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 grew up saying diabetic and never thought of it having a possible negative connotation until I joined the DOC in 2010. For a while, I had an, “I don’t need to change” attitude. I am diabetic and deal with it. I compared it to playing sports. I’m a skiier, tennis player, runner, etc. No one describes athletes as people who… But then someone pointed out to me that I was comparing choices to something that we get stuck living with.
I realized diabetes was the only illness I didn’t start with “person with…” I suppose since I didn’t mind the term diabetic, I thought all others might feel that way. Over the years I have come to use people with diabetes. It still is not my go-to descriptor. If I am with my family or some of my very best friends with diabetes, I will say diabetic, but that’s because it takes so much less time for me! Saying “people with diabetes” takes time for me because I still have to think about it, edit the words in my head and THEN say it. I know it’s worthy of my time. If you hear me say diabetic and it’s a term that offends you, I am genuinely sorry. Please understand I view it as a piece of me and you, and that it has made you stronger.
Words are powerful; here are more.