Secret Judgers, That’s What They Are

It may just be my particularly warped brand of thinking, but I feel like people with diabetes have to deal with a tremendous amount of judgement. There are callous doctors and other health care professionals, there are ill-informed journalists who don’t bother to differentiate between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes — and the genetic factors that contribute to both — in their “Diabetes Freak-Out of the Week” stories, and then there’s that dude in your office who expresses concern any time he catches you eating anything other than chicken broth or watercress.

This may be where my paranoia starts to show itself, but I’ve recently identified another source of diabetes judgement: the people who wouldn’t dare question your eating or health habits to your face, but are full of stories of those other diabetics they’ve known, The Ones Who Didn’t Take Care of Themselves.

“That’s great that you’re checking your blood sugar,” they’ll say. “I went to middle school with this girl who had Type 1 diabetes, but she had it real bad and she had to eat candy in class sometimes. She was always in the hospital.” (These stories may or may not end with the diabetic in question losing the function of one or more organs or limbs.)

There was a time when I might have gone along with this. I’d nod, and offer up some snippet of my daily habits that would portray me as the Diabetes Superhero we all aspire to be. “That’s too bad,” I’d say. “I check my blood sugar at least 37 times a day. And I never have to eat candy.”

But the more people I know who are living with diabetes, the more I recognize that even quasi-successful diabetes management is a full-time job, the less tolerance I have for these stories of anonymous terrible diabetics of the past.

And if these people are telling me about what constitutes good and bad diabetes care in others, what are they telling other people about my diabetes management skills — or lack thereof?

“I knew this girl named Jacquie. She spelled her name really weird and one time she drank whiskey and got stuck in her bathtub. And she has the bad kind of diabetes, so she should know better.”

I realize the people who share these stories are only trying to relate — to broach what can be an awkward topic. I get it, and I appreciate that.

But (and this may be all I need to start saying to people), diabetes is fucking hard, yo. You may think you’re observing a person who’s neglectful, or lazy, or irresponsible — and all of that may be true. What’s definitely true is that you’re observing a person who is struggling to manage a very complicated (and expensive) disease with a bazillion counter-intuitive rules and exceptions to those rules. Diabetes is like the English language of diseases — it’s ugly and it’s hard to understand, and the things that you’d expect to make sense don’t.

"Young lady. Do you know how stupid you look with that cell phone on your hip?"

I don’t have an answer for these people. I wish diabetes was predictable and easy enough to control that we could have distinct categories for the “good” PWDs and the “bad.” That way, successfully managing an active life with diabetes would be like paying taxes — either you did it or you didn’t. And if, say, you went a few years without doing what you were supposed to, there was some 1-800 number from a sign on the side of the road that you could call to make good with the Gods of diabetes. An insulin and carbohydrate payment plan, maybe. Anyway.

It’s exactly this confusion and (perhaps unintentional) judgement that makes me want to keep trying to explain life with diabetes to as many people as I can. It can be frustrating, but it’s usually worth it. Hopefully, people won’t judge me — or anyone else — for not being perfect at diabetes management, and we won’t judge them for not knowing how complicated it is.

31 comments on “Secret Judgers, That’s What They Are

  1. Cara says:

    Beautiful and so, so true. I often wonder if people talk about me being “bad” because I like ice cream. :/

  2. Mike says:

    Simply awesome! Thanks for the laughs, Jack-eee with a different spelling. Oh, and you mean it’s NOT 1-800-WILFORD???? Well, darn. Guess I need to re-program my D-Gods listing on speed dial.

    But seriously: So true. There are spies from within.

  3. Rachel says:

    You know, I went to elementary school with a girl with T1 diabetes and she dealt with hypoglycemic seizures more and more often as we got into middle school. Because now I know with the DOC, I know her hormones were probably totally out of whack and messing with blood sugar. And it makes me sad to think people must have been thinking about her/her parents, WTF? Sigh…

  4. Tricia says:

    LOVE! LOVE!! LOVE!!! This post!

  5. Fenbeast says:

    “chicken broth and watercress” LOL. Secret or not secret, they’re a PAIN. I recently blogged about some total stranger accusing me of bad parenting β€” directly, by emailing me a message on my YouTube account after I commented on a TuDiabetes video. According to this turd-herder, my son was diabetic because I MUST have been feeding my (then 18-month-old) son candy and chocolate and all kinds of crap for him to have diabetes, when intelligent people know that diabetes can be prevented through diet and exercesizes [sic]. This person also believed that chocolate causes genetic mutations, and therefore having a genetic predisposition could NOT be an excuse because I caused his problem by letting him eat too much chocolate. *Facepalm*

  6. Meghan says:

    There are so many things I could say right now. Thank you! What a great post! You really explained those “dia-police” run-ins well, and I giggled when you said “Yeah, not me; I check 37 times!” I feel like I do the same thing, trying to prove the person they’re wrong about me, when they haven’t even said they’re putting me in the same category as the “bad diabetic”. I’m the one who knows the truth, that yes, sometimes I am that girl who just can’t get the numbers to crunch (hello, my yummy lunch today had me hovering at 348 for HOURS) but this past weekend I was flying low on the radar and so I was the girl sneaking peppermints.
    I think it’s really important that we as a community keep speaking up for ourselves truthfully, so that people get what this disease is really all about. And we should forgive them their ignorance!

  7. It’s amazing how much more people care about/watch what I eat since I was diagnosed Type 1. They didn’t give a crap about what was on my plate before.

  8. Jonah says:

    I also mind the “My uncle went blind from diabetes but he never took care of himself” kinds of comments. I try to address them as they come up but generally don’t think of it as a reason to pre-emptively educate.
    The story that sticks in my mind the most that is on that topic is that of a woman on the DOC whose father died of type 1 diabetes complications when she was a little girl (young enough that she didn’t get to really know him). She was told that her father had not taken care of himself and she was mad at him for not taking care of himself, for not caring enough to live for her.
    Later, her husband, and later still, her daughter, were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She wrote that her daughter’s diabetes allowed her to know her father in a way she wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, to understand that maybe he was doing the best that he could do, that it is not easy and not a matter of didn’t take care.

  9. deanusa says:

    oh thank you! l
    you said everything very well!

  10. Harry says:

    Amen, sister. Plus, that bathtub thing is precisely why I only take showers. It was the only variable I was willing to eliminate.

  11. This is SO totally going in the blogosphere round-up at the end of this month. Because this is so brilliant.

  12. shannon says:

    i challenge you to rewrite the whole song with pertinent lyrics. aaaand go!

    also, diabetes IS fucking yard.


  13. Jasmine says:

    SO so true. I was just thinking the other day about a girl I knew in middle school who had diabetes and how I used to think about her. *SHUDDER* I’m learning more and more about how difficult it is to understand this disease from the outside, even for the Type Awesomes in our lives.

    We do our best every day, even when it doesn’t look like our best. Thanks for this post.

  14. Tina Kicklighter says:

    Great post!

  15. Rachel Mercurio says:

    Yes! Just…yes. Agree. With everything. That chicken broth and watercress comment nearly made me pee.

    Hilarious, and so spot on.

    People do want to try and relate but it does just come out wrong. Strangers will say “wow you have a pager still?””

    Why yes, yes I do. Don’t judge! haha

  16. Ashley says:

    Amen! That is all. =)

  17. mhr says:

    The world is now a better place. I’m spreading this post far and wide.

  18. Scott S says:

    This was really funny … the humor of it made my morning!!

  19. lauren says:

    AMEN!!! LOVED THIS!!! THank you thank you! I needed this! Yo it is fucking hard!!

  20. Meagan says:

    BRILLIANT! Amen to it all. I cringe when I hear the “bad diabetic” stories…makes me want to start slapping people, but then…those stories are usually told by little old ladies so I resist the urge. The day some crazy, scary man in an alley says that to me is the day I start slapping. πŸ™‚

  21. Sara says:

    The bathtub story. Perfection.

    I am glad that you can learn lessons about drinking responsibly from a little boy. Did you get a chance to thank him at FFL? πŸ˜›

  22. Vanessa says:

    “Diabetes is fucking hard yo”. Love this, and so true! I only discovered the DOC recently and just started reading your blog, and all I can think is, “Why have I never discovered this before?!” But I have it now and it’s such a huge help. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  23. Karen G says:

    ABSOLUTELY!!!!! The thing that really gets me is that when you hear those bad-diabetic horror stories, there is always an undercurrent of “they deserved these bad things that happened because they didn’t take care of themselves, so they brought it on themselves”. Yeah, because it’s just so easy and we all screw it up on purpose so we can live with horrid complications. Geesh!!

  24. All I want for Christmas is a badge that says “Diabetes is fucking hard, yo.” I will wear it everywhere.

  25. Beth says:

    Me too, Karen!….or at least a T-shirt πŸ˜‰

  26. sysy says:

    It’s tempting to tell people, “and you could look a lot better if you didn’t have that weird haircut…” but it’s your last line that really brings it home. No one should be judging anyone. Nice post πŸ™‚

  27. Stacey D. says:

    “diabetes is fucking hard, yo”. Say no more! Love it πŸ™‚

    I think outsiders just assume that if your BG doesn’t do what it’s supposed to it’s because you’re not doing what you’re supposed to. And that couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Instead of judging, I wish people would ask more questions. That way we can educate them, one secret judger at a time.

  28. This is such an awesome post. Sometimes I wish others would just shut the hell up and not comment on every little thing I do and how it may or may not impact my “diabeetus.” Part of the problem is that most people have type 2 diabetes as their reference point. Type 1 diabetes really is a completely different game from what I’ve seen. We’re constantly trying to balance everything in our lives to achieve some semblance of a blood sugar that is compatible with human life, all the while dealing with a myriad of variables such as hormones, physical activity, weather, the position of the stars relative to the moon, who won American Idol that week, blah, blah, blah. I try to explain to people sometimes that food is the least of my worries, because I generally know what works and doesn’t work there. But it’s all the other things that can really throw my “control” for a loop.

    The bottom line is that I have no problems explaining the mechanics of how type 1 diabetes management works and answering non-judgmental questions. But I HATE IT when people assume they know what I should do and act like I’m a bad person if I’m not doing that.

    And, incidentally, if one more person mentions cinnamon as a way to “control” my blood sugars, I swear I will shove cinnamon sticks up their nose until they come out the back of their head. Seriously.

  29. Christa says:

    I went on one date with a guy who, when he found out I was diabetic, was horrified (and I mean absolutely petrified that I would die on the spot) because I ate ice cream. Talk about judgment. Yeah, never went out with Judgy McJudgerson again.

  30. Krista says:

    You are incredible. Spot on, so eloquent, funny. Truthful. It’s like you read my mind! I live with fear and anxiety over the judgement of others regarding my diabetes. I’m so glad I found your blog!! (ok, back to work now but I’ll be stalking you later).

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