The Unfair Stigma of Diabetes

 

Most conditions or illnesses when you tell people that you have them, they automatically express sympathy or show empathy. Diabetes, well that can be a different story.

 

The Unfair stigma of any type of Diabetes

 

Sometimes when I have mentioned that one of my sons has Type 1 Diabetes people react with an ‘oh I’m so sorry’ or a ‘that must be so hard’. Often I’m met with confused looks, as the person doesn’t know much about Type 1 Diabetes and presumes my son should be either old to have it or obese.

 

Occasionally though I get accusing looks. I can see that they are thinking ‘What an awful Mother if her son has THAT’.

 

I won’t lie, this hurts a little bit. More so in the beginning. There is a very unfair stigma attached to Diabetes of any type. So many people believe that Diabetes is always a condition caused by the person who has it … or by their parents … via poor diet and lifestyle.

 

In their minds Diabetes is something that people almost deserve. Something that they could and should have avoided.

 

So for my own son to have Type 1 Diabetes, I must therefore have fed him rubbish and never encouraged him to play outside. It must be my fault.

 

I’ve mentioned on here before, that I have even had this negative reaction from an ex in-law. This person came to the hospital just after my son had almost died at diagnosis. They asked me a question … a question that it took me a long time to forgive. They said to me …

 

‘Did you cause this? Did you do this to him by feeding him rubbish?’

 

At the time, knowing so little about Type 1 Diabetes myself, this hit me really hard. I was already upset. Inside my head, I was his Mummy and I was supposed to look after him and protect him. I felt like it was my fault at that time, so hearing it from someone else broke me a little bit. That time was the worst in my life.

 

As time went on with greater knowledge and understanding, I know it is not my fault. I know that Type 1 Diabetes is not something that you can prevent and nor is it something caused by lifestyle. He was a normal healthy five-year old boy and at diagnosis he was tiny. He was and still is the most active person – adult or child – that I know. He never stops moving, that’s just him.

 

I forgave the person in the end, as insensitive as they were, their misconceptions came from somewhere. A little bit of me never forgave them for voicing them, but I couldn’t blame them for having them.

 

Unless you live with Diabetes, you have no idea what it is like. You can’t expect everyone to understand every health condition and the misconceptions that so many have are from the media.

 

I wrote an open letter to the BBC last year over their ‘jokes’ about Diabetes. You see, I don’t expect the average person to understand any Type of Diabetes unless they have to, but the media I do expect to do their research and be accurate. I also expect them not to mock what is a very serious health condition.

 

A lot of the stigma of Diabetes comes from the media always talking about it in reference to obesity and how to prevent it. This said without ever mentioning the type of Diabetes or indeed that even the worst stigmatised type of Diabetes Type 2, isn’t always caused by lifestyle.

 

I actually have a lot of sympathy for those with Type 2 Diabetes. They often are stigmatised even by those with Type 1 Diabetes or those related to someone with Type 1. The anger at being ‘lumped in’ with Type 2 Diabetes – some of whom have ’caused’ their condition through an unhealthy lifestyle makes many Type 1 parents see red.

 

However, so many Type 2 Diabetes cases were caused by medication, mobility issues due to other conditions, other conditions full stop, genetics, even Gestational Diabetes and so many other causes. It isn’t always their fault.

 

Also to speak of ‘fault’ no one ever deserves any form of Diabetes. No one ever sets out to try to give it to themselves. Just like there are addicts to various drugs and alcohol, food addiction in a thing, so even those whose Type 2 could be said to have been caused by over eating … why can people not have more sympathy for that?

 

Search for Diabetes on Instagram and other forms of social media and do you know what you get? Photos of sugary and fatty food, or worse photos of overweight people, which others have taken. Sometimes taken and made a cruel meme out of. I think too often people forget that behind some of these ‘funny’ memes are real people whose photos have been stolen or taken purely to mock them. Cruel is the best description for someone who would do that to another human being.

 

Sadly to many Diabetes is something to joke about, something to laugh at. Believe me, if you lived with any form of Diabetes the jokes become a lot less funny.

 

At first after diagnosis and even up until a few years ago I felt a rage at these people. A rage that they could be so cruel as to laugh at a condition that has been life threatening for my son and so many others.

 

These days I see it for what it is, pure and utter ignorance and I try to ‘educate’ those that I know, my readers and more about the truth of Diabetes. Would I have thought anything of a Diabetes joke eight years ago before my son had been diagnosed? No, in all honesty, without knowing the seriousness of it I may even have laughed if the joke was ‘funny’.

 

I feel no shame in that, as my mirth would not have been malicious and I just didn’t know anything about Diabetes. This is why I don’t feel anger at people who share rubbish Diabetes memes on Facebook. If it’s someone I know, who knows what we have been through in the last 7 and a half years with my son though, I am very much less understanding.

 

Personally I think the media really has their part to play in reducing the stigmatisation of those with Diabetes. Considering their idea of ‘news’ some days though, I won’t be holding my breath.

 

I really don’t want my son to grow up feeling that Diabetes is something to be ashamed of, something he will be judged about and something people may be cruel to him about. If anything he should be proud of all that he copes with every single day whilst still smiling.

 

For now, all I want anyone who reads this to know is this…

 

Type 1 Diabetes is not caused by diet and lifestyle, it is an autoimmune condition currently not preventable. Type 2 Diabetes is not always caused by lifestyle, fit people even athletes develop it. No one EVER deserves any Type of Diabetes.

 

Stevie x

 

 

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24 Comments

  1. Sarah - mud, cakes and wine
    12 February 2017 / 2:48 pm

    As always as wonderful post on diabetes. Our boys are so strong though they will never how strong. Thank you for sharing and rasing awareness of all diabetes xx

  2. 12 February 2017 / 3:15 pm

    Great post Stevie, I have learned so much about diabetes from you. I have shared this everywhere, hoping other people will also learn from it to get rid of the stigma.
    Nat.x

  3. 12 February 2017 / 5:10 pm

    Ah this made me so emotional. Keep doing what you’re doing Stevie. Before I met you I was one of those ignorant people too. Now, when people mention diabetes and sugar etc I say to them ‘type 2?’ and they usually double take, not even realising themselves that there’s something to differentiate. You, Stevie, have made me a better person x

  4. 12 February 2017 / 7:47 pm

    Great post as always Stevie, I never knew anything about any type of diabetes until I read your blogs and met you in person. I still think anyone living with this illness is amazing because I find the mere thought of it terrifying if I’m honest! You do so much good sharing these posts and you’re very right, the media has a lot to answer for regarding many an issue and their constant fat equals diabetes and shaming isn’t on x

    • 21 February 2017 / 11:46 pm

      Thank you Hannah so much, hopefully one of these days I’ll have less reason to be ranting at the television ;)

      Stevie xx

  5. 12 February 2017 / 11:03 pm

    As always brilliantly written. By you writing these posts you are educating so many people, including me. Keep doing what you are doing x

    • 21 February 2017 / 11:47 pm

      Thank you sweetheart, you’re all making me well up reading these comments now I’ve finally had the chance!

      Stevie xx

  6. 14 February 2017 / 6:16 pm

    Great post, you really do a brilliant job in letting others know that Diabetes is not something to joke about and that Type 1 is not caused by lifestyle. That must have been awful for you to have one of your ex in-laws saying that to you too. :( Big hugs! x

    • 21 February 2017 / 11:48 pm

      Thank you hon,

      In all honesty it was horrific and really not what I needed to hear at that moment in time. Life is a lot different now though, much happier.

      Stevie xx

  7. 16 February 2017 / 12:25 pm

    Very thought provoking and informative article Stevie, well done on raising so much awareness x

  8. 17 February 2017 / 5:59 am

    Such a beautifully eloquent and informative post Stevie. Thank you for your mission and keep shouting it loud xx off to share everywhere!

    • 17 March 2017 / 9:40 pm

      Thank you lovely, that really does mean a lot and I am so grateful for all your shares xx

  9. 17 February 2017 / 10:01 am

    Great post. We have diabetes (type 1 and 2) in the family and I am astounded by how bad the media are about differentiating between types and just generalising. Diabetes isn’t one thing! Well done for highlighting this. #BlogCrush

  10. 17 February 2017 / 9:26 pm

    You’re right, there is a stigma associated with diabetes and people automatically assume it’s due to lifestyle choices. I’m so glad you’re speaking out about your experiences. #BlogCrush

  11. 18 February 2017 / 12:20 am

    Well said! My mum has diabetes, I had GD, and my husband who is so healthy and careful about what he eats, is borderline… again NOT because of his lifestyle but because it’s genetic. Thanks for this post – more knowledge needs to be out there!
    #BlogCrush

  12. 18 February 2017 / 9:07 am

    Such an informative and important post Stevie, I love that you are sharing your knowledge and helping to educate others xx #BlogCrush

  13. 21 February 2017 / 9:54 pm

    You know when you come across a blog post you really needed to read. I was diagnosed in June last year with type 2, I had gestational twice so I suppose it was inevitable. I am also very overweight and I’ve been feeling so guilty that I have done this to myself. So much so it’s sent me in to a spiral of burying my head in the sand and doing nothing to improve my health. I wasn’t overweight when I became pregnant but it didn’t even occur to me that I might have developed it because of the gestational. I’m ashamed to tell people in case they think it’s my own fault. There needs to be so much more education around the whole subject and I hope that by the time your little boy is an adult people are much more clued up and don’t see it as the butt of a joke. Thanks for writing this post I needed to hear it.

    • 21 February 2017 / 11:42 pm

      Angela you’ve actually made me cry! I really hope I’ve made you feel a bit better. NO ONE deserves Diabetes and so often it isn’t avoidable at all and even if for some it could have been, that doesn’t make what someone is going through any less at all and certainly not something to joke about. You have nothing to feel guilty about at all lovely.

      Stevie x

  14. 4 March 2017 / 1:48 pm

    You know what I find the most frustrating thing about people? They always have to know why. Why that person passed away, why that person isn’t at the party, or why someone got diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Why can’t people just be there for you without having to try and diagnose the root of the problem. That’s my thinking, anyhow…

    • 5 March 2017 / 10:28 pm

      I can understand what you mean, I think it’s probably human nature to want to know the whys in life, but sometimes people forget to be be sensitive with it and concentrate more on the now and just being there.

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