I’m a diabetes expert – I wish I wasn’t

Author: Poppy MacMichael's story | Posted: 08 April 2014

By Poppy MacMichael

I recently visited my doctor’s surgery due to a sinus issue. This decision made me worry a little as doctors and hospitals generally make me uneasy. This is because I rarely have a positive experience at them and each negative experience compounds my belief that ‘doctors are horrible’. I know this isn’t true, I know there are thousands of brilliant, caring, friendly doctors out there. And most of these doctors are overworked, stressed and complained to regularly. There are also cuts to the NHS, time and money pressures to deal with. All of this must be extremely wearing and difficult for doctors to manage and may result in them feeling lonely and miserable. I understand all of that. I think about and acknowledge the challenges faced by doctors daily.blog_PoppyMacMichael

But do these doctors acknowledge my difficulties, challenges and emotions?

As soon as I’d entered the doctor’s room and told her about my ailments, she immediately began by asking after my diabetes. She opened the latest blood test results (discussed with my diabetes consultant 2 days prior to this meeting) and went on to question my latest HbA1c (7.2 – a personal best) and suggested that it should be lower.

I left the surgery with a prescription in my hand and a black cloud hanging over my head.

This situation is not unusual; it’s happened to me on countless occasions with countless doctors. You want to speak about your teeth, your throat, your poo and somehow or another the doctor will start questioning you about your diabetes control. All of us with diabetes know that it can affect your body all over, and sometimes it may be appropriate to discuss diabetes control when visiting the doctor about another issue. But generally, we are the expert patients and we know what we should be doing with our diabetes. We know our HbA1c would ideally be lower than 7.2 and we work incredibly hard to try to achieve this. We discuss it with our diabetes team. We also think about it, stress about it, worry about it and try to manage it every single minute of every single day of our lives. Did my doctor acknowledge how difficult that might be for me before she quietly disapproved of my latest score? Did she think how I might feel about having a lifelong medical condition which is notoriously difficult to manage? Did she acknowledge any of the hard work I put in to keep myself healthy on top of managing Diabetes? Ermmm….. nope. Instead, she made me feel like a naughty schoolchild.

Everyone thinks they’re an expert when it comes to diabetes. But how many GPs actually know the complexity/targets/everyday management of type 1 diabetes? Probably very few – and that’s okay! They’re not supposed to be the experts – we are. And that’s what I would like – a little recognition that I may know more than they do, and a little understanding that I didn’t choose to be an expert in type 1 diabetes.