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?
I have had Type 1 diabetes for 28 years. I am a diabetic. I am also the child of a diabetic. I’m a mother, a daughter, a wife, a blogger, a worker, a neighbor, a knitter, an exerciser. I’m also a person with children, a person with a blog, a person who goes to the gym, etc. I am a lot of things. And all of those things define me. And that’s ok.
I use “diabetic” and “person with diabetes” interchangeably. I’ll tell a physician that I’ve had diabetes for years but in the next breath I might say to someone in the waiting room “oh this is my pump, I’m a diabetic”. I wouldn’t think twice.
Ready for a curve ball? I also have Rheumatoid Arthritis and I think I would be pissed if someone referred to me as arthritic. Just typing that word bothers me. Sure my joints are arthritic but I’m not. I can’t really put my finger on why arthritic bothers me so much yet diabetic doesn’t. I have come to terms with diabetes- I have it, I’ve had it for a long time, and I’ll always have it. Sure my blood sugars can be wonky but in a weird way, I’m used to that. But things are different with RA. RA is painful, it’s debilitating. I would take diabetes over RA in a heartbeat, I wouldn’t need to think about it.
So maybe that is my issue. I have diabetes but it doesn’t have me, so the terms and language don’t bother me at all. But most days, I feel like Rheumatoid Arthritis has me. It controls me. It decides if I’m going to cry in pain on the way to work or if the ice pack strapped to my leg will be enough. And maybe, I need to come to terms with that.