Ah yes, I do love a good play on words and thanks to Stealers Wheel for the inspiration for today’s post title from their original song, “Stuck in the Middle with You.”
From our country’s vice president on down through various congressman and women to your average Joe on the street, no one seems to have a clue what the difference is between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. We get lumped together all the time and a line from that aforementioned song is truly apt: “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.” That’s what it feels like for sure! Stuck in the middle with Type 2! When people profess that diabetics need to take responsibility for their own health, I want to scream. It’s just not that simple.
In case you don’t know, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. Your own body attacks the insulin-producing cells in your body and therefore, you need to inject insulin or die. It occurs in people with and without a family history of diabetes and there is no way to prevent it (currently.) There is also no cure (currently.) Diet and exercise can not make it go away, nor can herbal supplements or any of the other latest internet claims. Diet and exercise are, of course, great, but that goes for everyone – even those in the non-D world! Who knew?! (I so wish there was a sarcastic font.) Type 2 gets a really bad rap too. It sometimes can be associated with lifestyle. It isn’t always though, and that’s a really important point. In this case, the body still produces insulin, but doesn’t use it correctly. Again, in some cases, diet and exercise can help people with type 2 control it and not have to take medication. (Disclaimer here: I have type 1 and I really only know about treating type 1. I don’t have the same inside knowledge on type 2 by any means.)
Here’s what both type 1 and type 2 have to deal with though: We both have people constantly telling us what we should and shouldn’t eat. We both have people telling us about their amputated, blind, and/or dead friends and relatives. I jokingly refer to these as “dead diabetic” stories. There’s always at least one at every gathering I’ve ever been to since diagnosed 39 years ago. By the way, what the hell is an expected response to that? When they see the annoyed or horrified expression on my face, it is usually pretty quickly followed up with, “Oh, but they didn’t take care of themselves . . . like I’m sure you do.” It’s funny how many people come out of the woodwork with their vast misinformed “knowledge” on this disease. I assure you, you don’t know what you’re talking about unless you yourself actually live with it.
Another good one I saw recently was people saying, “At least you don’t have cancer.” It’s a ridiculous statement. Firstly, it marginalizes what dealing with this disease is. Secondly, it also packages cancer as a certain death sentence. It’s a comment that is both mind numbingly ignorant and truly hurtful to all concerned. I’m really not sure why people do that, to be honest. Is it a nervous reaction? Do they not know what to say and so they say something insensitive with the intention of being positive? I do give the benefit of the doubt a lot, but I have to say, I think people just do not know what they’re talking about and actually believe the things they say.
To that end, we’re thought of as the same disease. I’m still wondering which one of us is the “bad diabetes” that I hear so much about! We’re both misunderstood by the public at large, lawmakers, and even a fair share of medical professionals. We’re all thought of us fat, lazy, and bringing this disease on ourselves. It gets soooooo tiring to educate people on the symptoms of type 1, which by the way, is unexplained sudden weight loss for one. Please also tell me how a newborn or 3-month-old could have exercised more or chosen a better diet.
I’m one of the people who think that T1 and T2 should have different names mainly because they are managed so very differently and have very different origins. At the end of the day though, I know we all do our best to stay healthy and for some that’s easier than others – in both the T1 and T2 communities. So, to my fellow diabetics, both T1 and T2, we’re different, but we’re in this together. One day, maybe we won’t have to educate people daily about who is who and what is what, and instead of changing the name, we can delete it from our vocabulary entirely.