T1 as metaphor

How do you all feel when you see another disease or condition being stated as "just like diabetes and insulin"?

It seems to me sometimes that type 1 diabetes is the ultimate medical metaphor for just about any disease or condition that is treated with medication. Asthma, depression, ADHD, whatever--"It's just like diabetes! You wouldn't not take your insulin if you were diabetic, would you?"

Yesterday, on a growth hormone deficiency forum, I saw it again: GHD is "just like" diabetes. Well, no. GHD has similarities with diabetes, sure. There are hormones you're deficient in and you take them by needle. But to me, that's where the similarities end. I understand the impulse to the analogy and why people make the comparison, but I always end up irked.

Am I the only one?

Actually, before I was diagnosed I used to use this metaphor (which I now think is ironic!). I work with people with mental illness and there is a lot of stigma. So both to dispell the stigma and to let them know they can live normal lives, I would say something like "it's like if you have diabetes; if you take your insulin you will love a normal happy life". Even then, I wasn't implying it was just like diabetes (I didn't know enough to say that). I was just saying it was something not your fault and that you could live with if you did what you needed to do to treat it.

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I don't think diabetes is similar to other conditions. I have seen it compared on superficial levels to conditions ranging from MS to allergies. I think each condition is unique, although some have a few similarities like requiring monitoring or taking injections or being careful about diet and so on.

HOWEVER, I do have to say that people with diabetes ARE very good at taking their condition in stride, learning what they need to know, and going out and living and not letting it hinder them at all, even if it takes extra work. Type 1 these days is usually not seen as a reason to not do X ... I hang out on some other forums for other chronic health conditions I have, and people on many of them seem to limit themselves a lot more. There seems to be more complaining, more negativity, more limitations. Not that we don't complain here, but a lot of the complaining we do is to try and figure out how to make something work in our lives.

So, even though I agree that I think the metaphor is incorrect on all but the most superficial levels, I think the Type 1 community should take it as a huge compliment. We are being used as examples of how to live well and successfully with a chronic illness, even one that requires time-consuming, invasive, rigourous treatment.

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That puts it into a completely different, in my opinion better perspective, Jen, thanks for saying that!

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I think this is just human nature and try not to make a big deal of it. If someone can relate with you (my XX disease is very similar to T1D) then they are trying to bond with you. Others try to make it seem like just another thing-I believe they are saying no one is perfect and I got my own struggles, lets be friends. But, deep down inside, I agree with you 100%.

I always find the mental illness comparison interesting because it implies that all diabetics willingly take their insulin without any level of denial or acceptance issues. I always want to chime in that people have problems taking any medication when they are struggling to accept the realities of their illness.

Good points, Courtney! I agree with you that people with mental illness struggle to accept their illness. But two of the major obstacles in that struggle are stigma (from outside) and hopelessness (from inside). The comparison serves to illustrate that mental illness is a disease like any other disease, not a "moral weakness" or "defect". And that with proper treatment (which is more than just meds for both types of illness!) they can live a full and happy life. For many people, that's huge!

And yeah, I had no clue at the time about the diabetic's struggle.

I do see what you're saying, and I see the value of the metaphor, too. I guess what I find irritating about it is that it often seems to come from people with no clue about what diabetes is like; they think "get diabetes, take insulin, all better." So for example in the conversation I referred to, the comment, "Growth hormone deficient children need growth hormone, just like diabetic children need insulin." Well, no, because growth hormone deficient children who don't take growth hormone don't die.

Why not compare it to hypothyroidism and taking synthroid? Or AIDS and taking anti-virals? Or being at risk for heart disease and monitoring your blood pressure and taking medicaiton for that? Why does it always feel like it's diabetes that gets trotted out as the poster child?

I hope this doesn't sound ranty. It isn't meant to be.

That is a very cool perspective, Jen. Thanks for sharing it. :)

I am not irked, I just wish they had a little ad that said

"Give money for research to battle Diabetes"

I mean each analogy should be worth what, say $1,000? Maybe a slogan:

We are all diabetics or just like them. Give for diabetic research?

Its not only you that is not growing, it is research dollars for Diabetes, Give a little to end the metaphor?

Metaphors are sometimes bad. Lets end this one, give to Diabetic research.

Just some thoughts off the top of my head.


Yeah, I get that--and I get too that it does sound like it's used to stifle complaint.