Type 2 Isn’t a “Good” Form of Diabetes
In my journey as a diabetic, I have experienced the negative comparisons between being a type 2 and being a type 1 diabetic. I don’t think some people understand what it’s like to be any type of diabetic. There are mental, physical and emotional issues that affect all people with diabetes. Some people think that being a type 2 diabetic means that you don’t need insulin or don’t deal with similar issues as people with type 1 (T1D). I’ve heard people refer to type 2 diabetes (T2D) as the “good” type of diabetes, but there’s nothing good about it.
Unfortunately, people feed into these stereotypes, even health care professionals. A type 2 diagnosis can be so cold, riddled with shame and a lack of concern for the patient. When I was diagnosed, my doctor came in and gave me a huge yellow envelope labeled “diabetes.”
Did he tell me I had diabetes? No. I had to find out by asking.
What did he do? He just said everything I needed to know was in the envelope and left the room. There was no mention of how this disease would impact my mental, physical and emotional being.
Where was the emotional comfort? This is a life-changing disease. Simply giving out a bunch of printed information for you to read and decipher without any guidance and support can leave you feeling confused, angry and frustrated.
Can you guess how many doctors I’ve seen over the years since I was diagnosed in 1995?
I’ve seen 12 doctors and all of my experiences have been similar. They either don’t have the time to help you learn how to manage the disease, or don’t know much about it outside of what’s in diabetes pamphlets and print-outs (which I’ve seen only a thousand times). The worst part is I’ve been on this journey by myself. I wish doctors actually took the time to help me evaluate my numbers, set goals and action steps to help me improve my health.
Like others with type 2, we’re used to people minimizing our disease. People think we have it because we ate too much sugar. The ignorant comments that stem from this are insensitive, even cruel.
When I discuss my diabetes, I get compared to people with type 1. It’s sad to say, but others with diabetes buy into that T2D isn’t “as bad” as T1D. I’ve gotten responses from people who say they wish they had it “easy” like me because I don’t need insulin or use a pump. But actually:
I do use insulin, as well as oral medication.
I do struggle with managing my blood sugar at times.
I do get frustrated with diabetes and don’t always feel supported by others.
Getting insulin is a challenge for me, too. I’ve been told many times there would be no help available for the cost of my medication because type 2 diabetes isn’t as serious as type 1. The truth is lots of people with type 2 use insulin. We deserve to get it when we need it, too.
Challenges in the Workplace
What I’ve also found difficult is being able to cope and survive in the workplace. My workplace is very one-sided when it comes to health issues. They definitely don’t have any measures in place for people with diabetes. There are HIPAA laws in place to protect people from discrimination, but they’re also enforced at my supervisor’s discretion, meaning they can alter them as they see fit. The only place to go if discrimination happens is the HR department, who may also leave the final call up to the immediate supervisor. I’ve gone through this process once and nothing got accomplished.
People with type 1 and type 2 are treated differently at my job. Aside from the jokes made about having diabetes, the way we care for ourselves at work is perceived differently. If I have to check my blood sugar at my desk or step out to take insulin, I get reprimanded, need to show my medical paperwork and have it with me at all times. If a type 1 diabetic needs to take an insulin injection or needs to have snacks at their desks, provisions are made for them. I’ve even been asked to not test my blood glucose at my desk and get questioned when I need to take a snack break to keep my blood glucose levels in range. Some have even decided to give me unsolicited advice that I simply need to lose weight and change my diet.
Super helpful. It never crossed my mind that this could help me get diabetes under control. No one has ever made those suggestions to me. Not even once. I hope you can sense my sarcasm here.
But it gets better. People in the workplace also believe in the negative comparisons between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, especially when it comes to African-Americans. Some at my job believe that we get diabetes because of bad eating habits, our culture and lifestyle. Doctors I’ve seen have told me I can only develop type 2 diabetes because the disease disproportionately impacts African-Americans.
While I do have type 2, it doesn’t make it okay for people to assume I have it because of my race. It’s also not okay to state that the way for African-Americans to reduce the prevalence of diabetes is to simply change our lifestyles and we’ll be cured. Diabetes can be hereditary. For me, it impacts half of my family. I’ve seen four of my family members die and three of them have their limbs amputated because of this disease.
The Comparisons Will Always Exist but Let’s Do Better
Look, I understand people will always compare type 1 and type 2 diabetics however, this disease always causes people to be against each other. It comes with a lot of blame-shifting to people with T2D. This happens constantly in the diabetes community.
But we really need to do better. We need to learn more about the disease itself and from each other. We need to call out negative stereotypes when we see and hear them for all types of diabetics. The care for people with T1D and T2D are similar. We’re tied together in other issues, too, like the cost of supplies, dealing with doctors and more. It’s no one’s fault that they have diabetes, this includes people with type 2. Whether people like it or not, we’re in this together and that’s the only way we’re going to see the changes we’re fighting for.