Day 3 of Diabetes Blog Week Language and Diabetes – Wednesday 5/18
There is an old saying that states “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. I’m willing to bet we’ve all disagreed with this at some point, and especially when it comes to diabetes. Many advocate for the importance of using non-stigmatizing, inclusive and non-judgmental language when speaking about or to people with diabetes. For some, they don’t care, others care passionately. Where do you stand when it comes to “person with diabetes” versus “diabetic”, or “checking” blood sugar versus “testing”, or any of the tons of other examples? Let’s explore the power of words, but please remember to keep things respectful.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. But if the stick scratches enough, it can write the words on the stone- and as we learned in science- weathering takes time.
Let’s be honest-I’ve questioned it ever since I can remember. Why am I being told that words never hurt me? Instead of people needing to learn to be nice and respectful?
Freedom of speech is a thing- but you are not free from the repercussions of your words, well in my opinion.
I remember the days when I would react with fierceness and meanness and hot “headedness”- with anything related to diabetes. I was quick to anger and respond.
I eventually grew to my mindset that it’s better for me to be nice and to try to turn this into an education opportunity in college.
But I have my limits. Depending on the situation, I can find myself getting very angry and ready to burst. (but that’s what venting and running are for).
Something I constantly regret and am still trying to reconcile with was my reactions that included “but I have type 1.” Which started happening after bullying and anger and feelings hidden deep inside boiled to the surface. Now- I have learned how much my words matter too in how I try to spread awareness to the outside world. Since I was diagnosed, I was one of those kids pointing the finger and saying “no, not me,” and it took time, lessons, healing, experiences, and the doc to help me finally move away from that. We are all in this together.
MESSAGE 2: WHEN PERSONS WITH TYPE 1 SET THEMSELVES APART FROM TYPE 2 BY SAYING THINGS LIKE “TYPE 1 MEANS I DID NOTHING TO CAUSE THIS,” WE ARE INEVITABLY STRENGTHENING THE TYPE 2 STEREOTYPE WE ARE ATTEMPTING TO DISTANCE OURSELVES FROM TO BEGIN WITH. -Heather, The Chronic Scholar
Because words do hurt, and I can cause the hurting too or adding to the stigma or misrepresenting a community I love. I am not immune to fault or making mistakes.
Words (and facial expressions and tone) matter- for everyone.
Many advocate for the importance of using non-stigmatizing, inclusive and non-judgmental language when speaking about or to people with diabetes.
This is a very heated debate among the community. I was the person at one time running around screaming “I’m diabetic” proudly. I wanted to own it so it wouldn’t be used against me. But my endo would be staring at me with her button that said “not diabetic.” And we disagreed. And this continued. I didn’t understand it at all.
See- I don’t really have a problem with diabetic or person with diabetes within the community. Now- outside of the community- no way!
But- through social work and learning more about people’s first language- I decided that because I would be working with so many different types of people- practicing people’s first language was what I needed to do- and if you don’t know someone’s preference, than to be on the safe side, I go with PWD. But no matter what the preference is- what matters to me is that we know that we are more than our diabetes (or whatever else is in your life).
Now- other terms get me more heated. When I feel like I’m not being treated like a person, I get more heated.
I don’t like the term patient (but I understand why). I go with blood sugar checking and not testing- which was reinforced at camp- you never know a child’s situation- and test has the connotation that you could pass or fail.
And good and bad- that doesn’t exist in diabetes unless I’m talking about a pumpsite or bottle of insulin. There are no good or bad blood sugars. It’s just data that tells me what I need to do.
Just like an A1C. That is a very personal number to me, and I struggle with the value placed on it. This value struggle started young.
I don’t like it when I’m talking to insurance, an HCP, a medical company, a pharmacist, etc- and feel like that I am not treated like a person. The feeling of being treated like a dollar sign. Or a file number. Or just as a person with diabetes (or diabetic). I cannot. I lose it.
But I try to explain why.
There’s more to me. More to my story.
Because my words matter. Because their words matter.
But you know- sometimes? I feel like a hypocrite. As I say “words matter.” “It’s just data.” etc. I feel like I’m a liar.
Because I struggle not to react when I see a blood sugar reading. I get nervous about hearing my A1C. I know I let the numbers impact how I value myself no matter how many times I say “it’s just data.”
I constantly look in the mirror and doubt myself and self-criticize. Self-esteem and self-confidence is something I still struggle with. I’ve been working on it for years, and I’ve made progress. I’m my own worst critic, bully, and enemy all rolled into one.
I want to believe in myself and have better self-esteem that comes from within myself- not the outside world- hopefully I get closer to that one day.
As a community our words also matter- especially in the DOC and with companies and non-profits. Why? So many people read our words and look to us- and what we write on a keyboard and then publish or post can influence others- for good or for bad. People are watching, listening, and reading.
Our words also matter when we are communicating with each other.
Our words matter and have an impact. Our words to ourselves play a huge role in our lives. Our words to others within the community and outside of the community matter.
Words are a powerful thing.
(not my photo) -The Dead Poets Society
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