Combatting Ignorance about Type 1

Hey all.

I had a difficult situation the other night with some friends who are very wary of modern medicine, and way into natural remedies, supplements, etc. Basically, they kept harping on me about why I’m not trying to “go off” insulin, and “why on earth would I want to go on an insulin pump?” Usually in situations like this I do a little education and diabetes myth-busting and things work out. But in this situation, even though I tried to explain that because I’m Type 1 I will always have to take insulin, etc., they seemed like they didn’t believe me! They seemed really skeptical that I had to take insulin for the rest of my life, and I came away feeling really judged, like they thought that maybe I just wasn’t trying hard enough, exercising enough, or eating right or something.

I wrote about it in detail on my diabetes blog if you’re interested in reading it all:

Basically, what I want to know is how do you all handle situations like this? Have you ever dealt with this before? When even educating someone doesn’t change how they feel?

Feeling very frustrated . . . . Any thoughts would be helpful. :slight_smile:

Hi - I think there is far far too much ignorance and misconceptions about ALL types of diabetes and I applaud anyone who tries to educate others.

As for those friends of yours - could you maybe have told them that insulin is like oxygen? If someone did not have oxygen, no amount of natural remedies or herbs or supplements or yoga or raw food etc could help. They need only oxygen! And that it’s the same for people who do not make their own insulin. (And by the way that’s not just Type 1s; you also know that there are insulin-dependent Type 2s who no longer make their own insulin and who have to take insulin for the rest of their lives, exactly the same as Type 1s right?)

I agree with Lila that they might benefit by analogies. Since they are into things that are “natural”, you might explain the whole basal/bolus thing that naturally happens in their body on a regular basis supplying the insulin their bodies make naturally and then explain that yours does not do this so you need to receive that same insulin from “outside”. If this fails to budge their ignorance, frankly, I would give up on them because they are stuck in their own point of view and unable to see others which is sad. Then depending on what the friendship means to you you could either write them off as too foolish to be bothered with, or if it is an otherwise meaningful connection, “agree to disagree” and basically not talk with them about your type 1. I’m sort of there with a friend of mine who thinks I’m “obsessed with diabetes” and allows her husband to follow the hopelessly outdated and inadequte regimen the “experts” prescribe. She and I have been friends for 30 years and our friendship is very valuable to us both. I think she has this blind spot because she is in the medical profession and has trouble accepting it is inadequte in some areas. So I did tell her I have a new pump but beyond that don’t discuss it.

Some people are just willfully ignorant. They will filter out any information that doesn’t fit with their preconceived notions.

The people you were speaking with are highly sceptical about modern medicine (science, really) and so your explanations fell on deaf ears.

With people like that, I usually just say, “We’ll just have to agree to disagree” and change the subject. You can’t make people be open-minded and curious to learn. If they don’t want to learn something new, it’s their loss.

If I were you, I’d do what my doctor suggested to me a few years ago, “Pay attention to how you feel when you’re around them”. If you feel disrespected, not heard, etc. around them, then perhaps it would be best to limit your contact with them in the future. Life is too short to spend it around willfully ignorant people. That’s my opinion.

I have a tendency to cut people too much slack. I have a hard time setting boundaries. People try to impose their “thing” on me – whether its their religion, their dietary choices, their taste in clothes or music – they somehow see me as a blank slate. I’m not though. I have my own preferences, my own SELF, I’m just not going to try to foist it on them, so they somehow think I’m open to them foisting their thing on me. If your friends are True Believers in their health/diet philosophy, then perhaps they think you are receptive to them foisting their thing on you. Setting a boundary with them (“I make those decisions with my doctor. I feel good about how I’m handling my diabetes. Thanks but no thanks.”) might help them see that they’re wasting their time and then they’ll back off.

You deserve to be respected and you deserve the best possible healthcare, the best possible protocol for your diabetes. If you want to go on the pump, or CGM, or both – or any other intervention that makes sense to you now or in the future – who are they to argue with you about it? It’s your business and your life. They need to back off or if they can’t, I’d back off from them. That’s how I would handle it.

this subject has me very frustrated also. I work in nursing home and rehab center and feel ppl can b very ignorant even the nurses i work with don’t know hardly anything about diabetes. I’ve had it for 22 yrs now and feel like i know more than they.

I wonder if these friends of yours have bought all the media lies about diabetes being a result of bad lifestyle choices and therefore something that can be remedied with herbal supplements. If so then you have an even more difficult job to educate them that NO type of diabetes is a lifestyle choice but the result of your body turning on itself, or having chosen the wrong grandparents etc.

If you really can’t break down their ignorance, perhaps you then have to ask yourself how much their friendship means to you. I personally have a friend with weird ideas about what is healthy and unhealthy. She has a totally irrational paranoia about dairy milk and microwave ovens. But when she comes over for dinner, she will eat potato salad with bacon that was microwaved until crispy. She won’t drink milk in her tea but is happy to have custard made with dairy milk. In other words she keeps her own weird ideas to her own home and so it doesn’t impact on our friendship.

My advice probably isn’t actually very helpful, but here it is:

Find smarter friends.

I don’t mean to sound rude, but I have little patience for ignorance, and don’t have time for it in the people I surround myself with. If they can’t be re-educated, it makes it even worse.


You’ve made some excellent points. I think we as diabetics should talk about this aspect more, because I do think (in my humble opinion) that at some point this can effect the self-esteem of a newly diagnosed diabetic. All this judgement going around today gives me an absolute headache!!! On the other hand, I don’t believe we as diabetics can be strong and feet firm on the ground, unless we do our due diligence, and learn about diabetes for ourselves (learning not by asking non-diabetics… ) We need more reading, and finding out more about who we are as individuals.


Even doctors argue amongst each other, why would I take advice from someone who’s never lived as a diabetic, much less have the knowledge?

But Kari, I have to confess that I too was quite ignorant about diabetes before I was dx.

So ignorance per se, I have some patience for. But yes, if they can’t be re-educated, time to press the eject button…

Thanks for all your suggestions & words of encouragement! I think the “oxygen” analogy is great. I’d never encountered a situation like this before in my 18+ years of diabetes! Usually when I explain stuff to people, they get it, but with these friends it was more like they understood what I was saying, but didn’t believe what I was saying.

Since their friendship is valuable to me, I think we’ll just have to “agree to disagree” on this one. :slight_smile:

Thanks again, all!

I have been a type one diabetic for 28 years next month. I have dealt with a lot of ignorance in my lifetime about this. Although it is very frustrating to deal with, expecially when friends and family dont listen to what you have to tell them, the best thing i have learned to do is explain to them and if that doesnt work i just ignore the remarks and keep doing what i know is right. If it will help any you can try to give them some literature or go on the ADA site or join Tudiabetes, but im not sure if it will help it sounds like they are pretty set in their decision. but you never know it might help.

Good luck to you


Having read your blog the issue there is not so much “anti-medication” but an inability to accept that chronic uncurable diseases exist.

This is what I often call the “after school special” mindset. There’s a health problem, you do X and Y and Z, then it’s cured all within the 30 minutes of airtime allotted.

(Maybe you aren’t old enough to remember “after school specials”.)

And yes, with that particular bunch, they figure that if I’ve been alive for 30 years and am still taking insulin, that I’m not “doing it right”. I must be somehow not trying hard enough. Otherwise I would’ve cured myself long ago.

And the very worst of the bunch believe that I’m “abusing insulin” - that if I had been using it right (and not abusing it) it would’ve cured me like it was supposed to. There is a certain anti-medication mindset part of that, but it’s the kind that believes that there are “good drugs”, drugs that you take and you’re done with you don’t take them anymore, and then there are all the “bad drugs” that people get addicted to. And according to this mindset, you and me are just insulin addicts :slight_smile:

Okay, this is just my opinion, but I’ve found that people “who are very wary of modern medicine, and way into natural remedies” seem to think that anything and everything can be either prevented or cured by just eating right and taking “natural” supplements. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking diabetes, cancer, heart disease, blindness, or anything else; they are of a mindset that doesn’t admit new information. If they are truly friends, you could ask them to please stop talking about this, as it’s obvious that you and they will continue to disagree. If they keep offering unsolicited advice I would do as someone suggested…find other friends! Unfortunately, I seriously doubt that anything you can do or say will get through thick heads.


There are a lot of people out there who lack the very simple brain function needed to understand that they are not doctors.

One of the common things I say to them is “unlike you, at least I know what I’m talking about”.

Others have suggested that because I look like I’m in great shape, that I can just stop using that so called “unnecessary insulin stuff” as some like to say. Along with the fact that they are somehow shocked that a person like me and at my age has the disease in the first place.

Its simple, some people are just flat out stupid, and some of those friends of yours really are stupid. Sorry to say, but they are.

Try the Oxygen point on them, also explain that this stuff is not just made up, its done for a reason. And if all else fails, tell them either they stop being ignorant or they are fired as your friends. Mention how you have other friends that fully understand the disease except for them, and that they need to get their heads straight and get with the modern times.

Yes, yes, and yes. Despite the fact that the child with Type 1 in question was in the 20th percentile for weight, 90th percentile for height all her childhood… Despite the fact that she was one of the thinnest children in her class, both before and after diagnosis. I do educate, but there are those that already have their minds made up. I have experienced the exact same things… You get the list of supplements you should purchase, tips on diet and exercise (guess what? Their non-D kids are eating three times the amount of carbs she eats and she is eating exactly the prescribed amount of carbs most days, no more than needed to grow normally). Their kids for the most part do not follow the same advice, but eat tons of junk in addition to their meals on a daily basis. These people do not seem to follow their own advice when raising their own children. Sadly, I have found their minds are made up and there is nothing you can do except direct them to an appropriate website such as JDRF. After having repeat discussions with some in the family and friends, they may go to the website to prove me wrong. But no one ever believes what Type 1 is the first time you educate… they already KNOW, based on experience with family members, etc. with Type 2. Here’s the rub… the older generation (people in their 70s) often do know about “Juvenile diabetes” and a few older people I know with Type 1 have told me they were discriminated against as children because the other adults did know what was involved. No or few playdates, exclusion from after school sports and programs, etc. So, in a way, I prefer the ignorance, but only at selected times. Specifically, I do not want her prospective employer to really know what it entails, as I do not want her to experience discrimination on the job. Ignorance, in some cases can be bliss. There are pluses and minuses to it. Keep educating your friends, direct them to Google, and ask them to look it up if they think you are wrong. Do not waste too much energy on the general public unless you really are in a fighting mood, and have the time or energy to go into it in depth. P.S. I was specifically warned by the grandmother of one of her friends, shortly after dx at 8, not to go into more detail than was necessary. This woman did not tell her employer that she had Type 1 or most of the people in her office until her retirement date. I disagree with total secrecy for safety’s sake, but I would counsel her to be selective in who she tells at the work place until she has been employed for a year or more.

I could NOT agree with you more! It’s so frustrating, especially becuase I get a lot of the “natural cure” stuff from my in-laws (who are always referring me to go read something from Mercola, or similar) and they just cannot comprehend that I have not one but multiple autoimmune processes… and I’m not just “making it up” (yes I was told this once).

I hate the notion that by testing so often I’m “doing it wrong” because surely by now I should be under control and should not NEED to test so much (when really it’s the opposite - I see not testing as out of control), or when bolusing for every meal or snack - I always get the “do you really need to do that every time?” BS… I hate it. No one has any idea what they are talking about.

I have to say that I am beginning to feel that it’s not really people that are ignorant, as much as they only know as much as they’ve been exposed to, and then they just make assumptions that it’s the way things are. There’s another mom at the preschool my son goes to, she also has T1, but only takes a shot twice a day (I’m guessing R and N? I didn’t ask, because I was so taken aback by what her MOM was telling me) and rarely tests… those types of people unfortunately set the “standard” for what everyone else expects of us.

Put it in words that are impossible to misunderstand. “I don’t have the same kind of diabetes most people have. Theirs is called Type 2; mine is called Type 1. My body screwed up and attacked and killed all the cells I used to have that made insulin. So now I don’t make any insulin no matter what I eat or what drugs or natural remedies I take. If I don’t get insulin inside my body I’ll die within a couple weeks. So I need to inject it through my skin and into my body. Using a needle or a pump. Otherwise I’ll die.”

You can always add that no one knows why your body decided to kill all of your insulin-making cells. That it could be in part because of all the noxious crap in the environment. Which may be true (since T1 incidence is increasing), and will likely appeal to people who are into natural remedies. :slight_smile:

Thank you, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do. I’ve ordered some new books on diabetes and insulin, I watch YouTube videos by reputable doctors, I seek out articles on reputable websites like PubMed. I try very hard to winnow through the noise and find substantial, factual information. I agree that we all have to become experts in our own right, for our own type, our own bodies. No one else is going to do it for us, really.

OMG insulin addicts!!! I never thought of it that way, but I’ll bet there are people who see it that way.

Eeeeek. Lila was right – just call them oxygen addicts and smile. Maybe they’ll get it. ;0)