Believe me, I understand the frustration. We’ve all met people who make insensitive comments about diabetes. Since James’ diagnosis, I feel like I’ve heard it all. We routinely run into people that are confused about various aspects of type 1 diabetes. I would say that the two most frustrating (and common) points of misinformation are confusion about what type 1 is and opinions about what kids should (and should not) eat.
As annoying as it is to get those kinds of comments, one really important thing that has helped me deal with both is to remember how little I used to know before James was diagnosed.
I remember being in the hospital and being told that James has type 1 diabetes. The first thing I thought was that I “gave” him diabetes. I had heard in the news that poor diet and exercise and/or obesity could be triggers for diabetes! While James was still very young and fit, I found myself second-guessing every single thing I ever gave him to eat and wondering if we had enough “active” time at home. Well, now I certainly know that type 1 diabetes is NOT caused by (or even associated with) obesity or any dietary trend, but I didn’t know that then. I remember the time between when the ER physician pronounced that James had diabetes and when the diabetes educator came to teach us about it. My head was swirling with ideas and questions very similar to what I commonly hear from others now. Remembering this helps me be kinder!
Here are my tips for dealing graciously with unwanted comments (like the ones in this top 10 list — how many of these have you heard?).
First, I just try to remember how little I knew before diagnosis. This gives me some patience and understanding. Some of you might not have been as ignorant as I was at diagnosis, but it helps me to remember that as educated as I thought I was (I wasin graduate school at the time!), I still completely misunderstood the fundamental aspects of diabetes.
Next, I try to stay calm and usually make an effort to correct the misinformation. I figure that among those who make insensitive comments, some are just truly misinformed. I’m on a mission to help fix that!
At the same time, I try NOT to be upset at the people who just choose (for whatever reason) not to listen to me. Ignorance will sometimes prevail. I try not to sweat it. I did my part, and that’s all I can do. I try to let it go.
As a side note, I try to remember that even among members of the type 1 community, there is often disagreement regarding what foods can and can’t be eaten, and different philosophies of care and diet. Looking at it this way, what chance do people on the outside really have at getting all the details “right”? I need to stay extra aware of this, because it’s all too easy to spend too much mental energy on it!
I do all of this for two reasons: Mostly, it helps my mental state to remain flexible, laid back and positive in my communications with others. I need this kind of positivity! Otherwise I’ll go crazy.
Secondly, I feel like James is watching me and how I react to these kinds of things. I want him to feel comfortable with diabetes and to avoid putting too much energy into getting “annoyed” with a large swath of the population without type 1 diabetes in their family. I find that an attitude full of kindness, teaching, and humor is what I’d hope HE adopts as he goes through life. It only makes sense to model that for him. The added benefit is that as I practice this, I build a collection of positive interactions and, at least sometimes, I help create a more educated world.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.