Diabetes shouldn’t be a joking matter

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Diabetes isn’t something funny for people to joke about or make insensitive posts about on the internet. I know people seem to find it funny and creative when they eat an ice cream sundae and then say “ I can feel the diabetes setting in!” However, this is a very judgmental and insensitive look on the issue.

There are two types of diabetes. Type 2 is what most people are familiar with. It’s more common in older people or people who are overweight, but not always. This is usually managed by taking a pill or changing your diet. They also check their blood sugar about twice a day. Type 2 diabetics usually have to take pills, although some may need an insulin injection, and their care is also more dependent on diet and exercise.

Type 1, or “juvenile” diabetes, is less common, usually diagnosed at a young age, but not always, and, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t go away when you age. This is always treated by insulin injections given every time the person eats, or being on an insulin pump or pod. Pills will not treat it, and diet and exercise only help a little bit. Type 1 diabetics are also supposed to check their blood sugar more often than type twos, usually four to six times a day. Type 1 diabetics also have to count carbohydrates in food and measure portions to calculate the correct amount of carbs for their body.

I have dealt with Type 1 diabetes for seven years, and it’s a daily struggle that I try to shake off and keep moving forward, even though it affects everything I do. I have to wear a bracelet that says “Type 1 diabetic” on it in case I go somewhere and pass out from low blood sugar, so people will know what to do. I also have to carry an emergency shot in case of this, as well as candy or juice boxes in case of low sugar along with my meter and spare pump supplies. I keep an open pack of candy in the console of my truck in case I feel my sugar is going low while I’m driving and can’t find anywhere to pull over and check. Every three days, I have to put more insulin in my pump and change out the site. It can be mentally exhausting, as this is a constant in my life that I can’t just forget about for a little while. Only a few weeks ago, my pump site ripped out when I was an hour from home and supposed to have lunch with my family. I didn’t have a spare site on me, so I ordered a diet pop, and we waited to eat until I got home and put a new site in. The needle to put the site in sometimes stings, and it leaves scars and bumps that make my self-esteem pretty low sometimes, that make me too self-conscious to go out in shorts, a crop top or a swimsuit.

There’s also the judgement from other people. “You shouldn’t be eating that!” As long as I count carbs and take insulin, I can eat whatever I want. Of course I shouldn’t be eating cupcakes for every meal, but no one should!

Something else scary? Diabetics can end up in the hospital much easier than other people for things like the flu or even a cold, because getting sick messes with our blood sugars and can cause ketones, which are very dangerous. Adult diabetics of both types are twice as likely to suffer a mental illness, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, eating disorders or chronic depression as their non-diabetic peers. For children and teens, the rate is even higher. Many Type 1 diabetics are diagnosed with a gluten allergy or thyroid conditions, because they’re all autoimmune disorders that often come in pairs. Both types of diabetes also can cause fertility problems. Type 1 commonly causes polycystic ovarian syndrome in women, making miscarriages more common and getting pregnant more difficult.

What happens if a diabetic doesn’t manage their illness? Blood sugars will go high, and if long-term, they could get infections that result in the amputation of a limb, they could go into a coma, or even die. Low blood sugar is also scary, because it’s more sudden, and you can pass out. When my sugar is low, I feel so weak and shaky I can barely move, and I struggle to open candy wrappers or poke a straw in a juice box to treat it. Sometimes I feel the effects of low sugar for hours after, and for other people, it can be even worse.

Diabetics in less-developed nations don’t have access to the supplies they need to treat their illness, so they die from a treatable illness that can lead to a full lifespan if handled correctly. One hundred years ago, if you were diagnosed diabetic, it was a death sentence. Thanks to science and technology, it isn’t that way anymore, but only if you’re fortunate enough to have been born in a first world country. Even then, there are still people here in the U.S. that can’t afford their insulin, meters and supplies. It’s just wrong that there are people who can’t access the lifesaving medicine they need.

So, go ahead. Make jokes about how diabetics are all fat and lazy, and how we have this disease because we ate too much candy and drank too much soda, how your big slice of cake or your Frappuccino is going to give you “the diabeetus.”

Just know that it is absolutely tasteless and ignorant to do so. If you want to help, you can find more information about the different types of diabetes and how they’re treated on websites for organizations such as Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, American Diabetes Association and American Association of Diabetes Educators. Ask questions to the diabetics you know, don’t just assume. They will be glad to help you better understand them.