I briefly checked into a bit of an impromtu #DSMA chat yesterday morning (thanks to the end of daylight saving time in the US, the chat now happens to coincide with my morning tea break at work and I can check in!).
The question that was being discussed at the time was one of the simplest, yet mind blanking questions. How would I define diabetes? Would I be type specific? Broken pancreas, insulin injections? Or would I go for a blanket definition? Regulating blood glucose levels, healthy lifestyle? Would I say something witty? It kind of stumped me a little.
I recalled a chat over the phone with a work colleague on Wednesday. Coincidentally, we were discussing the issue of a diabetes related appointment during work hours. I casually mentioned that I had diabetes, and her response kind of suprised me.
“Really? But you’re so slim and fit!”
I wasn’t suprised by her response. Nor did it upset me. What I was suprised at, however, was the way in which she responded. That it was a big deal. I guess for me, I’ve gotten to the point now where bringing up diabetes in real life is not a big deal.
Which brings me to my own interpretation of that #DSMA question. I would like people to know that diabetes is not something that I inflicted onto myself. And I’m not saying this as a selfish person with type 1 who is completely and utterly offended. I’m saying it for people with all types of diabetes.
I’m a bit sick of the media associating diabetes with all of those “lifestyle” factors. Yes, obesity is an issue. Yes, inactivity is an issue. Yes, they’re epidemics, along with diabetes. Yes, in some cases they can be prevented. And yes, we need to work to halt them.
And we can. Independently of each other.
Why can’t we promote healthy diets and active lifestyles, without bringing the words “causes diabetes” into the mix? Wouldn’t it lead to the same outcome? We’d be working towards haulting those epidemics, without stigmatising the people who are already living with chronic conditions.
People living with diabetes would feel motivated and empowered to manage their condition through a healthy lifestyle. And at the same time we’d be encouraging people at risk of developing these conditions to adopt healthier lifestyles.
The only difference?
People already living with diabetes wouldn’t be stigmatised. They wouldn’t have to hear demoralising messages that blame and shame them. They would be able to look forward, instead of being continually dragged backwards into the pit of could ofs, would ofs and should ofs.
Truth be told, nobody chooses ANY type of diabetes. Except for the health care providers, researchers, advocates and donors who are trying to make sense of, and solve it. Each and every single day. And it’s time that we, the patients, are encouraged to look forward rather than backward.