Once upon a time I cared for a family with young child with type 1 diabetes who was very well controlled. This family had very much to be thankful for.
The child's excellent diabetes control was not due to a prolonged honeymoon phase, but from an invested, hard working family. plus and a child who was just as diligent and attentive. He spent quality time of his own choosing to maintain the best blood sugar control possible.
When I complemented them for their hard work and excellent results, the parents told me an fascinating story I am compelled to share.
His mom told me she was having a hard time dealing with the general negativity she received from sharing the success of managing her child's diabetes well since his diagnosis. It was not negativity from face to face encounters, but from her online t1d support community.
She said many people in her online diabetes support group believed that the tight blood sugar control she was enjoying in her child was simply NOT possible. She said her diabetes social network actually expressed open dissatisfaction when she challenged the groups pessinistic beliefs.
She didn't think it was jealousy. She felt it's easier for the group to believe that type 1 diabetes has a "mind of it's own" and no matter what (or how hard) you try, you can't ever control it.
She said that it is easier for others to believe that the effort and time it takes to learn how to manage diabetes well simply isn't possible...or sustainable. She felt some did not appreciate that managing a t1 child/teen well could actually be done, despite the proof she had.
As a result, mom said she just remains mute now. She felt many people did not want solutions. They only wanted her to validate what they already believed to be true: that excellent diabetes in children is just not possible and that diabetes is just a terrible disease that no one can truly manage.
Her feelings reminded me of what Henry Ford famously said: "If you believe you can, or you can't...you're right!"
When diabetes enters our lives, many of us are unwittingly introduced to a concept called 'learned helplessness'. Learned helplessness is when a person feels helpless to avoid negative situations because previous experience has shown them that they do not have control. Diabetes can do this to many of us.
It's a disabling and limiting mindset. I myself lived under its influence for years.
But another social phenomenon often invades how members of a similar group think and believe. It's called the 'crab mentality'.
It's a reference to a pot of crabs. Alone, a single crab can easily escape the pot. But collectively as one crab attempts to crawl out another crab pulls it back. This action ensures that no crab escapes and that all will perish.
In social groups this phenomenon describes the behavior of a group towards an individual who achieves a level of success beyond that of the others in the group believe is possible. Some members of the group will attempt to 'pull down' or negate/dismiss the successes of that single member.
Mom told me she had received numerous negative online comments following her posts describing her child's level of control and A1C with the new dynamic diabetes management (Sugar Surfing) methods she had learned to use.
Even her diabetes health care team said she would 'burn out' from the effort she was putting into maintaining excellent diabetes control. In the end, mom chose to remain silent about the success she had with her child.
Has the 'crab mentality' ever been a challenge to you? Please share your own stories.