The somewhat tenuous division between people with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes has always existed, but it's been more in the public eye lately after being discovered by mainstream media (see the November Chicago Tribune article, 'Diabetes' Civil War'). Just last week, the Globe and Mail published an article on whether or not type 1 diabetes should be renamed to distinguish it from type 2.
We thought it would be nice to ask at least one person with type 2 diabetes for the perspective from their end of the story — aiming to break down some of the stereotypes and myths and hopefully bring the larger diabetes community a little closer together. Alan Shanley is an Australian blogger living with type 2 diabetes. He also authored a book on nutrition and type 2 called "What on Earth Can I Eat?"
A Guest Post by Alan Shanley, author of Type 2 Diabetes - A Personal Journey
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Ignorance may not be bliss after all, and there are occasions where it can be downright dangerous to a type 2 diabetic. But there are some times in life when it can be useful. For me, one of those occasions was April 2002 when my doctor advised me of my diagnosis with type 2 diabetes.
At that time I was blissfully ignorant of diabetes in all its forms. So I never suffered diagnosis guilt. Sure, I was overweight, but in my country at that time we weren't bombarded with commercials earnestly and incorrectly telling us "for our own good" that diabetes is caused by obesity. Just as importantly, the lack of that media barrage meant none of my relatives or friends or any of the type 1s I met at my local support group sneered at me for causing my own condition. I never wasted any time or effort on guilt or recriminations.
I didn't realize it at the time, but I had a major advantage over my American friends, whom I met later on diabetes forums. Far too often over the past eight years I have encountered misery and depression as a consequence of the "blame game" in newly diagnosed type 2s; conditions which often interfered severely with their diabetes management. I reckon that is a direct result of media campaigns, often well-intentioned, which make it abundantly clear that new type 2 diabetics are just as guilty of a self-inflicted wound as the soldier who shoots himself in the foot to avoid a battle. And just as shameful, placing an enormous load on the nation's healthcare system.
It is also becoming a divisive wedge between type 1 and type 2 diabetics on forums and in the media. We should be working with a common purpose where our needs intersect — not fighting each other. We are increasingly seeing complaints from type 1s who should know better but who get upset at being "lumped together in the public mind" with those fat, old, lazy slobs like me: the type 2s.
From my reading, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that the genetic tendency to diabetes is related to the genetic tendency to obesity, and which comes first is becoming a chicken-and-egg argument. There is a correlation between obesity and diabetes, correct. But correlation is not causation. And that is irrelevant here anyway. What really matters is that all those idiotic commercials promoting weight loss to prevent diabetes are a counter-productive waste of money; they do not lead to weight loss, they only reinforce the blame game. Worse, they often lead the viewer to sites promoting "low fats and lots of whole grains" diets. It's hard to imagine a more rapid path to the unwanted goal. They're essentially recommending a high-carb diet for people with diabetes or a strong tendency towards developing it.
To the type 2s reading this: drop the guilt. Whatever the reason for your condition, there isn't a darn thing you can do to change the past. What matters is what you will do today to improve your future.
To the type 1s reading this: stop the blame game. Join with the type 2s in your community; in unity you can strive for better research and support for all types. Division in the tough world of medical research funding is never fruitful.
And to the people who put those stupid ads on our television screens: you should be ashamed of yourselves. Spend that money investigating the true causes and better treatments for the two separate afflictions of obesity and diabetes in the Western world. You could start by looking at the drastic changes in carb:fat:protein ratios in our menus since WWII. But that's a subject for another day.
And to all reading this: if you're interested, you can pick up a copy of Alan's self-published book on Amazon for $14.95.