If you’ve read my books or blog entries, you know that I advocate people coming together to fight for health. But it seems some people with diabetes may fight each other instead of allying. A recent article on Diabetes Health, called “What People with Type 1 Diabetes Can Learn from Type 2s,” provoked dozens of mostly angry comments.
“Type 1 is nothing like Type 2,” was the type of comment posted by many people with Type 1. One wrote, ” [Unlike people with Type 2], I cannot take a day off. If I eat everything my dietitian suggests, I must still check my blood glucose four to seven times per day and take numerous injections or bolus my pump. How many Type 2s have been unconscious in the middle of the night due to low blood sugar?”
The source of the anger seems to be society’s prejudice against people with Type 2, the belief that the disease is their fault, that they could cure it with diet and exercise. Some of this nonsense is sloshing from Types 2s onto Type 1s because the public doesn’t know the difference between the two conditions. “Thanks to Type 2s, people who have Type 1 are a getting a ‘bad rap’,” one poster wrote.
Some Type 1 victims of this prejudice resent it. “I wish these two different diseases didn’t go by the same name,” was a typical type of comment.
The sad thing is that many people with Type 1 seem to have bought into the false idea that people with Type 2 are “doing it to themselves.” Their anger is understandable. Living with Type 1 is hard enough, and now everyone thinks you brought it on yourself, and most of the research money and publicity starts going into Type 2. There is also the perception that Type 2s don’t understand how hard it is to live with Type 1, with the dangers of hypos and all the matching of carbohydrate and exercise to insulin dosing.
It’s normal for people with chronic conditions to become hyper-focused on our own problems, making it harder to see other people’s problems. Likewise, it’s normal for poor people to turn against other poor people who can be seen as competing for scarce resources. People forced to relocate by Hurricane Katrina, for example, often faced prejudice in the towns where they moved. See also the opposition to immigration from some working class Americans, who fear the competition for jobs. In a way, perhaps this Type 1/Type 2 divide is similar.
Some people have moved past the divide. One anonymous reader posted, “I’ve had Type 1 for 34 years…I think the idea that Type 2 is ‘curable’ by diet and exercise is mistaken. We don’t know what causes Type 2. There are plenty of obese, sedentary people who never develop Type 2. Those are ‘risk factors,’ not causes. [Type 1 and Type 2] are two different chronic diseases. We can certainly learn from anyone who suffers from a chronic disease.”
Anonymous is right. Everyone with chronic conditions faces similar problems and can benefit from similar skills and attitudes. That’s why I called my first book The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness.
Of course, each disease is different and each individual is different. Living with Type 1 is usually more demanding than Type 2. It’s harder than anything most people ever have to face in life. It’s normal, healthy even, to get angry sometimes about the difficulties and challenges. But we shouldn’t turn our anger against other people with illness. We should put that energy into improving our lives and fighting for better environments and health care.
What do you think? Have you experienced this kind of conflict? How do you feel about it? Are different types of diabetes totally different, or do they have a lot in common? Let us know.