World Diabetes Day 2018 is a distant memory now but I’m still pondering some of the negative feelings I had during that time period. This year, I felt the community was more polarized than ever before. The type 1 community seemed to want more and more separation from the type 2 community and this hurt because, in the words of this inspirational lady, Phyllisa Deroze:
I had decided to only support social media campaigns that included ALL members of our diabetes community because world diabetes day should be about the entire community coming together and not about being type specific.
It was tough to find those campaigns but they were there: a special mention goes to Diabetes.co.uk for #Unite4Diabetes #StrongerTogether and to the IDF for Diabetes and Family and to Diabetes Australia for #MyDiabetesFamily.
However, my twitter and facebook feed filled up with comments that did not create awareness but highlighted grievances.
I didn’t always feel this way
I have a confession to make. For a long time after I was diagnosed, I harboured a huge resentment towards people who lived with type 2 diabetes. I thought that it wasn’t fair because they had it easier with just tablets (what little I knew). I also resented all the media attention they got. What was I thinking? Who in their right mind would want the kind of stigmatized media attention that pwt2d get!?!
“The media often casts Type 2 diabetes in a light that it is a completely preventable disease. And while the intended message to try and inform people about prevention is good, it can be misinterpreted by some and turn to victim blaming or disease shaming.”
I was also reminded of this post from A Sweet Life, written by a person with type 1 diabetes who says she felt she was brought up to “to view those with type 2 diabetes as people who were not taking care of themselves.”
But the more people with diabetes I meet the more I learn about other people’s diabetes and the less I share with the minority who divide us.
Our Common Ground - What brings us together
Yes type 1 and type 2 diabetes are conditions that are very different but they also have a lot in common, apart from sharing the word “diabetes”, for instance:
Diabetes is about blood glucose management: We both need to manage glucose levels in our blood because something in our bodies doesn’t work like it should.
Both types of diabetes have the same risk of developing complications of diabetes: complications are not type specific. Therefore, we share a lot of the screening services. Both types of diabetes greatly increase a person's risk for a range of serious complications.
Both type of diabetes benefit from exercise and healthy living and we both use healthy living as tools to manage our diabetes better.
Both types of diabetes are misunderstood. There is incredibly low awareness in the general population of both types of diabetes. But, we should not be angry with people for engaging in conversation with us about diabetes because there was once a time where most of us were standing where they are now. Before I had diabetes I hadn’t a clue - I cannot honestly say that I wouldn’t have been one of those people.
Type 2 diabetes involves more than just healthy living and type 1 diabetes isn’t the bad kind because it involves needles- they both suck! Diabetes is not just about food and neither type is caused by eating too much sugar.
There is no known cause of diabetes. Yes, there are risk factors for type 2 diabetes, two of which relate to lifestyle, but we don’t know what causes type 2 diabetes. Risk factors are not causes. As for putting type 2 diabetes into remission, yes it may be possible, but for many it isn’t and we still don’t know if it will return.
Both diabetes types have bodies who don’t do something they used to.
Together we are stronger
There are approximately 200,000 people with diabetes In Ireland - think what we could do in terms of advocacy with that kind of people power!!!
At the moment, Adults with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, have very limited access to education, diabetes nurse specialists, dietitians, endocrinologists, insulin pumps, continuous & flash glucose monitors, and foot screening. There are only two (out of 7) items on that list that are specific to type 1.
We also need empathy, compassion and support from both inside and outside of our community.
Another quote from “Can’t We All Just Get Along?”
“The truth is that living with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes is not easy and T1s and T2s can often find comfort and support in each other experiences of living life with diabetes”
There is strength in numbers and together we have numbers. Divided we don’t.