May 28

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Diabetic labelling and stigmas

Diabetes LabellingDuring the second century Diabetes was the only word that a Greek physician could find to describe the condition of his patient who had the clinical symptoms of passing large amounts of water. DIABETES therefore means: passing large amounts of water.

The English language has since recognized the word Diabetic as a noun which means a person suffering from diabetes. You might wonder where I’m actually leading you to: People living with the condition Diabetes Mellitus are and have been labeled with the term diabetic.

The word diabetic is being used to identify people living with Diabetes Mellitus. We don’t even realize that we are labeling people. The person is now actually suffering more from the medical term diabetic than its clinical symptoms, just because it is used as a personal noun replacing his or her name. People have names for an identity with a unique personality. When the uniqueness of this person’s identity is being camouflaged with a medical term and the person is being referred to as a diabetic, the emotional mind starts to overrule the rational mind of the person living with the chronic condition. Thoughts such as “Who am I” start to appear in the mind of the person living with diabetes. Questions such as “Why Me” follow with feelings of anger which are subconsciously underlined with feelings of rejection, loneliness and self-destruction.

I can identify with the following thoughts that cross the minds of most people diagnosed with Diabetes Mellitus: I don’t want to be labeled. I don’t want to lose my identity. I don’t want to change. I don’t want to be different or made to feel inadequate, anxious and not worthy. I want to be seen as part of the team and to be treated no differently to anyone else and I don’t want to be discriminated against.

I must emphasize that I refer to living with Diabetes Mellitus, not suffering from and surely not dying of it. People living with Diabetes Mellitus can live long constructive lives. Diabetes affects people of all sectors of life (from captains of industry, ministers of government to high ranking officials). Diabetes Mellitus is no longer a death sentence and should not be viewed as such, because it is a medical condition that can be understood, embraced and controlled.

Thanks to Frederick Banting and Charles Best, who discovered insulin (a hormone deriving its name from an island) during October 1920, millions of people have been saved in the last century from an early and certain death.  Don’t you think and agree that if the hormone insulin had never been discovered and isolated for human use, that the identity camouflaging terminology diabetic would never have seen the light? Makes one think, doesn’t it?

The box of disempowerment

When diagnosed with Diabetes, not only is one labeled with an identity but also boxed between walls of disempowerment.

As a newly diagnosed diabetic, I as a person not only have to manage the condition, but also the label, with new limitations to live with. I feel like a crime victim who has done something wrong. From the day that we are diagnosed we are warned about the don’ts?

We feel we’ve been locked away (just as if in prison) and the key is in the hand of the gatekeeper and we are stuck in there for the rest of our lives. Where has my freedom gone? How can I free myself? I have feelings of inadequacy, anger, sadness, rejection, loneliness and isolation.   I am now told what to do and when to do it. My freedom of choice has been denied. Or has it? How can I change this? But what if the box of disempowerment was never intended to exist? If I could learn everything I need to know about the condition Diabetes Mellitus and be knowledgeable with my rational mind, my emotional mind would be detached and totally intact. No boxes would ever have to exist in the mind of the person living with the condition Diabetes Mellitus.

The question however exists. Do we teach the newly diagnosed person how to control their diabetes or are we actually teaching the newly diagnosed person that the diabetes is controlling them? I still declare that my bold statement on the cover of my first educational diabetes booklet that stated the following: Knowledge is the KEY. Learn to understand, to accept to control is the answer.

People living a co-dependent life with diabetes

Many people are and have been living co-dependent lives which means in short, taking care of someone who is in need of love and attention/affection and then taking control of this person to enable them to feel self-worth. When a co-dependent person gets diagnosed with the condition Diabetes Mellitus, the mindfulness of such a ‘victim’ is a challenge to analyse.  Since the co-dependent person diagnosed with diabetes seems to lose their identity (due to lack of self-esteem) with the camouflage of the term diabetic, the confusion of who is in control starts to affect the rational mind. And now the question arises: who needs who? Does diabetes need to control me or do I need to control diabetes? I suffer pain and anxiety and am threatened with a battle at hand. However, like a good soldier, I need to know as much as possible about the enemy to arm myself to be able to defend or attack the enemy.  There is so much I have to learn and I have to think wisely, but since I’m so disempowered with the concrete walls surrounding me, I can only apply my emotional mind. This mind is filled with thoughts of rejection and loneliness, which could only lead me to do the most inappropriate thing. I might rebel and go wild in attack or I might just give up and crawl into a small bundle and cry. If I could have only not been ruled by my emotional mind, but predominantly by the rational, I would have made a better choice and concerted effort to take control and manage my borders and defend the enemy where and when I was weak in my defence.

So many people play a part in one’s life, so one cannot point any fingers, but I just want all of you to know that people living with diabetes are good soldiers and quite capable of fulfilling their roles in the battlefield of life. With self-esteem intact and a sense of independence, all people can live a fulfilling and meaningful life.

Inevitably nearly everybody suffers from something; might it be depression, back pain or diabetes.

Diabetes is and will always remain a condition affecting the human being, but it gives no one the right to lose out on life and to be a victim of circumstance.

Therefore knowledge and understanding and a mind-over-matter attitude will rule out self-destructive behaviour and beat the stigmas that lead to negative connotations associated with diabetes.

People with diabetes mellitus are not walking on tight ropes and they are not dancers on thin ice. Their lives are safely in their hands and will not be shattered or fall like dust through their hands.

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