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Guest post: embracing the grey - Ashley Ng

December 02, 2014 by Scott Johnson

Our friend, Ashley Ng from BitterSweet Diagnosis, shares her experience of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Not fitting any of the stereotypical molds, she struggled to find a place to call home. Now she works tirelessly to advocate for others in her position.

Type 2 Diabetes?

What do you associate with the words “type 2 diabetes”? An overweight person, sitting in front of the television eating a packet of potato chips? You are not alone.

I bet you wouldn’t be thinking of a healthy weight, physically active 19-year-old girl who grew up with a balanced diet.

5 years ago, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I found out about my high blood sugar levels by chance and had no classic indicators associated with type 1 diabetes. Medically, I didn’t tick the boxes required for a type 1 diabetes diagnosis, so I must have type 2 diabetes.

However, I didn’t fit neatly into a type 2 diabetes diagnosis either. This became clear when my blood sugar levels only improved after starting multiple daily injections a year after I was diagnosed. My diabetes was the triangle peg that wouldn’t fit into the square and round holes that are type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Although this didn’t bother me, many health professionals, online groups, diabetes services and programs refused to accept this and therefore, me.

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Doctors tended to forget that I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and recommended me self-management courses and even starting an insulin pump. Sadly, I was always denied access to these simply because of the type of diabetes I was classified under.

I tried connecting online with other young people with diabetes but wasn’t allowed to join in as many of these groups only include people with type 1 diabetes. Open forums often saw people with type 2 diabetes being bullied due to the stigma and misinformation associated with the condition. I couldn’t find a safe space for young adults with type 2 diabetes, like myself, to connect. I felt alone and isolated. My family and friends supported me as best they could, but they really didn’t know what to do or say.

Enter the DOC (Diabetes Online Community)

I started blogging about life with diabetes as a way to reflect on my experiences. It wasn’t long before I discovered the diabetes online community (DOC) on Twitter. Unlike many of the groups I tried joining previously, the DOC welcomed me with open arms. I even met a few other young adults with type 2 diabetes, which gave me a huge sense of relief that I’m not alone.

Being involved with tweetchats gave me an added sense of belonging within my new found family. Over time, I heard similar stories of people being bullied and discriminated against because of their diabetes, no matter what type of diabetes it was. People with type 1 diabetes spoke of being subjected to misinformed comments from the general public. People with type 2 diabetes spoke about the burden of living with a condition riddled with stigma and stereotyping. No one deserves to be bullied, excluded or isolated because of diabetes.

There are many things about diabetes that people don’t know. I am a huge advocate for sharing knowledge and experiences to reduce the misinformation that exists around diabetes. However, when it comes to support groups, the type of diabetes you have shouldn’t matter. Some things may be more applicable to type 1 or type 2 diabetes but not everyone will fit neatly into a category.

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There are definitely a few of us hovering in diabetes limbo. Nonetheless, diabetes is a demanding condition we face every day and sometimes, simple words of encouragement are enough to make a difference.

Life is seldom black and white, so why should diabetes be?

Ashley holding her diploma and in her graduation gown

Ashley graduated with a Masters in Dietetics from Deakin University in October of 2014


If you’d like to read more from Ashley, please check out her blog at Bittersweet Diagnosis. Be sure to connect with her on Twitter at @Health4Diabetes. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Ash!

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