Speaking the CI language

I remember the first day of my last job. Everyone was throwing around acronyms I’d never heard before, and I had trouble just following the basic line of the conversation. I asked around for a list of these acronyms, but there wasn’t one. I immediately started creating a list of my own. When someone new was hired the next year, I gave them a copy of my oh-so-valuable list.

Every group has their own language. Whether you’re discussing race, illness, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, sex, a job type, a career type, an industry, or anything else, you use certain vocabulary that the general population won’t understand. You have your own terms and abbreviations. Sometimes they’re obvious and you’re aware of them. But sometimes they’re less obvious.

I often forget about the CI (chronic illness) language. Sure, my CI friends know that PT means “physical therapy,” or sometimes “patient,” but the rest of the English-speaking world doesn’t always make that association. We know what a spoonie is. We throw around SSDI (social security disability insurance) and LTD (long term disability insurance) as if everyone knows those acronyms. We talk about medications, insurances, different types of pain, and legal issues in our own vernacular.

It doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t wake up one day knowing these terms and phrases. But bit by bit, it’s easy to pick them up. Within the hypothyroid community I assume everyone knows about TSH, T3, Anti-TPO, and the other thyroid hormones and antibodies. It’s just assumed. At first I was confused, but now those terms are just as familiar as “dogs and cats.” We experience something unique to us, and it’s so useful to have the vocabulary to discuss it with others.

This struck me today. I was in a room of CI folks, with one non-CI person, and we were trying to explain how our lives have been changed to that one person. I noticed people using words that he didn’t understand, and I caught myself trying to change my terminology to be more mainstream. Later, when it was just us CI folks again, it was so great to speak however we wanted and to really understand each other. There’s something really awesome about that. It felt easy and familiar. It helps us to bond.

The language isn’t perfect, but it helps us to understand one another, and that’s what’s important. So the next time you have the chance, I highly recommend that you visit a patient group or check out the patient communities on social media (personally I’m involved on Facebook as me and on Twitter as @CIRants) to learn the phrases they use. Then enjoy it! There’s something great about being able to communicate with others in our group in our own way and we need to make the most of it.

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6 Responses to Speaking the CI language

  1. I love your blog! I have only been blogging for a few months, so I don’t know what all these awards are, but I nominate you for the “Damn, This Is A Great Blog, Why Wasn’t I Following It Via Email Before” award. Good stuff.
    It’s funny that you mention thyroid terms, because, as a new blogger, I am having the worst time writing about my thyroid issues. No matter what, the non-thyroid bloggers and the few healthy people I pestered into reading me just see a bunch of abbreviations beginning with the letter “T” and various numbers. I try to explain and provide links, and now probably the thyroid bloggers are wondering why I am explaining things they already know. Sigh.

    • chronicrants says:

      Aw, thanks! If you want to follow by email, there’s a signup in the top right corner of the page.

      As for terminology, just think about who you want your audience to be. I’ve chosen to write to a broad audience, so I keep the specific terminology to a minimum. If you want to write more to a thyroid-interested community, you can use the fancy terms.

      A compromise would be to add a page to your blog that contains all of the abbreviations, what they stand for, and definitions. Then you can link to that page in your blog, and not repeat yourself every time. I’m sure there are other things along these lines that you can do.

      I hope you’re enjoying your new blog! Good luck with it!

  2. Lorna Griffith says:

    I know what you mean, the world of education is full of them. I belong to six or seven patient groups or more on FB. Some pain or fibro or RA. It is great to be with people who understand you. I even belong to one group that friends and pets can join. My hubby got me a black Labrador puppy as he felt I needed some form of normalcy since I was sleeping later and later and being up most of the night. I wasn’t sure but I am sleeping better at night. She is very loving and stroking her is quite soothing. Hope you’re ok at the moment and your cpap machine and new med are working for you.
    Take care
    Lorna x

    • chronicrants says:

      Oh Lorna, I’m so jealous! Puppies are the best, and Labs are awesome! Your hubby is a smart one! There have been studies to show that petting dogs lowers blood pressure and heart rate and reduces stress. I think pet owners live longer, too. Just one word of caution: Labs get big, and one of these days she might take over the bed 🙂

      The CPAP is definitely helping. I’m still having issues, but it’s definitely an improvement – thanks for remembering!

      Be sure to share updates about your new little girl!

  3. No, I think I was already following you on WordPress, but I didn’t realize that I hadn’t checked “receive updates via email.” WordPress and I are having some issues. 🙂 I think I’m going to do the glossary, definitely, when I get around to it. Thank you for that idea. What I was doing was linking to other sites when I wanted to define something, but doing that draws the reader away from finishing my post. I am definitely not a medical expert or a researcher, but there is just no way to avoid mentioning certain issues. Also, I think it can be helpful for other people if you say you had this test or that test or are taking this or that supplement (in case they are doing the same). By the way, I tend to write really long-ass comments when I relate to something, so I always tell people I don’t expect them to do the same. Glad your CPAP is working out. 🙂

    • chronicrants says:

      Yeah, it’s a tough line to draw. I’m trying not to write about specifics that are out-of-the-box thinking unless I know they’re working, so I include some details, but not a lot. With any luck, that will change one of these days.

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