Thursday 19 April 2012

The Other Diabetes

Recently in the DOC (particularly CWD) it seems like there has been a lot of talk about type 2 diabetes and type 1 diabetes. I've read a lot of posts before about people with type 1 who want a different name for their condition, because of the constant confusion and misconceptions around diabetes. I've seen TV shows (mostly on Channel 4, UK, although they actually seem to have improved a lot recently) which blatantly confuse the two illnesses, which have different causes, some different symptoms and different treatments.

I think that the level of confusion between the two types of diabetes is irritating, to say the least. Type 2 diabetes can often be treated (especially in its earlier stages) with diet and exercise, and even when this is ineffective, pills are often used rather than injections. From what I've read about type 2, it seems that BG levels are often more stable than what people with type 1 experience, and fewer BG checks per day are necessary. Honestly it bugs me to have to say to people "no, I will NEVER be able to control this with diet and exercise" because the media are careless and don't distinguish between two very different conditions.

However, some of the comments I have read are just plain cruel about the people with type 2 diabetes. I get irritated with the ignorance surrounding the types, I get irritated with people who spout crap when they don't have a clue, I particularly get irritated with the media, but I have never really thought to get irritated at the people with type 2. It just doesn't really make sense to me. If you have type 2, hi! We have two different conditions, which overlap in some ways. The similarities are that we both feel like crap when our BGs are high, and we are both prone to complications, particularly if we have many high BG levels. There are even more similarities if you consider somebody with type 2 diabetes who uses insulin, because we both have to face scary lows, and the challenges of injecting multiple times per day or wearing an insulin pump.

I have empathy for anyone who has woken up in the middle of the night with a pounding in their head and a mouth like the Sahara because their BG is high. I have empathy for anyone who has felt the whirring around their ears and the spinning in their head; the absolute confusion and desperation to eat from a low BG. I can empathise with anyone who has ever looked at the meter and felt angry because it gave them a number they really didn't want. I can empathise with anyone who has decided to pass on the cake or cookie because their BG is above the target range.

Some people feel irritated at people with type 2 because they 'brought it upon themselves'. After some googling, I have read that 80% of people with type 2 are obese, so there is certainly a strong weight related risk factor. However, here are some issues I want to highlight:

1) Only 80% of people with type 2 diabetes are obese. That is 1 in 5 people with type 2 diabetes who cannot in any sense be blamed for their condition, even if you want to blame obese people for developing diabetes.

2) Only 25% of obese people develop type 2 diabetes. If you want to blame people only for factors within their control, why blame those with diabetes in particular, when for every obese person with diabetes there are 3 more who may have had exactly the same lifestyle and just been lucky enough not to develop diabetes. There is absolutely no reason to discriminate against the diabetic obese rather than the non-diabetic obese.

3) People do not want to be obese. There are still studies into what makes some people become obese rather than others, and obesity is definitely often caused by mental illnesses such as depression or dysthemia, or even just a traumatic life event. In that sense, even if a person's obesity is caused by overeating, can you necessarily blame them if the overeating is in some way out of their control?

4) The risk factor for certain types of cancer is also hugely increased by obesity. Would you blame people with cancer in the same way as you blame people with diabetes?

I'm sick of people directing their anger and irritation in the wrong direction. If you're pissed off at the ignorance and misinformation, email and telephone and campaign against misinformation in the media, and correct people who present misinformation to you. But why direct your anger at people who have a particular illness(with a few similarities to that of you or your child)?


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  2. Hello Emma, I know you from CWD. I think that T1 and T2 folks have a lot in common, and they should help each other, and not argue about their differences. There is an administrator of a major diabetes website who started a discussion last year. I think it was called "Type 1 or Type 2, Which Is Worse?" There were many replies, and so many of them were full of hatred and bitterness. It was like a T1 vs T2 war. I made a post to try and calm things down, and some other people did the same, but nothing stopped the war. Some members were so upset that they canceled their memberships there. There were also many newcomers who were joining the site because they enjoyed the war, The website gained many new members. The publicity of the controversy spread, and a few major newspapers published articles about it. Then there were droves of new members joining the site. It was clear to me what the administrator wanted when he started the discussion. It is a shame that an increase in membership was done by pitting type 1 and type 2 diabetics against each other. Some of my very best friends are type 2 and we never argue about diabetes.

  3. Good girl!!! You have it just exactly right. You show that you understand the nature of being human and know that stuff happens. I'm so cheered up by this blog that I'm almost crying! :-) Also, please read what I wrote about the concept of diabetes spectrum at I think you will relate! :-)

    Also, you're suffering from the same triad as I am -- major depressive disorder, diabetes and hypothyroidism. It ain't fun, is it! I call the diabetes and depression the 4 D's -- Diabetes and Depression, the Deadly Duo. Having diabetes makes it really easy to kill yourself (I tried it in 2010), and you have to fight that much harder when those thoughts gang up on you. Keep fighting the good fight, sweet girl! :-)

  4. Thank you for an excellent article with a refreshing attitude towards diabetes of ALL types.