Diabetes and Relationships Part 2: Tools for Coping

hug_1Last Post, I examined how diabetes mismanagement can devastate a person’s emotional health, and, as a consequence, his or her relationships. A diabetes diagnosis can make you and your loved ones feel like you’ll never be yourself again. However, proper healthcare, therapy, and clear communication with those close to you can end the cycle of illness and depression.

A diabetes diagnosis can place a strain on even the happiest relationship, but it doesn’t have to end it. While it’s natural not to want to burden your loved ones, you have to let them help and understand you. Remember to:

  • Inform your significant other if you’re not feeling well or your blood sugars are off—he or she shouldn’t have to ask!
  • Express your limitations, so your partner knows to be flexible and patient, instead of branding you as lazy or uninterested.
  • Ask your partner to express concern if he or she sees you’re not your usual self. And when he or she does, listen.
  • Take blood tests often, and share the results with your partner.
  • Wait until blood sugars return to normal before eating. Dinner can wait—your significant other will understand.
  • Change your internal thoughts to allow for mistakes. No one is perfect.
  • Avoid placing blame, and replace the phrase, “should have” with “could have.”
  • Commit to a handful of simple, low-pressure tasks, and follow through even if you’re feeling sad or foggy. Do the chores on Sunday; watch a movie with your partner.
  • Seek professional guidance if you’re emotions are interfering with your happiness and daily life.

Mental illness and diabetes tend to be a package deal. But the story doesn’t have to end there—mine didn’t. I’m thankful every day for my mother’s decision to send me to psychotherapy. If it weren’t for that initial support, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I can’t stress enough the importance of seeking counseling, cognitive behavioral psychotherapy or a certified diabetes educator as part of your diabetes care.

No two people are the same. But for many people living with diabetes, reducing the emotional impact of high and low blood sugars starts with speaking up about their health. Do you:

  • Inform the people in your life when your blood sugars are high or low and remind or tell them that is why your behavior might be off or odd.
  • Discuss the emotional symptoms of diabetes with people you care about.
  • If someone comes up to you regardless of who they are and asks if you are okay, check your blood sugars and regardless of high, low or normal, thank them and inform them if the level is off and your taking care of it.
  • Always have the proper food available.
  • Don’t end up in a stressful situation where your friends, family members or you are angry or frustrated.
  • Bring your fast acting insulin with you everywhere in case your blood sugar is high.

While it may seem like constantly monitoring what you put in your body is more trouble than it’s worth, these relatively simple changes make returning to your old life possible. When you’re overly careful and over-prepared, you’ve got the sense of security to handle whatever comes at you. Keep reaction supplies like glucose tablets or gels easily accessible. Decide in advance should you experience low blood sugar; tell you, boss, tell your coworkers, and make a plan.

A diabetes diagnosis brings a slew of emotional issues, but it’s also highly manageable. When your diabetes is managed well, the emotional issues become manageable, too. That’s where I come in. As a veteran Type I diabetic, I’ve dedicated my life to helping other people with diabetes in the New York Metro area and via video sessions. For me, the most important piece of my health care puzzle was emotional health and support. And I’ve helped hundreds of people with diabetes find the same relief.

For information on Diabetes-Focused Psychotherapy and how it might help you; go to my website, www.diabetictalks.com today.

Medical Disclaimer:

All the advice included in this blog is therapeutic in nature and should not be considered medical advice. Prior to making any changes to your diabetes maintenance program, please consult with your primary physician or endocrinologist.

Published by Eliot LeBow LCSW, CDE

Eliot LeBow, LCSW, CDE, is a diabetes-focused psychotherapist, diabetes-coach, presenter, and writer. 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. Diabetes-Focused Psychotherapy takes a holistic approach combining traditional talk therapy with diabetes education and management help. It addresses both the physical and emotional aspects of living life with diabetes while still addressing other non-diabetes related life problems to create a unique holistic approach to helping people with diabetes thrive.

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