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Stupid Things Stupid People Say, Stupidly, to Type 1 Diabetics

September 20, 2013
  1. I’m happy it’s the weekend.
  2. I’m grateful my new co-workers are still coming up, introducing themselves and making me feel welcome. (I’ve worked at many places where people have been very stand-offish with the new guy.)
  3. I’m happy we get to see Karen this weekend, who, insanely, flew in for Owen’s birthday.

Hi. I’m Brian, and I’m a Type 1 diabetic. In recent years I’ve become aware that there’s a group of diabetics who are unhappy with the label diabetic, so they refer to themselves as PWDs, or People With Diabetes. This is stupid. I’m diabetic.

When I was diagnosed I had juvenile diabetes. Then it became Type 1 diabetes. I’m getting too old to change the terminology, although there are people who want to refer to it as this. Or these. I’m not interested in any of that nonsense. I’m diabetic.

However, I’d prefer that it be known that what I have and what Type 2 diabetics have are not the same thing. The object is the same (our pancreases do not produce sufficient amounts — or any, as in my case — insulin). However, every other aspect of the diseases (with the exception of the need to test sugars regularly) is completely different.

Anyway, here is a running list of stupid things I’ve had stupid people say, stupidly, to me about my diabetes over the years:

You’re diabetic? You can’t eat THAT!

The most recent time I heard that was from a recently diagnosed Type 2 diabetic who, after having read a book or something, decided he had the right to project on me the fact that, after having eaten too many carbs and sweet things over his life, rendering his pancreas inoperable, I was now no longer allowed to have anything for desert ever again.

I usually address that stupidity this way: I can eat whatever I want. I test my sugar numerous times, every day. I keep tight control over my sugars. I control my own destiny.

(Typically, stupid people look down their noses at me, as if they don’t believe I have control over my diabetes. To them I say f&#k you.)

Do you have to shoot up with insulin?

Heroin addicts shoot up. I inject my insulin. Numerous times a day. I used to do it with syringes, now I do it with insulin pens. I have never “shot up” anything, though, so stop being an idiot and saying moronic things.

I could never do that. I’m afraid of needles.

You, then, would die. I remember being told by a grade school bully that he could never take an injection shortly after I was diagnosed. I remember telling him he’d die because his organs would stop working. He looked a little startled. Then he went back to being a bully. (And stupid.)

Diabetes is genetic? Aren’t you afraid your son will get it?

I was actually asked this a couple times since Owen was born. Yes, I think about it and, yes, one of my greatest fears is that my son will get diabetes, and it will be linked directly to the genetics I passed on to him. I think about it every day. I think about it every time he mentions he’s thirsty. I think about it every time he’s been in a bad mood (hypo- and hyperglycemia can cause moodiness). Thanks for bringing that up. (Dick.)

You know, you could cure that with diet.

This gem was most recently told to me by the genius who believes vaccinations cause autism, and thinks the CIA was behind 9/11.

As you’ve probably guessed, I thought he was a moron. Actually, it’s Type 2 diabetes that can be controlled (and, arguably, cured) by changing your diet. Needless to say, this clown thought he knew everything about everything. You can probably tell, he was dramatically overestimating his own level of intelligence.

That sucks, you can’t eat sugar, can you?

When I’m asked this, I try to point out that, if my blood sugar is low, then eating sugar is really, really, REALLY important.  The jackalopes who have said this to me in the past usually stop listening when I get to “when my blood sugar,” and disregard anything else.

It seems like having diabetes is really easy for you.

Um, no. It’s not. It, for the most part, is the first thing I think about when I wake up, and the last thing I think about before I go to bed. I think about it and have to consider every variable in my day/life before making any decision. This is work. It’s not easy. I guess I should be thankful I’m able to make it look easy, but it’s not.

You’re diabetic? And you’re drinking a beer? You can’t do that!

See my answer to the first comment. I can do whatever I want. Having  beer and knowing how many carbs are associated with it are all part of living with this disease.

Do you remember that time you (had an insulin shock/freaked out/had a fit)? That was really scary.

Really? That was scary for you? That must have been so difficult for you. (I shit you not. I was picking up dinner Friday and a waiter who saw me have an insulin shock five fu&$ing years ago mentioned it to me.) Please, if you ever saw me have an insulin shock, never mention it again.

OK. I’m done venting.

UPDATE Feb. 19, 2014: The latest Stupid Thing People Say to Diabtetics:

Is that A BEEPER you’re wearing?

I was just asked this question, dripping with sarcasm, derision and scorn, by someone who, seeing me check my pump, assumed I was wearing a piece of ’90s technology, and thought it would be funny to try to embarrass me. I responded to this idiotic question by saying “No.” Idiot 1 couldn’t leave this alone, though, by saying “Well, WHAT IS THAT THING?” I replied, “It’s the machine that’s providing insulin to my body,” in a manner that dripped with sarcasm, derision and scorn.

UPDATE June 17, 2014: I’m going to get diabetes if I keep (eating/drinking/listening to/reading) this crap!

This just happened today, but it’s one that I’ve heard in the past. I typically roll my eyes and don’t say anything when I hear someone say this, but today, as I read a tweet from a former co-worker, who was talking about a Mariah Carey song and couldn’t think of an intelligent way of relating its sickening sweetness. I replied to him, saying “No, it won’t actually.” I doubt it’ll make any change to his ignorance. (Sigh.)

I despise idiotic people.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Danielle permalink
    September 24, 2013 10:39 am

    This was great (and informative to us stupid people). Gave me a good laugh while also informing me on how not to say stupid things stupidly about diabetes, thus saving me from being part of the stupid people crowd. For now.

    • September 25, 2013 2:46 pm

      Thanks, Danielle. I might have been a little (or a lot) harsh by calling people “stupid,” when really it’s “uninformed.” Hope you’re well.

  2. DrBB permalink
    February 23, 2014 10:56 pm

    Well, um, yeah, exactly. Most recently the beeper thing. But far more annoying and consistent over the years: the nutritional enthusiasts who have read something and think they can cure you with this special dietary trick they want to tell you about. Especially as the older I get, the more people assume I have Type 2 (and for most people that’s synonymous with “diabetes” anyway). I almost punched someone a couple of weeks ago over that one who just wouldn’t give it up–nothing so dogmatic as a nutritional zealot. Took a while but I finally got her to grasp the astounding fact that kids with “juvenile” diabetes grow up to be 50 year-olds with
    they got when they were kids. Hopefully she was astonished enough by this remarkable insight to share it with some friends and spread it around a bit.

    Appreciate the rant, and my own turn to vent.

  3. Steph permalink
    March 7, 2014 9:39 pm

    You guys are killing me! My daughter (15) was diagnosed last August. She’s already started on a pump, and luckily for her, her peers have no idea what a beeper looks like. 😀

    So far, no one has called me a bad mom (not even her endo) for “letting” her eat Nutter Butter cookies, or have a (gasp) milkshake every now and then. But I do wish she would quit eating my gelato.

    Good news is – her A1c was 6.4 the other day at her appt, down from 16.8 last August. Thanks for blogging, posting and generally being around online so that I can commiserate, laugh and know that we are not in this alone.


  4. Becky permalink
    June 5, 2014 10:41 am

    Love this, thank you for posting. My 13 year old was diagnosed when she was 9 and she gets so frustrated when people ask her questions. I guess it’s not so much questions but the “stupid questions” she gets asked, like “Does that hurt?” when she is poking her finger to check her blood sugar or injecting her insulin she just looks at the person like they are crazy “No, It feels amazing that’s why I do it so often”. The HUGE one for her is “Should you be eating that” she says whenever someone asks her that she feels like shoving a bunch of junk food into her mouth especially when people tell her that she is diabetic because of eating “too much” sugar.

  5. astrin permalink
    September 17, 2014 4:50 pm

    I always love: “Oh, you have diabetes? My big, fat, old uncle was diagnosed a while ago! He’s really struggling with it!” It really amazes me that a disease as common at T1D (1/300 in the US) is completely mystifying to most of the other 299/300 people. I guess we just don’t make a huge deal of it since we’d just as soon get on with our active, healthy lives.

  6. Deb permalink
    January 14, 2015 12:58 pm

    I have type 1…and the section you wrote on “aren’t you afraid your kid will get it” had me in tears…that’s me with my daughter…every time something seems “off” I get scared. Thanks for writing this and letting me know I’m not alone!
    To add to your list, I remember watching the news once and the anchor said “that was so sweet. I might go into sugar shock.” I wanted to punch the tv.

  7. Marie permalink
    July 10, 2015 1:03 am

    Just randomly found and read your column (with some editing!) to my kid, eight years old, diabetic for almost 7. She smiled and nodded and said, “Yeah, right?!” and “That is so true!” over and over. Thanks for the good article.

    • July 10, 2015 8:09 am

      Glad you liked it. I haven’t added anything in a while. I’ll have to get back to work on my blog and this list. Sending good thoughts to you and your daughter.

  8. September 15, 2015 7:42 am

    Glad to have stumbled onto your page Brian I haven’t laughed like this in years and I needed to as it’s been decades of me thinking am I the only one??? Thank you.

  9. Richard Taylor permalink
    February 16, 2017 3:10 am

    A guy at work has a type 1 wife. He’s the type who knows everything about everything. He asks me how many injections I do a day. I say four. He tells me, authoritatively that my qualified doctors are doing it all wrong as his wife only takes two injections, but she does have lots of hypos. Been on four injections for 26 years, last hypos ten or eleven years ago. So, who’s doctors are getting it wrong???


  1. My Pump: What Works, and What Doesn’t | Type 1 Philly

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