About 8% of Americans suffer from diabetes and this condition is the 7th leading cause of death in the US.
“How unhealthy! If only these people would get their lives together and eat right, they wouldn’t have to be so unhealthy…”
How many times have we heard something like that? I know I hear it quite often and I even used to hold this sentiment myself. A huge contributor of ideas like the one above being spread around is the enormous misconception people have in regards to the different types of diabetes and their causes. I used to think that everyone who had diabetes was careless and lazy and didn’t care about their health and how it affected those around them. I never took the time to actually inform myself of the facts until I came face-to-face with diabetes myself. In 2010, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy with my daughter, Sofie. I immediately became depressed and disgusted with myself because I thought that I had caused my condition. I didn’t know the facts of the matter and surprisingly, none of my healthcare providers took the time to explain how I had developed it. I believe that this is the case with so many Americans-we have not been properly educated about the types of diabetes nor have we taken the time to educate ourselves. This, sadly, causes lifetimes of pain for those who do suffer from this condition.
Take for instance Type 1 Diabetes which makes up for 5% of all cases. With T1 Diabetes, the body does not make insulin for itself and usually begins in early childhood. A friend of mine, “H”, has a daughter, “K” who is almost 4 years old. K has Type 1 diabetes. She did nothing to provoke this. The gross amount of misinformation floating around the public is such a danger. I haven’t been able to find any research that indicates how many Americans are ignorant of the causes, warning signs, treatments or how/if Type 1, 2, or Gestational diabetes can be avoided/managed, but my guess is that it would be a high percentage. So back to my friend H…she also has a son in elementary school. A few weeks ago, his teacher told the whole class of young, impressionable minds that people get diabetes from eating junk food and being unhealthy. Little did she know that sitting there is H’s son who is now questioning what his 3-year old sister did to cause her own diabetes. This teacher’s misinformation not only made her prejudiced, but was now passed on to a room full of 8 year olds.
I know what it feels like to be judged for having diabetes. I have had Gestational Diabetes in both my pregnancies. When I first found out in my first pregnancy, as I mentioned before, I was shocked and horrified and thought that I had caused it. I too, was severely misinformed about the causes of GD and thought that I had done this to myself and my baby. I definitely had some of the risk factors–I was overweight and diabetes ran in my family–but this didn’t make it inevitable. I didn’t find out, until I had taken the time to educate myself after I had delivered Sofie, that GD was caused by hormones and there was nothing that I could do to avoid it. If I was going to have it…I was going to have it. This pregnancy, having GD is easier to deal with. I’m not happy about it, but neither am I depressed or blame myself. In between my pregnancies, I lost 50 pounds and have been living a much healthier lifestyle, but I still have it. I just really need to be careful for the rest of my life because now I am 7x more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes just because I had GD.
With the amount of misinformation out there causing people to be misunderstood, hold prejudices and be judged, it is so important to educate ourselves about this condition that is becoming ever so common in the US. If you ever find yourself holding a prejudice against anyone or anything (such as a medical condition), I beg you to take the time to educate yourself using non-biased sources. Additionally, if you are informed of the facts, please have the courage to stand up and correct the misunderstandings you hear around yourself. The more people who choose to stay correctly informed and not spread falsehoods will only help little girls like K have a future where she isn’t falsely blamed for causing her condition.
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