What Did I Do? Diabetes MisManagement?


“It happened to me. It could ha happen to you. In fact, it could happen to any insulin-dependent person living with diabetes.”

When I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in the summer of 1977, there wasn’t an accurate way to manage blood sugar. While it was impossible to regulate blood sugar due to a lack of information and technology, it was less stressful. Most individuals living with diabetes wouldn’t blame themselves for high blood sugars like many do today. No wondering if we counted the carbs wrong because there was no carb counting back then.

The perception back then was that we had very little control over diabetes, while high’s and low’s were just part of the illness. It’s fascinating how our perceptions have changed along with technological improvements and our ability to manage diabetes.

I remember feeling sick a lot while feeling helpless and alone with the illness. I was never diagnosed with depression, but I defiantly felt depressed. My mother sent me to therapy when I was 12 years old. I didn’t directly talk about my diabetes, but the psychotherapy did make me feel better about myself. I realized in therapy that there were just something I couldn’t control but somethings I could.

I was depressed and burnt out by nine years old, but I didn’t realize it. I believed what most people think, that depressed people have no motivation and sleep on the couch all day. I didn’t always feel depressed, sad or anxious. There were good days and sick days. I thought that feeling sad, down, lonely and angry was a regular part of life. On the good day’s I forgot about the bad ones, and on a bad day, I just prayed for it to be over. When this is all you know, how would anyone know different?

It took months of therapy for me to realize that better was out there and I didn’t have to live in so much pain and anxiety. I was being hard on myself and didn’t even realize I was doing it, till my therapist helped me see it. After a few years of therapy, I graduated and felt much better. Talking about my problems with someone who not only heard me but listened, really helped.

I still hadn’t addressed my diabetes in therapy. About, how much anger, loneliness, sadness, and frustration it caused me. In the first round of psychotherapy, I learned that I was not responsible for other people’s feelings or making everyone happy. I only need to take responsibility for my actions.

Here is the catch. How much clarity did I have to my actions and when it came to diabetes management? What did taking responsibility, really mean? I believe I started using a glucose meter when I was 16 years old. It was when I started noticing my management errors. At first, I started taking responsibility, to much responsibility. This responsibility caused a lot of undue stress in my life.

As a teenager, I didn’t have many ways to cope with this unnecessary stress or being responsible for diabetes mismanagement and didn’t think about going back to therapy, so I went into denial. If I thought my blood sugars were high or low, I wouldn’t test and only tested if I thought my blood sugars were good. My poor management and denial went on for a few years, but eventually, I returned to therapy because I was tired of struggling with the physical and emotional trauma/drama.

Knowing my blood sugar was traumatic! I blamed myself for every high and low. I always asked myself, “What did I do this time and where did I mess up?” I didn’t understand that I couldn’t control everything that affects blood sugar levels. I didn’t know that there are multiple factors like metabolism, that play a role in how effective insulin is.

Management Complexity
It took years of personal reflection, professional research, working with people living with diabetes and becoming a Certified Diabetes Educator, to understand how many things impact management. How little control I have over them and how to successfully deal with them.

“I may not know what caused the high or low blood sugar, but that’s okay.”

Helping my clients living with diabetes manage, understand and accept the impact of the many factors they cannot control is critical to emotionally sound management. It is the acceptance of the many uncontrollable factors, which helped me understand that diabetes cannot be controlled, but diabetes could be managed with less frustration.

Therapy has helped me understand myself, my issues with diabetes and my relationships with my family. It has helped me gain control of my diabetes management, assume my role in diabetes management and helped me realize that it is okay to be compassionate to myself.

It took years of effort and education so I could understand the complexities of living with diabetes to help others. I no longer say to myself, “What did I do?” Instead, I make the needed correction at the moment and accept that I may not know what caused the high or low blood sugar, but that’s okay.

Diabetes-focused Psychotherapy was created to help people find clarity while improving blood sugar levels. I don’t do this to judge (you most likely have people who will do that for free), I developed Diabetes-Focused Psychotherapy to help others living with diabetes get the most out of their life and the ability to talk through their issues with negative thoughts, feelings, frustrations, management issues and much more.

To schedule a consultation please call 917-272-4829 or email me at eliot.lebow@gmail.com.

For more on Diabetes-Focused Psychotherapy go to my website www.diabetictalks.com and if interested, please schedule a 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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