Diabetes is a serious lifelong, potentially life-threatening condition. It completely alters people’s lives, whether it is type one or type two. It is a difficult condition to live with, and yet they have to deal with the stigma that it’s their fault.
Everywhere I look there are adverts advising to be healthy, or to exercise, otherwise you’ll get diabetes. Media organisations publish articles advising on how to prevent diabetes, there are also Tweets and Facebook posts about how all diabetics are fat.
People seem to forget that not all forms of diabetes occurs because of your diet. Type one diabetes (also known as juvenile-onset diabetes) isn’t caused by lifestyle factors, it’s a genetic autoimmune disease that attacks the pancreas so it produces little or no insulin; their own body destroys their pancreas meaning it no longer has the ability to control the amount of sugar in it.
Unfortunately, for those who suffer with type one diabetes, they will always have to deal with the stigma that it’s their fault they got the illness. Matthew Hurley, 22, was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 7: “Getting that diagnosis completely changed my life, I was only 7 and I had to deal with getting injected four times a day, which was quite traumatising.
“As I got older not only did I have to deal with the medical side, I had to deal with explaining to people about this illness which was hard. People would always assume that it was my fault or my parents for letting me have too much sugar as a child, which is not the case at all.”
Despite being extremely athletic, playing both football and rugby, people still believed that Matthew caused his own diabetes. Unfortunately, he is not the only one, hundreds of people across the UK experience the same.
Diabetes is read as a punishment for not taking care of one’s body. Little do most people know I DIDNT do anything to cause it. My body attacked itself and stopped working. Which has forced me to work harder in place of its own failure. Today I realized how strong I really am.
— ???????? (@leger_kaitlyn) February 26, 2018
As well as the ‘shame’ that is put upon some diabetics, many feel embarrassed of the condition. They feel awkward and uncomfortable when completing basic things, such as testing themselves, because people just stare at them. A diabetic, who wishes to remain anonymous, ended up in hospital with complications after they neglected to take care of themselves.
“I was so embarrassed about my illness, I have a state of the art pump which is like an artificial pancreas, and I hated it. It made my health better, but everyone just stared at me like I was a weirdo. It got to the point that I used to take it off when I went to school and eventually my blood sugar levels went so low because my body wasn’t receiving any insulin I collapsed and ended up in hospital.”
The numbers of those diagnosed are quietly growing, and so awareness of diabetes needs to be improved. There is currently a diabetes awareness week but that is not enough, not enough people understand the condition. It’s not only to help make diabetics feel more comfortable but to also help recognise when a diabetic is seriously unwell. Raising awareness could save lives.
For more information about diabetes, watch the video below.