5 tips for overcoming drug stigma with type 2 diabetes

The reality is that sometimes our body needs help.

Even though I’ve been living with type 2 diabetes since 2000, it wasn’t until the past two years that I became hyper aware of the stigma surrounding using medications to manage type 2 diabetes.

To be clear: taking type 2 diabetes medication doesn’t mean you fail.

So why the stigma? Type 2 diabetes is often thought of as a lifestyle disease. The common misconception is that people with type 2 have led it on themselves through bad choices and laziness.

A lot of people think that if we put it in place, we should be able to fix it.

With all the new dietary trends and supplements available, many believe that type 2 reversal is a quick fix through lifestyle.

The online arena is a mine of diabetes advice:

Just eat keto and your diabetes will be gone!

Just take the XYZ supplement and your diabetes will be gone!

Just drink it (insert some horrible vegetable juice here) and your diabetes will be gone!

Just lose weight and your diabetes will be gone!

Fair. Fair. Fair.

But what about when it doesn’t?

Over the past 8 years, I have completely changed my life. On paper, I did everything “well”.

Change the way I eat? Check.

Start to exercise? Check.

Lose 100 pounds? Check.

I even went so far as to become a personal trainer and fitness instructor, making exercise my career. But guess what? I still need medication to manage my numbers.

Looking through the lens of the outside world, it would be easy for me to be disappointed or to feel abandoned by my body.

Instead, here are some tips that have helped me come to terms with my medication regimen as part of my diabetes self-care, instead of seeing it as a reflection of my effort and self-confidence.

I choose to view medication as a tool in my diabetes management toolkit.

My medications are in the same category as my blood glucose meter, my continuous glucose meter (CGM), my weights, my scale and my food choices.

They are all equally important to my overall goal of living a long, healthy life with type 2 diabetes.

With diabetes, it all seems to be about the numbers. A1C, fasting blood sugar, cholesterol, how many days per week you exercise, how many carbohydrates you eat, and how many medications you take.

It’s hard to avoid comparing your numbers with someone else’s. It’s especially hard not to compare your progress with someone else’s.

I had to learn to put on blinders and focus on my own path. My body, diabetes, and medical history are unique, so measuring myself against others just didn’t make sense.

Over the past 2 decades, I have needed different levels of intervention in the form of medication.

During my two pregnancies, I was on long-acting insulin with meals. After breastfeeding was over, I went back to oral medication alone.

There were also periods of time, due to personal crises, where nutrition and exercise were not my priority. During these times, medication was added to help bring my numbers down.

When I re-committed to a healthier lifestyle, I was able to cut back or eliminate medication altogether.

I had to be okay with needing help, whether for a season or permanently.

The world is literally at your fingertips. With a quick online search, millions of articles appear with seemingly legitimate information on how to live with, manage, or even cure your type 2 diabetes (nothing like that, by the way).

I had to limit my consumption. This meant taking only reliable sources of information.

I avoided social media “doctors” who claimed to have all the answers. I avoided listening to the well-meaning stranger who commented on my Instagram post about the herbalist who cured his cousin.

It was part of my personal care to no longer follow people who regularly told me my path was wrong or shamed me for how I choose to handle my diagnosis.

Having an open line of communication with my healthcare team is an essential part of my diabetes management.

I had to meet with several doctors until I found a doctor who I was comfortable with.

Now, I am always open and honest about my feelings, plans, hesitations and concerns. I ask all my questions so that my doctor can answer them.

Being my own lawyer gives me power, and my doctor is there to be my partner. I learned not to be afraid to speak.

The reality is that sometimes our body needs help.

What I have learned over the past 21 years is that there is no a way to manage type 2 diabetes.

Some will be able to manage their blood sugar through lifestyle and weight loss, while others will need medication.

Regardless of the method, the goal is the same: to lead a long, healthy and fulfilling life, despite type 2 diabetes.

Mary Van Doorn lives in Georgia with her husband, their two children, three dogs and three cats. She is a type 2 diabetes advocate and the founder of Sugar Mama Strong Fitness & Wellness and Sugar Mama Strong Diabetes Support. When she’s not taking care of the kids, the house or the zoo, you can find her watching her favorite shows: “Grey’s Anatomy”, “This is Us” and “A Million Little Things”.