Put Down Your War Metaphor….And Back Away…Slowly
Listen, I know it’s really popular, talking about “fighting” health conditions like cancer and diabetes, “winning” or “losing” battles with weight loss, but all this talk about going to war is exhausting, and old, and overdone, bad for you health, and frankly reminds me too much of politics these days.
So let’s give it a rest, okay? Do we really have to talk about our health, and our bodies like this? As if they are scorched battlegrounds where only one force will preside in the end? It’s rather dehumanizing, and tends to glorify the “fight” versus acknowledge the person, or the body, in the struggle.
I’m going to tell you about my daughter, Lilah, who is 4, and lives with type 1 diabetes. Diabetes has been in our lives since she was two and a half. You read that right. Diabetes has “been in our lives”. We’re not battling it. There is no war going on here.
I am sure I am going to piss some of you off with this article, and my “make a life, not a war” stance on health. This is a gripping metaphor that has driven the way we tell stories, make movies, celebrate and elect leaders, run governments and causes, and yes, talk about diseases for years. But hear me out for a minute, or least until the end of this piece.
I mean, if I referred to my daughter’s “battle” with type 1 diabetes as such, that doesn’t really leave much room to talk about all the lovely in-between that is called LIFE. Should I go around saying, “well, we lost another battle with diabetes last night. Her blood sugars were so high all night long. I just couldn’t get them to come down”? Did I, or she, “lose” because of this? What constitutes “winning” and “losing” when it comes to type 1 diabetes? Is winning keeping her alive, and losing having her die in the night from a low blood sugar, or go into DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) from prolonged untreated high blood sugar? Is winning having a perfect 83 blood sugar once during the day, or all day, or an HbA1C of 5.0 or less over the period of a few months (markers of “normal” blood sugar levels)? Is losing having any numbers higher than that?
As you can see, winning and losing is hard to define, and by talking like this we lose sight of a 4 year old girl, who is otherwise healthy, loves dinosaurs, drawing, watching movies with her dad, and pestering her older brother (in only the way a little sister can). All the good stuff of a “normal” childhood that gets lost when we talk about winning and losing, and good and bad numbers as it relates to diabetes.
I haven’t been at the role of diabetes caregiver all that long, but from my jaunts through a multitude of related Facebook groups, it appears it can be a competitive, war-metaphor laced culture, full of warrior and victim archetypes.
And talking like this about my caregiving abilities, or my daughter’s health, feels degrading, negative, and feeds into the very black and white thinking that pervades our medical system and how we talk about disease and other emotionally charged topics.
I propose raising the energetic vibration of this conversation about health, to get all Woo on you, and cast out to you the notion that we could talk about type 1 diabetes, and other illnesses, in a different way.
What if we could begin to extend a little peace, and forgiveness, and gentleness to our bodies and these diseases that move in to our lives?
What if we could see type 1 diabetes, or breast cancer, as a part of us, but not the whole?
What if, we could send loving energy, through our use of words, and how we talk to these tired, struggling parts of our bodies?
And say, “I get it, Dear Pancreas, you’re fucking tired. In fact, you’re so tired you just stopped working. And that leaves Lilah in a tough spot. So we’re all going to send you, Dear Pancreas, and Lilah, some good vibes today.”
What if we could say just that, instead of “Fuck Diabetes! It kept me up all damn night, going up and down, all around! Poor Lilah- she doesn’t deserve this!”
Do you feel the very different energy between those two statements? One is definitely heavier. Yup, that second one is all defended, angry, it’s got it’s guns loaded, and ready to fire at anyone in its path. My chest is tight just typing that little paragraph.
Uh, NO THANK YOU.
I don’t want to walk around like that all day. Angry, anxious, wound up, and playing either the warrior or the victim.
I’m not saying that warriors and victims don’t exist. But I challenge you to ask yourself the question, do they have to exist in how we talk about disease, and illness, and bodies? Can we not draw these diseases closer, acknowledge that they are indeed a part of our lives, of us, instead of putting them at arms length, on the other end of a sword or gun, and find that they too prefer the energy of compassion, and gentleness?