(Note: This was written prior to the CrossFit/Coke/Diabetes dialogue, but given the context we have decided to run the article now. My take on the before mentioned incident is found at the bottom.)
Today, I’m calling us out. Alright, I’ll spare you. I’ll exclusively call myself out—with an analysis of my intentions and perspective. Time to dismount off my high horse. Time to drop my defenses. Time to stop making sure everyone knows that my diabetes is type 1 diabetes.
There was an incident that brought about this specific reckoning; that’s not to say it was in your typical enlightenment fashion. Summer beckoned us to the beach for beers and a bonfire. This kind of party is a bit of an institution here on Maui: every Sunday, lots of people, much hacky sack, recreational drugs, optional clothing, drums, and fire of all varieties. It was my first experience at such a party—sensory overload no doubt—and I crowded around the growing group of local drummers and fire dancers.
When I broke from a trance caused by the events inside this impromptu circle, I noticed a girl next to me swatting mosquitos. I offered up my spray. She accepted, and I meandered back to my chair to find the repellant. She followed and asked what that glowing pager-looking thing I was using to find the spray happened to be. My response was not unlike many other inquiries into my pump: “It’s my insulin pump. I have diabetes… Type 1 diabetes.”
Not sure why this thing I said stuck in my consciousness, but it did, and I found myself… asking myself, “Why did I have to add the ‘Type 1 diabetes’ on the end?” The girl was cute, I was certainly trying to impress, but what was the point? Was I looking for sympathy? Understanding? Clarification?
Now two days after, the answer is apparent: I did not want her to think I had type 2 diabetes.
In my head, I have assigned a certain connotation (judgment) to type 2 diabetes. That connotation, which I do believe is held and maintained by many with type 1 diabetes, is one that I hoped to build a barrier. Perhaps even, I have to come to think of type 1 diabetes as superior to type 2 diabetes, standing on a higher ground. At a point in my life, I probably would have made an argument for that opinion’s validity. Now, I understand that I have no right to pass that claim—a claim that only serves to protect my own ego.
Having friends with a type 2 diagnosis, I am ready to lessen the self-created distance between my disease and their’s. That barrier is not serving me. I am ready to stop the qualifying of my diabetes as a certain type. I am ready to tell someone that I just have a diabetes diagnosis, or better yet, take a look at my intentions behind telling someone I have type 1 diabetes. That’s where I’ll start.
(So, things got pretty heated yesterday. Ignorance, confusion, anger, and learning, hopefully, happened on all sides. When it comes down to it, words just don’t do things justice sometimes. The single word diabetes (meaning sugar in the urine, which does actually group type 1, type 2, gestational, and insipidus together) failed us. Insulin resistance (mainly type 2) and autoimmune destruction of pancreatic beta islet cells (type 1) are two vastly different pathologies. Now we all know that, again, hopefully. A few of our egos probably got in the way, especially when some folks just wouldn’t back off an ignorant, incomplete statement. Regardless, I still plan to examine my intentions behind creating distance between T1D and T2D.)