April 8, 2013

Diabetes by any other name would still be as sweet.

Living in a family with two T1D teens and a being T2D myself means a I have front row seat to diabetes differences. No two people with diabetes have exactly the same set of struggles. Unfortunatly there is often a desire to use diabetes differences as surrogate for virtue. 

That isn’t how it works.

I get parents of kids with Type 1, who feel frustration.  I have suggested renaming Type 1, I don't need the D-Day Details I only Need Carb Counts for your Menu and Does Anyone Have a Ouija Board so we can Figure Out Why the Insurance Doesn't Know What is Up With the CGM Because Parents Never Get to Sleepabetes.” This kind of frustration can lead some to less facetiously wanting to rename Type 1 so that their kids don’t get treated like they did something to deserve the chronic condition they have.

Some say, ‘Type 1 is different’ and our kids shouldn’t be stigmatized by association with Type 2. Well, yes, everyone diabetes is different and what works for one Type 1 child may not work for another. Certainly the self care process for Type 1, with daily injections starting the day of diagnosis can be viewed intense right out of the gate. No child with Type 1 is responsible for the genetics that increased their likelihood of getting it and no they shouldn’t be stigmatized by ignorance. 

Much of that holds true for Type 2 as well. No two cases of Type 2 are exactly the same and yes the initial treatment may variy from Type 1 and certainly varies from individual to individual, none the less it is often traumatic. Still, nobody with Type 2 is responsible for the genetics that increase or decrease their likelihood of getting it. Some already disadvantaged ethnic groups are at significantly higher risk for Type 2. Nobody with any type of diabetes should be stigmatized by ignorance and blamed for it. 

I am not jumping on board to the idea of re branding type 1, beyond being careful to be clearer going forward about the type of diabetes I am writing about. I do not wish to react to ignorance and stereotyping of a few without the recognition of the of larger ignorance and stereotyping that is rampant with all diabetes. That ignorance is at the core of all diabetes stigma. I want to avoid promoting false stereotypes and ignorant assumptions about all diabetes including Type 2, particularly for already inappropriately stigmatized populations.  

The most significant thing I have learned from diabetes is to honor others’ struggles without offering a simplistic solutions. In my view the solution to ignorance and stigma is education and empathy, for all people with diabetes. 

That certainly isn’t simple.