It’s interesting to see how closely my friend Douglas’ story resembles my own. Read more about my marathoning at <a href=”http://www.mikesmarathon.com”>MikesMarathon.com</a>
We are at war, people! Allow me to explain…
Earlier this week, Sara wrote a post on her blog Moments of Wonderful about a man with Type 2 diabetes that she had a conversation with and the shame that he associated with moving toward insulin-therapy in his diabetes management.
If you don’t read Sara’s blog, you should start. She is living with type 1, and her posts vary between stories of living with diabetes and news about industry. And like most of her posts, in the one mentioned above she did a really great job of explaining her feelings without also commanding that everyone reading agree with her. The “P.S.” from her post kind of wraps things up nicely:
I don’t think insulin = failure is an issue just for people with type 2 diabetes. I know I have been in situations where it is so tempting to compare basal rates or total daily doses with other people with type 1 when really our insulin amounts have very little to do with each other.
After reading her post on Tuesday I thought, “Yeah…you’re right Sara! Good post.” I walked away from my computer and went on with life. When I returned to the Interweb, a civil war had broken out! The war was started when the JDRF posted a link to Sara’s post.
The comments on this Facebook link were varied, but the majority of them were from people with type 1 diabetes, or with children that have type 1 diabetes and the general comment was something like, “We did nothing to deserve this like THOSE people.”
It’s ironic that Sara’s post was born from a place of acceptance and understanding and brought about more fingerpointing and misunderstanding. I feel strongly that no person living with diabetes is responsible for having this condition. Read that last sentence again, then stick a fork in me.
I know that many people agree with Sara and I. Many people feel that this fight is counterproductive. And many people feel that we need to move past this. Stick forks in all of us.
As people pointed out when commenting, type 1 and type 2 diabetes are not exactly the same, but as demonstrated by Sara explaining that all of us have different basal rates, her type 1 and my type 1 are also not exactly the same. This stuff is tricky. It’s confusing. And we are better off if we can all lean on one another…regardless of the number in our label.
This long civil war we’ve been fighting reminded me of a Diabetes Secret from a couple of weeks ago from a tired soldier:
It’s really time to stop fighting this war with ourselves, because at the end of it the only people that lose are people in our own army. Allow me to quote from one of the army generals (and full-disclosure he also signs my paychecks) Manny Hernandez on the topic:
Back in the 80′s, people who were HIV/AIDS positive and negative joined together, because the stigma was affecting all of them. I recommend that everyone touched by diabetes watches the documentary “How To Survive a Plague“, so we can all get a sense of the unique challenges that this community faced and how they overcame them.
You may say: “HIV/AIDS is so different from diabetes. Diabetes is not contagious. There’s no point in comparing ourselves.” I would argue that a majority of people with diabetes live in the DIABETES CLOSET, and because of this, WE as a diabetes community, are in the DIABETES CAVE… we’re not being seen enough, all types of diabetes are not getting enough exposure, visibility, and deserved attention.
So I call a cease fire. Everyone put away your weapons. All is forgiven…let’s start healing.
“To a mankind that recognizes the equality of man everywhere, every war becomes a civil war.”
– Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy
To you, they might be totally different things, but hear me out. The term “that’s so gay” used to describe something stupid and the way that some people use #diabetes on Twitter or Instagram hit the same nerve with me, and I would go as far as saying that these two problems also have very similar solutions.
People saying “that’s so gay” has pretty much become synonymous with “that’s so stupid.” We live in a world (according to GLSEN) where 75% of high school students say that they have heard “that’s so gay” or “faggot” used as an insult while at school. I would guess that an additional 25% didn’t understand the question.
I can speak with authority on this after working with young people for the last decade that “good” kids with no intention of insulting their gay peers are using the term “that’s so gay” because it has become part of this generation’s daily dialect. It’s a term that’s accepted in schools. The sports field. On social media. And it’s hurtful.
Regardless of the intent of the speaker, calling something you dislike “gay” connects a group of people to something you don’t like. It’s a microaggression – a sneaky way that we passively communicate hostility toward a group of people.
Microaggression is a decent way of explaining what I feel that many people are doing when they use “#diabetes” on social media to tag photos of unhealthy food. A quick search on Instagram for the hashtag and you see that it’s equal parts people sharing their lives with diabetes and people sharing photos of unhealthy or over-indulgent food choices.
The intention of someone adding “#diabetes” to a picture of cupcakes, for example, is to really poke fun at themselves. It’s as if they are saying, “look at the bad choices I’m about to make!” People that use this hashtag as a joke, like people using the term “gay” in the pejorative, rarely know the harm that they are doing. Like a racist joke, even if the intent of the joke-teller isn’t to cause harm, that doesn’t mean that harm wasn’t done.
The harm done by people poking fun at diabetes isn’t done to me. I understand what causes diabetes (as much as science has figured out anyway). I know that the candy bar that you take a photo of and add a hipster filter to is causing insulin-resistance as little as your bad sense of humor will.
The harm comes when someone hears for years that diabetes is a consequence of shitty choices and then he/she is diagnosed with diabetes. These jokes are the root cause of the shame-burden that newly diagnosed people with diabetes carry around…a burden that makes managing a complicated condition only more complicated.
What’s the solution? When I was working with young people and I heard one of them call something (not someONE) “gay” I let it go. Part of me thought that the problem was just too big to tackle, while another part of me didn’t want to come off as the “word police.” Over time I started correcting word-choice when I heard a kid call something “gay” and it usually made a kid stop using the word (around me anyway).
My feelings toward the usage of #diabetes are very similar. For the longest time I’ve thought that the problem is way to big for me to ever make a dent in, and I don’t want to be the diabetes-joke police on Instagram…but I can’t sit around and watch it any longer. Now when I come across them, I’m going to start tagging people that use #diabetes as a joke in photos of my bloody fingers, blood glucometer, insulin needles, etc. And I’m going to say “This is what #diabetes really looks like.”
Six months ago Emily McCracken posted a photo to her Instagram feed and she, as far as I can tell, coined the hashtag #MuttMuggin. This was a spin off of the less cute #BabyMuggin.
The idea is this: You hold a coffee mug up and position it so it appears that your pup is hanging out in your mug.
Capturing really good dog pictures isn’t the easiest task. I have found that having a treat in my hand makes the world of difference to the dog that doesn’t give a damn about having a good #selfie on IG.
I really can’t wait to try this with #LancetThePug next week!
I’m slightly obsessed with the All Business Baby meme that’s been catching fire on the internet these past few days…so I thought we needed a diabetes version too.
People all over the world are making art today to celebrate Diabetes Art Day! The concept (brought to life by the fabulous Lee Ann Thill) is so easy. Just make a piece of art that reflects your feelings about diabetes. No rules beyond that.
Check out DiabetesArtDay.com and look at the submissions of others.
Here is the art that I made (click it to enlarge it):