1. It’s not your fault
There’s a sentiment going around that if someone has diabetes it’s probably because they deserve it. They got this disease because they didn’t lead a virtuous life, free of sugar and full of exercise. No one says that someone with breast cancer has cancer because they didn’t live an exemplary life, even though many of the same lifestyle factors that increase genetic expression of risk of developing diabetes also affect gene expression in breast cancer. Also, many of those people who think diabetes is solely the result of lifestyle choices make the same or similar choices and live an apparently healthy life. It’s so much more complicated than exercise and dessert!
2. It’s not your fault!
I was recently telling someone my diagnosis story. When I got to the part about stopping for a donut on the way home from the doctor’s office, he interrupted me with laughter. “Wow! That’s exactly what got you in this situation in the first place!” I could tell by his expression that he was thinking “Wow! What an idiot! How in the world is this chick going to HELP people with diabetes?”
I’ve done a lot of work around the shame and blame associated with my diabetes diagnosis so I was able to quickly put him in his place by explaining that “ACTUALLY, diabetes is a complex disease that, while related to the metabolism of sugar, isn’t actually caused by consuming sugar. It’s multifactorial.” I went on to tell him that “comments like the one you just made are part of the reason I do the work I do. This kind of ignorance perpetuates the shame and blame felt by people with this chronic disease and gets in the way of fully living their healthiest lives.” I also pointed out the double helping of dessert on his plate. Surely his diabetes is just one dessert away?
I probably should have been nicer. But he had just shamed me and blamed me for a disease that I’m doing my absolute best to control. At least I didn’t physically assault him for his cruel, ignorant statement. Hopefully he learned something. I know I did. I learned that I’ve made it to a place where I’m confident enough in myself that I don’t have to take the shame and blame so freely handed out to people with diabetes. In this case, I handed it right back.
3. You guessed it. Still NOT YOUR FAULT!
YOU DID NOT DO ANYTHING TO DESERVE THIS DISEASE! We are saddled with enough shame and blame in this life and blaming yourself for developing diabetes just gets in the way of doing the things you need to do to take care of your body now. I’m not saying you need to witheringly take down the people who bring the shame and blame. Trust me; they’re out there. But I will always be here to remind you that you’re doing your best and IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT!
Okay. I know that wasn’t really 3 things. It was just the same thing said 3 different ways. But I REALLY do think it’s absolutely the top, most important thing to know before anything else! My guess is that, if you’re reading this blog post, you have diabetes or pre-diabetes or know someone who does. I’ll go further and surmise that you probably want to understand the disease and learn how to live your healthiest, best life with diabetes. I want that for you, too. The first step is getting beyond the idea that you did anything to deserve a life-altering chronic disease. Shame and Blame stop now!
P.S. I’m not suggesting that you head right out and go to battle with all the idiots who think this is somehow your fault. That comes with experience. But we’ll get there together!