A few years ago, when the Diabetes Australia Language Position Statement was released, I wrote a post about why words used to describe people matter. At the time, I asked people around me to pick a noun or two that they would use to describe me. The polite suggestions made it on the list which looked like this:
These terms are all still correct. Actually, that’s not true. I’d probably replace ‘Twitter novice’ with ‘Twitter enthusiast’, but the rest are all true. Although, having said that, there have been (brief) periods in the intervening years where things have changed a little. I point specifically to the short-lived-but-still-boasted-about walking period. But that’s over now, so what-the-hey! What you see up there still describes me perfectly.
Many of these words are consistent with what I use for my author profile when I write for another site, or speaker bios when I present at conferences. When I have three or four short sentences, I want to convey the things that are the most important in my life – the focus.
Generally, all bios start with the same thing: ‘diabetes consumer advocate’. This is the bit that is particularly relevant to my work and what it is that I am writing or presenting about. But then there are other things that try to give a fuller representation of who I am. My Twitter profile has ‘wearer of stripes’. A recent bio noted my love of New York. Another pointed to my boot collection. In this blog’s bio, the pets get a mention.
And there, along with explaining where I live and with whom, you will find out that I have diabetes, but this is simply wrapped up in the other things that make me part of who I am.
Why is all this important? Because the things that make me who I am shape my thoughts and experiences of living with diabetes. The inner-city dwelling bit is important because when I write about ‘interviewing health care professionals’ it makes sense. I wouldn’t have this privilege if I was living in a remote area serviced by a single GP.
The scarf collector comment above along with the mentions of striped clothing and boots help explain the sartorial importance of diabetes paraphernalia. (Or I could just be shallow – you decide!)
And if I am talking at a conference about how I use social media for peer support, you can understand my love (and use) of Twitter or Facebook as a means of connecting with people.
Telling you that I am a mum to a gorgeous nine year old goes towards explaining the anxiety I feel when thinking of the genetics of type 1 diabetes. And when I write about how worried I am about how diabetes impacts on those around me, you can appreciate why I’d feel that way because I’ve briefly mentioned my immediate and extended family.
Even if we say – and truly want to believe – that diabetes doesn’t shape us, the truth of the matter is – it does. Of course it does. How can a condition that is so present, sends out reminders constantly, requires so much time and attention not feature in who we are? If it were not for diabetes, my life would be significantly different today.
I’ve no idea what I would be doing had my beta cells not taken early retirement, but I doubt it would involve being an advocate for a condition about which I know nothing (which is precisely how much I knew about diabetes before my diagnosis). But here’s the thing. All of those other things – the family, the love of travel, the addiction to coffee, the preoccupation with words and punctuation, being drawn to stripy clothes and loving cupcakes – those things would still be the same. All of them. It’s the diabetes that would be different. It just wouldn’t be there.