It’s not about the unicorn frappuccino, a drink the marketing masterminds at Starbucks are riding all the way to the bank. There is no more sugar in that drink than there is any other frappuccino or even a regular soda. Personally, I’d rather spend my $5 and the calories on a real milkshake. Nope, it’s not about a damn drink. It’s about the misinformation and jokes about a serious disease that are allowed to be forgiven because they’re hidden behind some silly meme and a pepto-pink drink. Honestly, the unicorn frap is just the latest overly sugary fad that people get to slap the word “diabetes” across and have a good old laugh on social media.
Sharing these memes and jokes perpetuates the myths that surround diabetes. I know what you are thinking “Ugh, one more type 1 mom on some personal mission, standing on her damn soapbox.” “Ugh, it’s obviously about type 2, not the bad kind where little kids take shots everyday to stay alive” Guess what? Yep, I am one more type 1 mom, stepping loudly up on my soapbox. And seriously? Both of the types of diabetes are bad, as is any other medical condition that has serious consequences, although you don’t see people joking about those. Still neither type of diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar, even in type 2 complex genetics come into play.
The reason this really grinds my gears is personal. No one ever differentiates between the two types, all diabetes gets lumped together into one big ugly box. It’s why I cringe every time someone says Frankie is a “diabetic” At our house we always say “She has type 1” or will expand and say “she has type 1 diabetes”. As an RN in the OB world, where I spent the first 14 years of my career, diabetes was always defined. Our patients were always type 1, type 2 insulin dependent, type 2 diet controlled, gestational insulin dependent, or gestational diet controlled. They were defined because they are different. They are different diseases with different causes, treatments, and restrictions. Now stepping out of the OB realm, when I receive report on a patient, I always make the nurse on the other end of the phone tell me what type of diabetes the patient has. I’m sure this request is met with an eyeroll, but I want it differentiated. To me it’s important, it’s important on a nursing level and more importantly on a very personal level.
I never want a nurse to give report on my kiddo and say “She’s diabetic”. It’s not a label I want my kid to have. It’s where we fail in healthcare, there is judgement and at times you can even hear disgust in a person’s voice when they say a patient is diabetic. As if the patient brought a disease upon themselves. Which we know as professionals isn’t true; however, those little jokes that people post regularly do start to influence other’s minds and create biases. I know that I won’t have to deal with judgement when Frankie is little, but as soon as she turns 18 and becomes an adult, it seems all bets are off.
Over the past 6 months I have definitely become a better nurse when it comes to empathy for my patients with diabetes. I also understand the relief on my patient’s exhausted mother’s face when I said “oh, I totally understand her pump, I have a daughter with type 1 as well”. She was relieved because I get it, I understand the battle they fight on a daily basis, and I am not going to pass judgement at the one blood sugar I test before surgery. A blood sugar that really tells us nothing about how someone is managing their diabetes. But most importantly, she knew I know there is a dramatic difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
So, the reality is it’s much bigger than a stupid drink at Starbucks. We were watching a TV show the other night and all of the characters laughed at a shirt with the tagline “I can’t eat that. I have diabetes.” Cringe-worthy, one more myth that was being shared on a nationwide platform. My comment to Jason was “Well, just one more reason Powerless isn’t being renewed.” When these jokes are shared on social media and TV shows it just perpetuates the myths and spreads misinformation about diabetes. It allows biases and judgments to build in people, because joking about “diabeetus” and “sugar comas” has somehow become commonplace and isn’t taboo in our society. It’s what makes me worried for Frankie as she gets closer to school age. We all know kids can be cruel, and when society has given permission to share jokes about sugar causing diabetes, it gives the kids a free pass to laugh, to point, and make fun. The kids will think that making fun of the little girl who has a disease because she ate too much sugar is ok; because the adults surrounding them laugh at this and share memes on social media. This is a battle that my 3 year old is going to be fighting her entire life, which totally fucking sucks. But, you can bet, I will be standing there on my soapbox right next to her, with my gesticulating and my loud Italian voice, fighting to spread valid information and encouraging people to just be better human beings.
Side note: Here’s the real deal, I’m not innocent and I’m not some big old stick in the mud. I have a horribly dark and jaded sense of humor. I laugh at inappropriate things and share inappropriate jokes in the right company. I have to have this sense of humor, or I wouldn’t be able to survive this beautiful life I’ve been given.