“This meal is Diabetes” is a phrase I’ve heard a lot recently. Whether with friends at lunch or even at an Anime Convention, the phrase just always seems to be around. But what does it really say about Diabetes? At its simplest meaning, it’s saying that food causes people to get diabetes. However, that’s not true, especially for Type 1 Diabetes, the type I was diagnosed with. Type 1 isn’t caused by eating a lot of food or unhealthy food. It’s not known what actually causes it, but Type 1 is certainly not caused by bad eating habits.
There are quite a few other stereotypes I’ve heard about Diabetes, or stigma I’ve seen firsthand. A few are from adults, usually, if they hear my blood sugar is too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia). They will tell me about someone who they knew, or who a friend knew, who didn’t take care of themselves and died young because of it, normally adding on “but I’m sure you’re trying to”. Which raises the question, if you believe I am trying to why are you telling me about this? It can get frustrating when you’re telling a teacher when your blood sugar levels are off, and they lead it into a story of death and demise, despite the fact they saw you treating it and-or state that they’re sure that you already are trying to take care of it. I’ve also heard about people laughing at those who ask me why I eat so healthy because they’re assuming I have to eat healthy, which isn’t true. My Diabetes doesn’t require me to eat healthily. I can eat junk food and fast food if I wanted to. But just like everyone else, it’s healthier to eat better, though it’s not related to me being a Diabetic. I’ve eaten healthy because I did sports most of my life more than because of my Diabetes.
Another Stigma that seemed to happen caused me to not usually tell people till I was close to them that I was a Diabetic. An example of this was when I did a play, my blood sugar had gotten high due to stress and someone got mad at me because I still went on stage and performed. I knew my limits and I wasn’t feeling so awful that I couldn’t say a few lines but they felt I should have sat back and waited for it to come down. During the same situation, I had others swarming me around and asking me “Are you feeling okay?” which is nice that people care, but if I wasn’t doing alright and needed help, I would have told someone. It made me feel like some dainty little child who needed to be doted on and watched. A lot of times I just avoid telling people about it because it saves me the trouble of dealing with people treating me weird. A few other situations that only happened because I was a Diabetic include:
- A swim coach ignoring me because he didn’t want to yell at me for something if it was my Diabetes causing it
- Having someone tell me to fix my blood sugars as though I could snap my fingers and fix them
- A teacher nearly kicking me out of class for my medical devices sounding off
Do I blame a lot of these people for doing this? Not really. I surveyed around 10 people anonymously, some being friends of mine, some not, and a lot of them didn’t really have much information.
- Six people said they didn’t really know much about Diabetes
- Two People said they knew some stuff
- One person said they knew a lot about it
- One person said they knew nothing
- And at least Three of the Six who didn’t know much were friends of mine who have seen me treating my diabetes or heard me talk about it
Honestly, it’s disappointing to see that the majority of people in the survey didn’t know much about Diabetes. But the survey provides a possible solution to help people who are stigmatizing it and treating people differently for it. Since no one really knows what it is, then people need to learn more about it. Some people may not care, but I know I had a coach who went out of his way to ask my mom for books on Diabetes so he would know how to handle having me as one of his athletes better. The Coach did this so he could understand more about Diabetes and how best to train me so his practices wouldn’t cause any issues. And I can say I’ve looked up to that coach for that since he did. He may have looked away from where I was to ensure that he didn’t tell me to swim faster if my blood sugar was off. But he had tried to and knew if I said I was low what that meant. I knew others who didn’t.
At the school I am at, Faith Craig, the director of Disability Resources is working to help people with disabilities fit in more and be able to level the playing field to make it more equal, by removing barriers and attempting to make it so those with disabilities don’t need to ask for a special service or stand out. And personally, I hope that the school’s changes can help reduce stigma for the campus, and maybe even the community someday.