Monday, August 16, 2010

T1 vs. T2

I've noticed something, ever since I was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic: We T1s tend to be defensive.

We don't want to be confused with type 2 diabetics, we don't want people to think we could get better "just by eating right and exercising," we don't want people to think we take insulin because we don't take care of ourselves. All understandable. I remember, in particular, seeing a mother on a message board say something like, "some people think my child got diabetes because I gave him too much candy." The very thought makes me so angry for her!

But let me flip this around... When I first knew I was probably diabetic but was still assuming (before further tests) that I was type 2, I was kind of embarrassed. Even though I lead a healthier lifestyle than what usually triggers T2, I felt I had done this to myself. I'm a little overweight (actually more than a little, according to height/weight charts), I lovvvve carbs, and I don't exercise as regularly as I should... and I suddenly felt like these were sins for which I was being punished. Then once I knew I was T1, I didn't want people to confuse it with T2.

So, here's that flip (finally): What does all of this T1 defensiveness say about people with T2? It says, "They do it to themselves. They could prevent it. They are being punished for their gluttony and sloth."

And that's not true.

"Hold on!" you cry. "All the experts say it's caused by poor diet, lifestyle, and obesity!" But actually, those are some of the triggers (sort of like T1 is "triggered" by an illness that throws the immune system into overdrive). T2 is hereditary, and far more common than T1. There are even athletes who develop and live with type 2 diabetes, and I'm not about to tell them they did it to themselves. (I have no doubt they could totally pound me!)

And what if someone's poor choices moved them further down the path toward T2 diabetes? Are we going to judge them for it, when their habits may not be any different from those of someone more fortunate in their genetics?

Yes, poor diet and lifestyle can trigger or worsen T2 (those things can also worsen T1). Yes, some T2s can (and some do!) control their diabetes through exercise and diet (this also helps T1s manage diabetes). Yes, some T2s are non-compliant and allow their condition to get worse and worse (there are also T1s who do this). But that doesn't change the fact that they have a disease, and one very closely tied to our own.

We are on the same team. The diseases, triggers, and treatments may not be identical, but we're all facing many of the same challenges and dangers.

When I encounter someone who makes assumptions about me based on T2 information (which is, understandably, much more commonly distributed than info about T1), I will strive to educate them without pointing fingers at people with type 2 diabetes. It will be, "Actually, I have to use insulin no matter what because being type 1 means my immune system killed all of my insulin-making cells." It will not be, "It has nothing to do with how I eat! That's type 2!"

Because I'm not going to talk smack about my teammates.


  1. Great points. No one would dare tell a cancer patient that he or she deserved the disease.

    I think it's also a way for people to distance themselves from the disease. If it's something that a person "asks for," it feels like less of a threat.

  2. Thanks. And yes, I think non-diabetics are scared of becoming diabetic. Claiming that it's all lifestyle and blaming people for their disease while patting themselves on the backs for dieting and exercising surely makes some people feel better, but there are type 2 diabetics who lived the exact same way. We can most certainly make ourselves healthier, but sometimes genetics just can't be beat.

    But those non-diabetics patting themselves on the backs shouldn't be terrified. Those otherwise healthy type 2 diabetics are evidence that you can be OK even with T2 diabetes.