MTV Pimps My Diabetes


MTV is planning to highlight diabetes in its True Life show next season. Here’s an excerpt from the casting call request for people to share their stories.

Does your diabetes hold you back from living the life the way you want? Do you have an extreme form of the disease which requires you to constantly inject yourself with insulin? Or are you stuck monitoring your diet and exercise when you would rather just live a more regular life? Does it make you feel different from your peers? How is your situation more difficult than your friends’ at school? Are you embarrassed by your diabetes? How often do you visit doctors and how much effort do you put into your health? Have you had any scares relating to your diabetes recently? Are your parents always on your case about your medication, diet, doctor’s appointments, and exercise? Are you planning on taking a new approach to handling your health in the near future?

If your diabetes causes you major difficulty in your life and you appear between the ages of 16 and 28, email us at diabetes@miscmedia.tv and tell us your story. We want to know how living with diabetes makes your life complicated. Please include your name, location, phone number, and a recent photo of yourself.

Yo, MTV! I know that you specialize in playing up adolescent anxieties, but this is a little too far. Diabetes is hard enough for people who have it without being exploited. Why not show the young people with diabetes — not to mention your non-diabetic viewers — that it’s much, much more likely that they will live happy, productive lives with diabetes?

Maybe that’s what you’re after. (No, no. You could have a soul down deep somewhere.) But because I suspect that when I send this message to diabetes@miscmedia.tv, you won’t actually share my message with your viewers, I’ll answer your questions here, too.

Does your diabetes hold you back from living the life the way you want? Everybody’s diabetes prevents them from living the life the way they want. That’s the nature of a disease. We would all prefer to be healthy people living lives without the constant activities we have to undertake to keep ourselves well. We could also do without the mental baggage of diabetes. Is your show going to present that this is the normal state of anyone living with a chronic illness?

Do you have an extreme form of the disease which requires you to constantly inject yourself with insulin? There is really no such thing as an extreme form of diabetes. Every kind of diabetes — type 1, type 1.5, type 2, gestational — requires vigilance and takes a mental, physical, and social toll on the person who has it. I wear an insulin pump that continuously gives me insulin, but I don’t take injections. I know that takes away some cringe-inducing video, but are we still cool?

Or are you stuck monitoring your diet and exercise when you would rather just live a more regular life? Of course, I would like to be able to eat what I want without worry. And I would really, really love to be able to exercise whenever I want. Life is choices, and I try to make the best ones I can. Diabetes and the way we have to treat it makes the consequences of our choices more obvious and immediate. Maybe you could show me checking my blood sugar in the middle of a 12-mile run or show me forgoing a big ice cream cone so that I can avoid wildly out-of-balance blood glucose and insulin levels three hours later when I want to go for a long bike ride.

Does it make you feel different from your peers? Of course it does. We’ve all got our issues. Does being a reality television show producer make you feel different from your entertainment industry peers when you go to parties? Do you tell them that you play on people’s anxieties and exploit people who need support?

How is your situation more difficult than your friends’ at school? Let’s talk about work instead of school. I worry about experiencing hypoglycemia when giving presentations or talking to customers, but most people have performance anxiety. Oh, you know what would be awesome? You could start a shot by showing me testing my blood sugar in a meeting and then pull back to show one of my (non-diabetic) coworkers totally bombing during a presentation. You ought to get a hell of a rating out of that. 50 share, easy.

Are you embarrassed by your diabetes? No. You should show people that there’s no reason to be embarrassed by any disease or disability. And the only way you can do that and have any credibility with your demographic is to show us being bad-ass.

How often do you visit doctors and how much effort do you put into your health? I visit doctors seven or eight times per year. Staying healthy with diabetes is a 24/7 thing. Most people actively managing their diabetes probably have better health literacy than you do.

Have you had any scares relating to your diabetes recently? No. But one time last year I had a routine lab result that made me think there was something wrong with my kidneys. Turns out if you exercise too hard — say by riding 60 miles one day and running 10 miles the next — most people’s bodies are going to spill a bit of extra protein related to rebuilding muscle tissue. Does this make me compelling enough?

Are your parents always on your case about your medication, diet, doctor’s appointments, and exercise? No. My mom is really sweet.

Are you planning on taking a new approach to handling your health in the near future? I’m always trying to be the best-informed, most-engaged patient. I work with my medical team as a peer, and I have a fabulous support community online. You should seriously plug the positive role that Twitter can play for people with diabetes. I hear that lots of your viewers love Twitter.

p.s. — When I’m clean shaven, I can pass for 32 28. Here’s a recent photo.


This entry was posted in Cycling, Diabetes, Running, This is who we are. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to MTV Pimps My Diabetes

  1. Jaimie says:

    Excellent post Jeff!

  2. Cara says:

    Excellent answer to MTV! I am just over the age limit, but I really hope they get someone in to show real life, not sensationalized diabetes. I doubt it. But I can hope. Life with diabetes isn’t easy, but you can’t always let it get to you.

  3. gina says:

    Awesome post Jeff!

  4. mary says:

    i don’t think i’ve ever seen a positive episode of true life.

  5. erin says:

    I am definitely going to share this. How strange that they would even think about producing a show like this. Do they have any other diseases highlighted!? Thanks Jeff for so eloquently responding to the nutcases at MTV.

    :) Erin

  6. nicole says:

    WONDERFULLY said!!

  7. Ooh, I felt my blood boil when I read their blurb. Kudos, Jeff. I hope (probably unrealistically) that they’ll read your answers and put more thought into the ethics of sensationalizing a chronic illness. :(

  8. Simon says:

    Another great post Jeff.
    Extreme diabetes sure is a weird term….they might be able to combine it with the extreme ironing world championships

  9. mary says:

    for those of you who have never had the pleasure of watching true life, let me say that it comes as no surprise to me that they’re exploiting diabetes. i’ve watched a few dozen episodes of the show, and each features two or three people who suffer from a specific ailment (or are currently in a specific life situation), be it medical, otherwise physical/mental, or social. for example, i’ve seen episodes about people with OCD, people who are addicted to plastic surgery, teens at fat camp, people who are sports fanatics, couples who cannot stay broken up – those are the episodes which i can recall off-hand, and each of them sensationalized the topic at hand. i am actually surprised that there hasn’t already been an “extreme diabetes” episode!

  10. Pingback: Being Hard Core « inDpendence

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