Thursday, June 03, 2010

Type Two Mythconceptions Affect PWDs of All Types

At Fault?
Many people in our society, if they know anything about type two diabetes at all, are under the impression that it is the direct result of obesity, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle.  This view is promulgated by people who want to sell books about "reversing" diabetes and those concerned with public health who hope to scare those most at risk into changing their ways.
I'm not a doctor or a scientist, but my understanding is that type two is believed to result from a combination of lifestyle, genetics, and other factors not yet understood.  Obesity is certainly a major risk factor, but it's neither a necessary precondition nor a guarantee: many type twos are not obese and never have been, and many many obese people do not have type two. 
While type twos feel the effects of the misunderstandings, type ones are also affected.  Many people know little or nothing about type one and mistakenly carry over their (mis)understanding of type two, when in fact lifestyle bears NO role in the development of type one. This can result in type one PWDs being harshly and unfairly judged.
Diabetics in Society
People with diabetes, like essentially everybody else, participate in society.  We have friends, family, coworkers, waiters, fellow bus-riders, neighbors, and garbagemen.  And very few of us are above being affected what these people think of us.  For people living with a dangerous and frustrating condition like insulin-dependent diabetes, I can understand it being frustrating (okay, enraging) to have the people around us express the notion that not only is the disease our fault but that we could cure ourselves by getting off our lazy butts.
A Credibility Problem
I admire the many different ways in which PWDs I know advocate.  I've sort of struggled to find my role in this: I'm not a fundraiser, and the notion of calling on congressmen makes me feel faint.  For right now, my small efforts involve trying to offer a bit of support for others and to maintain this type two blog in the hopes that I'm reaching at least a few who are helped.

In many ways, I would really like to be a voice in helping diabetics of all types, as well as people in the society as a whole, understand the roots of type two diabetes.  But I can't keep but feeling that I'm a very poor person to be front-and-center on this issue.  As many members of the online community know, at the time of my diagnosis I was an overweight, non-exercising, poorly-eating, sedentary-job-holding, sleep-apnea'ed embodiment of the stereotype we all struggle with.  (Alas, this is still too close to the truth, though I have made changes.) Thus, it seems to me that I have a real credibility problem: I'm sort of in the position of the little boy with the slingshot yelling that he didn't break the window -- it may be entirely true, but who's he going to convince?.  If someone who didn't like what I had to say on this issue accused me of just making excuses for myself, how could I respond?  That's not what the science indicates right now, but maybe it's the truth.
My own experience
I myself haven't had to deal much with the misconceptions about type two.  The people in my non-virtual life either know better, don't know I'm diabetic, don't much care, or are too polite to point fingers.  I have had a few (a VERY few, I'd like to stress) painful experiences online.  I read a comment on somebody else's blog from a type one who expressed very bitter resentment against type twos.  Another comment on another blog was from a type two who'd been able to diet-and-exercise himself off of medication and was quite confident that any type two who "took their lifestyle responsibilities seriously" could do the same.  Another time a community member tweeted resentment towards "fat diabetics" in quite graphic terms. This comment left me feeling hurt and angry, but also feeling hamstrung - I understand (in part, anyway) where the comment was coming from, and anything I could think of to say might be seen as whining self-justification.  

I, too, wish the public understood the differences between the types of diabetes.  I, too, wish that Oprah and Dr. Oz hadn't muddied the waters.  But I hold out little hope: we live in a complicated society, people lead busy lives, and not everybody gets good exposure to correct information about diabetes.  In the meantime, the best most of us can do is to try to be reasonably well-informed ourselves and to take advantage of the opportunities we have to educate.  


  1. Good post, Bob... hmmm, accused of making excuses? That's why the DOC has your back...

    All you can do is try to educate as best you can, some people refuse to really listen and hear what you are saying.

    You know, I've been doing this so long that I really don't care what anyone else thinks about me. D doesn't define us, it's just that our particular flavor of "normal" includes it.

    Look at it like this. There are 3 types of people in this world

    1) People you want to impress. Family, friends, loved ones

    2) People you need to impress. Peers, co-workers, who ever signs that paycheck

    3) Everyone else. That's a big list and honestly 99.99% of them can kiss my a$$ if THEY have an issue with my diabetes

  2. I think you are a great advocate simply because you CARE!!!! You care a lot. You care enough to put such thought and feeling into this post.

    I'm a Type 1 (as you know) but I get just as angry at the assumption that T2s are to blame for their diabetes as I am when it's said about T1s. And in either type, diabetes is not the same in everyone. Just because another Type 2 was able to diet and exercise his / her way of medication doesn't mean everyone can. Just like the fact that 1 unit of insulin will cover 10 grams of carbs in my breakfast doesn't mean that it's the same in every T1. Our own bodies react in unique ways - so it's time to stop pointing fingers and blaming!! What works for me IS NOT going to work for everyone else, regardless of T1 or T2.

    Thank you for your wonderful blog and this great post.

  3. Thanks for this post. Much agreed. I wish people listened before deciding to speak. They'd be more likely to learn something and less like to say something stupid/hurtful. Our society seems to have a nasty habit of just blaring opinions without seeing the merits of actual mutual connection.

  4. Anonymous11:34 AM

    I agree with you and Scott. As long as I can get the people around Caleb to understand, not completely but enough, of what diabetes is, or at a minimum, that it's nothing to be afraid of and doesn't make Caleb "different", then I am content. If we can go a little beyond that too, well all the better.

  5. Amen. Just because I've been able to lose weight and stay off meds, doesn't mean I don't hurt when some of these misconceptions about T2 are thrown around. I hate that anyone is told it is their fault, T1 or T2.

  6. There are many misconceptions that adversely impact all PWD's, but our society and media in particular, have very short attention spans, making fixes very challenging!

  7. What was the question again?

  8. Bob, your statement "In many ways, I would really like to be a voice in helping diabetics of all types, as well as people in the society as a whole, understand the roots of type two diabetes. But I can't keep but feeling that I'm a very poor person to be front-and-center on this issue." is honest, but your are doing something just by posting this blog. Some of us are like you in trying to find our niche.

    Your blog has been inspiring to many and you have said things that need saying (or writing). Those that have been blogging for a while have found things that they are capable of doing. Eventually, for some of us, we will find other activities that will complement our blogging. You are like me and several others that are working to enlighten and aid a few people at a time. If we are unable to do more, then our blogging will have to suffice. Each person has their own style that will appeal to different people. Unlike you, I receive emails instead of comments. Your style makes people want to respond, while mine does not lend itself to lots of comments - more email responses.

    So do not be discouraged, if it is meant to be, your writing can still reach people in ways that you may not realize. Just keep up the excellent work you are doing.

  9. AMEN...I just had such an experience on another blog where I had to comment about the stereotyping of T2's. Why can't everyone realize that whichever type, however you got it--Diabetes sucks. The day you are diagnosed changes your life forever. Thanks for your blog, as a T2 it's nice to see I'm not the only one feeling this way!


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T Minus Two by Bob Pedersen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.