One of the most irritating things about type 1 diabetes is that it sentences you to a lifetime of stupid questions. It’s not the uninformed questions from colleagues and acquaintances that bother me, in fact these are usually asked with genuine interest and concern and I’m happy to advocate for diabetes by sharing my diabetes experiences and knowledge. What bugs me are meaningless and useless questions asked by health care professionals who aren’t asked for input on your diabetes. They’re usually asked by nurses or assistants at ophthalmologists or GPs and non-diabetes specialists and they go something like this”
“How are your sugars?”
“What was your highest sugar in the last month? What was your lowest?”
“What do your sugars usually vary between?”
To a type 1 diabetic these questions are so loaded it’s extremely difficult to answer them without sounding evasive or defensive and it’s impossible to answer honestly without ending up labelled as a “bad diabetic”. If you say your sugars usually vary between “20mmol/l (360 mg/l) and 2.5mmol/l (45 mg/l) expect at least an eyebrow raise, perhaps a shake of the head as a minimum and most likely a lecture about diabetes and complications and further queries that imply your IQ is lower than last weeks lowest BSL reading. Your protestations that your hba1c was 7.0% or elucidation on the intricacies of managing type 1 diabetes to reassure that you are a “good” diabetic are met with silence or the raised eyebrow again and you end up feeling as though you’re trying to convince the teacher that the dog really did eat your homework.
Logically I know that I shouldn’t worry about stupid questions. My a1c is well within the range recommended by my endo and the DCCT and other studies showed that blood sugars will fluctuate markedly in type 1 diabetes and no matter how intensive/infinitely creative the management you will have sugars that spike significantly outside the non-diabetic range. I know all this and I know that people who ask me silly questions are doing so out of ignorance but it still bugs me and I think at heart it is the knowledge that they’re judging me on unfair criteria and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. No matter what I say they’re not going to change their mind, I’ll just end up sounding defensive and guilty.
So what is the best way to answer these questions? Try to deliver a lecture about type 1 diabetes? Just provide minimal information and ignore the judgement because you know the truth? Answer “how long’s a piece of string?” or “My sugars have their ups and downs?” or “I refuse to answer that on the grounds that I might incriminate myself”.
A suggestion that I saw somewhere on Facebook was to answer with a question “How is my treatment at this practice/clinic going to be influenced by my answer to that question?”. I think this is my favourite response because it should force the questioner to examine their presuppositions and the clinical significance of their questions. How do you deal with such questions? Are you a health professional? Have you asked this question and how does the information figure in to clinical decision making?Tweet