Monday, July 9, 2012

I'll Take "Rude Comments" for $500...

In my previous post, I wrote about my latest blood sugar emergency and the judgment I faced from a store employee during my low. I don't know what it is about diabetes, but for some reason it makes people feel like they have license to comment on your health.  I realize that most people know someone with diabetes, but it's still a very misunderstood illness, so most of what people think they know about the disease just isn't accurate.

I've experienced judgment, both outright and unspoken, due to my diabetes countless times since my diagnosis in 2010. Usually, you can read it in people's expressions as they eye what you're eating/doing, but sometimes others are more outspoken in regards to many aspects of your life, all because you have a disease you never asked for. Sometimes, like the Target employee I had to deal with recently, people will even imply-or tell you in no uncertain terms-that it's your "fault" that you have this disease, regardless of the fact that T1 is unrelated to lifestyle choices and can affect anyone indiscriminate of age, weight, or diet. I realize that the majority of these people confuse T1 with T2, which is more tied to poor lifestyle decisions (though you don't have to be overweight to get T2, and even someone who is 500 lbs and doesn't exercise won't develop it if they don't have the gene), but even so, what gives them the right to comment on someone else's health? They wouldn't admonish someone for having breast cancer, for example. I don't know about you, but when someone says they have breast cancer, I'm not inclined to tell them that they should have lived their life differently.

[[On a related note, check out this post on Diabetes Daily about the rude remarks we receive due to having diabetes (be sure to read the comment section). It's shocking to me that people can be so blatantly hurtful when it comes to this disease...even though 99% of what they say is based on incorrect myths, it's still hard to face in the moment.]]

Recently, I've encountered a lot of questions about my ability to have children. One instance was at a family reunion a few weeks ago (the same one where I had to use glucagon for the first time), when an older relative asked me (with a very serious expression on her face) how I was doing and if I'd be able to have more children since I have diabetes. Even though I've dealt with these questions before, it never ceases to amaze me (a) how uneducated people are about diabetes (hello, this isn't the Diabetes Dark Ages of the Steel Magnolia era!) and (b) how open people are with their judgment of your life decisions when you have this disease. Yes, I can (and did!) have a perfectly healthy pregnancy and baby despite my diabetes, as long as I keep my health and blood sugars in check before and during the nine months of baby creation.

ecards...they say everything you can't say to someone's face.

Because I choose to devote myself to advocacy and outreach for T1, I make sure to at least try and educate people in these instances, because if I don't, they may never get correct information. If I can change someone's ideas about this disease, hopefully the next person they encounter with T1 won't have to deal with the judgment and rudeness I regularly experience.

A couple of weeks after the reunion, my mom and I were at a sandwich shop for lunch when a lady that goes to church with my dad commented (while I was holding my sweet baby, nonetheless), "Oh, I didn't know you had a baby...I didn't think you could because of your diabetes." Even though I have pretty thick skin when it comes to this stuff, I'm still hurt by the implication that I shouldn't have children, especially since I worked so hard before and during my pregnancy to keep my blood sugars in a normal person's (without diabetes) normal range and have no complications related to the disease. Even with the stresses of new motherhood, my latest A1c was 5.5%, well within the normal person's normal of 4.0-6.0%...Therefore, my blood sugar average is actually better than some people who don't have diabetes.

Even though the JDRF and other diabetes advocates are working to change the perception of the disease in the public eye, we still obviously have a lot of work to do. There are times when I want to tell people, "Excuse me, but don't you think I know more about a disease that I live with 24/7 than you ever will?"...but I don't, because that would make me (almost) as rude as they are. Please don't misunderstand-I never harbor bad feelings toward anyone who is truly interested in learning more about the disease; I only take offense when it's obvious that someone is judging my decisions without the medical knowledge (or even basic common sense/courtesy) to do so! Unfortunately, those of us who manage all of the challenges that T1 comes with also have to deal with others' misconceived notions of the disease on a regular basis, so all we can do is take the time to try and educate other people when the opportunity arises. I just hope that by the time the kiddos with T1 are grown ups, they won't have to justify their ability to have children-or whatever else they want to do. In the meanwhile, I'm trying to make sure that they have to deal with this discrimination as little as possible!


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