Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Language and diabetes - Wednesday - Diabetes Blog Week

NThere 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.

Hmmmm I'm stuck... This is a bit of a two edged sword in that I really don't care about 'language' that relates to diabetes in the sense of whether they call me diabetic, a person with diabetes or even someone 'suffering' with diabetes. I don't care if we call it blood testing, checking bloods or just testing. I don't mind whether we're injecting, jabbing, stabbing or pricking. So really it would seem that language doesn't bother me but it does. The flip side of the sword is I've been on the receiving end of some diabetes targeted abuse, bullying I suppose. 

I've never hidden my condition, it's part of me. Like the colour of my hair, my height and my temper. So when I meet new people it's not normally long before my diabetes enters the relationship. As always this happened with a group of people I called friends, some of who are still on my FB friends list and so may even read this. They accepted my blood sugars and condition or so it seemed, I'd test at meals and inject as and when necessary. I then moved to my pump, these people seemed to be there for that too. My freedom seemed to sore so I was happy to bolus in front of them and even on one or two occasions do a set change. If they asked questions I was happy to share. So how does this relate to language? Well one of these people decided it was unacceptable that I didn't do as instructed, that I dared to challenge what they had decided. The easiest target to upset me - diabetes. Apparently all of a sudden my insulin pump made people uncomfortable. My blood sugar testing kit offended people. Apparently testing my blood sugar at the table was dirty! It'd be better if I went to the toilet...erm no. So you'd think that other people would be supportive, point out such comments are wrong and that behaving in this way was unfair. Nope. The rest of the group accepted it by default that this person was right, one even suggested I was in the wrong for testing in public. I never forced these people to watch, I don't go round randomly finger pricking people. So now we don't speak and so yes, in this way yes language hurt me. But I won't be a sheep and I won't be ashamed of who I am. On this occasion I learnt to stand up for myself, as no one else did. 

So yes, language can be hurtful, but I always try to look at what the intent behind a comment was before I respond to it. I suppose the answer is to use language positively to educate and to try and ignore the negatives or at least not respond to it. 

If you're one of the people responsible for this experience I can't say I forgive you, I don't but I also can't say I understand you. Feel free to explain yourself.


  1. Ugh, I luckily haven't had someone tell me to go to the bathroom to test but I would not be happy at all if they did.

  2. I had some one tell me to go to the bathroom once. I said well no I don't test my blood sugar int he bath. LOL

    I referred your blog to the TUDiabetes blog page for the week of May 16, 2016.