Over the weekend, I was watching a movie in which one of the lead characters claimed to have diabetes. As soon as he threw his syringes on the table and said that after eating all those lollies and junk food and being obese as a child, this has led him to develop diabetes, I put my face in my hands and cringed… Throughout the movie, he mentions he can’t have any fatty foods but then proceeds to have a massive alcoholic binge later on – evidently without any diabetes-related consequences.
Things like these that pop up in the media are increasingly frustrating for me and, no doubt, my fellow diabetes buddies. After a huge whinge about it with a close friend and fellow d-buddy of mine, she suggested we write to the production company of the movie to properly educate them on diabetes. Firstly, my respect for her went up (not that it was low before) because even though we whinged about it, she was set to do something about it.
A lack of education about diabetes per se generates the discriminatory stigmatisation of diabetes that we see today. And this, in turn, is unfair to people like me who don’t fit the stereotypes and really all people living with diabetes. People need to understand that diabetes is associated to a variety of things and is not always due to modifiable lifestyle choices. Diabetes may be due to an autoimmune condition and genetic predispositions may play a major role in the development of diabetes. Yet when the word ‘diabetes’ surfaces in everyday conversation, it’s automatically linked to obesity and poor lifestyle choices. The stigma then rises because if it’s a preventable disease, it must be your fault that you have diabetes. And having been on the receiving end of that accusation, I can tell you it hurts!
When I was diagnosed and told my then-manager, he asked if it was the ‘good kind’ or the ‘bad kind’. I stared at him dumbfounded wondering which form diabetes could possibly be the ‘good kind’?! I’ve had people trying to comfort me by saying, ‘Well all you have to do is watch what you eat then it’ll be fine’, simply because they know someone who controls their diabetes through lifestyle changes. Although, I don’t know if I prefer that over ’Does that mean you can’t eat a lot of foods?’ Diabetes management can come in many forms ranging from making appropriate lifestyle changes, to oral medications to insulin administering or a combination of all of the above.
Diabetes is a huge area of focus at the moment due to the rising obesity rates worldwide. I think it is also important to educate the public a bit more on diabetes in general. Things such as the differences between type 1 and type 2 as well as the management strategies of diabetes and particularly the dietary component of diabetes are all important basic educational steps to reduce the stigmatisation associated with diabetes.
Ashley Ng, of Caufield, is 22 years young and was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (MODY) in 2009. She is currently halfway through her honours year at Deakin University looking at the effects of nutritional supplementation in the healing of diabetic foot ulcers. Ashley also works at the university as an academic support worker and student ambassador on the side. In her spare time (of which she has little) she enjoys driving out to national parks for walks and taking part in a variety of sports. She also plays clarinet in the Western Region Concert Band.
Oh, and did we mention her rocking blog?
The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are Ashley’s own.