…but words will always be there to haunt you.
We need to change the way we talk about diabetes.
When I hear someone say ‘diabetic sufferer’ or ‘uncontrolled diabetic’, I cringe. If someone used those terms with me, I would feel hurt, hopeless and like a failure. I would feel weak, small and lonely.
I know I’m not the only one. I hear it time and time again within the community and through research.
The way we frame and use our words has an impact on how we feel and perceive things. Subconsciously, it even affects our motivation and impacts our mental health. Being fed negativity around living with diabetes is the last thing we need.
I wish people understood that diabetes is a tough condition to live with. It’s not as simple as ‘take your meds’. Diabetes is unpredictable and there are so many variables that affect our blood glucose levels and the decisions we make around our health. To simply say that we should ‘control my diabetes’ is equivalent to setting us up for failure.
I wish people had more empathy and kindness to take the time to try and understand the challenges we face, rather than assume and judge. I would tell them how difficult it was for me to accept that I am living with a chronic condition and that it will be with for the rest of my life. I would tell them how hurtful it is that people dismiss my chronic condition because they didn’t understand it themselves.
But I would also tell them how life with diabetes has had an immensely positive effect on me, once I had accepted it. How it took years of trial and error, support and guidance before I learned to start letting go of perfectionism. Instead, I realised the importance of enjoying the physical activity I do and the foods I eat. I learned about portion control and mindful eating and took even longer to start practicing it.
Living with diabetes has taught me important life lessons like to treasure the people around you; be grateful for little things in life; to celebrate small victories and to stand up for myself. It’s cliche but I refuse to submit to the notion that life has handed me the short straw.
There is so much more to living with diabetes than our HbA1c. There is no room for assumptions and judgements in healthcare, or anywhere! As individuals, you can make a difference by reframing the language used around diabetes. The Diabetes Australia Language Position Statement is a good start.