A blog post by Cara at the JDCA raised a very good question I believe that will be interesting to see what people think about.
Basically put - how do you explain type 1 diabetes to people? To strangers or friends who do not know about your condition and have little (accurate) information about what the condition is about.
Do you just give a one-liner and change the subject, or do you like going into more detail? Does it depend on who you are talking to? Is it a chance to raise some type 1 diabetes awareness?
I leave it up to them. If they want to know, I will tell. Hopefully any awareness is based on how I live my life, and not the "chance" to raise awareness in an interaction.
I usually will try to get in a bit about it involving balance, more than "taking shots". Then I show them my diabetes tattoo...
I have gone to some lengths to be healthy, run a lot eat vegetables and nuts and stuff, talk to the 20 somethings (one of whom is huge, benched 400 lbs...) re protein, carbs, stuff so I think I've "outed" myself as someone who knows about this stuff?
Depends on who I'm talking to and how much they know about science/medicine in general..
Usually, "It means my body hates my pancreas, and my pancreas isn't producing enough insulin anymore."
If they say the whole thing about diet and exercise, I tell them that it helps to a degree, but it doesn't change the fact that I am not producing enough insulin to keep me healthy.
Sometimes they start asking a lot of questions at that point and I just answer them.
I initially didn't want to tell anyone about it and have to deal with the comments about diet and exercise, but then I just decided it was an educational opportunity..
I am often a one-liner-change-the-subject kind of person. What irks me is all the hype in the media about type 2 diabetes (which is often just referred to as "diabetes") and the assumption people have that if I just changed my "lifestyle" I would somehow be better. I can't even count the number of times someone has said (upon hearing that I have "diabetes"), "But you're so thin!" or "But you exercise so much. How could you have diabetes?"
I think as a kid it was a bit easier because it was just assumed that you had the "bad kind" of diabetes. But as an adult, it can be a little harder.
I am trying to be better though. And this means that when someone asks a question with a legitimate desire to understand, I try my best to answer it. I guess I don't mind questions, so long as the person asking them is really making a legitimate attempt to understand something.
WHAT I HATE, however, is when people automatically start offering up "cures." I tell you, the next person who tells me that cinnamon will help "cure" my diabetes or get me off insulin is going to get a few cinnamon sticks shoved right up their nose.
Oh wow, I have gotten the same comments (about "cures".) It takes you aback sometimes because it's hard to even understand if people are joking or not. Those that are not and seriously believe you just have not thought of trying this one thing that will cure you...it's hard to understand the thought process behind that. The only thing we can do I suppose is try to explain as best we can why this is a lifelong disease that diet alone can not cure...and hope they understand.
Depends on the situation and the audience. Most assume because I am black and middle-aged that I am type 2. I say that my pancreas does not make enough insulin, so I have to take it through my pump. When I "balance" it out( yeah , that term works, Acid), I get just what is needed and can manage my care. If they are curious and compare me to Aunt Sookie and Cousin Fred who are type 2 and tell about all their complications and how I am doomed to lose my eyes, my feet, and my kidneys.. I just say that "Every diabetic is different"..Smile, and change the subject. I ask them questions about their own lives so that they will go on to talk about themselves, which most people like to do anyway.... Only those people who are genuingly interested get a detailed version. ( You will know who they are).
The "Cinnamon-cures all.","Drink 16 0z. of prune juice every day." types are generally so much into their self-absorption that I let them rant and rave , then tell them, "What I do works for me..Thanks for your concern." I will say it exactly the same way maybe three of four times, with a slight smile, looking them striaght in the face.... until they go away.
I find the hardest part not trying to explain the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes (I tend to just say, "I've had it since I was nine. My pancreas doesn't make any insulin.") but, rather, trying to explain how my pump works. Everyone thinks it's automatic and/or a type of cure. People always want to know how it's better than shots if it doesn't control my blood sugar. It's very hard to explain the advantages of a pump to people who have no idea how MDI even works.
I tell them my pancreas is broken. And I usually give them a super quick explanation of the basic difference between T1 and T2:
T2 is when your body doesn't respond to insulin properly. It's the kind of diabetes that's all over the news because it's linked to obesity and a lack of fitness, although it's actually genetic too. T1 is when your body just doesn't make insulin at all. It's an autoimmune disease; my body decided to attack my pancreas.
Oversimplified? Sure. But it's short enough for people to understand.