The Importance of Social Media When Reporting Diabetes

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This article was written by type 1 diabetic Julia Flaherty. It has been published on Information About Diabetes with permission.

I had to add my own voice to this conversation. Whether you read my thoughts about Crossfit's mishap or not, I urge you to think about what makes people different and how we can respond to, engage with and interact with each other more humanly, more wholly and more lovingly as a society. We are different, and that's a beautiful thing. Crossfit is different too, but today I was served another eye-roll on Twitter as a result of this distasteful posting.

Understanding the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes is not easily learned. If I wasn't managing type 1 myself, I probably wouldn't understand the difference. Equally, if I didn't have a family member that was managing the condition, it probably would not come to my attention. It is unfortunate that we live in a society where people sometimes fail to understand, empathize and acknowledge diversity.

No matter a person's difference, they are human and deserve to be treated as such. Crossfit's tweet about diabetes today was ignorant and disrespectful of a community suffering from what's classified as an inflammatory autoimmune disease of the pancreas that results in a lack of insulin. There are many differences between type 1 and type 2: feelings, treatment, experience, etc. (a very broad etc.).

Diabetes Is Not A Joke

Diabetes is not a joke. Managing it isn't either. If I drank a regular Coca¬Cola, for example, without providing myself proper treatment, I could end up with ketoacidosis or in a diabetic coma. Of course, this is a dramatic example for me, because I am well-managed, but not everyone is. Even being well-managed doesn't guarantee I don't have bad days, because I do. I do, I have and I will.

Sometimes these moments are just bad minutes or seconds, and even those small increments of time can feel challenging, because they are. I don't ask for pity parties. I never have and I won't. I refuse to see myself that way. I'm okay. When I live my days happy and healthy, I am encouraged and I thrive. Acknowledging disease is something I will always ask, however, of myself and others. Certainly there is a lot more I could learn about other diseases, but knowing so much about my own, I feel responsible to speak out.

Type 1 diabetes is the child that never sleeps. You must always manage it, tend to its needs and respond to it 24/7. It doesn't sleep because the rest of your body is. You can't stop and won't stop managing it. You don't get a vacation? it doesn't magically go away, because there is no cure. There are treatments that you self-provide sometimes as much as 6 times per day. This is a 24 hour/7 days a week condition.

You can't turn it off just because you want to have a beer with friends and don't want to have to worry about taking insulin for it, or treat yourself to a frozen yogurt. If only it were that simple! Not to mention, the absolute guilt you feel when your blood sugars don't match your efforts. Sometimes your best efforts still have unpredictable consequences astronomical blood sugar spikes or severe lows, for example.

Diabetes Can Complicate Our Lives

Type 1 diabetes has taken the fun out of food and eating and exercising for me in the past, because every one of these things requires additional thought, planning and organization. This isn't something I can "just do," because I have to take at least 3 other steps in order to proceed safely. Yes, simple things like eating and working out require this much action, thought and effort when you are managing type 1 diabetes.

I can't speak for people who have type 2 diabetes. I don't know what it's like. I do know what it's like to manage type 1 diabetes, and, to Crossfit, who apparently does not or has failed to acknowledge their own awareness of the condition, I urge to reassess the importance of being respectful and understanding. Often times, I hear people say "Oh no, I'm going to get diabetes from eating that," which is and isn't the case.

The differences between the conditions are plain to see to me, and for a long time I have excused other peoples' ignorance. Whose job is it to tell them about the condition? Would I know about it if it weren't me? I still don't have solid answers to these questions, but I also know it isn't fair to myself to make excuses for others to treat me like I'm something I'm not. The world is unfair and unkind to people, but it can also be the opposite. In order to make the world more understanding and kinder, we must be these things.

Having type 1 diabetes has made it easier for me to empathize with others and has made me a stronger and more caring individual. I have flaws, loads of them. Diabetes isn't a flaw, but inflecting derogatory tones gives it this breath. I'm not going to make excuses for Crossfit. They don't deserve any. Even more so, they don't deserve all the press they've gotten because a celebrity addressed type 1 diabetes as being different than type 2.

Between the two conditions, no one deserves to be shamed. Everyone has had different experiences and no one deserves to be ridiculed for what makes them different. Having Nick Jonas point out these differences doesn't make the reality of managing the condition any more present. People have been managing the condition throughout time, and, until recently, have been able to live longer lives as a result of progressive management treatments and advances in technology.

What I find more insulting, but not surprising, is that it took so long for there to be conversation created about the difference between type 1 and type 2. The limelight is in the keyboard of the beholder (or something). It's great that Nick Jonas addressed the issue about Crossfit's tweet, but is also sad that Crossfit probably wouldn't have addressed type 1 and type 2 at all if it weren't for Jonas. We can't shove either condition aside like it's no big deal, like it's not present or affecting peoples everyday.

Every day, people struggle because diversity causes tension or discomfort to groups that, yes, are diverse compared to these other diverse groups. We must feel accepted in order to be accepting ourselves. This is not a set in stone if¬then statement. You can be accepting without being accepted. You can be accepted without being accepting. You can do a lot of things¬ but what will you do? What will you do to help everyone live in a world that is safe and aware of global issues? What will you do to help the world feel more like how you wish you did or do feel?

I want to feel accepted, I want to feel happy and I want to feel comfortable being me. These are the feelings I will give to society, not in return for my own acceptance, happiness, or comfort, necessarily, but for the better of everyone living in it.

Julia is the former editor of the Arts and Entertainment section of The Pointer and former Promotions Director at SPTV. She is also the founder of MissTrendShe.com.

Photo credit: Jason Howie on Flickr