At the beginning of National Diabetes Week, I often think we should create some sort of drinking game for every time the tabloid news churns out diabetes myths and misconceptions. I realise the flaw in this idea – we’d all be drunk by 9am on launch day and stay that way for the remainder of the week.

Diabetes myth busting is exhausting. Honestly, sometimes I feel like we need a cape and some sort of auto-reply weapon because we are fired the same comments from every angle and it gets boring: No – diabetes isn’t contagious. Yes – I still have diabetes. No – it’s not only kids that are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. No – there is not one type of diabetes that worse/better than another type. Yes – I can eat that. No – I can’t cure my diabetes with a diet of kale, kombucha and positive affirmations to the fairy god of keto diets.

As we fire back our response with accompanying eye rolls, muttering things under our breath and wondering when the stupidity is going to stop. (Spoiler – it’s not.) It is tiring and it seems never ending. Sometimes, we just can’t muster up the energy to respond, so we don’t. And that’s absolutely okay.

My level of frustration about diabetes misconceptions varies depending on where it is coming from. I kind of expect it from commercial television; I expect better from the ABC and SBS (as I wrote here about kale-kombucha-gate).

Where I find my frustration levels hit fever pitch is when those misconceptions and myths are perpetuated amongst the diabetes community.

This week, there was an article circulating about what type 1 diabetes is really about. I’m not sure if it was a new piece or if it resurfaced because it was NDW. I am all for using this week to set the record straight and ensure that what is written is factual.

What I am not for is when people try to explain type 1 diabetes by stigmatising type 2 diabetes. That makes me really, really mad. Explaining what type 1 diabetes is and how it works can be done without making type 2 diabetes sound like it is the fault of the people living with it. But time and time again, I see people with type 1 (and parents of kids with type 1) use phrases like ‘My/My child’s diabetes is the one they didn’t bring on themselves’ or ‘My/My child’s diabetes can’t be reversed – I/they have it for life’.

Type 1 diabetes is serious, and it is seriously misunderstood. But so is type 2 diabetes. As people living with type 1 diabetes, we know how frustrating it is when people get it wrong; we know how awful we can feel when people say things that make us feel bad. And we know how maddening it can be when people say things that make us feel blamed and shamed for having type 1.

So why is it the default position of many living with (or affected by) type 1 to throw people with type 2 under the bus as if they don’t have the same response we do when people get it wrong. Those feelings of stigma and shame we feel? People with type 2 have them as well.

I have type 1 diabetes, and for a long time, all the work I did centred around type 1 diabetes. I make no apologies for that. In fact, I built my career by growing from the ground up an unapologetically and exclusively type 1 diabetes program. There was a huge gap that needed filling, and the diabetes organisation I was working for at the time was prepared to throw resources at making that happen.

I wrote the other day that I know I will be focusing a lot on the National Diabetes Week 4Ts campaign which focuses on the symptoms of type 1 diabetes. This isn’t only because I have type 1 diabetes. It’s because so many of my friends diagnosed with type 1 – especially those diagnosed as adults – have horror stories to tell and I truly believe that a smooth, boring type 1 diabetes is far, far better than a traumatic one.

It is absolutely okay to have a focus for your own advocacy – no one should be made to feel that they have to fight for everyone or every single issue. I know a lot of people who fundraise exclusively for type 1 diabetes research because improved treatments and finding a cure is the most important thing to them. All the power to them, I say.

But there is no need to build up one cause by pushing down another. It’s not okay to fight the stigma of type 1 diabetes by contributing to the stigma felt by people with type 2 diabetes. And it’s not okay to correct people for not getting the facts about type 1 diabetes right by getting the facts about type 2 diabetes wrong.

For me, it all comes back to this: all diabetes sucks and no one asks to get diabetes. We’re all doing the best we can with whichever diabetes has been served up to us. Saying something so others feel bad makes no sense at all.

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