The Rise of Type Two Diabetes and What This Means for the Type One Community
The Words of a Type One Diabetic
There is a direct relationship between capitalism and decadence. In the past century, capitalism has risen to the point of no return: the US, as a leading capitalist nation, has facilitated a relationship between capitalism and food. Food is no longer regarded as a method of survival; it is now something decadent. It's twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. It's a takeaway on a Saturday night; it's the perpetual scream of advertisements; it's the rise of supermarket chains. Our ancestors lived a much simpler existence, in which food played a fundamental, but less central role.
Now: the world is in crisis. Type two diabetes is a pandemic which has reached an almost irreversible point. Almost every day, scaremongering headlines dominate the news. In March, Sky News ran the headline: "Diabetes cases in the UK reach 3.7 million with another 12.3 million at risk." Indeed, millennials are estimated to be the generation at highest risk of obesity. And for what reason? Capitalism. Capitalism and food being forced down our throats. Decadence; greed; excess, and food go hand in hand.
I was diagnosed with type one diabetes when I was seventeen years old. Type one diabetes is an autoimmune disease: it occurs when the immune system wrongly attacks the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin. It is not related to diet and exercise, but can be caused by a myriad of enigmas. Viruses; genes; the list is endless. Type one diabetes was not my fault: it is no one's fault, and yet, the type one community are stigmatised against by the media and by wider society.
Less than half a per cent of the UK population is type one diabetic: headlines relating to diabetes, preaching a need for public health awareness, largely relate to the type two community. We are the minority: we are sidelined. With each passing day, the type one community becomes increasingly alienated, as society becomes more and more unaware of what type one is and what it entails. The media, in running headlines which fail to emphasise the vast differences between type one and other forms of diabetes, perpetuates stigma. "Did you eat too much sugar?" "Why don't you go on a diet?" "I read about this amazing diabetes cure on the internet." "Have you ever tried going gluten-free?" These are all questions which I hear too often.
Working part-time as a waitress presents a great challenge for myself and type one. Every shift, I face questions. I wear an insulin pump, either on my arm, legs, or stomach: this supplies me with a constant stream of insulin to maintain my blood sugars. Inevitably, customers are curious. "Can I ask you a question?" is something I hear a multitude of times whilst I'm on shift. I always know the words that will follow. It is not the norm to walk around with a device attached to your skin. Sometimes, I'm met with questions about my diet or lifestyle. Often, this upsets me. A lot of the time, I'm not sure whether to be angry at the individual for confusing type one with type two, or whether to be angry at the media for perpetuating falsehoods about diabetes.
One thing which I need people to understand is that diabetes is not eating a burger; it is not eating a slice of cake, and it is not something to be laughed at. Diabetes comes in many forms and is always serious. For me, diabetes is waking up in the middle of the night with a low blood sugar and scrambling, half asleep, for apple juice or jelly babies. It's having to constantly check my blood sugar; count carbohydrates; take my medication, and attend hospital appointments. It's feeling faint from a low blood sugar or feeling dizzy from a high one. It's fatigue; it's burnout. There is no day off; no break, and no respite. In many ways, having type one diabetes is a full-time job. It is not for the faint-hearted, and it is certainly not the punch line of a joke.
There is no cure for type one diabetes. I don't need to be lectured on how to look after myself. I'll have this disease for life. As long as the media continues to produce fear-inducing headlines surrounding diabetes, the type one community will be increasingly alienated. What needs to be facilitated is public awareness: public awareness about type one diabetes, and how it is different from other forms of diabetes. I don't consider myself to be a part of the 3.7 million diabetes cases. I'm not a case: I'm a human. And I have type one diabetes.