Are You 'Diabetic' or Do You Have 'Diabetes' ?

Are you a diabetic or do you have diabetes?

When you meet somebody for the first time, and they see you with your insulin pump or giving injections. How do you introduce the fact that you have diabetes? Do you say that you have diabetes or that you are a diabetic. To somebody without or perhaps even with the condition, this can seem like the same thing. But this was a really interesting debate that I had with fellow people with diabetes, at the IDF Europe camp last week. Some people argued that the two are just ways of describing the same thing, that someone with diabetes is a diabetic.

But when I thought about it for a minute, I felt that having diabetes and being diabetic were and are not the same thing. Saying that you have diabetes suggests that diabetes is something that you happen to have. Yes it is a small part of you, but having diabetes is not the whole part of you. There is an awful lot more to your personality than injections and blood sugar tests. However, saying that you are a diabetic is like saying that there is no difference between the disease and you. That diabetic is what you are first and a person second after that.

These might seem like small details, but people with diabetes can often be named all kinds of things. The most hurtful I've experienced are the ones people 'joke' about calling you. Such as a drug addict when you get your pens out to inject. The name that also seems to come up a lot is that of 'bad diabetic'. When people without diabetes 'advise' those that do have it, about what they can and cannot eat and should and should not do. It can be frustrating for people to assume that you don't know enough about your own condition that they need to do it for you.

An interesting thing that came up about labels at the IDF camp was that for example in some European countries people with diabetes are given cards that say that they have a disability as they have diabetes. In the UK unless someone has suffered severe complications of their diabetes, then this isn't usually the case. With the diabetes disability card people can be given special privileges. But the debate was that if you label people disabled, then the assumption is that it's okay to treat them as disabled.

In the end it is your condition to manage and control, so what you 'name' it should be up to you in my opinion.


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My blog takes you through a daily look at sport, diabetes and everything in between. As an athlete that lives with type 1 diabetes I want to let you into news, views and all that is important to both of my passions.

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