Diabetes in the movies…

A lot of people only know about diabetes from the movies.

A lot of people only know about diabetes from the movies.

Julia Roberts’ character in Steel Magnolia gets mentioned often. The tragic young diabetic bride who dies giving birth.

But it’s Robert De Niro’s portrayal of William Joseph (“Wild Bill”) Donovan in The Good Shepard that sticks with me. Here’s a powerful man, he ran the OSS during World War II, being literally cut down by diabetes. He suffers amputations during the movie and characterizes diabetes as “undignified.”

That this disease not only preys on the weak but can also take down the mighty is truly terrifying.

Cinnamon, it’s a miracle cure…

Oh, if only there was a miracle cure. People living with diabetes would flock to it and this would all be solved.

Oh, if only there was a miracle cure. People living with diabetes would flock to it and this would all be solved.

Life with a chronic health condition is not something anyone wants to prolong. Just ask anyone who has asthma, or arthritis, or heart disease. By the way, the CDC reports that in 2012 about half of all adults in the US were living with more one or more chronic health condition. So it’s not hard to find someone who could speak to this idea.

To me this is such an odd idea: that there is somehow this one thing that will make diabetes and all its complications go away. This notion is like a fairy tale, the handsome prince miracle cure will save the poor distressed diabetic. And it reflects how little people, in general, understand about how our bodies work.

There are singular things that can threaten a person’s health. A virus or infection. A physical wound. But chronic conditions tend to be more degenerative in nature. A body part or functions deteriorates over time. It goes from good, to bad, to worst over time. And it’s not necessarily reversible.

Diabetes is a slippery slope. Even if a cure is discovered tomorrow it would likely halt the progression, but I doubt it will regenerate my failing beta-cells and islets.

You’re the reason healthcare is so expensive…

The medical landscape is complex. There is no one thing that is driving costs.

The estimated total economic cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2012 is $245 billion, a 41% increase from our previous estimate of $174 billion (in 2007 dollars).
 American Diabetes Association

Having diabetes requires a lot of expense. As with any chronic health issue, there’s the  cost of medication, medical supplies, medical tests, doctor’s visits. It all adds up.

The ADA in the study quoted above went on to say: “People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year, of which about $7,900 is attributed to diabetes.” So it’s not like I, as a person living with diabetes, am getting a free ride.

The medical landscape is complex. There is no one thing that is driving costs. Besides, if diabetes was the one cause what do you propose we do about that?

It’s a Lifestyle Disease…

In fact, we “don’t fully understand why some people develop type 2 diabetes and others don’t.”

That’s how Type 2 diabetes is positioned in people’s mind.

All you have to do is lose weight, or exercise, or not get old, or don’t be Latino or African American or Polynesian…

In fact, we “don’t fully understand why some people develop type 2 diabetes and others don’t.” There is a list of risk factors that is accepted. But here’s the thing, they are risk factors, not causes. And some of them (age, race/ethnicity, family health history) can’t be changed or “managed.”

 

 

Stigma…

Stigma, it’s made up of a million microaggressions.

Stigma is a word that comes up time and again when people living with diabetes talk about their lives. Like a glucose meter or glucose tabs, stigma is a constant companion.

Sometimes it gets stated in small, subtle ways. They say things like “Do you have the easy kind of diabetes?”

Sometimes it shows up as false concern or empathy. “Can you eat that?” When what they really mean is “You shouldn’t be eating that.”

Sometimes it’s a flat out judgement. “You shouldn’t have eaten all those donuts for all those years.”

Ultimately all these kind of statements are microaggressions. And honestly most people don’t even realize they are making stigmatizing statements. So what’s the big deal? Why can’t people just shake it off?

Why can’t I just shake it off?

Because the comments add up. It’s constantly being told “I’m wrong.” “I’m broken.” “I’m a failure.” It’s exhausting. It undermines my self-confidence. And it isolates me as someone less worthy.

Stigma, it’s all around me and most people don’t even see it.