Having diabetes often makes a visit to the doctor a dreaded experience, as there is invariably bad news of one kind or another. And sometimes the way the doctor talks to you can leave you feeling like you’re at fault. Or maybe you have a fantastic healthcare team, but have experienced blame and judgement from someone else in your life – friend, loved one, complete stranger. Think about a particularly bad instance, how that person talked to you, the words they used and the conversation you had. Now, the game part. Let’s turn this around. If you could turn that person into a puppet, what would you have them say that would leave you feeling empowered and good about yourself? Let’s help teach people how to support us, rather than blame us!
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There’s plenty of blame to go around
There is plenty of talk about how people with diabetes feel the sting of blame from comments and assumptions made by people outside the diabetes community.
Only this past week the internet blew up when federal budget director Mick Mulvaney in commenting on healthcare reform said, “It doesn’t mean we should be required to take care of the person who sits home, drinks sugary drinks, doesn’t exercise, eats poorly, and gets diabetes.”
Looking at Speaker Paul Ryan’s argument against Obamacare it’s all about money. Not about the people or healthcare, for that matter.
As I mentioned before, it’s been a couple of wild months filled with whirlwind activity on healthcare reform.
I wasn’t really surprised at the political shenanigans in Washington, DC. After all, this isn’t my first political rodeo.
But, I was surprised by how this one felt. This one was different.
This one felt…personal.
Not personal, in the sense that it is important to me personally or will have a direct effect on my life. Although both of those things are true. But personal in the sense that it felt like I, as a person who needs health care and insurance, am being targeted for punishment.
What if we considered the half-empty part of diabetes to be an opportunity to fill our lives with good stuff?
Every once in a while I get asked why I think people with Type 2 diabetes aren’t as active in social media as people with Type 1. We see a strong representation of people living with Type 1 in social media. Type 1s share their daily triumphs and trials, most presenting a defiant warrior-like stance in the face of “ducking fiabetes.” When we look for the Type 2 voices in social media we find fewer and they are often muted.
I used to think it was because of the age difference. Now I’m not so sure that’s the case. There are plenty of people of all ages active in social media over all.
Another thought I’ve had is that for most people with Type 2, diabetes is not central to their sense of identity. They had a whole life before diagnosis. They didn’t grow up being told their lives would be somehow limited by this chronic disease. But now it figures largely in daily routines and visions of the future.
Lately a new theory has entered my mind. It’s the idea that we tend to look at diabetes as a glass half-empty kind of thing. Much discussion about living with Type 2 diabetes centers on all the things that have to be (or should be) taken away. Carb-heavy comfort foods. Carefree daily routines. Worry-free futures that promise good health.
The emptiness of the glass shows us what is gone, never to return. There’s a sense of loss. There’s the feeling of mourning. What will replace it? Restrictions. Complicated medicine routines. Society’s blame and shame.
But what if we chose to fill that empty part of the glass with good stuff instead?
Prediabetes? Ain’t nobody got time for that! The Ad Council’s type 2 prevention campaign misses the mark.
In the first of its kind campaign the ADA, AMA, and CDC released a series of Ad Council public service announcements aimed at preventing type 2 diabetes. The campaign is called So…Do I Have Prediabetes?
Boy did they miss the mark.
The campaign takes on a snarky tone. Now, I’ve been known to enjoy a snarky joke as much as the next person. But this snark is aimed at the patient, that just adds to the blame and shame people living with diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, already face.
You eat bacon? Well, don’t. It’s a variation on the “Eat 100 candy bars and what do you get?” joke. We’ve all heard the punch line: Diabetes!
Only, it’s not true and it’s hateful. And when people feel blamed for their health or shamed for their behavior that disempowers them to change. Don’t believe that? Listen to what the research of Jane K. Dickinson, CDE has to say.
And what if you’re a busy mom?
Well, this busy mom doesn’t appreciate the sentiment. Yeah, busy-ness is a common excuse. I’ll cop to using it myself once or twice. Okay! I used it for about a million years while I was in pre-diabetes.
The doctor’s response to the patient saying she’s a busy mom made me think of this:
Lucy van Pelt pulling the football away at the last moment yet again and the ever trusting Charlie Brown taking a tumble mid-kick.
I don’t want my doctor to be paying a cruel joke on me. And I don’t want to end up the looser in this scenario.
But more damning is the image that comes to my mind when I reflect on what the busy mom says. Her distress is real. And yet her words come off more like this: