I’m feeling a certain level of
sadness and disconnect; a bit like I’m not one of the group. Due to the fact
that November is National Diabetes Awareness month and November 14th
was World Diabetes Day, this disease has recently gotten a lot of attention.
This attention wasn’t just coming from diabetes advocates, but in the press as
well. Unfortunately, some of those articles were poorly worded or lacked enough
specificity and this made some folks unhappy. I have mixed emotions about that.
I’m glad to see more mainstream coverage of diabetes of any type, even though some
of it could be better. It’s improving, in my opinion. There seem to be more
articles pointing out the fact that there is more to type 2 diabetes than
gluttony and sloth. However, folks in the type 1 camp are unhappy because these
articles don’t specify type 2. We’re all lumped together.
“My child did not get his
diabetes from eating too much sugar.” “Type 1 diabetes is not a lifestyle
disease.” “I can’t cure my diabetes by avoiding fast food and eating cinnamon.”
Every time I read these types of
statements, I cringe. Every. Single. Time. They’re all truthful statements but
what they infer makes me feel…less. I feel as if fingers are pointing at me,
blaming me for my disease. They often cause me to blame myself, even though I
know I’m not to blame. You see, if I had eaten a healthier diet for my whole
life I may not have developed type 2 diabetes until much later in life. Ergo,
it’s my fault I have diabetes now. But it’s not my fault. Believe me, I did the
best I could with four kids to feed and limited funds. We didn’t eat a ton of
fast food, we ate “regular meals”. Times like these cause me to have
self-doubt. My first husband was very critical of me because I struggled to
lose weight. It doesn’t take much to start the downward spiral toward
self-blame. Even a well-educated person with diabetes can fall into that trap.
More and more research is
looking at why people eat such crappy diets, ie: addiction. Crappy diets are
not something unique to people who develop type 2. The majority of Americans
eat that way too. Research around the idea that type 2 may have come before obesity/overweight is more and
more accepted. This research costs money and there is only so much to go
around. Manny Hernandez, president of The Diabetes Hands Foundation, told me
that even though T1s have all the awesome devices to help control their
diabetes, the majority of research funding is spent on type 2 diabetes. THAT is
why T1s are unhappy that T2s are getting so much attention, well one of the
Back to the cringing. I
understand why people with T1 don’t want the world to think that they ate their
way to their disease. I understand why parents of children with T1 are so
protective of their kids and don’t want to be blamed for causing their child’s
disease. I get it. I understand. I sympathize, no I empathize. I don’t want the
world to think those things about me either and I cringe when other PWD or
parents of CWD say these things because they are inferring that because I have
T2 I AM to blame for my disease. They
may not blatantly blame me or other T2s but there is stigma via inference. I
There are times, like today,
when these feelings cause me to want to give up, to stop advocating. I get so
tired of feeling blame and fighting against it. It feels worse than an uphill
battle because it’s not only regular folks and D folks, but it’s the medical establishment
Maybe the point of this post is
to just get my feelings out there, for someone to read and realize how it feels
to be that person who has type 2; that person who feels blame and stigma even
if it comes from within. The reality is that I will continue to advocate, not
only for T2s but for all people with diabetes regardless of type. (Kelly
Rawlings said, “If you have diabetes, then you’re my type”. I love that.) There
will be days when I get frustrated and won’t participate but there will be days
when the stigma and injustice will spur me to more action. I also need to grow
a thicker skin, perhaps.
Let me leave you with this
thought: Defending yourself, your family, your situation should never be done
in a way that casts aspersions on another person or group. Educating about diabetes
should be educating about all types of diabetes. We all win if people have a better understanding of the intricacies of both diseases. “My child didn’t get his
diabetes from eating too much sugar and neither did any other person who has
diabetes of any type.” Think before you react to a myth or falsehood. Take time
to form your response in a way that embraces all people with diabetes and, just
maybe, others will begin to understand that diabetes is a complex disease and
no one deserves to have it in their life.
Yesterday, I kicked butt and
took names when it came to being active. I gladly jumped up on the treadmill
and walked FAST and UPHILL for 30 minutes. I felt great!
Today, I ache all over and not
because of yesterday’s exercise. Yes, I have a few sore muscles but that’s a
good thing. No, I ache, like the flu. I’m finding it difficult to get out of
the recliner and do anything. In fact, I’m so proud that I pushed myself to
write this post. I seriously had to push myself. Sigh.
While thinking about the
difference between yesterday and today, I remembered reading many, many times
that some people just can’t make themselves exercise. It might be due to the
boredom of the routine, it might be due to sore feet, it might be due to other
chronic issues that cause pain. Whatever the reason, so many people just don’t
exercise, often for very valid reasons.
The part of my brain that knows
how much added exercise is vital to good health is balking at this realization.
Why can’t I just go and walk? Why can’t others? It’s not that hard…and yet, it
Last week I had the privilege to participate in an online
T2 summit. We talked about a lot of good things, including exercise. Kelly Rawlings reminded me that studies have
shown that 30 minutes of exercise per day is beneficial, and that the exercise doesn’t have to be done all at
once! Three 10-minute exercise session each day can have the same benefit
as one 30-minute session. I knew that and yet I had forgotten. I’m always so
focused on “get on that treadmill and WALK!” that I forget that I don’t have to
put in 30 minutes in one stretch.
So, thank you Kelly for the reminder. Today, I’m going to
do just that. Three 10 minute sessions. I can do that. So can you. (And don’t forget
to log your efforts at: http://bigbluetest.org/take-the-big-blue-test/ through 11/19/14 and help raise money for diabetes charities.)
November is National Diabetes Awareness
Month. It’s a month when advocates try to raise awareness of diabetes, more so
than the rest of the year. November is exhausting. Either you bust your gut
trying to do more, advocate more, plead more, educate more…just more. Or, you
do your usual thing, feeling a bit guilty that you’re not doing more. Maybe you
don’t participate at all. Damned if you do, etc.
I’m always impressed by how
certain people have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of advocacy energy. I wax
and wane when it comes to my advocacy…and housework. Lately I’ve noticed more
and more of my DOC friends mentioning that they’re a bit burned out. It makes
me shout “me too!” but it also makes me sad. It reminds me of life in a small
town: the same group of people are the ones who support Little League, do all
the church work, organize bake sales for PTA and are scout leaders. Eventually
they burn out and it’s left to someone else to pick up the reins. I’ve watched
it happen here where I live and I know that it repeats itself across the
country and the world. The DOC isn’t much different than a small town. It’s not
surprising that people burn out; their throats sore from shouting into the wind.
Those of us who have diabetes are
very aware of it. We want others to be aware of it too so that perceptions can
change, funding can increase and myths can be busted. The thing is that people
don’t pay much attention to someone else’s disease unless it affects them
directly. Why should they? Their lives are filled with things that matter to
them and may not have the time/energy to truly care about diabetes. So why
advocate? Why raise our voices to educate and inform?
It’s hard not to be aware of
diabetes these days because the media splashes the word about along with images
of fat people and dire warnings of doom and gloom: lost limbs, blindness and
worse. I mean, after all, it is an epidemic!!!!! This “epidemic” is mostly portrayed as something
that can be prevented if we would just eat less and move more. That is
insulting to all people with diabetes because it just ain’t true; not for any
type of diabetes. It’s also dangerous for people who may someday be diagnosed.
They may think that it won’t happen to them if they “just avoid sugar” and park
at the far end of the lot. Usually the word epidemic scares people and might
actually push them to do something. But the diabetes “epidemic” doesn’t seem to
cause this panic. I think that’s because it’s felt that diabetes can be
prevented and it’s our own damn fault. It won’t happen to me, surely, because…well,
This is why I continue to
advocate for people with diabetes.
Does being an advocate mean that
I have to constantly work at changing people’s perspectives, harangue
politicians to enact important medical legislation and write a blog? Does it
mean that I have to up my advocacy
efforts in November? Nope. I do what I can, when I can. Advocacy doesn’t have
to be this big thing, it can simply be a matter of showing your friends and
family what life with diabetes is like, with all its warts.
I join my voice with others who
advocate for people with diabetes. Together we can be like a huge moon that
will turn the tide of this disease’s perceptions and outcomes. Yeah…that’s
good. I can do that no matter what the calendar says.