Until recently, it never bothered me that people didn't always seem to understand what type 1 diabetes was all about. It never bothered me that people would say "that's when you can't have sugar isn't it?" It didn't even bother me when I would start to answer, giving them the watered down, appropriate for the masses 'dummies guide' to diabetes and they would jump in with "no, I'm sure you're definitely not allowed sugar". I would chuckle under my breath and let them make up their own mind, seeing as my 23 years of experience didn't appear to give me any clout as an 'expert' in the field.
But just lately, it has begun to bother me a little and I felt the need to blog it out! Maybe it is because I'm going through such a big change in my diabetes management, maybe because I am trying twice as hard as normal to gain control over this condition. I was speaking to a colleague a little while ago all about diabetes, when she commented that a neighbour of hers had been a diabetic for years, and how he still had really bad hypos.
"I've always wondered why, after so many years, does he still have bad hypos. I mean, why doesn't he have better control?" She explained quizzically.
My mind goes blank.
For the first time, I realised that there are many people out there who think it's our fault. That we don't look after ourselves well enough. That hypos are about bad planning or because we don't know enough because we're too lazy to take better care. I didn't quite know how to answer. I was so surprised by the comment, it took me a few seconds to muster an answer.
"It's not quite like that. It's not like after you've had it a while you don't get highs or lows anymore. Every day is a balancing act. For some people, even a bad night's sleep can affect their sugars and make their sugars swing either way".
I look over.
I don't think my answer met with any sort of acceptance. It felt as though she believed I giving her an apathetic answer. One to stifle her criticism, which would still exist. I am also still having highs and lows highs and lows, after 23 years. Laziness most likely.
There is always a huge amount of publicity out there all about Type 2 and how it is avoidable. There always seem to be undertones about how 'these' people could have avoided the consequences. The fact is, some type 2s just develop it because of their age. My grandmother has it and she was neither fat, nor lazy. She can't help getting older - I would love to find ANYONE who can! And in the defence of type 2s, never has the been so much fast food in so many places across the world. In any given high street, fast food chains sit alongside one another, beckoning people in with cheap deals and buy one get one frees. You can almost taste the salt and MSG as you try to walk past! You may get past one, but there will be another. If not next door, then at least within a stones throw. I know this isn't an excuse, but as a self-confessed junk food addict, it takes all I have not to swing by Subway when I walk past, and settle for my home made salad instead! I get that people are more over weight than ever, and as impactive as the word 'epidemic' is, it's exctly what it is. It, being type 2 as a result of being overweight.
But type 1 isn't about that. I was four years old. I wasn't overweight. I exercised every day the way children do. Type one is genetic. It has nothing to do with weight, lifestyle or what day of the week it is. For all that is known about what causes it, it could be down to when your birthday falls! So why then, in this day and age is it still so hard to find non-diabetics who are able to understand the difference between the two. I know it isn't their fault, that it is the fault of under-education of the masses, but it still frustrates me.
Being diabetic, whether type 1 or 2, you fight enough battles every day. You battle with blood sugars, with injections, carb ratios, adjustments, need I go on. But it seems we also have another battle on our hands. This battle is all about making people aware. Teaching them, as those who are best in the know, that diabetes comes in many shapes and sizes. Even those who have had the same condition for the same number of years, are the same age and the same gender, will never experience diabetes in the same way. Different challenges or every day occurrences will have surprisingly different effects on someone with seemingly 'the same' condition.
So it has become a pain of mine that we also have the challenge of letting the entire world (except for those in the 21st century!) that diabetes is full of the highs and lows. Admittedly these can be reduced with A LOT of effort, but they will always happen. Whether it is giving people the beginners guide or the constantly developing lesson, I feel the challenge is just beginning.
Let's get their facts straight!
Anna (currently a little high)