Stop Saying, 'I Don’t Want To Get Diabetes,’ It's Rude And Ignorant To Those Who Are Type 1 Diabetic

Stop Saying, 'I Don’t Want To Get Diabetes,’ It's Rude And Ignorant To Those Who Are Type 1 Diabetic

Nobody wants to "get" diabetes, but some of us have no choice.

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This statement implies that is is a choice to be diagnosed with diabetes as if it is some very controllable condition where I have the ability to decide whether it affects me or not. This is not true.

When I was three years old, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes also known as juvenile diabetes because it typically, but is not limited to, beginning in adolescence. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition where my pancreas no longer produces insulin. This is caused by my immune system attacking the pancreas, ultimately destroying the cells that create insulin. As of right now, there is no explanation known for what ultimately makes the immune system do this, and there is no cure for the autoimmune condition.

Thus, as a type 1 diabetic, I have no choice but to be entirely insulin dependent. Whenever I consume carbohydrates, I must administer insulin to my bloodstream just like how non-diabetic people having a fully functioning pancreas that releases the same hormone whenever they introduce carbohydrates to their digestive systems. The amount of insulin that I administer is based on the number of carbs that I consume; the carbs per insulin unit ratio varies based on the individual and also has the potential to change just as how the pancreas secrets insulin within an individual's body at rates that are unknown. Therefore, finding ways to treat diabetes can be difficult for there lacks a "one size fits all" template for what works best for each diabetic. (This is important to keep in mind for all health conditions: what works well for one person does not necessarily mean that it will work well for a different person.)

There are a lot of other factors that are imperative for my mindful attention in order to stay healthy with this chronic condition. Monitoring blood sugar levels, counting carbohydrates, gaining a true sense of body awareness, and attending doctors appointments are some examples of these other factors that are necessary to keep on top of while living with type 1 diabetes. As you can tell, this chronic condition can easily become overwhelming.

Did I want to be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes? No.

Did I have a choice as to whether I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes? No.

Do you have the ability to control what statements you make when speaking in public? Yes, you most certainly do.

I urge people to resist from saying the phrase, "I don't want to get diabetes" when offered dessert or saying something similar when asked why they are cutting back on how much sugar they include in their diet. Perhaps these comments are in reference to "getting" type 2 diabetes also known as adult-onset diabetes. This condition is different from type 1 diabetes in the sense that the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body has developed a resistance to the insulin that is produced; the body does not use insulin efficiently. Another difference is that type 2 diabetes can be influenced by the risk factors of obesity and family history. Finally, type 2 diabetes can also be reversed; this means that through lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise, the effects of type 2 diabetes can be alleviated because the pancreas still does make insulin for type 2 diabetics. This is not the case for type 1 diabetes, thus, these are two different conditions.

So let's say that the ignorant comment of "I don't want to get diabetes" is made in reference to type 2 diabetes. This is still an awful thing to say. Of course, nobody "wants to get" diabetes; why would they? However, even in cases of type 2 diabetes, there are factors that are still beyond the individual's personal control, and even after the diagnosis occurs, as I stated earlier, there are differences in how each individual responds to treatment options. What works for one may not work for another.

Unfortunately, I have been in the presence of people who have made comments within this subject matter. Being a type 1 diabetic myself, the situation is incredibly awkward. Whether the person who made the statement knows that there is a diabetic present in the room or not, they should not be speaking like this. Making this comment implies that there is a concrete choice as to whether an individual is diagnosed with diabetes, of any type, or not. Making this comment implies that you, the commentator, is above those of us who are already diabetic; you are looking down on us in a way because your comment insinuates that you would never want to endure the lifestyle of a diabetic. Making this comment implies that you, the commenter, have no idea what the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes are, or that there even are different types of diabetes and how to distinguish between the complications of each. Making this comment implies that you, the commenter, are extremely, unmistakenly, ignorant.

In the instances that I have heard this quick comment be made, some people present in the room knew that I was type 1 diabetic and some people did not. Nobody pointed me out or made sideways glances at me to notice my facial expression. I was not offended by the comment, nor was I embarrassed that I am type 1 diabetic while there is this person saying that they "don't want" what I have. I was, however, extremely disappointed in the comment. I was partly disappointed in the commenter for making such an ignorant statement (that I am sure was probably not meant to be harmful at all), but I was also majorly disappointed in society as a whole. Instances like this have made me realize that, collectively, society is also ignorant of the differences between types of diabetes. Generalizing this condition can result in the cultivation of uncomfortable situations and an inability to understand the complications of each type of this condition.

Finally, and most importantly, whenever I endure experiences such as the one described, I am refreshed of just how utterly important it is for all of us to choose our words wisely and precisely. Even if we do not intend to cause harm by our words, the possibility of that happening is always present. When people say "I don't want to get diabetes," I am not sure they realize just how terrible this statement sounds leaving their lips. In my mind, my first reaction is that I would never say anything like this, but then again, I have this reaction because I am type 1 diabetic. Similarly, would you ever make the statement "I don't want to get cancer" when offered a free session in a tanning bed or "I don't want to get liver damage" when offered a beer? No, because there are so many genetic and epigenetic factors that can contribute to cancer diagnoses and the same goes for liver failure.

It sounds absurd to even read those two examples. How can somebody solely correlate tanning beds with "getting" cancer and beer with "getting" liver damage when there is an abundance of other contributing factors as well as different types of levels of severity regarding these health issues? Well, I ask myself the same question regarding the statement of "I don't want to get diabetes" when somebody is offered something sweet. How can somebody solely correlate sugar with "getting" diabetes when there are so many other factors that are potentially involved? While it is possible that these pairs are related in terms of causation to some extent (tanning beds/cancer, beer/liver damage, sugar/diabetes) there are so many things that we do not know exactly and making generalized statements like my examples above prove to be inappropriate.

It sounds absurd because it is absurd.

Thus, let's all strive to create an environment where we do not make people feel ashamed or uncomfortable based on ignorant statements regarding health conditions that we may or may not know anything about. You never know what people are going through or how a genetic condition, health issue, or disease affects them. Furthermore, you never know what health experiences you will one day be exposed to, whether that condition will affect you personally or if it will affect a close family member or friend. Either way, it will change your perspective immensely.

I vow to always choose my words carefully and thoughtfully to ensure that I can clearly articulate a point with consideration for whoever is present in my audience; you should too.

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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The Issue With Disability Representation In The Media

Not all things that are seen are to be believed.

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We've seen tons of films and television shows with characters with various physical and mental conditions, especially in recent years. Shaun Murphy in "The Good Doctor," who has autism, is a good example. Or, how about Eddie Redmayne, who earned a 2015 academy award for portraying Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything," or Jacob Tremblay as a child with a facial deformity in "Wonder."

Look at that representation, there's nothing that needs to be changed!

Or is there?

The three actors I mentioned in that opening paragraph have two things in common. First, they portrayed a character with some form of disability. Second, they don't actually have the condition themselves. Can you see this picture I'm painting for you? Disabilities are being represented in the media, but people with disabilities are not.

A study in 2016 found that of the 2% of characters on television with some sort of physical or mental disability, 95% are being portrayed by abled actors. There is nothing worse than false representation, and this is the exact definition. And since the study also found that 20% of the American population has some sort of disability, way more than the 2% currently being represented on television, why don't we cast actual disabled actors for these parts to even out the ratio?

There are a ton of actors with disabilities, all of whom I'm sure would be more than willing to take part in acting… you know, since they are actors. Ability is not even a question, and if it is, it would be adding to the stigma that those with disabilities are less than human. The best thing is, these actors truly know what it's like to have the disability that they are portraying, unlike someone who will never know what it's like, no matter how much they try.

But isn't acting about being someone you're not? Why aren't doctors on T.V. played by real doctors, then?

They aren't being played by real doctors because real doctors are real doctors. They have a career… they aren't actors. Disability is something that, more often than not, is a piece of their identity, like someone's race or gender. There's a reason why blackface is wrong, but why isn't the same thing being said about disability?

What about marketability?

The media has become an industry that focuses more and more on the profit their film or T.V. show makes, and less and less the art that is being produced. But, if marketability is an important factor, how about creating a marketing campaign based on the fact that an actor with a disability is actually playing the part? Or putting a big-named actor into a supporting role (as long as they're not playing a "savior" part).

There is so much more that needs to be changed regarding how the media portrays people with disabilities, the topic of this article being a tiny aspect of this "representation." And this doesn't just happen with films and television shows dealing with disability, but with the lack of gay or transgender people actually being played by gay and transgender actors, or white actors being shoehorned into films or television shows about people of color.

There's a lot to do, but there's a way to get there… you must simply implement the change.

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