
“My Grandma’s diabetic, and she can’t eat cake, so you can’t either,” is a personal favourite from ignorant non-diabetics. I have lost count of the number of times people have judged me for eating something sugary.
No, I am not rebelling. No, I’m not giving up on my diabetes. Believe it or not, I can eat sugar. In fact, I can eat whatever the hell I like. As long as I give myself the right amount of insulin, I can stuff my pie-hole just like everybody else.
There is currently no cure for type one diabetes.
I spent the first couple of years as a diabetic feeling optimistic about the day it would disappear. I couldn’t wait until my last injection, or my last struggle through a low sugar level. However, this day would never actually come. I only thought it would because of uneducated adults telling me, “don’t worry, you’ll grow out of your diabetes when you’re older.”
Diabetes is a lifelong condition. At the moment, there is no cure, despite know-it-alls throwing ridiculous myths at me, such as, “I read on the internet that eating seaweed will cure your diabetes.”
Do you honestly think I would live with this disease if I didn’t have to? Don’t you see how blatantly false and inappropriate your suggestions are?
Type one and type two diabetes are not the same.
So where does all the confusion come from? Well, in a perfect world, type one and type two diabetes would have completely different names. People just morph them into one condition to be treated in the same way.
Type two, which is generally diagnosed in adults, can be caused by lifestyle triggers such as diet, physical activity or smoking – although that isn’t always the case. You need to understand they’re different diseases.
Stop blaming our diabetes on our ‘unhealthy lifestyle’.
Yes, it’s true that you are more at risk of developing type two diabetes if you smoke, do no exercise and/or eat food that’s not healthy for you. But other factors are at play when it comes to developing the disease, like your genetics, and even your stress levels. You cannot blame people with either type one or type two diabetes for their illness.
Type one diabetes is found in the strongest athletes and the most sedentary fast food lovers because – brace yourself – an unhealthy lifestyle does not cause type one diabetes. You cannot reduce the risk of developing the disease.
In the same way that lung cancer can be caused by smoking, you wouldn’t automatically blame anyone with lung cancer for bringing on the disease themselves. Even if smoking may have been a potential factor, assigning blame in general when it comes to health is a big no.
There’s a bigger picture.
So what is type one diabetes?
Type one diabetes is an autoimmune disease, normally diagnosed in children and teens. It’s caused by your body destroying the cells which make insulin, so diabetics must inject it themselves.
So please, stop shaming me and other diabetics for something we have to live with every day of our lives.
People need to know the facts. People need to be educated in the same way they are when it comes to asthma or epilepsy.
A person has an asthma attack in public, and people know they need their inhaler. They know that their situation is serious. When my sugar level drops, people tend to look at me blankly and normally ask if I need to sit down, rather than responding with some much-needed sugar. On the other hand, when my sugar level is too high, nobody ever has any idea what the consequences are.
People don’t understand why I’ve called in sick. They aren’t aware that high levels cause me to feel ill and vomit. And, rather importantly, many people don’t know the symptoms for diagnosing the condition itself.
Spottings the signs of type one diabetes
For the record, you’ve just got to remember the four Ts: toilet, thirsty, tired and thinner.
Many children are seriously ill by the time they’re diagnosed because people overlook the signs. I’m not just ranting for my benefit – this is a serious, potentially life threatening disease that people should know more about.
Diabetes isn’t the worst disease out there. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. “At least you don’t have X” invalidates the fact that for the most part diabetes is invisible, but it’s still there all day, every day. Why must I compare myself to somebody with a horrific illness, or compare myself to anyone at all, just to prove to you that I have a serious disease?
Type one diabetes is a disease which is the UK’s leading cause of preventable sight loss in those of working age. A disease which increases your chance of experiencing depression. A disease which, if not taken care of, leads to various complications, such as heart disease and kidney failure.
But hey, it’s only diabetes, right?
Article resource and further reading: Diabetes UK Facts.