The Devaluing Of Diabetes Awareness Month

I have been reflecting back over Diabetes Awareness Month, November. Every year I enter into it feeling positive. Every year I come out of it feeling disappointed. Sometimes, angry. This year was no different. I am more than disappointed at the reactions and comments of my fellow diabetics. I was hopeful all month that the promotion and focused view on diabetes would be a positive one. Once again, it wasn’t. What made it unpleasant? People with diabetes experiencing meanness and blame from other people with diabetes; at times, subjected to comments like: “I’m struggling more than you”, “I have [a different type] so I’m worse off than you” and so on. These interactions have devalued Diabetes Awareness Month.

Disagreement over diabetes doesn't have to lead to this

During this month, besides the meanness and insensitivity, people who live with diabetes have experienced name-calling and being sworn at by other people with diabetes. Why? I don’t understand this. We live with the same disease. Yes, there are different types. And yes, our treatments can be very different. But the end result of diabetes is the same for all of us if we don’t do what is needed to look after ourselves. Why is there an insistence on telling some of us we did it to ourselves? Why would people with diabetes place blame on each other? How could that possibly make someone feel good to blame another who lives with the same? On many, many occasions when there is a genuine attempt to unite us by pointing out that we’re not so different, it has resulted in swearing or name-calling.

Awareness month should be about education and respect

That’s not how I want to behave during a week that is supposed to help others understand what diabetes is. I have no interest in the fighting and disrespect. I want to learn what others with diabetes live with because we are different people. I want to learn what it’s like for you because I know your diabetes reality is different than mine. Diabetes is different for each of us. I avoid the ‘them vs. us’ discussion because I believe it's about us, together. None of us want to have diabetes. What purpose does it serve to launch an attack against each other? I see us as friends. I see us together fighting a battle for funding, fighting for the affordable and accessible medications that we all may need, fighting for a cure. For. Us. ALL.

There are many ways to manage type 2 diabetes

It’s not just the judgemental comments based on the difference in types that I am saddened by. There appears to be thinking that there is only one way to treat diabetes. One diet that will cure it. I’m so happy for those who have found what has worked to bring their A1C down. However the comments made both online and in-person during this special month is not one so much of sharing; it is one of “if you don’t do it this way, then you're doing it wrong.” Or worse yet, then “you don't want to get better” or “you want to be on meds the rest of your life”. Seriously??? That is so insulting. And not just judgemental, it’s hurtful. Do we still not understand that we are individuals, that one size does not fit all? Do we believe we have the answer that no one else has, that there is only one right way? Worse yet, if we don't do it ‘that way’, then we are on our own?

Judgement and blame are hurtful

I know we all have tough times and we can all say the wrong thing at times but what is it that makes us think it’s ok to be hurtful and condescending? I’m sorry we all have diabetes. Personally, I don’t much care how we got it. What I do care about is how we treat each other and that we do it with caring and dignity, not with competition, judgment, and blame.

Isn't uniting better than dividing?

Diabetes is a life with struggle. That struggle is different for each of us but there is no room for us to behave this way to each other. What we need during the month of November, Diabetes Awareness Month is sharing so we can learn, not condemn - so we can unite, not divide - so we can teach others who do not have diabetes - so we can fight together to make things better.

If we can’t do that, then I say get rid of the month of celebration. Because it isn’t.

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