The stigma of diabetes. I wrote about this a little over a year ago, but because last night we had our new pair of Family Centered Experience medical students over for a visit — and because the topic of conversation was once again the stigma of disease — I’ve decided it’s time to revisit my thoughts on the subject.
But I’m not going to talk about the stigma I feel I endure because of my diabetes. No. I’ve already done that (see the link above!). Rather, I want to try to explain something I only began to realize last night while in the process of answering a question posed by one of the med students.
By the way, because I only began to realize it, try to explain is the operative phrase here. Forgive me in advance for any confusion in this entry.
I carry within me a spectrum of preemptive perceived stigma, a self-protective mechanism wherein I assume people are going to act towards me a certain way if they find out I have diabetes. This feeling that you probably have this idea about me because I have diabetes seems to be on alert most as I venture outside of my daily comfort zone. My friends and family know what’s what, and fortunately for me (because I am such a snob!) I spend my days working on a university campus surrounded by intelligent people who are interested in learning more about those things they’re ignorant of.
Well, OK, for the most part I’m surrounded by intelligent people, but we’ll save the debate about what kind of intelligence that is and all of its flaws for a later date. And true enough, there’s enough miseducation about diabetes not fifty feet from my office door.
Yet a person can grow calloused and quickly used to an ignorance close to home. It’s when I’m somewhere I don’t feel comfortable — an out-of-the-way diner, a restaurant on the interstate, a visit with new acquaintances — that I pull out my glucose test kit and insulin pump with a preconceived belief that the folks around me already have their facts wrong.
I have Type 1 diabetes, and I admit I suffer somewhat (still) from a desire to correct the disease-identification errors that makes people want to lump me into a Type 1 is the same as Type 2 crowd. I shouldn’t care, should I? What does this say about me? Am I prejudiced? A bad person? If the tables were turned and I had Type 2 diabetes and someone wanted to identify me as Type 1, would I be as quick to provide an elevator speech going over the differences as I am now?
You see, I’ve worked to disabuse myself of most of the preconceptions I once held about those with Type 2 diabetes. I’ve had to work at it. Educate myself. Read. Talk to people. Because I had preconceptions, I admit.
Prior to my diagnosis of Type 1, I didn’t give much thought to differentiation of types of diabetes; I had no reason to (this is probably the boat in which most people find themselves, I bet). Still, though, I have a knee-jerk need to want to implore anyone who expresses the mildest of passing interest in my condition to please, just get it right.
Why should I care, though? Why? It’s a legitimate question. Apart from my doctors and family and friends, who I think probably ought to know about this thing diabetes that takes over a fair amount of my day in thought and action, in preparation at meals, before exercise, even before a nap — pretty much this condition that by default inserts itself into everything — why should I care what others think?