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.”
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.”
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.