The prompt: Having diabetes often makes a visit to the doctor a dreaded experience, as there is invariably bad news of one kind or another. And sometimes the way the doctor talks to you can leave you feeling like you’re at fault. Or maybe you have a fantastic healthcare team, but have experienced blame and judgment from someone else in your life – friend, loved one, complete stranger. Think about a particularly bad instance, how that person talked to you, the words they used and the conversation you had. Now, the game part. Let’s turn this around. If you could turn that person into a puppet, what would you have them say that would leave you feeling empowered and good about yourself? Let’s help teach people how to support us, rather than blame us!
In the nearly two decades that I’ve had diabetes, there have been plenty of positive interactions between myself and others regarding it. I’ve fostered connections, answered questions, received thoughtful insight, and learned a great deal. But unfortunately, I haven’t entirely evaded bad interactions.
I’ve had judgment and blame cast on me because some people are simply misinformed. When that has happened, I do my best to be patient and explain things that someone might not understand due to a lack of exposure to diabetes. On the other hand, it’s also happened when I’ve interacted with people who should simply…know better. That’s exactly how I felt when I saw an endocrinologist who nearly drove me to tears with her harsh criticisms.
Thankfully, it was only one appointment with her—my regular endocrinologist (who I adore) was unable to see me at the last minute, so I had to see this other endo. I didn’t feel any sort of trepidation going into the appointment; after all, if she worked with my awesome endo, then she couldn’t be too bad. But she was.
This happened a few years ago, so my memory is a little foggy as to how the whole appointment went, but it was off to a terrible start after the endo reviewed my chart and noted my weight. “You should try to lose some weight, really,” she had said. Was it just me, or did she wrinkle her nose when she said that, in that mean-girl-from-high-school sort of way? I stuttered as I tried to find the words to ask her why she thought that. Coldly, she rattled off some non-answer about my BMI being above average by .1 or .2, and that I should try harder to control it. I was hurt not only by her blow-off response, but how callously she said it to me. At that point in life, I was a teenage girl who already had more than few body image issues, and it sucked to hear a medical “professional” reinforce some negative ideology about how I looked—which was totally normal for a teenage girl, FYI. My primary care doctor often told me that I was perfectly healthy with an average weight.
This is where the challenging part of this prompt comes into play—how the hell can I turn this into a positive? I would have left the appointment feeling empowered, not ashamed, if I had just stuck up for myself. If I had expressed my feelings to her and let her know that her word choice was hurtful, then perhaps I could have shown her that it’s her responsibility as a care provider to not mince words. As an endocrinologist, her words have great power and meaning to her patients, so she should think before saying something that could potentially impact her patients in a mental or physical way.
Even though time has passed since this incident occurred, it’s proven to me how I can take control in these situations. Rather than permit someone to pass undue judgment or criticism on me, I can take the moment into my own hands and bring more meaning to it by explaining my perspective. You can’t put a price on helping someone learn something valuable.