Defending Insulin

The strangest thing happened to me at work the other day. insulin

sI work a couple part-time jobs in retail, one that’s more or less permanent, and the other one that’s just for the holiday season. At the holiday season job, I recently learned that one of my coworkers (who I really like) has type 2 diabetes, and her mom has type 1 diabetes. Because of that, she is very well-educated about everything, and she even started educating me about type 2 diabetes before I gently told her that I already know everything (well… almost).

A few days ago, I was recovering from a low blood sugar. Another coworker asked, “Are you feeling better?”

“Not really,” I said, explaining that it can take 10 or 15 minutes for the feeling to really go away.

She made a casual remark about feeling bad when she’s low too.

“I think a diabetic low is like five or ten times worse than a non diabetic’s low,” I replied.

“Oh, I know, but I have type 2 diabetes, and my husband has type 1 diabetes,” she said.

Ah, okay.

“Wow, there are more of us here than I thought!” I said.

She then explained that she took Metformin, but she was hoping to get off of it because her A1C was 6.1% but her endo didn’t think that was a good idea.

“Your A1C is 6.1% because of the Metformin!” I said.

“Oh I know,” she replied, and then added: “I’m just doing everything I can so I don’t have to go on insulin.

Call me crazy, but I felt a little offended! I’m not entirely sure why, because it’s not like I like being on insulin. I’d avoid insulin too, if I had the choice! And it’s not like I have these lovey-dovey feelings toward insulin. I take it because I have to, that’s all. But I couldn’t help but feel a little defensive! Like she was somehow attacking me or people who take insulin or something ridiculous like that.

I literally had to swallow the urge to reply, “Being on insulin isn’t so bad!”

I mean, really? God, I can’t believe those words actually ran through my head. How embarrassing.

But of course, I stopped myself. And reminded myself of who I was talking to. I took a few deep breaths and completely agreed with what she said. It is good to avoid the progression of the disease! Yes, it may happen, but what good is saying, “Oh well you’ll probably have to go on it anyway”? Her A1C is 6.1% on metformin alone. That’s awesome! That’s fantastic results. There’s no need for me to go rain on her A1C parade with comments about how wonderful insulin is… especially when it’s not very accurate. Yes, insulin can provide a lot that oral and injectable type 2 drugs can’t do, but insulin also comes with a whole host of other problems. I’ve never met a diabetic medication that didn’t have some sort of issue that came along with it, insulin included!

But it just surprised me that I had such a knee-jerk protective reaction toward taking insulin. Has anyone ever felt quasi-defensive over their diabetes devices?

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2 Responses to Defending Insulin

  1. StephenS says:

    Being on insulin ain’t so bad. I understand your point of view, and I’m not sure I would have reacted any different. But conversations like that make me worry about people who could be helped by insulin, but don’t want to begin insulin therapy because they see it as a failure of their diabetes management.

    Sorry to go there… I’ve definitely had a conversation like that.

  2. Caroline says:

    I think it is similar to the mix of feelings we have about the statement, ‘Oh, I could never inject myself! I hate needles!’ It feels like an attack. It is also a biological imperative. I can imagine that the defensiveness came up from your deep social/personal identity as a T1 diabetic.

    As to Stephen’s point– unfortunately, I think you choose in the moment to either continue or shut down the conversation, ie validate their current good diabetes management or point out that insulin isn’t so bad. Over time, with people you are close to anyways, you can engage a little more to find out what motivates that person and effective motivational strategies. Some people are motivated by that fear, you know?

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