I was talking to a friend earlier today and we were discussing some nutrition information and swapping recipes. This is something we like to do regularly. Some background…She has diabetes, and is very careful about what she eats, when, and what combinations of foods she eats at a time. So far she has been lucky enough to manage her condition by diet and exercise, although doctors are still keeping a close eye on her. Today, she said something that really got me thinking. In our conversation, I was teasing her about how meticulous she was with her measurements when it came to food ( all good-natured of course). And her reply was, “Well I am a diabetic, what do you expect?”. I found it interesting that she, and many other people who have diabetes, identify themselves AS the condition, rather than a PERSON with the condition.
I then emailed a friend who has Celiac and asked her how she identifies herself. She also replied that she, and many of the members in her support group, identify themselves as “celiacs”. There is just so much about this labeling that bothers me. There are many other conditions that are life long that people deal with all the time, yet they do not identify themselves AS the condition, they just say they HAVE the condition. So what makes conditions like Celiac and diabetes so different. Why are people relating themselves AS the disease?
I would really love to see people step away from this. Yes, you may have a condition, and yes it may be something that you have to deal with for the rest of your life. But, your disease DOES NOT define YOU! You are the only person that can do that. I think that the more we encourage terminology change (ie… I am a person with Celiac disease, or I am a person with diabetes) the more people with these afflictions will be able to feel more “normal”.
After I did some thinking, I called my friend back this morning and asked her why she identified herself in such a way. She seemed surprised that I brought it up and was genuinely thankful for my observation. She did not even realize the way she was referring to herself and her condition. She agreed that it was much more empowering for her to be a person with diabetes, than a diabetic. So, I encourage all of you to listen to when friends are talking…and if they do identify themselves as a condition they have… ask them why. Many may be like my friend and not even realize that they do it.
I would love to hear feedback on this issue. Please weigh in on questions and comments. Let me know how you identify yourselves and why. Or let me know if you think I am completely off track. I would love to hear everything!