WRITTEN BY: Lauren Salko
This is one part of a two-part series on allyship in the diabetes community. Read Bill Santos’s piece for Beyond Type 2 reflecting on finding common ground in the diabetes community.
This is what I used to tell people when asked the difference between Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes: “Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease and Type 2 diabetes is caused by poor diet and lifestyle choices”.
I still cringe when I think about how inconsiderate and sophomoric my comments were. Honestly, I was afraid of the stigma attached to Type 2 diabetes and I wanted to make sure that people knew that my diabetes was not my “fault”.
Now, the way many people with Type 1 talk about those with Type 2 makes me absolutely livid. The worst part is this seems to be a growing trend in the T1D community. Growing up, my mom always told me that dimming someone else’s light would never make mine shine brighter.
I compete as an individual in professional skiing. This lesson is something that I strive to implement every day. The performance of others never has and will never have any bearing on my own success. When my teammates or friends grow and succeed, so do I. I do not need others to fail to reach my goals.
I understand that Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes are different diseases, and I’m aware that there are differences between the two. But hear me loud and clear: there is absolutely no reason for the Type 1 community to put down those living with Type 2 or to devalue their experiences as people with diabetes. I know this comes from fearing the blame people often place on those living with T2D being placed on you or your child. No matter how inaccurate it is, it still hurts when people pass judgment.
Here’s the thing: when you make negative statements about Type 2 diabetes and its causes, you aren’t helping yourself. You’re just hurting others. Dimming someone else’s light doesn’t make yours shine any brighter.
Did you know that Type 2 diabetes has a stronger link to family history and lineage than Type 1? Did you know that insulin resistance causes weight gain, which can cause even more insulin resistance? What a vicious cycle.
We also need to recognize that a lot of the advances in technology and diabetes treatments we have come to rely on are available now because of the Type 2 community. Only 5% of people with diabetes have T1D, so the Type 2 diabetes community has a lot to do with the incentives and direction driving diabetes innovation.
The next time someone asks you about the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, I hope you take the opportunity to educate! Don’t just take the easy way out and make negative (and often times incorrect) comments about Type 2 diabetes. Be the biggest ally you can for EVERYONE living with diabetes by standing up for all of us in the face of ignorance.
Diabetes is rough, no matter what kind you have, so have some compassion for your brothers and sisters who also deal with high and low blood sugars, counting carbs, taking medication, insurance fights, and fearing complications. Kindness will get us further than stigma and othering ever will.