Choice of Words: Suffering From or Living With?
There are a lot of things about the way people discuss type 1 diabetes that annoy me. And in some cases, drive me totally bat-shit crazy. The most obvious is that I don’t like when people use the term “diabetes” to describe something that is innately type 2 only, such as “If you lose weight, you too can cure your diabetes!” or “Obesity is a leading cause of diabetes.” I don’t like when people say “You can’t eat that,” I don’t like it when people say, “Do you really have to do that here?” and I definitely don’t like it when people say, “Oh, grandmother died from diabetes.” You know, there is a reason you shouldn’t walk up to strangers puffing away on the streets going screaming “OMG SMOKING CAUSES CANCER YOU’RE GONNA DIE!!!”
Because it’s RUDE.
But what really gets me is when people talk about “diabetic sufferers.” I actually wrote a bit about this last spring, and had quite a bit of lovely feedback.
However, I have surprisingly noticed a couple of people with diabetes using this phrase, which shocked me a bit. I was thinking about this over the weekend and I’ve decided that I, personally, am not a diabetic sufferer. But I know people who are. I know people who are caused pain by diabetes day in and day out. There is definitely a select group of people who suffer because of diabetes. But there is also a large group of people who are not necessarily suffering from diabetes and I sort of resent this label that I am suffering in some way.
I am a 24 year old college graduate who successfully moved across the country, scored a gig at a top PR agency working in the fastest growing field of social media, I have a totally awesome boyfriend, I have traveled to 18 states and 3 countries, I have awesome friends, and everything else in my body is working perfectly fine after 16 years of having type 1 diabetes. Do I look like I’m suffering?
Of course, I suffer sometimes. Diabetes is a wackadoo disease that doesn’t like to sit still. It is unpredictable and annoying from minute to minute. I suffer when diabetes makes me feel physically ill. It creates emotional hurdles that are out of this world (more on that later this week…). But that’s the disease, not me. I am not wallowing away in a hospital bed waiting for my end days to come. I am part of a vibrant, active community who doesn’t sit still for an instant.
Suffering happens, but it is not a state of being.
A lot of this is semantics, I realize. It is the words in which we use to describe the exact same thing. What is suffering to one person may be living to another person, and vice verse. I am sure there are people reading this who think very well that they are suffering from diabetes, and like I said, it’s fine to think that. I am not talking about people are legitimately suffering from the effects of diabetes. But I think it is strong language to describe each and every one of us as “sufferers” because I think it paints an unnecessary negative picture of people who are living with diabetes. There is enough drama in my life without having someone treat me as a fragile doll incapable of doing anything for herself or making rational decisions about her medical care.
While I was doing a bit of googling on the term “diabetic sufferers,” I came across this post in which a man named Matt Browne stated:
Knowledgeable diabetics don’t suffer. The term “diabetes sufferers” is biased and certainly not appropriate. It creates stigmas.
I think this, in my mind, is why I don’t like the term “diabetic sufferers.” I’m perfectly willing to discuss all the drama that goes into keeping me alive. But I don’t “suffer” from the finger pricks, the multiple gadgets I carry around in my person, the lifeline tethered to my abdomen. They are not pleasant and they are downright terrible things to have to do on a daily basis, but when I’m walking down the streets of Manhattan, or I’m window-shopping in Soho, or having a coffee in the Village, I certainly don’t consider myself to be suffering. In fact, to say that I think belittles the people who actually are suffering.
Perhaps someday I will come to a point where I am suffering from diabetes. Perhaps someday I will go blind or suffering an overflow of protein in my urine because my kidney are damaged or perhaps someday the tingling I feel in my feet first thing in the morning will turn into full blown diabetic neuropathy.
But until that happens, until that happens for each and everyone of us, please, I beg you, do not call me a “diabetic sufferer” unless I really am suffering. Please do not make this disease prematurely worse than it already is.
What do you think: Do you consider yourself a “diabetic sufferer?” Why or why not?