Which Diabetes is Worse?

It's a journey for both.  Photo courtesy of Evgeni Dinev
It’s a journey for both. Photo courtesy of Evgeni Dinev


David Edelman started a very interesting conversation at Diabetes Daily.  He eventually made a late edit saying he started it to show how unproductive the subject matter is to talk about.  I wish he hadn’t said this because I don’t think communication is unproductive.  I think anger and fear and ignorance is unproductive.

“Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind.”


The subject matter is probably one of the most debated subjects surrounding diabetes.  Here is what I have to say about the subject regarding which diabetes is worse, type 1 or type 2.

I have had type 1 diabetes for almost 16 years now.  I have family with type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, type 1.5 or LADA ,and even pre-diabetes.  I think that having any type of diabetes is difficult.  I think every human being has their own difficult journey in life.  We are all human beings and we all have different reasons for which life might be challenging.  If a pre-diabetic feels suicidal for whatever reason, then do I have the better diabetes?  We can’t answer these questions for each other because we are not in each other’s bodies.

Do type 2 diabetics have a clue how hard life is for a type 1?  NO.  But, do type 1 diabetics know about the deep, painful and complex struggles of life with type 2?  NO.

Our lives are full of thousands of factors which vary upon each separate individual.  All of these form variables and they are countless.  We can’t possibly speak for another person and say they suffer less than we do.  Scientifically speaking, it’s not possible.

 The only disability in life is a bad attitude.

-Scott Hamilton

My husband is from a tiny town in rural Mexico.  We were talking about how sad the issues with poverty are all over the world in general…I mentioned my depression about certain things and somehow he brought up how he knew some people in his town who were genuinely happy.  They were barely scraping by but, they were happy.  And at that time, years ago, I wasn’t.  It suddenly occurred to me that often, those who suffer the least are those in a healthy frame of mind.  I was allowing myself to feel like a victim and these others, with struggles I couldn’t imagine living, seemed to suffer less because of their attitude.

So now, I’m almost never jealous of those who have a nicer car or home or who have better health than me.  I’m jealous of those who are happier and have a more resilient attitude.  Since we don’t know what life will throw out at us, the best defense is a wonderful and healthy outlook on life.  (I’m not saying this is easy)

I understand many of the points type 1 diabetics had to make about how our type of diabetes is very exhausting and how we could quickly die at any moment with just a small error or miscalculation.  We don’t mean to sound dramatic, this is the truth and we just want people to acknowledge this!  We just want people who are not type 1 diabetics to say, “I don’t know what you’re going through but, it sounds really, really, awful.”  Most of all, we want people to listen and not judge.

Type 2 diabetics want the exact same.  If someone has lung cancer because they smoked too many cigarettes do you deny them sympathy?  Type 2 diabetics want people to understand that no, maybe some of them haven’t always taken the best care of themselves, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t trying, that they aren’t struggling.  It doesn’t mean they didn’t live what they believed was a healthy lifestyle.  It doesn’t mean they didn’t live a truly healthy lifestyle.  Besides, when the government has told us in the past that fat is unhealthy and carbs are good and most of what we find around us is processed, it’s no wonder we have an epidemic.  And I can’t imagine how hard it must be for a type 2 to juggle medications.  Seems like a nearly impossible way to manage blood sugars.  Especially when your doctor gives you your dose and it may not be the exact amount of medication you require.

I’ve read over and over again that unhealthy lifestyle habits can change the expression of our genes, basically switching on genes that predispose us to cancer, type 2 diabetes, a full head of gray hair, and so on.  BUT, the point is that we need to exercise some more sense coated in compassion.  I grew up eating a lot of white bread just like a type 2 diabetic might have.  I got type 1 and they got type 2.  When I got older I ate too much McDonald’s and gained weight.  Just like a type 2 might have.  I don’t get blamed for my diabetes and that type 2 does.  How is that fair?  How dare we do that to them?  My husband asked me the other day, “if you could trade your type 1 for type 2, would you?”  I couldn’t answer him.  I just want neither type.

“Only a life lived for others is a life worth while.”

-Albert Einstein

It’s not fair and every type of diabetes deserves compassion and understanding.  I don’t believe that genes are 100% to blame but, I don’t think most type 2 diabetics believe that either.  I think that type 2 diabetics are struggling to figure out (just like myself) how to eat healthy on a budget, how to exercise after a long work day and commute home, and how to show up at the potluck without brownies so people don’t give you strange looks when you instead bring something “healthy”.  Our entire way of life is very accustomed to some long standing habits that we are now struggling to change.  It doesn’t make things easier when people don’t even agree on what changes we should make.  It also doesn’t help when we tell them they should lose weight (the ones that are overweight).  I mean, I don’t ask my husband if I look fat so he can enlighten me, I ask so he can lie and tell me I’m not.  People know if they should or shouldn’t lose weight.  Some overweight people are healthy and feel fabulous.  They probably don’t need to lose weight but only they along with their HCP can decide on that, not us.  And those who should lose weight?  They just need some support.  It’s hard to lose weight-especially if you’ve had that extra weight for a long time.  And especially if diabetes causes your feet to burn, your mood to plummet, and your wallet to shrink from prescriptions and doctor visits.

I think that part of why the discussion gets so heated is that we all are desperate to claim that our disease is the toughest because if it were, wouldn’t we feel better about ourselves?  If we were each dealing with the most difficult form of diabetes, wouldn’t we feel a bit less like failures and a bit more like champions?  I’m not saying we’re failures, I’m saying we often feel as if we are.

A lot of the negative energy in these comments stems from hurt.  These people have really deep wounds and they want a band aid.  Then we try to tell them how they’re wrong and it puts salt in their wound.  This just causes more illogical back and forth.

How about we all just stop and listen to each other’s stories and sympathize and give support?  Let’s try our best to put ourselves in each other’s shoes.  We need to find a way for you to tell me your story while I just listen (not trying to one up you with my account) and then you listen to me while I tell you mine.

Honestly, I’ve never told anyone about how a typical day of mine goes.  I’ve never told them about how I feel when I wake up until the time I go to bed.  Now that I realize this I also realize I have never heard a type 2 tell me how their typical day is and what they think and feel throughout it.  I really want to know.  Is there anyone out there who will share this with me?  (Since writing this post, a type 2 has shared the experience-read here!)

Some people in the discussion were upset and said they feel we should each stick to working on our own causes.  I think we should unite.  We should all simultaneously support the cause for a cure for type 1 and 2.  At the same time we should all work on ourselves.  Do the best you can eating and exercising and getting your friends to join in.  Read and research how to be healthier.  Use common sense.

And if you’ve been cruel or judgmental, or less than kind, I forgive you, now just forgive yourself and make a personal note to stop or do less of it.  And keep working on this.  (I’m including myself here) Eventually we’ll succeed and find that we inspired many other people to do the same.  This is how change happens.  It doesn’t happen with hateful comments.  So let’s share and listen more and work on ourselves.  And we’ll see what happens.

8 thoughts on “Which Diabetes is Worse?

  1. Thomas R. Moore

    Excellent post…you hit a home run all the way around. And as the Website say’s “1 Disease! World! Voice!” Let’s all pursue the fight at the disease level, not which *1* is more worse. “Type D” is the only “Type” we need to know to band together…TRM

  2. Mark-John Clifford

    Great blog post. Bring us back to what I/we have been saying. There may be many types of diabetes, and while each one has its own complications we still should work together to find a cure as one.

  3. PR

    Thank you. I have been on numerous internet boards where this subject literally becomes war between the Type 1’s and Type 2’s. It is sickening. I am a Type 2. As a Type 2 you are automatically typed as having the your fault diabetes by most type 1’s.

    Frankly the more separation between us the better. I have nothing in common with your Type 1 condition.

    Now if I ever go on a pump with 0 insulin production and insulin resistant then maybe, just maybe, then I will have something to talk to you about. Some Type 1’s forget that some Type 2’s have just a hard time as they do with good control and are on pumps.

    Some Type 1’s forget they may present themselves to their Dr too with Type 2 insulin resistant charactrics in their future too. Then they should be fair game to ridicule by the sanctimonious Type 1 crowd out there because they had such lousy control they caused their insulin resistance.

  4. Violetta

    Excellent post, Sysy!! You have made some wonderful points.

    Actually, even though I have been on the boards from time to time, I’ve never until this discussion been aware of the rancor of some T1s toward T2s, and it has been a revelation. To those who are so upset over the classification, I do encourage them to join a T1 only board, support only T1 research, whatever floats your boat as long as you don’t feel you have to condemn others in the process. Perhaps you are right and there should be new nomenclature, but it’s not the fault of T2s either that they don’t have T1, nor how it came to be named.

    Even though I would never begin to compare the difficulty, danger and heartache of T1 to T2, we still do have many of the same issues. It is a matter of etiology, to be sure, but many of the resultant problems are the same, just to different degrees,

    I’m in no race to try to prove I have it harder as a T2. To me, that would be insanity. I don’t know of any T2s who are. Maybe I just haven’t seen it.

    T2 for me is just another of my health problems. I have osteoarthritis in just about all my joints, including my hands and shoulders. My shoulders need replaced. I have an autoimmune disease as well. But I don’t go to forums to proclaim myself the most afflicted, just to get some insight and support, and I’m certainly reconsidering that.

    I so appreciate your thoughtful post, Sysy. I might have considered answering your question about what it’s like to be a T2 from day to day, but quite honestly, I would be ashamed to go on about it to a T1. The only thing in the diabetes spectrum I would consider to be worse than T1 would be to be a parent of a T1.

  5. Richard Vaughn

    Sysy, I liked your blog very much, and I agree with the points you have made.

    I have been type 1 for 65 years, and am very healthy. My good health, without complications, is due to my having used very tight control, and also learning from the very useful information on the many diabetes websites.

    I have a lot of respect for David Edelman and Diabetes Daily. I have been a member there for almost four years. There was a blog written there in 2007 by a type 2 member. It was a very controversial discussion that angered many type 1 members. The hostile replies caused the author of that blog to leave the site. The disruption caused by that blog caused me to be very surprised that David would reopen the discussion. Perhaps some of the angry replies come from people whose wounds from the past were reopened by this new discussion.

    I was diagnosed when I was 6 and I do not remember what it was like before that diagnosis. Adjustment to my diabetes at such a young age was easier than it is for a newly diagnosed adult, or even an older child. I have never been bitter about being a diabetic, it has always been my way of life, the only life I know. That is why I can be an impartial observer of the discussion in David’s blog. I am disappointed that some of my fellow type 1 diabetics have made such hostile replies, but I have not walked in their shoes, and do not know what they have faced.

    I believe that we can only compare two individuals at a time. Some diabetics have it easier than me, others have it worse, irregardless of the types involved. It is impossible to compare all type 1 diabetics with all type 2 diabetics,

    Sysy, thanks for your blog, and for your diabetes site. I am very impressed with what you are doing here.

    Richard Vaughn aka Richard 157

  6. Christine

    Thanks for the post. I just recently found your blog and have been reading it daily and it has come to help me heal and grow and understand my trials with diabetes a lot better.
    I have to say when i read this post I had never realized that diabetics could be prejudice or other diabetics… I was surprised and sad like you that we are not united, and even though treatments and cause for diabetes vary I don’t think type 1 or 2 are very different in how it can affect a person…I know a T1 who went deaf because of her diabetes and I know a T2 who has had amputations, both were irresponsible and were in denial on about their situation. I also know a T1 diabetic that is very healthy and has been for over 55 years and my Dad who has been T2 for over 25 years had no side effects except for weight issues. I think a lot of it depend on how you treat yourself.
    The one thing that bothered me about your post is the assumption that you get diabetes because of your diet and bad habits. My dad has been diabetic almost my whole life and we ate pretty diabetic friendly and I was more active then a lot of kids I knew growing up…swimming, water polo, and marching band. I ate a lot of salads and whole grains like Ezekiel bread…but I started to gain weight despite all my activity when I was 15 and then was officially diagnosed with diabetes when I was 24, even though I think I was much early because of signs and symptoms I had but didn’t want to acknowledge. So, I got fat because I became insulin resistant, not because I was unhealthy to begin with. I am not saying this is the case for all T2 but I was a little offended to hear a diabetic make a judgment that it because I was T2 it was because I didn’t treat my body right before. My body beside being overweight is in great shape, my pancreas is very happy despite the diabetes…so honestly i don’t know what all this means and I am not trying to be negative i just wanted to share with you, from a T2 perspective.
    Also, you had said you wanted to know what a T2 day is like…
    well, from what I read it is a lot like yours…except for the time being I am on an oral med…
    but i have to be careful about routine and eating and exercise…or I get lows and they will come on pretty fast.
    I stress about food and what will make me feel bad and good…I can eat high carb ever because i don’t have a way to adjust my meds and someways..like when I am stress,or during my girly week, my blood sugars are just high and I have to be-careful and there isn’t a way to change it…but I don’t mean to complain, in someways I get depressed because before I was diagnose I felt like it was just a ticking time bomb and I was just waiting to get diabetes no matter what i did…sometimes i get sad because i miss my old life, it seemed so much more simple. I don’t know what it would be like to be T1 but i wouldn’t choose it over T2 I had a friend growing up who was so sickly until they found out, she has struggle her whole life and is now deaf…grant some of it was because she wouldn’t listen to doctors and accept limits, but she has had a very hard life and i wish she didn’t have to have this trial either.
    I like you wish we could all support each-other.
    Thank you for your blog, you have really helped me get through all this and begin to get on a healthy and happy track. I was so depressed and lost after i was diagnosed and your blog was an answer to many prayers and tearful nights. I wanted you to know how much you help people even if they never tell you. :)

  7. Jennifer G

    I found you site today, and I have gotten a ton of information already. For the most part, I agree with you in this post, even though I really can’t stand this question. Diabetes is a horrible disease no matter whether you are able to “control” it by eating better or whether by oral meds or insulin shots. I have diabetes. Right now I can control it with (a very strict) low carb diet…no more than 30 g carbs per meal or snack, so even though I haven’t been “typed” I am assuming it is type 2. I knew it was coming. Both Type 1 & Type 2 are in my family. I was diagnosed as hypoglycemic my senior year of high school, 20 years ago. I was told by my Dr that I could control the speed of my progression with diet. To my knowledge, I made it about 17 years…though, I am not sure how long I was diabetic before my diagnosis. I also knew from a friend who was also diagnosed as hypoglycemic that there was a strong chance I would become diabetic if I chose to have children (she was given that warning by her Dr; my dr’s never told me that). Well, I chose to have my son. Does that make me a bad person? Did I cause my diabetes? Over the years, my doctors have not taken my condition seriously. I even had one doctor, shortly before my diabetes diagnosis, tell me that I didn’t need to worry about showing signs of insulin resistance “because most people are insulin resistant nowadays”, even after I pressed her about it because of my hypoglycemia. I think a lot of the animosity between diabetics stems from the fact that no one knows what truly causes Type 2. It is assumed even by Drs that it is just a fat, lazy person’s disease, but I have always dieted and maintained a healthy weight and I developed Type 2 anyway…ok, yes, I could have been more active, and still could stand to be. I know a lot of very overweight (some morbidly obese) people who don’t have type 2 or any other health problems (high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc). So if simply being overweight or inactive is the cause, shouldn’t *all* overweight people be type 2 as well? I understand that Type 1 & Type 2 are completely different diseases, treated differently, but left unchecked, they both result in the same complications, even death. I understand that we may need different resources to help us with our care. I can even see the argument that overweight or inactivity might exacerbate the disease for someone who is predisposed. But overweight *causing* it? No, to me that particular argument just doesn’t make sense.

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