Stigmas in the type 2 population


#1

WRITTEN BY: Erika Backhoff Allard

Many of us have wishes. For example: thinking more positively, finding a partner, getting married, having children, having good healthy, a job, and having stability in general. We build our thoughts around how a “good” and “valuable” life should be. Quite often, we judge ourselves for having the “wrong emotions,” the “wrong thoughts,” or for “putting ourselves in socially unacceptable situations.” We judge ourselves by what happens to us or what happens around us by labeling it as “good” or “bad.”

Living with Type 2 diabetes, not only involves dealing with endless changes in order to take care of our health, but it also involves dealing with feelings like sadness, anger, frustration, guilt and the process of grief after diagnosis.

Feeling like this is normal! But no one teaches us to face these natural emotions, we don’t like going through them and we try to put them aside. By labeling our natural emotions as “good or bad” and by trying to put aside the “bad” emotions, we lose the ability to face the world and the problems it comes with, as they develop.

Stigma is an attribute associated with negative responses, related to something socially unacceptable or inferior. We are filled characterized by stigmas regarding what is wrong and about what we should do about what happens to us.

Stigmas are giant barriers that take us away from our ability to face the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. A Type 2 diabetes diagnosis is full of stigmas, and social judgment. When we are diagnosed we can automatically think things like:

I AM… a sick person.

I AM NOT… a healthy person.

I AM WORSE OFF THAN… all my healthy relatives.

I AM BETTER OFF THAN… someone who has another more complex condition.

I USED TO BE ABLE TO… eat whatever I wanted.

NOW I CANNOT… eat anything

We can also think things like, “I don’t want to have diabetes anymore,” or “I don’t want to feel this way,” or “I would like to be the way I was before.”

The fact is that going through these emotions, these thoughts and this process is normal – not wanting to feel this way is like wanting to be made of stone. Difficult emotions are part of our lives as human beings; difficult emotions and their process is part of being alive.

Many times, we avoid experiencing diabetes and talking about it because of all the stigmas surrounding it and we can avoid emotions the following ways:

  • A wall of silence: Loved ones around a person with diabetes often avoid any conversation about the subject.
  • Lack of interest: People with diabetes who have just been diagnosed are rarely asked about their well-being and if they are, it is usually done superficially.
  • Useless tips: “It’s important to move forward,” “don’t cry”, or “don’t be sad.”
  • Self-stigmatization: Assuming that others are condemning or judging. (Feigelman, Gorman and Jordan, 2009)

On the contrary, my recommendation would be to look at ourselves with more compassion, to look at what is happening to us as a challenge and as an opportunity to make changes. Learning to deal with the discomfort of natural emotions and the things that happen to us, and instead of avoiding them, look at them as part of life. Look at what happens to us with a little perspective – educate yourself and educate others!

When we see diabetes as a challenge and an opportunity to change our habits, to improve our quality of life and to take care of our health and the health of those around us, we are acknowledging, learning and accepting that we are living with diabetes.

References:

Fisher L, Polonsky WH, Hessler DM. Masharani U, Blumer I, Peters AL, Strycker LA, Bowyer V. Understanding the sources of diabetes distress in adults with type 1 diabetes. 2015

Steven C. Hayes Kirk Strosahl Kelly G. Wilson. Terapia de Aceptación y Compromiso (Acceptance and commitment therapy). Proceso y práctica del cambio consciente (To process and to practice change with great care). Psychology Library. Desclee de Brouwer. 2015

José I Cruz Gaitán, Michel. A Reyes O, Zenyazenn I Corona Ch. Duelo: Tratamiento basado en la terapia de aceptación y compromiso (Treatment based on acceptance and commitment therapy). México City: Editorial Manual moderno 2017.