I remember back in the day, when I was alone with my disease. No one I knew had it, and most didn’t know I had it either. It’s not like anyone would introduce themselves like, “Hi my name is Eliot, and I have diabetes! ‘Really, me too!’” Nope people with diabetes were all alone, and I had to do it all by myself.
With no support and no one to talk to I felt lonely and isolated. Many including myself were told growing up that it is important to be independent and “If you are not you are weak!” Teamwork seems to be shunned in a capitalist society and doing it yourself is praised. After all, you don’t want the other person to beat you to the prize, reach the top of the corporate ladder ahead of you or win the race.
Unfortunately, diabetes is something you have to manage. Being independent can be a weakness when living with diabetes!
Being independent comes with a cost when living with diabetes. What it has cost me has been high. I have had many arguments around diabetes that involved not letting loved ones help. It caused many fights that were caused by not telling people when my blood sugars were either high or low. My Blood sugar control, was more erratic due to arguing with those people who just wanted to help, creating more drama in my life.
As a child, I suffered from depression for many years till I sought out help and shared how difficult life with diabetes was. I still struggled with managing my diabetes for several more years, but it was a start.
I still hear that inner voice now and then. “Don’t let others know your blood sugar is high or they will blame you and think you are bad, weak or maybe even punish you.” That was my irrational voice talking because, as an adult, no one can punish me unless I let them. It is how I felt a haunting voice from the past.
If in a relationship, and someone does penalize you for sharing. Then maybe it is not you, but how the diabetes is being managed in the relationship. If that is happening, perhaps it is time to live a more interdependent life. The first step might be going to see a therapist, where you can discuss the challenges in your relationship as it pertains to diabetes.
Being interdependent comes with great benefits when you are living with diabetes. Being more accepting of people helping, reduces sensitivity around discussing diabetes management and increases blood sugar control. Fewer arguments, less drama, increased emotional stability and better control of my diabetes and me.
Involving others (who are receptive) helps a person living with diabetes to feel and be supported as well as feel less alone. Sharing that you are experiencing high blood sugars creates understanding as to why you may be over sensitive or emotional with the one you love. When it comes to diabetes management, involving your loved ones allows them to feel less like an outsider and helps them be more understanding.
If you don’t give others a chance to empathize or understand, then no one ever will, and you will continue to feel alone.
Back in the 1970’s, there were few to no place to get support outside your immediate family. Now, there are many places. Online communities, chat rooms and Meetup groups to name just a few online resources. Organizations like JDRF, Joslin Diabetes Center, Children With Diabetes, ADA and others, have events where people with diabetes and their families can meet, interact and get helpful information on diabetes self-management as well as much needed support. Oh, almost forgot to mention the ongoing emotional support of the mental health communities and informational support provided by Certified Diabetes Educators.
So reach out. Help is here. You just have to ask.
Eliot LeBow, LCSW, CDE, is a diabetes-focused psychotherapist. His private practice, located in New York City and is also available via Skype. LeBow, who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1977, treats the many diverse cognitive, behavioral, and emotional needs of people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
All the advice included in this blog is therapeutic in nature and should not be considered medical advice. Before making any changes to your diabetes maintenance program, please consult with your primary physician or endocrinologist.