Warning: I hesitated to write a post on this topic because it is rather controversial. Because of this I want to stress that this is related to my experience and feelings on the comparison and is certainly open to debate.
How I Feel About Comparing Diabetes to Mental Illness
In summary: I believe it is, for the most part, completely incorrect. Why do I feel this way? When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, age 12, I was told by numerous people that “it’s just like having Diabetes.” I needed to take my medication every day just as they did.
I had a friend who has Diabetes. I watched her take her insulin and wondered how she could use a needle every single day. I thought she was brave because she was brave.
But she seemed okay, once she was stabilized. She went back to school. I was locked in a psychiatric ward wondering when I might be let out. I was angry when told it was similar. It is not.
What Does Diabetes Have in Common With Mental Illness?
In my opinion–and let me stress that this is mine–very little. I recognize that the pain when first diagnosed, the confusion, might be shared–but in completely different ways. Mental Illness undeniably carries more stigma. If you suffer from Diabetes you are probably not told that you are crazy and that you will not get better. You probably do not frequent a psychiatric hospital until stability is found.
The search for treatment is more comprehensive–usually. 1,000’s of possible medications. Often, an inability to find our way back into society. If I announce to a new friend that I have a mental illness, the response is certainly different than if I were to state that I have Diabetes. My illness lives in my mind. It hurts. But so does the diagnosis of every chronic illness.
As mentioned in a previous post–it’s important to remember our pain is not always unique. But it can feel like it is.
Why is Diabetes Compared to Mental Illness?
The goal? To make us feel less alone in our struggle. But I am sick and tired of my mental illness being compared to Diabetes. It is not Diabetes. It hurts–just like every other diagnosis. But I feel it hurts in different ways. It made me want to hide. It made me pretend I was not sick. I did not have the opportunity to sit in front of my psychiatrist, clear headed, and be told that my outcome would likely be excellent if I followed careful instructions.
Stop Comparing My Mental Illness to Diabetes Already
I am pretty sure I am going to get, for lack of an intellectual term, some backlash for this but I wanted to write about it because it has made me angry in the past. I do not see the correlation, extending past the chronic nature, and issues/ feelings finding treatment and acceptance.
When I am sick I am struggling to leave my home. To move. To eat. To find my way to my psychiatrist. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired sometimes. That’s the nature of the goddamn beast.
When I was 12, young in my assumptions and illness, I stated, when told that it was just like Diabetes, that I would rather have Diabetes. This is not something I would ever state now, nor believe, as I have no experience in the illness, and understand that it can be lethal. But so is mental illness. The rate of suicide is terrifying. But still. Do not tell me it is similar. Do not tell other people it is similar. It usually does not make us feel any better. It is confusing.
Pain is pain but mental illness is a distinctly different pain.
Remember: I am not minimizing a serious illness I am, instead, expressing how I feel about it. I wish I were, at such a young age, not told that my illness was similar to Diabetes. I wish I were told that it would take time, maybe a lot of time, to figure the mess out–but that I would find stability, recovery, in the end.
That being said, feel free to argue this topic– I’m listening.