Chances are in your life that you have felt stigmatized. Maybe you just like the colour black, so everyone assumes your part of a dark goth vampire cult, and cross the street just in case you want to suck their blood with a quickly applied straw-stabbed-through the neck as they pass. Or maybe your smart, so you never got picked for the sports team, and the lack of being allowed to play is probably why you're not good at sports in the first place.
Diabetes also has a stigma. It's a stigma that can make it very hard to tell people around us that we have the disease, or let on how hard it really is. Before you knew anyone with diabetes, what did you know about the disease? Did you believe the pretty blonde lady on the T.V. spouting that diabetes only happened to fat, ugly people? Did you hear about your neighbors grand-daughter who was just diagnosed with diabetes and wonder how many family-sized packets of M & M's her mother tipped into her throat to cause it? Did you think that we are all lazy and unmotivated or that we don't care enough to take care of ourselves? Did you think that we are sickly and won't be able to hold down a job or have a future because of health concerns? Did you think we DESERVE it? Do you still think these things?
The stigma of diabetes is real. It can stop people getting jobs and it can ruin relationships. Diabetes stigma can create social exclusions. It can make us feel bad about ourselves and maybe even begin to believe we deserve everything that's happening to us. Stigma can stop us from learning about diabetes enough to take proper care of the disease.
When I was first diagnosed, sitting cross legged on a crisp clean hospital bed, I asked for a pregnancy test. I hoped it was gestational diabetes. Unsurprisingly, the pregnancy test was negative and I did not have some sort of super GDM given my over 30 levels.
After I was told that no, there was no bean growing inside me, I WISHED for Type 1 Diabetes. I don't believe in a god, but I concentrated all my energy on willing my pancreas to be fully, 100% non-insulin productive. I was very much aware that Type 1 Diabetes was the one with needles, and that Type 2 diabetes had potential to be reversed, or at the very least I could diet control or have tablets every day instead of multiple daily shots of insulin straightaway.
Being that I hate needles, the wish to have Type 1 Diabetes is crazy, right? It's not if you're aware of the stigma. I knew about the diabetes stigma - and I did not want the stigma of diabetes, let alone Type 2 Diabetes - or the diabetes percieved to be made of an inability towards any sort of self-control. A Type 1 Diagnosis meant that I could interject that in uncomfortable situations - I could say "I have TYPE ONE Diabetes" or "autoimmune diabetes" and explain that it wasn't my fault. A Type 1 diagnosis meant I could say "Oh no, That's Type 2 Diabetes that get it from poor lifestyle".
Of course I don't feel this way and I never ended up throwing any Type 2 Diabetics under the bus (I hope we're all well aware that Type 2 is much more complex than 'I ate bad'. Genetics, anyone?). I explain the differences between the 2 when asked about my diabetes but never lay blame to anyone with diabetes. And these days I know that the stigma affects Type 1's just as much as Type 2's. I just happened to know that Type 1 was autoimmune beforehand due to a cousin having Type 1, and so I preferred to pick this stigma instead.
The fact is, I was aware of the stigma even before diagnosis and I knew I didn't want to spend three quarters of my life defending my pancreases right to an early retirement and the shame it might cause me. No one should be made to feel this way.
So get on board with the Diabetes Stigma Project and support! If you can't do that, then at the very least next time you hear someone saying something about diabetes, blast the bejesus out of them and set them straight damnit! (But don't wish diabetes on them or anyone they love because that's just not fair. Diabetes isn't fair to anyone).