Thursday, May 19, 2016

Be Specific and Choose Wisely

Day 3 Prompt
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.

It's something like 92% of those with diabetes are Type 2 and about 6-8% are Type 1.  Both have issues with their pancreas.  Both have highs and lows.  Both have the cloud of complications hanging over them.  But they are two totally different diseases with the same descriptive word, diabetes.  Words have power.  They have power to harm.  They have power to help.  And they certainly have power to confuse.

I've always been big about communication being important.  I love language, always have, but I am so tired of language being used to generalize and stereotype and judge.  And for me the worst offenders are the ones who could use their language for improvement.  My Mom always said if you don't have something nice to say then don't say anything at all.  I would add to that if you don't know what you are talking about then don't say anything or make jokes about it, especially if you are reaching a wide audience, and definitely if that joke might hurt a child.  Your words make changes happen or not happen.  And in a world where babies and children develop Type 1 the information and jokes you make might even cost someone their life.

When Drago was diagnosed he struggled emotionally.  He was 14, had watched his younger brother almost die being misdiagnosed before diagnosis as well as witnessing and care-taking the highs and lows for a year and a half.  It it him hard.  So hard we put him immediately into counseling. Counseling was terrific for him.  His counselor was also a Type 1 and there were many discussions on the power of words, everything from how to handle insensitivity of those that don't understand to how the words you choose for yourself carry a lot of weight.  For example, instead of saying "I'm going to go stab myself" when it was time for a shot (his exact phrasing) switching it to something a little less negative like "I'm going to go take my insulin" made a huge difference.  It changes your outlook.  Positivity replacing negativity was huge in helping him come to terms with his diagnosis.  That's not to say we don't joke and have some dark humor days but we see when humor is necessary and we work towards using positive words.  In our house it is "Have you checked your blood sugar?" instead of tested.  Testing for us brings anxiety and negativity.  We also tend to use "he was diagnosed with Type 1 autoimmune diabetes" versus "he is diabetic".  Why do we get so specific?  Because of the generalizations and stigmas associated with the word diabetes, that's why.  I see it regularly on people's faces when I say diabetes.  It's almost like "oh, is that all" and "what did you do to cause it" kind of look.  It's how people assume that eating too much sugar is automatically the reason.  That diet changes will make it miraculously go away.  Or that children will outgrow it.  But one of my least favorite responses "Is that the bad kind?"  Is any kind of disease a good kind?  Seriously, not cool.

So to wrap this up, sugar doesn't cause diabetes (not gestational, not MODY, not LADA, not Type 1, not Type 2, etc.....) and continuing to put it out there that it does confuses people.  It makes people brush off symptoms.  It causes children to be misdiagnosed.  Generalizing with words causes lives to be lost.  Words can hurt.  Choose wisely.

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