National Diabetes Awareness Month? And did you know that today is World Diabetes Day? I'm dressed in blue, the designated color for Diabetes Awareness. I'm ready to do The Big Blue Test at 2:00pm - testing and Tweeting my blood sugar number along with thousands of other diabetics. And I'd like to raise a little more awareness here on my blog.
Today I'd like to bring you the top five things NOT to say to a person with diabetes:
5. "You take insulin? Wow, you must have a really bad case of diabetes." Insulin is not a measure of how bad your disease is. A person with Type 2 is insulin resistant or does not produce enough. Sometimes this can be controlled with diet, exercise and/or other medications, sometimes it can't. That doesn't mean their diabetes is mild or bad. A person with Type 1 (like me) does not produce insulin at all. There is no mild case of Type 1 and there is no way to live with Type 1 without injecting or pumping insulin.
4. "I just ate enough sugar to give me diabetes." Diabetes IS NOT caused by eating sugar! This statement also implies a person with diabetes brought it on themselves, or that diabetes is a punishment for poor eating habits. This is absolutely not true!
3. "What was your blood sugar?" (asked after seeing a person testing their blood) "Wow, that's high / low!! What did you do wrong???" First off, asking a person with diabetes what their blood sugar tested at is like asking someone their weight or age. Maybe we'll reveal the number to you anyway. It may be high. It may be low. There are a million variables, including stress, hormones, exercise, etc, that can throw off our blood sugar. That is just life with diabetes. It's discouraging and frustrating to us and blaming us for a less than perfect number is just going to make our frustration even stronger.
2. "My uncle / grandmother / second cousin had diabetes and he went blind / had her leg amputated / died." Oh how I hate to hear this one. I'm sorry about your relative. I understand the complications I am a risk for. I am doing everything I can to keep it from happening to me. But please do not throw it in my face. When you come across someone fighting cancer, you don't immediately tell them about how many relatives you've lost to that disease, do you?
1. "You can't eat that!!" We have a term in the diabetes community called "The Diabetes Police". These are the people who will humiliate you by berating you in front of a group of people if they see you eating anything with sugar. Actually, the thinking that diabetics can't have sugar is very out-dated. Sugar is just one thing that makes our blood sugar rise. ANYTHING with carbohydrates causes a spike in blood sugar. Eating a slice of chocolate cake is the same as eating a potato, as far as blood sugar goes. A diabetic can eat anything, in moderation*, as long as we count the carbohydrates and take a dose of insulin.
* In fact, eating in moderation is important to those without diabetes as well!!
In my experience, people with diabetes are more than happy to educate you about our disease. We know you probably don't know the ins and outs of living with diabetes - how would you unless you live it every day yourself? But please do remember this is a chronic illness we will be living with for the rest of our lives. It's not a punishment for something we did wrong. It's not a death sentence. It can be frustrating and tiring and aggravating. So please, use the same compassion and sensitivity you would use with anyone with a chronic illness. A little understanding goes a long way.