I’ll be honest…I had no clue about the many challenges people with diabetes face until I met Mykenzie. She has taught me so much about it and also shared how difficult strangers and their “helpful” comments can make it.
by Mykenzie Johnson | guest writer for The Snap Mom
Ahh, the article I’ve been itching to write. Since being diagnosed with Type One Diabetes four years ago, there has been several instances where I have had to bite my tongue, walk away, or step up on my diabetes education soap box. Fortunately, I do have supportive friends and family who (most of the time) outnumber the ignorant comments from strangers. However, summer is right around the corner, and my insulin pump never fails to invite nosey questions or pointed fingers.
#1 To begin, please hold off the food suggestions.
“Can you eat that?” Yes. Yes, I can eat sugar. No, you don’t have to dial 911. Also, eating cinnamon, acai berries, or drinking some supplement will not cure my disease. As of right now, there is not a cure. Type One Diabetes is a chronic, lifelong, genetic disease that usually affects children. Sometimes, it’s also called juvenile diabetes.
#2 We would appreciate some understanding.
“Oh I could never give myself shots.” We don’t really need to know how needle-phobic you are. Trust me, we don’t like them either. Nobody wants to give themselves injections 4-6x a day (or more). That being said, understand the injections are the way of receiving medication. It’s life or death, certainly not a choice.
#3 Non-compliment Compliments
I’m not the first person to ever share that I have diabetes. When I do, I usually hear, “but you’re not fat.” This is a common misconception. Type One Diabetes has nothing to do with weight. People usually confuse the type of diabetes I have with Type Two. In Type Two Diabetes, weight, nutrition, and lifestyle are components to its diagnosis. You can reverse Type Two Diabetes with proper diet, exercise, and loosing weight. Type One Diabetes is irreversible because of the genetic component and does not have a cure.
#4 Kindly refrain from stories (horror, “comforting,” or otherwise).
I’m always stunned at how many complete strangers feel the need to inform me that their cousin’s neighbor’s dentist’s niece’s son has diabetes. Oh…he died. Literally, every time. “You have diabetes? So did my [insert cat, grandma, totally unrelated random person], and she had her leg cut off. And then died.” It’s not comforting. One of my gynecologist appointments literally consisted of her yelling and belittling me about how if I continue to eat sugar I will lose my feet and go into a coma. Needless to say, she lost a patient and received a lengthy email of diabetes education materials and updated info so that would never happen to anyone else again, much less a thirteen year old girl like I was. Please, don’t mention far fetched complications to us.
#5 “Is that the bad kind?”
Again, there are different kinds of diabetes (Type One, Type Two, Gestational, and LADA), and I’m sure they all have their own challenges.
This really grinds my gears. I’ve unfriended a fair share of people guilty of hashtag-ing #diabetes. Don’t do it. Seeing these posts have brought me to tears, and it stings to the core. Think twice before you #diabetes on your picture of donuts, ice cream, cake, cookies, candy, soda (the list goes on and on). Joke or not, understand YOU are spreading the misconception. You are literally confirming the public opinion that diabetes is always caused by poor eating, unhealthy choices, and being overweight. If your child suffered from this disease, you wouldn’t find it funny. Neither do we.
#7 Diagnosis Responses.
There are so many no-no’s in this realm. When I first found out, I was in a complete blur. With so much to take in at once, it’s hard to process on your own, much less announce to family and friends. I still remember to this day calling my one of my best friends right after I left the hospital appointment. I explained what had happened, was looking for encouragement and support, and I’m not joking she said, “Well, at least it’s not cancer!” Not trying to downplay cancer whatsoever, but try to avoid comparing diseases. Another, common one is “It could be worse.” Again, sometimes if you don’t know what to say, a hug is best. Sometimes there aren’t words. That’s okay. Offering advice like that is counterproductive, ignorant and can be taken offensively.
I hope this can help along the lines of etiquette when talking to someone with diabetes. We are just people too, but take into consideration how exhausting and draining this disease can be. After 3 AM glucose checks, four overnight trips to the bathroom, and endless juice breaks, one less ignorant comment can make our lives that much easier. Want to help spread awareness or help someone with diabetes? Offer a listening ear, donate to JDRF, or if you’re brave, put up with a glucose test. That’s always a fun family event; I love testing my friend’s blood sugar! With one finger prick they feel involved, it’s super interesting, and it gives me a chance to share a little more.