I am currently reading the old articles and posts of a respected blogger who has Type 2 diabetes. I came across an old article where he referred to “diabetic” as a politically incorrect term to refer to someone who has diabetes. I’ve encountered several people on online boards and blogs expressing their resentment of the use of “diabetic” as a noun. Their reason is that diabetes does not define the person, which for them is what the noun “diabetic” suggests.
Although I’ve always referred to myself as a diabetic, I spent some time today rethinking about my approach on this matter. I most definitely agree that diabetes does not wholly define anyone. But how does the word “diabetic” define anyone? I’ve always wondered how a “diabetic” is substantially different from a “person with diabetes,” “person who has diabetes” or “person living with diabetes.” Maybe my mind is too simplistic (I wouldn’t entirely discount that notion myself).
I call myself a diabetic. I’m lazy (rather, I’m “word efficient”) and it is easier to say and write “diabetic” than “person with diabetes,” “person living with diabetes” or “person who has diabetes,” and, personally, is far preferable to the acronym PWD (like a few others, POW comes to mind). Anyway, I never considered the word “diabetic” as setting up limitations on me. Maybe because I am used to people trying to throw various labels at me, and my mother telling me to never let those labels stick. Maybe because I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at a point in my life when I’m comfortable in my own skin, after I’ve met failures and challenges, and when I’ve had successes and achievements, so what people think of me are not as important as they would have been had I been younger. I wonder if my attitude would have been different had I been diagnosed much much earlier.
Basically, I don’t mind how people refer to me in reference to diabetes. But I do mind if they say it in a derogatory or condescending manner, or if they treat me with contempt and disrespect. As they say, action speaks louder than words.
One realization I reached today was that I call myself a diabetic because I am one. Diabetes is a part of me, no matter how much I distance myself from it. It is in me. It has wrecked havoc on my metabolic system. I live with it every second of the day, every day. With my diagnosis, I was faced with my mortality and physical vulnerability, I had to seriously review how I want to live (not just survive or exist) the rest of my life with this condition, and I learned much more about myself. So, yeah, it defines me to a degree, in the same way that my ethnicity, my nationality, my job, my family, my education, my hobbies, my experiences, my decisions, and so on and so forth about me, define me to a degree, in the sense that they all contribute to me being me. My diabetes is no different, and should not be treated differently. I mean, for instance, people usually identify themselves by their profession, knowing that their profession does not “define” them. I own every single thing, whether good or bad, that made me who and what I am. In the same line of thinking, I own the word “diabetic”, and I own diabetes.
I understand that others think differently, and I respect their views. But if you are a person with diabetes who happens to read my blog, please don’t take offense if I refer to me as a diabetic and to us as diabetics, as no offense, insult or thoughtlessness of any form is intended.