Diabetes comes with a side of stigma. But it doesn't have to. And it is up to you and me to change it. Ginger Vieira shares her perspective on shaking the stigma of diabetes.
Doughnuts and Snickers bars caused your diabetes, right? You’ll die if you eat ice cream? And most people with diabetes are lazy, right?
But the stigmas of diabetes are rampant. The misconceptions, the stereotypes, the accusations -- they make for a long list of bullsh*t misunderstandings that we have to face on a daily basis. And we get it from all sides: the media, people we hardly know, people we know pretty well, parents, doctors, older relatives who think they’re helping by telling you what you can and cannot eat at Thanksgiving dinner.
Oh, and don’t forget the pity.
“You poor thing, you have to give yourself shots every day!”
Personally, I’ve found that the most effective and most powerful way to beat those stigmas is to live with my diabetes out loud and show them through my actions what people with diabetes are really about.
If you hide your diabetes, people will think it’s worth hiding.
Imagine, for a moment, that every day at work you ate your lunch in secret. You didn’t want anyone to see what you brought for lunch. And it may just be an apple, cheese sticks, chicken salad, and some almonds, but if you’re hiding it, your coworkers will inevitably assume its 4 slices of pizza and 7 cupcakes.
When we hide something, it becomes mysterious to others. Simply the act of hiding it leads others to believe there’s a reason it should be hidden!
When it comes to diabetes, this is especially true.
If you hide every time you check your blood sugar and hide every time you take your insulin or simply try to hide the overall fact that you have diabetes, people will inevitably sense that you are ashamed or embarrassed by your diabetes, which translates to thinking it’s worthy of shame.
But that doesn’t mean you have to talk about your diabetes all the time either.
The alternative is to simply wear it proudly when you do decide to tell someone you have diabetes or when you have to check your blood sugar.
It’s a very subtle and seemingly simple adjustment but it comes down to how you carry and present your diabetes to the world.
Wearing your diabetes proudly as something you boldly face every day will give the impression to others that it’s a challenge --not a flaw -- and you’re that much more awesome for taking on that challenge every single day.
The way you think about your own diabetes is how others see it.
It’s pretty important to check in your own perception of your diabetes.
If you feel sorry for yourself because you have diabetes, other people are going to see it as something worth pitying.
Seize opportunities to teach those around you!
If we don’t take the time to teach and explain what living with any type of diabetes is really like, then those around us have nothing to go by besides their assumptions.
Instead of getting mad when someone says something blatantly incorrect and offensive about diabetes, take the time to teach them in a manner that is both kind and firm!
If you read an article that severely misportrays or misteaches diabetes, don’t just leave snarky remarks about it on Twitter. Contact the writer or the editor from that website and teach them so they can correct the article and avoid the same mistakes the next time they write about diabetes.
We are the most effective and most powerful method of changing the stigmas that surround diabetes. We are the ones who can -- bit by bit -- teach the world what type 1, type 1.5, type 2 and gestational diabetes are really all about.
Use your voice, use your knowledge, and carry your diabetes badge with pride while you continue to face it every single day, doing the best damn job you can manage that day.