Diabetes Survival 101


cuttingnuselowWhen I was six years old the doctor told me if I wasn’t careful I could die tomorrow, September 19th, 1971. If that wasn’t enough, they said that my life expectancy was 25 to 30 years. I gasped as the doctor told me my death sentence.

It is now almost 40 years later, and my present doctor said that I am healthier than most men my age. How could this be?

I had done everything wrong! The first five years I binged on candy, didn’t care if my blood sugars were in control. I was out of control. The following five years bingeing reduced, but I didn’t take care of my diabetes. Over the next seven years I graduated high school, and when I was in college, I was no longer bingeing. My diabetes control was a challenge, but I started figuring it out.

At twelve I started going to therapy to deal with the drama (everyone has some amount) in my life, but I never talked about diabetes. Just resolving the issues I was having with my family and the emotions I was going through helped me make room in my head for diabetes self-management.

It was still difficult. I am not even going to get into the management challenges college life brought me. It would have been nice to have someone to talk to about those challenges, but there was no therapist specializing in diabetes back then, unlike now.

I fully believe that therapy is a great source of support and I found relief from the mini traumas that come with diabetes, including daily frustration. I know! It surprised me as well. I thought I was insane, but I wasn’t. Most people who go to therapy are not crazy, but just need non-bias support dealing with issues they are going through or live with every day, like chronic illness or family stress.

Getting help takes a lot of strength, because many people are taught and encouraged to be independent, even if we need the support of others. Difficulty getting help is especially true for those dealing with a chronic condition like diabetes. Admitting we can’t do it alone anymore, takes a lot of courage and strength.

For my journey in psychotherapy, since I had been on my own my whole life, I had difficulty admitting that I couldn’t do it alone, but therapy helped me realize it can be easier. With support from a non-biased individual, like a therapist, it gets easier, not instantly, but it does.

Good therapists create a safe non-biased environment where you can talk about your issues without policing/judgment from family or friends. Diabetes-Focused Psychotherapy is a place where you can get diabetes management support without having to deal with being judged or getting into an argument.

There are so many techniques to manage diabetes or manage the emotions that come from it. Many management methods are unknown, even to those living with diabetes for decades. Before studying to become a Certified Diabetes Educator or developing Diabetes-Focused Psychotherapy, I thought I knew everything about diabetes.

After years of helping people living with diabetes, I look back and realize how little I knew back then. There is always more to learn and no limit to how much we can grow, whether it is diabetes management or living a happier, well-balanced life.

We are always learning new things every day and psychotherapy helps people gain new levels of clarity about their relationships and themselves, so they can learn how to manage life with less negative emotions and frustration.

Growing up, I never wanted to talk about my diabetes. I would say to myself, “No one will understand what it is like living with diabetes!” I was wrong. Eventually, I found a therapist who was empathic to what I was going through, and it only took two decades to share diabetes-specific feelings.

After so long, a big weight was lifted off my shoulders and management started getting easier. Psychotherapy helped me. In turn, I decided to help others living with diabetes, and that is how I ended up talking about diabetes every day.

Unlike, the insensitive discussions around my diabetes growing up, these conversations are constructive and helpful to my clients. I have also learned so much from my clients over the years, tips, tricks and unique ways to manage. In return, I now have a wealth of knowledge I can pass along to my incoming clients.

And after all these years why do I keep going back for therapy? It’s no longer about feeling anxious, frustrated, angry, and depressed or the myriad of other issues I was going through. Therapy is a great support; reducing stress, providing clarity, and keeping diabetes burnout at bay.

So, I went from a death sentence to a happier life with a personally satisfying career helping others living with diabetes. Thanks to my mom, because she decided to send me to therapy. I didn’t want to go, but I am grateful I did. Go figure!

For more on Diabetes-Focused Psychotherapy and how it might help you, go to my website www.diabetictalks.com and book a free consultation today.



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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