The Blame Game

I am sick of the blame that is constantly heaped on people with diabetes by media and society.

I am tired of being made to feel guilty for having a condition I did not cause.

Yet again today I spotted an article leading with the cost of diabetes to the NHS. The story mostly relies on statistics in relation to clinic attendance targets. Admittedly, it does in part refer to the impact of post-code lotteries and failures by specific departments to follow up on patients. Yet still, the majority of blame is always turned back onto the patients themselves.

It does not matter which publication this piece came from, as there will be more based on the same report. There doesn’t seem to be a week that goes by without one media source or another pointing their fingers at us. They total up the numbers: the hospital beds we are taking up, the nurses and doctors needed to attend to us and the prescriptions they must dole out to keep us alive.

Unfairly these figures are often based on the larger impact of type 2 diabetes upon NHS resources, and new stories will more often than not fail to distinguish the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes until after at least the leading paragraph or two. This is ignorant and misleading.

The fact is that type 1 diabetes is NEVER caused by lifestyle factors, and a significant percentage of type 2 cases present without any such evidence either. In turn, even if some type 2 diabetics do contribute to the onset of their diagnoses this is rarely with intentional fault. For example, being overweight or obese can be a cause of BED or overeating. Yes, a certain amount of responsibility has to be acknowledged but it is simply not as simple as having control or complete lack of. Mental illness can make you feel overwhelmingly powerless.

Nobody with full capacity over their actions would willingly choose this. Nobody thinks to themselves "oooh I am going to treat myself to the podiatrist, a poke and prod and the diabetes clinic and some laser eye treatment for retinoapathy this year. A few hospital admissions for ketoacidosis would be a nice break too."

There is always an underlying reason for "non-compliance" (that dreaded term some health practitioners love to throw around quite casually) beyond just laziness or stupidity. Neglecting to pay sufficient attention to a disease that can have such devastating impacts upon your own body; blindness, amputation, death, in my opinion always suggests some kind of psychological disturbance. Diabetic burnout, depression leading to disengagement and lack of self-care, anxiety related to hypo episodes, Diabulimia.

Oh, I am sorry for developing a chronic illness, and a mental illness to top it off. I am sorry I couldn't quite grasp the concept of having to eat the right things, and inject, and test my blood multiple times a day while maintaining full rationality. I am sorry Jeremy Hunt, for draining your pot of money.

Many individuals that suffer from eating disorders, whether that be alongside type  diabetes or not, will already feel intense shame. Shame for their actions and habits, the extent they go to maintain and hide their illnesses as well as the hurt it can cause to loved ones. I am ashamed of myself and in reaction I use behaviours to try and deal with that, to stuff it down and to punish myself for unspecific crimes. Surely this is enough? Please, leave us be and let us try to heal as best we can. Media sources, try listening instead of berating us and colluding with the unforgiving whispers inside our heads.

By Claire Kearns