I Know You Mean Well, But Stop With The Phony 'Medical' Advice

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and Roos Koole/Pat_Hastings/Getty

“Oh my gosh!” my friend texted me late one night. “I just heard that moringa and cinnamon can cure diabetes! Have you tried them?”

I try my best not to roll my eyes. But I fail. Because here we go again. I sigh and don’t reply.

You’d think I’d be used to the pseudo-science medical advice by now, but I’m not. Thirteen years ago, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune, chronic disease that has no cure. Type 1 diabetics like myself have to inject insulin or else we will die.

You read that, right? But for the people in the back, I’ll say it again. Without insulin, I will die.

There’s absolutely no way around the needles and vials. I cannot pass go. But despite the legit science on my medical condition, I’m subject to a lot of unsolicited, uneducated advice.

I’m not alone. There are 23.5 million people in the United States who have an autoimmune disease, and 80% of these are women. Yes, 80 freaking percent. An autoimmune disease is defined as the body’s own immune cells mistakenly attack healthy tissues, causing the autoimmune disease. There are more than 80 autoimmune diseases including Rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s disease, Crohn’s disease, and type 1 diabetes.

With so many of us battling a disease, you’d think we’d be met with empathy above all else. I think some believe that offering their advice is helpful, even encouraging. But really, it just pisses me off.

Alexander Dummer/Pexel

I recently dealt with an acquaintance relentlessly messaging me on social media. She knew she just had to tell me all about the vitamins she was taking and now selling. (Hello, MLM.) She promised that if I took them, I’d “get off insulin.”

I’ve had friends prod me to seek help from their favorite chiropractors. As if a $55 spinal adjustment would magically regenerate my long-gone insulin-producing beta cells.

Oh, and have you heard that if I would just eat zero carbohydrates, or perhaps join the keto bandwagon, I would no longer be diabetic? Sha-zam! For the record, there’s no way I am going to give carbohydrates the boot. You will not want to be my friend if I can’t have an occasional boat of cheese fries or my blackberry wine.

I’ve also learned from the “experts” why I have type 1 diabetes. (Insert ALL the sarcasm.) It’s because I ate too much sugar as a kid. My mom didn’t breastfeed me long enough. I lived too close to an unidentified radioactive zone. Genetics.

I mean seriously, I don’t think global warming, vaccinations, or baby formula caused my disease. Why? Because there is no science to backup any of the ridiculous claims I’m offered. There are many theories and no answers. All signs point to nothing. Lucky me.

Here’s the deal. Theories don’t cure me. So unless you’re going to hand me a shiny-new pancreas and immune system, both of which pinky-promise not to turn on me like my originals did, I’m not interested.

I know it’s mind-blowing, but I’ve come to a point of acceptance in which diabetes is my norm. I check my blood sugar, I go to the doctor, I receive insulin from a pump, I eat a lower-carb diet, and I exercise. I manage my disease. Sometimes it wins. Sometimes I win. I try again tomorrow.

Does it suck to have a 24/7/365 disease? Absolutely. Would I like to be cured? Hell to the yes. But the reality is that I have to live with what I have today, otherwise I’ll go bonkers with the “what ifs” that leave me perpetually disappointed and terrified.

Listen, I realize that you mean well. You get a glimpse of my suffering and have a moment of sympathy. Chronic illnesses are taxing. If I don’t get the perfect combination of enough quality sleep, healthy meals and snacks, and the precisely correct insulin doses, I feel like a proverbial truck has run over me. I cancel my plans 50% of the time, because diabetes is winning that day.

And please don’t even get me started on the cost. Insulin is astronomically expensive. And insulin is just one piece of the pie. (Pun intended. I like pie. I eat pie. Don’t judge me.) I strongly believe if the universe is going to grant me a chronic disease, I should also be given several money trees. Because every single week, we get multiple medical bills with totals in the triple-digits.

Having a chronic illness is relentless and extensive. There’s not a part of my physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual health that my disease hasn’t viciously attacked.

So though you have read some tidbit of pseudo-science on the internet or plucked an au-natural cure brochure from your chiropractic office, you need to know the truth. The last thing I need is another kind of attack, even one cloaked in well-intentioned “help.”

A green smoothie that looks like a concoction of grass clippings and tree bark isn’t going to cure me, not even if I drink that MF’er three times a day on an empty stomach after a thirty-minute meditation session. That $29 vial of eucalyptus essential oil, purchased from your MLM company, diffused in my bedroom while I sleep isn’t going to do shit for my non-existent beta cells. Flax seed waffles, a hot stone massage on the eve of a full moon, or switching my cup from glass to stainless steel isn’t going to do a damn thing.

It’s called science. It’s real. And it’s what I’m relying on. Call me nutty, but I’m not interested in experimenting with CBD oil on my wrists four times a day while reciting a positive, healing mantra. I only have so much time, energy, and money, and I’m choosing to pour these things into what has been proven to keep me alive.

If you think I’m bitter and skeptical, you’d be correct. But ultimately, I’m just trying my best, every single day, to be healthy and strong. Your suggestions are not only distractions, but they’re offensive. I am well-aware that my body turned on me and this disease sucks. I don’t need you to remind me of this fact with your two cents.

You are surrounded by friends who are struggling with all sorts of issues, including depression, PCOS, bi-polar disorder. These friends may be parenting children with special needs such as ADHD, anxiety, autism. Every time you open your mouth and offer us the latest-and-greatest unproven cure, we feel even more defeated.

Please do me, and all your other friends with autoimmune diseases a favor, and offer support instead of judgement. You have absolutely no idea what you would do if you were in our shoes. And I pray that you never have to be in that place.

Now if you’d be a dear and pass me a slice of pie, I’d appreciate it.

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