Type 2: Fighting the Diabetic Stigma

By: Eric Morris

“Insulin dependent,” “sick,” “liability” and “on medicine” are just some of the words that come to mind when people hear the word “diabetic.” Tell someone you’re a diabetic, and the odds are that you may suddenly find yourself being viewed differently. But what if we don’t want to be seen in a disabled, or negative way? What if we want others to see us as “normal,” the way we used to be before diabetes?

I’ve come to realize that identifying myself as a diabetic is guaranteed to bring a certain level of stigma. That’s why only those that are close to me know that I have Type 2 diabetes, and even then, most people are shocked to learn that I am diabetic. Slim and active, I guess that I don’t fit the profile of a diabetic–and I like it that way. Sure, I know that diabetes is a killer, but keeping glucose levels low allows me to lead a normal life just like anyone else. And like anyone else, I prefer to engage in conversations about things other than health issues. But when you’re a diabetic, I’ve found that the topic of diabetes can dominate discussions.

Having diabetes brings about a host of other issues. Ever try to get a commercial driver’s license or have commercial endorsements added to your license? I’m finding that in addition to providing a medical certificate, I must also provide a Diabetic Wavier showing that I am in acceptable health. Even applying for a position as a volunteer requires you to disclose whether or not you have diabetes. At the end of the day, you can’t help but wonder how much we’re being judged by our status as diabetics.

Hmmm…now that I think back to the time that I took a one-week expedition to the remote wilds of Alaska I can only imagine how concerned the outfitter would have been had he known that I was a diabetic.