It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than 4 years since I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and about 7 years since I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Over those years I have heard a lot of negativity towards type 2 diabetes and often it has been directed right at me. The thing that gets me the most though is it’s not just by those who do not have the disease but a lot of the time it’s by people with type 1 diabetes which quite frankly has shocked me and made me feel less than a person sometimes.
That being said a lot of times the worst things do come from people who do not have diabetes or who do not know someone close to them that has diabetes and some of the things that some of us with type 2 diabetes(and honestly I am sure some people with type 1 get as well) hear is so annoying and ignorant and hurtful. As someone who has multiple family members with either type 1 or type 2 including both my parents, it frustrates me when people don’t take genetics into consideration as well as the many other factors involved. Not to mention that few other diseases carry the social stigma of diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes.
What Not To Say To Someone With Type 2 Diabetes
Here is a list of things not to say to someone with type 2 diabetes whether newly diagnosed or having been diagnosed for years!
It’s your own fault! Type 2 diabetes is preventable!
There is so much stigma, shame and blame around type 2 diabetes. Many of us are often accused of causing our disease and yes, in some instances type 2 diabetes may be preventable, but in many cases it’s hereditary and all you really can do is delay it since age and genetics play a huge part. Diabetes is such a complex disease and while no one with type 1 diabetes would have caused their disease, type 2 diabetes is not so straightforward as one might believe. If you would like to read a good article on the topic please read Stigma should not be a part of a diabetes diagnosis.
Should you be eating that?
When someone is diagnosed with diabetes (any type) we are generally given weeks, if not months, of diabetes education including how to take our medications and/or insulin, how to use a glucose monitor and also how, when and what to eat as well as being active and getting exercise. That being said there is no “diabetes diet” and we are encouraged to eat healthy and it does involve a lot of lifestyle changes typically unless we already eat the “right stuff”. Diabetes however does not mean that we can not enjoy the foods we love in moderation. Moderation being the key.
If you read [insert book title here] you’ll see that you can reverse your diabetes
While it is possible to go into remission with type 2 diabetes, meaning your blood sugar levels are healthy without having to take any medication, often people will tell you that if you follow this book or that diet that you can reverse your diabetes, which simply is just not true and provides a sense of false hope. People with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes will always have diabetes. If you have type 1 no amount of control will cure it or reverse it. You simply do not produce insulin and will always have to take insulin.
People with type 2 diabetes typically do produce insulin however their bodies either do not make enough insulin or can not use the insulin produced efficiently, and the disease changes over time as well and some people with type 2 will stop producing insulin altogether and insulin will need to be taken no matter what (similar to type 1). If someone with type 2 diabetes does go into remission the chance of relapsing can be fairly high.
I could never have diabetes because I could never inject myself with a needle!
I am sure we all wish we could all say the same! I have even heard this from other type 2 diabetics in some of the Facebook groups I am in or people I know offline. Diabetes is not a choice though and if you have no other option believe me you will learn. I have to say I was one of these people myself and though I was able temporarily to get my diabetes under control enough that my doctor was comfortable taking me off of the insulin and leaving me only on pills this is something that can change over time and you may end up on insulin and if you have type 1, you have no other choice. You will die if you do not take insulin.
My [insert person here] had diabetes, [she/he] [died/lost a foot/etc]
Well, thanks. Just thanks. Yes, believe me, we know what can happen. It’s on our minds all the time. We know all to well the implications of not getting and keeping our disease under control and do not need this reminder. Don’t say this. Just don’t. We don’t need to hear it. We don’t.
Well, at least you can’t die from it
We can. Yes, we can. Hypoglycemia (also known as low blood sugar) is a serious medical emergency and requires prompt medical treatment or you can die. For those of us taking certain diabetic medications or insulin, hypoglycemia is an all to real threat. Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) can damage our bodies in the long run, but hypo (low blood sugar) is an immediate threat to our lives and can and has lead to death in diabetes of any type.
If caught quickly you can treat hypoglycemia with sugar tablets followed by a snack. Often though it may require hospitalization or even death if left untreated. One thing to note as well is typically when you get to this stage you can not treat yourself and are relying on those around you to help treat your hypoglycemia so it is important for your friends, family and co-workers to know what to do in the event of this happening. This is quite frightening when you think about it that your life could be in the hands of someone who may not even recognize what is going on never mind how to treat it.
If you don’t know much about any type of diabetes don’t be afraid to ask us to tell you more about it. A simple, “Oh I don’t know a lot about diabetes and the different types, can you tell me more?” is way better in the long run than saying something that comes off ignorant or rude or condescending. If you want to know more about diabetes you can find out more through Diabetes Canada or the America Diabetes Association.