It is a disease. One that requires millions of people to see real doctors multiple times a year, routine blood tests, blood sugar yoyos and daily number games. So if you're wanting to call your Krispy Kreme "diabetes", I DONUT WANT TO KNOW.
You will probably be familiar with the delightfully sensationalist "Diabetes will Bankrupt the NHS" headlines, along with the "crash diet that can cure diabetes" and the stock image of an obese person - probably eating a burger for good measure. Journos love a good society shame, but sensationalism is not the truth. Diabetes does not look like the Daily Mail!
Newspapers also rarely differentiate between T1 or T2 diabetes in their headlines. T1 diabetes is not caused by diet; it is an autoimmune condition, usually triggered in childhood, that is no fault of the individual. Moreover, not all cases of type 2 are linked to lifestyle; people are diagnosed with the condition at a healthy weight! Just as it is completely wrong to believe that certain cancers are always linked to smoking, many type 2s did leave a healthy lifestyle prior to diagnosis. Diabetes does not look like one individual.
When it comes to the award for #MostTrivialised, Diabetes is up there with OCD. I've talked about the latter before, but for every #SoOCD sock drawer there is also a #diabetes donut to be found. In the world of social media, both illnesses are continually misrepresented and stereotyped. As someone who has both diabetes and OCD, it is a continual source of frustration and something we need to challenge. Diabetes does not look like your dessert.
With the rising cost of T2 diabetes, I can understand why the media has latched onto the story. Nonetheless, it does mean that T1 diabetes is often restricted to a brief paragraph - it is rarely the focus of diabetes media coverage and is consequently grouped under the diabetes = donuts" stigma. I was really glad to see Teresa May called for greater diabetes awareness today; I hope this is a sign that our new PM can move T1D advocacy to the front page. Type One diabetes does not look like Type Two diabetes.
Diabetes UK estimates that 1 in 3 T1Ds will struggle with some form of an eating disorder; however, the little coverage it has received focuses on diabulmia; this is where a diabetic patient deliberately restricts insulin and is a potentially life-threatening condition. It does need far more recognition, yet I am also passionate about raising awareness that not all ED-DMT1 cases involve insulin restriction.
Conversely, one of the initial catalysts for my eating disorder was an extreme fear of high blood sugars. To some degree, the absence of the hyperglaecemia 'red card' helped me conceal my own struggles for so long, so it concerns me how many other people may be suffering in silence.
Thankfully, I now have complete transparency with my current diabetes team, who are desperate to increase my chronically low HBA1C and convinced me to reenter inpatient treatment last Thursday. The past week has been terrifying, as the refeeding process causes short-term spikes in diabetes and I am eating so many of the 'forbidden' foods in the Higher blood sugars are a short-term necessity for recovery, but the process is prettifying.
Charities such as DWED are invaluable for covering all cases of ED-DMT1, including anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia and binge-eating disorder. Nevertheless, we need more voices to be heard. Only last month, I received an email from someone with diabetes and an ED; like me, she has never omitted insulin, yet she thought she was entirely alone until she read my blog. Her email reaffirmed exactly why I chose to speak up; if my story can help just one other person, it overrides any fear of judgement. Your words could reach someone too.
Diabetics can be overweight, underweight or a healthy weight. In the media thesaurus, diabetes = obesity, gluttony, unhealthy... donut. *cue fast food emojis*. You get the picture; The image splashed across social and professional media alike.
So you may want to brace yourself for this home truth... diabetes does not look like a body type.
It is a snapshot; a moment on time. Diabetes is not linear and blood sugars can be affected by the slightest thing. You are not defined by any reading, high or low. I struggle so much with attaching my self-worth to those numbers.
For me, T1D is tainted by numbers and the pursuit of 'perfect' control. But I am fighting to be free of that. Diabetes does not look like a number.
No seven year old should have to think she can never eat pizza again. No ten year old should be turning over the back of the desserts in the chilled section of a supermarket, to check if the carb count is "acceptable". No twenty two year old should do that, either.
We need carbohydrates to live. Simple. It is our body's most preferred source of energy, and is integral to survival. Yet for as long as I can remember, carbohydrates for me have been viewed in terms of "good" and "bad", similar to the traffic light system on food packaging. Interestingly enough, carbohydrates never feature there… but they do in the mind of the diabetic.
From the age of seven, a plate of food is an equation. Only an hour ago I cried over apple sponge and custard. It may as well have been laced with poison, so fearful was my head of the 'repercussions'. I vividly recall going to the school dining hall in Year Two - seven years old - and having exactly 10 chips counted out on my plate. Never one less, but never one more.
Carbs were by no means 'banned'. As a diabetic, I have eaten cake, pizza, pasta, the works. For many years, I was far less rigid in my views then I am now; however, if a food has a carb count it has to be counted. The key to mental freedom? Carbs may always have to be counted, but they don't need to count for anything. Diabetes does not need to look like carb restriction.
So read it with a pinch of salt, pepper, or sweet 'n low if you're feeling bitter... because sugar is the root of ALL EVIL guys! In case you missed the Daily Mail's memo.
Diabetes looks like diabetes. No stigma or judgement. No one-size-fits-all. What does diabetes look like for you?