Last night, MTV aired an episode of its series "True Life", called "True Life: I Have Diabetes
". It shared stories of three people with diabetes - Kristyn, a 25 year-old with type 1 and an insulin pump that badly needed replacing; Matt, a college student with type 1 trying to find the balance between "college life" and "life with diabetes"; and Jen, a pregnant 19 year-old who we are told was diagnosed with type 2 four months prior (it is clarified at the end of the episode that she now has a diagnosis of type 1) and struggles with the changes in lifestyle that she was told to make.
I went into this episode thinking that I'd come out the other side feeling riled up and angry.
I assumed, like so much else of popular media's "coverage", that people with diabetes would be portrayed as having done something wrong; as having brought their condition on themselves; as people who can't make good, healthy choices for themselves.
I was pleasantly mistaken in most cases. While MTV's portrayal of life with diabetes wasn't without its flaws, I actually thought it was... good. (And I did DVR it, so I'll need to go back and rewatch... but these are my initial thoughts.)
We saw rational people dealing with the same real-life diabetes crap that we all know. We saw young adults grappling with the expenses - of money
, time and brain space - of this disease. We heard a doctor being realistic instead of derogatory with his young patient
who consumes alcohol, and who provided some advice and guidance for partaking in those activities. We saw these people with diabetes surrounded by friends who cared enough to ask questions, know what to do if and when their help was needed, and watched out for their friends with compromised pancrei.
Then again, we also heard nurses reminding Jen (the pregnant one) multiple times that her baby could die if her blood sugars were "too high". You know, "because of the diabetes
". (And yes - they really called it "the diabetes".) We saw parents with what I felt to be extremely high (read: unattainable/unrealistic) expectations
for their child's health goals. We also heard soundbites that were probably taken out of context.
The overwhelming, heartstring-pulling, need-to-do-something-about-this feeling I was left with was this:
You are not alone.
As I heard these people talk, I heard echoes of my own past ways of thinking in their words. I remember thinking that it was one of two options: live a "normal college life", or take care of diabetes. So many of us who went through college with type 1 felt that way. Like Matt, we were the only people in our circle of friends who had diabetes. We knew we needed to take care of ourselves, but we also wanted to just have fun and LIVE.
I also felt for Jen, who apparently was misdiagnosed with type 2 before being correctly diagnosed with type 1. I know a few people to whom
that has happened, as well. Being diagnosed as an adult by a doctor who isn't looking for the right things can do that.
And struggling to find ways to pay for medical supplies? Yep, those of us are out here, too.
I don't think I'm the only one who hopes that MTV sees some of our tweets from last night, and somehow finds a way to connect Kristyn, Matt and Jen with the diabetes online community. Not because we have all the answers for them... but because we know
. We know what this life is like, because we live it too. We talk to each other and support each other and make a difference in each other's lives by what we say and do.
There is help that is needed. There are lives to be changed; people to be supported.
There is work to be done.
Kristyn found me on Twitter, after finding this blog post. In related news, the internet is amazing. Find her @followkristyn