Language and Diabetes

Because I was out of town, and then in a training class the week I returned from vacation, I’m late to the game of  “Diabetes Blog Week”.  I didn’t realize it was going on until I visited a few blogs I follow just last night.

This is my first year to participate, because, well, it’s the first year I actually have a blog about diabetes!  I’m so excited to participate and write about the remaining topics of the week.

So, here we go!

Language and Diabetes. 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.

There are very few words that offend me.  And personally, whether someone wants to refer to me as a “diabetic” or “a person with diabetes”- I totally don’t care.  I prefer the word NOT be pronounced like this though: “die-a-BEET-us”. But does it offend me?  Not at all.

The only “language” that sometimes frustrates me in my  world of diabetes, is that although Type 1 and Type 2 have so many major differences, they are both referred to as diabetes.  I feel a  little ridiculous clarifying and saying “I have TYPE 1 diabetes”, however the distinction  seems necessary.  I wish there were just two completely different words for the two conditions.  I don’t at all expect people to know all about my disease, but often times, they mistakenly think they know more than they do. I guess that’s  because Type 2 diabetes is so prevalent.  (about 95% of people with diabetes have Type 2)

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease.  I got it in my early 20s. I cannot reverse it, or make it go into “remission” by changing my diet and exercising more.  And actually, I do look like someone with diabetes.  Trust me.  And yes, I have to take shots (or be on a pump) because my body mistakenly attacked my cells that produce insulin.  If I want to live, I need insulin, and I need to take synthetic insulin since my body doesn’t make it’s own.  But no, I don’t think of Type 1 diabetes as “the bad kind”.

That’s it.  That’s my only beef with the language around diabetes.  I think, as a rule, each disease should get it’s own, distinct name.