“Isn’t it great that the government is subsidising this tech (referring to CGM)?”
“Yeah it’s only for people with type 1 though”
“People with type 2 shouldn’t get it. They don’t look after themselves.”
That was my conversation with the pathology nurse last week at my pregnancy appointment. I was shocked, upset, defensive and angry all at once and didn’t know which emotion to act upon. I think a bunch of garbled gibberish left my mouth and the nurse picked up on my discomfort. They took it as an invite to justify their comment saying that people with type 2 diabetes don’t do themselves any favours.
Firstly, no one asks to be diagnosed with any sort of chronic health condition. Secondly, as healthcare professionals, it’s not our place to place judgment on a person. We are there to help people get better. First we must do no harm. Yet, by making assumptions and furthering the stigma around conditions like type 2 diabetes, we are causing harm. Not only that, we are signalling to the general public that it is acceptable to shame people based on their healthcare needs.
As a result, people with type 2 diabetes feel guilty and ashamed and are less likely to reach out for help. Especially if they are unlucky enough to have one these people as part of their healthcare team. Imagine going into your consult, only to be lectured and berated like a child because your body isn’t coping and you feel overwhelmed with how to turn things around.
“Oh but you have type 1 diabetes and that’s different. You didn’t cause your diabetes.”
Type 2 diabetes has a strong genetic predisposition. Lifestyle factors may be the trigger in some cases and yes, type 2 diabetes may be reversible for a select minority, but every body and circumstance is different. In healthcare, there is never a one size fits all approach. What good comes out of a dividing a community that can do more by banding together to raise our voices?
All we want is affordable and accessible tools and strategies to help us manage our diabetes; a condition that is 24/7 involving about 180 decisions a day. We need individualised approaches to tackle diabetes so we can live our best lives. There is no room for judgement, stigma or shame from anyone, let alone the healthcare professionals who are supposed to be supporting us.
Looking back, I wished I had taken a stronger stance with the nurse and called them out for perpetuating the stigma around diabetes. Perhaps they weren’t aware of the implications of those words, but I have been around long enough to know the lasting impact they can do to a person with diabetes. And maybe that’s the conversation we needed to have so they become aware too.