Today's blog post wasn't meant to be here. It was going to be written for my nursing blog as I wanted to talk about my first patient experience. Instead I'm writing about a comment which was made in response to my diabetes.
I'm volunteering at a local centre, gaining some hands on experience with patients. Today I was chatting away with a patient who has Type 2 diabetes. I struck up conversation as soon as he mentioned his diabetes and chatted with him as we both have the same consultant. As the nurse who I was shadowing came into the cubical she caught the end of our conversation.
"Do you have diabetes Laura?"
I replied (quite proudly) that I have Type 1 diabetes and was diagnosed 10 years ago at the age of 16.
"Oh you poor thing, but you're so slim as well!" was her response.
I was stunned and quite disheartened by this. I felt my face drop and didn't really know what to say at first. Admittedly it wasn't the first time that I'd experienced a lack of knowledge or understanding about the different types of diabetes, but I've never experienced it from a health care professional before. I couldn't not say anything could I? Diabetes is important to me, it's a part of me, it's the area that I want to have a career in and I think of myself as a diabetes advocate now. If I didn't correct the comment then I'd be letting the side down. Go team!!
I explained that weight has nothing to do with me having diabetes. I reiterated that I have Type 1 diabetes and explained that it is an autoimmune disease which has nothing to do with my lifestyle, and I had no influence or control over my diagnosis. I felt that what I was saying was such an obvious statement to make that I may have sounded patronising, but I was polite and I didn't let on that I'd been offended.
However there was no getting away from the fact that a health care professional had said this. The comment hadn't been made out of malice and could have been an honest mistake, but to me this just shows what a lack of education there is out there. We need to trust people to care for us and to know how to manage our condition, but can we trust people who don't know the basics of diabetes?
Hopefully the tiny bit of knowledge that I passed on will be remembered and passed on again... hopefully.
What has also been playing on my mind was the pity; "Oh poor you." I didn't understand why someone was feeling sorry for me. I'm happy healthy and fit! I don't look ill and I'm learning to manage my condition. I personally don't see diabetes as an illness the majority of the time. Occasionally it does give me a good beating but I still live a normal life.
I know the effects of negative perceptions about diabetes. I've experienced those effects first hand and I can honestly say that supporting someone and highlighting the positive aspects has much more of an impact than pitying and focusing on the negatives. No one should be blinded by the media and the way that Type 1 diabetes is wrongly portrayed. Ask us, make the effort to see what we can do, look at us and see the real image of a person with Type 1 diabetes. People will be shocked that we aren't the stereotype that is projected to the general public, maybe that will shock them into thinking next time before speaking.
I would never pity anyone who has a chronic condition; in fact I would praise them for picking themselves up time after time and getting on with their lives! I'm a stronger person for having diabetes and if anyone feels sorry for me then they can walk on by.