I’m a self-deprecating type 1 diabetic, so I joke around about it often. It’s a good way to make a tough situation better, at least in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a serious disease; however, to be serious about the situation all the time would probably result in premature gray hair. There are some things that burn me though…
If you ask a diabetic a genuine, inquisitive question about diabetes, I guarantee you that you’ll get a thoughtful response. If you want to learn more, then we (diabetics) generally respect that. I always have no problem fielding questions and you should never feel awkward to ask.
But then there is the minority. There are questions and comments that make you sound like an idiot. I’ll provide you some examples of what not to say in layman’s terms because, well, I’ve heard these things hundreds of times through my 13+ years with the disease.
“Do you have the good or bad type of diabetes?”
I usually get a good laugh when I hear this one. There is no damn good! There are two types of diabetes, type 1 (also known as juvenile) and type 2. Type 1 generally is diagnosed when you’re younger and your pancreas stops producing insulin altogether. Type 2 can be diagnosed young, as well, but is typically prevalent amongst adults. Type 2 your pancreas can still produce a bit of insulin, but you’ll have to take pills and possibly some insulin injections. Both situations mean that you have to really be vigilant with what you eat (essentially counting carbs).
“Did you eat a lot of candy growing up? Is that how you got it?”
Dear god. Just to clear this up, it’s genetic. Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease — so essentially my body just wiped out my ability to produce insulin. Type 2 is a mixture of your genetics and your eating habits — some people are more prone to it than others. But let’s be honest here, should you really ask this? There could be a better way to phrase this.
“Can you eat sugar?”
This is usually asked just as I’m about to put some unholy, sugary thing into my body. Is it good for me to eat? No. Is it good for you to eat? No. But can I eat it? Yes. I’m allowed to spoil myself sometimes, too, just like any other person. Granted, I’m a terrible diabetic, but that doesn’t change the argument. I count carbs, so that’s what I pay attention to. Most sugar-free things taste terrible and are in some way even worse for you.
“I’m surprised you’re not fat.”
(*sighs*) Generally this followed up with, “Were you a fat kid?” Again, there are a lot of factors at work. As I’ve gotten older, this comment has been uttered less and less, thankfully. Just think of how would you react if you were to be told this. I don’t know whether or not this is well-intended half the time, but just bite your tongue when you think you want to say this.
“I hate needles — I don’t know how you do it/I could never do that.”
Yeah, I hate needles, too. I understand it’s some kind of compliment, but still not the best thing to say. If someone says they like needles, they’re probably borderline insane or batshit crazy. I’ll take my chances at trying to find a unicorn before I hear someone say they love needles. At the end of the day, though, you have to do what you have to do stay alive, no? Living is pretty cool — life is pretty sweet.
I’m sure there are a few things I missed, but hell, these are the really terrible ones.