It’s hump day and I am full to the brim, feeling like there’s so much more to share in the DOC then I could ever imagine. Today is Diabetes Blog Week Wednesday and the theme is language and the words we use.
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.
I’ll never forget my moment of diagnosis. It was one of the first times I can honestly say I felt abused. Rather than being gently informed that it looked like there were some irregularities in my fasting blood sugar readings my GP literally shouted, “You have diabetes! And it will take years to figure out how to fix it.” But It wasn’t just the words he used, it was his attitude. He shoved some pamphlets my way and told me to Google diabetes.
I drove home dazed and confused. I mean what the heck was I supposed to do now? Between feeling absolutely devastated and completely horrified I also wanted to strangle the guy. Luckily his office was a good 40 minutes’ drive from my house.
It took years for me to admit I had diabetes and to think about how to label my condition. When someone asked about my meter and why I wasn’t eating dessert or so strict with my diet I’d kind of shrug it off and say I was dealing with blood sugar issues. I didn’t hide what was going on but I didn’t come right out and say it either. As I treaded the boards searching for answers from alternative health practitioners to endocrinologists not one person said, “diabetes.” They used euphemisms like blood sugar swings, or autoimmune condition, chronic fatigue, candida overgrowth, low insulin production. I found so many ways not to have diabetes it wasn’t even funny.
Deep down I knew the truth. I was the one looking at my meter, watching how food affected my levels. I saw what exercise did and how hard it was to get that perfect number. I can remember my little brother mumbling, “why don’t you just go on insulin?” as he watched me make a spinach omelet for the umpteenth time. “It’s complicated okay!”
I think everyone has a breaking point. When you know that climbing up the hill is going to be harder than just collapsing at the bottom. I was sitting in the neurologist’s office after having the nerves in my hands and feet tested. If you’ve ever thinking of doing that, it’s really not fun! They wire you up and pulse your nerves with tiny volts of electricity and you literally jump out of your skin. Anyway…back in the doc’s office he enquired as to my health. “You have diabetes right?” “Well we aren’t sure” “What’s your A1c?” “I think it’s a little high” “How high?” “10.7” “That’s Diabetes. You have Diabetes! And if you don’t get that level down you’ll do permanent damage to the nerves in your hands and feet.” It couldn’t have been more real than that.
Real honest to goodness TRUTH. Needless to say the words finally hit home.
Recently I wrote to a prominent Australian diabetes organization about my new book. “It’s a book written by a diabetic for diabetics on how yoga can help you manage your diabetes.” The reply in my inbox made me feel embarrassed. Like when you’re a kid and somebody scolds you but you don’t really know what you’ve done wrong. “We don’t use that word “diabetic” anymore because it’s impolite. We say a person lives with diabetes.”
Her reply made me see that I’m still assimilating what it means to live with diabetes. It doesn’t really matter what words I use to describe my condition, what matters is how I see myself, what my hopes and dreams are and how I can live gracefully no matter what lies ahead.
with great respect…Rachel
P.S Want to know more about my passion for yoga and diabetes? I’m offering the first chapter of my new book on Yoga for Diabetes for free. Find the right practice for your type by learning all about Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga.
Wow, I’m sorry for all of the struggling you went through. It takes a lot of courage to share your story, but I know others can relate and will be helped by reading it.
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Thanks so much Karen, yes it was such a long haul. I was just remembering this morning seeing one therapist who literally had me drink a poisonous herb to try and cure myself. Thinking back I should have started insulin straight away. I could have preserved the beta cell function I had left. But you’re right…It’s the story I have to tell.
Wow, thank you for sharing that. You’ve been on one heck of a journey and put a new spin on this topic. Thanks!
Thanks Bec, I think writing about it has been the best therapy for me…
This post was really good to read. I never thought about how much we do talk around the word diabetes or diabetic so as not to offend anyone.
As a diabetic I totally love views coming from other diabetics. If you’re cool with it, it doesnt really matter.
Thanks so much Ashleigh for your thoughts on the subject! I’m like you….its all good.
Ugh your doctor makes me so mad! I personally don’t care about the term diabetics so its interesting to hear how you had to change your tagline for your book, definitely makes me realize I need to change my vocabulary some.
Luckily I didn’t see that guy again…my endo has been amazing! and well I still use the word in my book because it was already in there. But it did make me think about the way I aha to frame things when talking about the book…
If you’re comfortable with using the word diabetic, then you shouldn’t feel guilty for that. And well done on having the courage to tell Diabetes Aus about your book. You’ve always inspired me to be more open about my blog, more than you know 🙂
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Thanks Frank…I hope one day we meet!
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