Blame, the Enemy of Living Well With Diabetes

I made a mistake. Focusing on my feelings of guilt after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, I felt blame coming from all sides. Maybe it really was not, but it certainly felt that way, and it left me open to depression that delayed my acceptance and desire to fight.

Now as I research blame in the context of diabetes, I find that we are not alone in feeling blamed for our condition.


Ads for cures, news reports, and even well meaning friends who “heard” of something that could fix us, all of these can add to the sense of being blamed. People who do not have diabetes or cancer or migraines — or any of a hundred other conditions — do not understand our resentment. They are just trying to help.

A sentence that begins with “have you tried…” can set our teeth on edge. This comes partly from our deep desire to hear that there really is a cure. We have been burned by promises that turn into yet another attempt to part us from our money.

We never stop hoping that someone truly will come up with the pill that fixes us or the magic herb or some other way out of this. Most of us have tried a lot of things that did not work.

For those of us with Type 2 diabetes, the idea that obesity caused our condition is the most damaging source of blame. Reading blogs from other countries, I discovered that this is a Western idea.

Because obesity and Type 2 are often found together, it is easy to blame one on the other, when the facts do not support that conclusion. Our Western quick-fix mentality has helped this idea along.

There is no denying that losing weight improves Type 2 diabetes. But that does not mean obesity caused it. Endocrine problems may be the source of both obesity and Type 2 diabetes, and the roots seem to lie in genetic tendencies.

Diabetes, both Type 1 and 2, comes from issues with insulin. Period. Once we decide to accept that we have this condition, we can focus on what to do about it. Blame and guilt only slow down the process of acceptance.

Our lifestyle will be affected. Just as anyone with a chronic condition, we need to follow our doctors’ advice about diet changes and activity. If we are given medications, it is important to take them or discuss other options with a specialist we trust.

The last thing a person with Type 2 diabetes needs to do is hide the condition out of guilt and the desire to avoid being blamed. From reading blogs and from my own experience, I know this is what many of us do.

Blaming Type 2 on obesity divides people with diabetes. People with Type 1 do not want to be lumped in with those lazy, fat Type 2s. But both types suffer from an endocrine condition. Both struggle with depression and feel guilty when they “cheat” and eat something that is not good for them.

Both types feel the burden of fear that goes along with blood sugar fluctuations. It is another example of accepting blame without remembering that many causes for high and low blood sugars are completely out of our control.

Here are a few of the causes we have no control over: illness, insect bites, weather changes, bad sleep, and monthly hormone fluctuations. The biggest cause may be chronic stress. The daily stress of having diabetes added to accepting blame for having the condition can set you up for every complication you have ever feared.

Stress is like a glass of water. Hold it in your hand for a few minutes, no problem. Hold it for an hour and it gets heavy. Hold it for a day, and it weighs a ton. Accept the blame for your condition, and you will not be strong enough to fight it. You may lose any desire to fight.

Living with Type 2 diabetes cannot be about why you have it and someone else does not. Do not waste energy you do not have on feeling shame or accepting blame.

Do the things that make your journey with diabetes easier on you. Try to get enough rest. Ignore the endless weight-loss ads. Accept the “helpful” advice for what it is. Change the things you can. Love the people who are in your life. Pursue your dreams. Live.

Just what is okra, and what are its benefits for health and diabetes? Bookmark and tune in tomorrow to find out from nurse David Spero.

  • Carol Burris

    Thank you for your insightful article. I, too, have noticed the tendency of some (the fortunately healthy) to treat those with chronic conditions as if they “brought it on themselves.” It’s not necessarily true, and it definitely isn’t helpful.

  • Samwell Baggins

    Great article, Martha. My diabetes educator stated that my having diabetes was not my fault, but my reply was that my weight gain did cause my insulin resistance and it definitely was my fault I ate too much. My A1c and sugars appear to be in check after one year and a 65-pound weight loss, but my doctor cautioned me that the metabolic causes of my high BG could come back. I will always have to watch my weight and health carefully, even though I am currently out of risk. But, I should not be so quick to blame myself, even if I did consciously overeat for four years. Control and not blame is the answer here. And, I am learning to be nicer to myself and not obsess so much. Life is long, and I need to enjoy it.