Unfortunately my plan to blog each day of this wonderful event has gone somewhat awry as life interferes.Today however, I have taken a weight of my shoulders, a load off my feet and will not be allowing the fact that it is Hump Day stop me writing!
Todays topic is Language and Diabetes, I’ve thought about this from a few angles and can honestly say that, aside from a previous employer always insisting on calling me “A Person With Diabetes”; which got on my last nerve because she rarely seemed to use my name, I’ve not given a lot of thought to the amount of language that is a direct result of my Diabetes. Delving deeper into this now though, I’m actually far more conscious of it that I initially thought.
I am guilty of making some of the obvious “mistakes”, I do refer to myself as a Diabetic more often than perhaps I should. I believe I’ve desensitised the term in this context for my own wellbeing, I don’t define myself by it and perhaps foolishly assume that others won’t either. Now I see that for others, I am perpetuating a misuse of the word. But by the same breath, I am a big believer in desensitising words that can have negative impacts. When my Dad was diagnosed with Cancer, I wanted to remove the power from that word in the hope that the amount I would hear it, say it or see it over the coming months would not have the same devastating level of impact that it did when I first heard it in relation to my Dad. I would walk my dog muttering it, repeatedly under my breath; “Cancer, Cancer, Cancer”. I believe this is also true of some of the terminology associated with Diabetes.
The psychology of language has always interested me, and with My Diabetes (which is the most common way I refer to it), it’s about me taking ownership of it because that is where I feel I’m most in control. Control, it’s a word with such negative connotations to so many, but for me it’s an essential component of my diabetes health that has to be considered every day. The word control for me symbolises good health, hope for a low A1C result and a stable blood glucose log each day. Control for me means that I’m as far as possible from the scary side of my Diabetes, I’ve given the word power in order to empower me; which can only have positive connotations.
Some Diabetes related terminology can also have a different impact based on the context in which it’s used. I recall seeing a practice nurse at a GP surgery once, she had the results of my HbA1C – I think it was 9 or 8 (at that point no one had ever explained to me what the results meant and I’d not had a lot of the essential education that most people have. I suspect this nurse hadn’t either), she said something along the lines of “if you don’t bring this down you’ll have to have a pump”. I remember exactly how that made me feel, I felt like to have a pump was a punishment and an inconvenience to the medical professionals. Then recently, I was attending a carbohydrate education course run by the hospital I attend and a pump was desired so heavily by my peers. Instantly I realised that for some, a pump is seen as the ultimate in treatment, 5* luxury spa hotel compared to self catering camping if you will. I appreciate that due to the expense, in many areas of the UK a pump is prioritised according to need and that need will often be assessed as people who have some difficulty achieving a certain level of control for numerous reasons, but they’re not being punished, they’re not an inconvenience to their medical professionals; they’re being helped, empowered and given an opportunity to be well!
I completely understand and appreciate the need to have some “preferred language” in association with our Diabetes, but I am mindful of becoming so bogged down in correctness and acronyms that individuals get lost. As with everything in life, with or without Diabetes, I think language is about finding a balance and respecting an individuals wishes, but more importantly; I believe it’s about giving the right type of power to key words and phrases.