A person’s illness never has been and never will be appropriate for a joke.
As a type 2 diabetes patient advocate I fight for a lot.
I fight for representation for people of color.
I fight for access to technology for people with type 2.
I fight against the shame and stigma that often prevents people from facing their diagnosis and getting help.
I also fight against the crappy perception that comes with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
Diabetes as a punchline is always lazy and inaccurate
This week, a friend shared a drawing with me. It read:
“If johnny has 12 candy bars and he eats 10, what does he have?
Johnny has diabetes?”
Now, even if that’s how any type of diabetes is caused, why is it ok to make fun of someone’s chronic illness?
When I’m laying in a pool of sweat, or shaking from a low, I’m not laughing.
When I watched my family member get taken out of an ambulance and delivered to the ER after experiencing diabetic ketoacidosis, I didn’t laugh.
When my friends talk about their complications, or the stressors that come with constant checks of their bodies, I don’t laugh.
Defining type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin.
Exactly why this happens is unknown, although genetics and environmental factors, such as being overweight and inactive, seem to be contributing factors.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the pancreas makes no insulin at all.
We cannot overlook the fact that those environmental factors contribute to type 2 diabetes.
But we also can’t overlook the fact that a drawing like that directly links diabetes to eating sugar as a causing factor. It’s harmful, inappropriate, and shameful.
Take diabetes seriously
I’m not sure when, where, or why diabetes got this perception, but here’s the thing.
People are afraid to talk about diabetes, or take care of it because they feel they’ll be judged, blamed, or shamed for having the illness.
I had someone tell me after I shared this that their coworkers joke about getting diabetes after eating sweets at office celebrations, and they feel hurt by that. It makes them not want to talk about it.
People with diabetes are fighting for their lives every day from diagnosis to death.
It is not easy to live with. It can result in painful complications, and it’s a drain on your mental health.
Jokes about it are abysmal, and it’s a gut-punch to those of us living with diabetes doing the best we can every day with an illness we never asked for.