Language and Diabetes – Wednesday 5/18 There is an old saying that states “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.
The first two verbs you learn in most languages are ‘to have’ and ‘to be’. Once you known them, you can say so much.I teach French. That’s my job and I love it! As with many languages, these two verbs are irregular in French. ‘Être’ to be, and ‘avoir’ to have, don’t follow the rules. Most of the time we use them in the same places as we do in English but there are some notable exceptions. We practise and practise these verbs so we know when to use them correctly.
Along comes type 1 diabetes into our family and suddenly I am aware of the importance of these verbs in another context. Initially I wasn’t even aware of the difference between saying ‘my son is diabetic’ and ‘my son has diabetes’ but it didn’t take me long to see the nuance of difference. I am not critical of the language other people use here but I am always careful to say that my son has diabetes as, saying he is diabetic, seems to make it define him! He is the sum of his parts and diabetes is only one part of that. It is not all of it. It does not define him.
‘Suffer’ is another word which I shudder to hear when it’s linked to Type 1 diabetes. It’s such an emotive word and for me conjures up images of people who are incapacitated and writhing about in pain. My son lives a full, active life and when I see television news items which refer to those with diabetes suffering, I want to throw something at the television. I feel that words like this turn people into victims and disempower them. How is hearing language like that supposed to make people feel?
Any kind of diabetes being used as a punchline in a joke, will set me off. I took leftover food from a diabetes fundraiser into my work last year. A lovely man I work with, reached over me to grab a cake and asked, “This won’t give me diabetes, will it?” Once I’d picked my jaw up off the floor, I looked at him and said,”That’s not even funny! Diabetes is never a joke, ever! Ok?”. He looked very sheepish and came over later to apologise. We had a short, strained conversation where I enlightened him about diabetes, Types 1 and 2. He will never make a joke about diabetes again. Of that I am sure. Do not mess with a Scottish mammy!
Three years ago I knew almost nothing about diabetes. Now I speak another language of acronyms- I can splatter my conversation with BGLS, PWD, MDIs but the doesn’t means that my PWD on MDI has his BGL in range despite his best efforts! At the end of the day, words are words but WE NEED A CURE!