In one of my #DBlogWeek posts last week, I wrote that for the sake of my own mental health, I have learnt to not compare myself with others.
I was thinking of this the other day when I was involved in a conversation with a woman newly diagnosed with diabetes. She told me that she was really upset at the response from a close family member who, when told about the diagnosis and how distressed she was, responded with ‘It could be worse. At least it’s not cancer.’
I’ve had that said to me. Several times. And it is one of the most offensive things I have heard. I don’t really know how to respond to it, because it’s true, I don’t have cancer. But I do have diabetes and that is pretty bloody horrible sometimes. (For the record, I equally dislike the idea of responding with ‘At least it’s not cancer. There is a chance of remission with cancer; type 1 is for life…’)
I get just as annoyed when it happens in our community. ‘At least it’s not type 1,’ is something I have heard said to people with type 2, diminishing the challenges they may face.
When I was anxious about my impending cataract surgery a few years ago, I was told ‘It’s nothing. At least you don’t have to have laser or have your eyeball injected.” Again, that’s true. But I was still terrified and had every right to be.
When discussing a nasty hypo ‘At least you didn’t lose consciousness and wake up to a roomful of paramedics.’ Sure, I remained conscious throughout the low I had last week. But I needed help to treat it and it happened in front of my kid. She was scared which really upsets me and makes me feel guilty.
When our experiences are belittled or minimised, it means we may stop sharing them. No one wants to be told they are being a drama queen and that it could always be worse. Of course it could be worse, but that doesn’t mean what you are dealing with doesn’t suck.
I have had diabetes for 18 years now. I have not had to deal with debilitating complications. I have not had to spend weeks in hospital because of my diabetes. But does that mean that my fears and concerns and anxieties are any less relevant than someone whose experiences are different?
And that’s why you will never hear me say to someone newly diagnosed ‘At least you have just been diagnosed. Just wait until you have had diabetes as long as me and <this or that> happens,’ because everyone’s experience is different and that newly diagnosed person may have their own concerns at that particular time. Or not. Which is also fine.
I had a healthcare professional once tell me that at least I didn’t have diabetes ‘too terribly’, because I worked, had a child and travelled. It was one of those (incredibly rare) moments where I was stunned into silence. I was torn between wanting to say ‘Well, surely that makes what I’ve achieved all the more incredible‘ and stabbing her with a fork. I said (and did) nothing.
There is no ‘at least...’ when it comes to diabetes. There is no discussion about how it ‘could be worse’. Because the truth is, it could be a whole lot better. I could NOT have diabetes.