They say that you really don’t know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Well, I’ve never walked a mile in the shoes of someone who has type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes or someone who was diagnosed with diabetes as an adult or any other variation of this dreadful disease. And there are a lot of variations.
When I saw the prompt for this month’s DSMA Blog Carnival (which I’m horribly remiss in responding to regularly), I was stumped:
Anything easy about living with your type of diabetes that isn’t easy for another type?
There are a few things about this that made me question whether or not I could even answer a question like this. First and foremost, I speak for my diabetes. Not yours. Or hers. Or that guy over there. Just me. And my perception of what is “easy” may not be so easy for someone else.
The second thing that got me thinking was that I don’t really know what is easy or hard for another type of diabetes because I don’t live with that disease. For example, I have a horrible gag reflex. I choke on aspirin. I had a hell of a time taking metformin a few years ago when I decided to see if I could help my insulin resistance. So to me, taking injections is easier than swallowing a pill. Does that mean taking injections is easy? Not by a long shot (ha! pun!). But other people might think, Allison, it’s a freaking pill once a day. Get over yourself.
A few years ago, I had dinner with a friend of mine who has type 2 diabetes and she mentioned how her blood sugars affected not just what but when she could eat. She said if her blood sugar was high, she would have to delay a meal and often would go on a walk to bring it down. She couldn’t just pop a pill to lower her blood sugar. It took a lot more effort. I remember thinking that sounded terrible, because I just pressed a few buttons on my pump and that took care of business.
I suppose the flexibility to take insulin whenever I want is a perk of type 1 diabetes… or at least, a perk of someone who uses insulin. (And if there’s even such a thing as a perk with diabetes.) But using insulin comes with a whole host of things that are not easy. Pump failures. Bad insulin. Poor absorption. Miscalculating carbs and crashing or soaring. It’s really not that easy.
I can’t even talk about stigma, because the stigma against type 2 diabetes often trickles down to the rest of us who bear the title “diabetic.” I suppose there is less outright discrimination against me, because most people have a general concept that type 1 diabetes is not lifestyle related.
“That’s the one you’re born with, right?”
“That’s the really bad kind, right?”
“Should you really be eating that?”
I might not be discriminated against, but my ears are still bleeding.
On the surface you might think, “Well, type 1 PWDs can eat whatever they want,” but that mentality can end up being a lot more dangerous and counterproductive than you’d think. I don’t even want to think how many high blood sugars I’ve suffered because I thought “Well, I can just bolus for it” and then completely underestimated what I was eating. I might not have to suffer with people telling me that I “did it to myself” but I still have to listen to stupid, ignorant remarks and misguided advice from the Diabetes Police. And while I didn’t have to integrated diabetes into the already chaotic world of college, I still had diabetes in college and it still sucked, regardless of how long I’d had it.
But I will tell you what I do think is easy. I think it’s easy to think that you have it worse than someone else. We live in our own skin with our own experiences coloring our perceptions. We struggle to overcome the obstacles that diabetes puts in our way and because we are so intimately familiar with our own journey, we can feel each painful rock we have to step on in order to get where we want to go.
We are so focused on our own arduous path that we rarely look over to see if someone else needs help. We judge people based solely on a few sideways glances, never really looking to see what they’re working against.
I think it’s easy to think we have it worse than someone else. It’s much harder to swallow that belief, make ourselves vulnerable and ask if there is something we can do to serve other people.