Time To Celebrate or Mourn? 40-Years With Diabetes!

Sad Guy at PartyI was in my therapist’s office… Yes, I still go and why not? It’s still a great source of support. While I no longer need help managing my diabetes, you’d be amazed at the little bits of information I get that improve my management skills.

Sorry for the sidebar. Now back to my therapist’s office. The session has ended and being a therapist “I know better,” but for some reason while heading out the door at the end of the session, I said, “I am going to be sad this coming Monday.” This is called a “doorknob” and for obvious reasons.

That was a very atypical action and statement for me, so my therapist inquired as to the reason. I replied that “my 40th anniversary of living with diabetes is coming up and that I was just acknowledging that I was going to be sad.”

See? 40 years ago I lost several freedoms that other people take for granted. For many years following my diagnosis, I was sad every day, and one might even say I was depressed. After years of self-exploration, with the helpful guidance of talk therapy, I have accepted most of the issues caused by diabetes.

My therapist acknowledged my response and said: “people with diabetes are a little sad every day about living with diabetes.” In retrospect, I think she was referring to my adolescence when I was sad every day.

She said I didn’t have to be sad. I said, “Some celebrate! There are even awards that Joslin give out at the 50-year mark. The inevitable truth is that it is okay to feel sad once in a while and even embrace it. For me, it is helpful to feel sad when I am sad and not ignore it. I find it useful to mourn the losses that occurred due to my diabetes. It gives me a chance to take stock of what I do have in my life.”

While being sad (or angry) could be a daily event, we all experience diabetes differently. And after years of therapy, I no longer feel sad or depressed. It has become a part of my daily routines, like brushing my teeth. While it didn’t happen overnight, in therapy I worked hard on accepting my diabetes and building better coping mechanisms to deal with the day-to-day frustrations that inevitably comes with diabetes.

Some people may boast about how many years they have lived with diabetes as though it was a badge of honor. I was that person not so long ago, but that war and denial ended for me. I would say things like “I am going to live to 106 years old so I can be the first person to live with diabetes for 100 years.” Well, that is something to look forward to… Not!

Hopefully, there will be a cure in my lifetime. But until then it is important to acknowledge our feelings and talk about them, so they don’t build up and continue to hurt us.

I am proud of what I have accomplished while living with diabetes. After all, living with diabetes is a long hard road. In many ways, diabetes has helped me succeed in other aspects of life. It taught me to take action at the moment and much more. It took decades to realize that it also had a positive effect on my life.

While it is an accomplishment to live so long with it, I find it beneficial to acknowledge that this landmark event is also sad. After leaving my therapists office, I told my friends and family that my anniversary was coming up and shared how they can best support me.

I wanted to avoid the hundred plus Facebook comments that go something like this, “Dude, it is like, Soooooo awesome that you reached the 40-year mark. Here’s to another 40.”

Sitting in silence about feeling sad or angry does not help anyone. It was good that I told my friends that it is going to be a tough day. I am grateful for the friends that helped me through my 40th and that psychotherapy helped me to accept and understand not just my diabetes but my feelings as well.

One of the reasons I still go to therapy is for emotional support and to reduce my risk of diabetes burnout. This allows me to be present and clear-headed when helping my clients manage all their emotional and management issues that come with diabetes and other life issues.

After years of therapy help, I have days where I forget that I have diabetes while still managing it. It’s a beautiful thing and one of the many reasons I created diabetes-focused psychotherapy.

I hope that others on their anniversary embrace their feelings. It is hard because those feelings are mixed. You don’t have to sit alone; you don’t have to suffer in silence while acting like everything is okay. Reach out to sympathetic friends. If you don’t have a sympathetic ear to listen to you or you are struggling to find relief, please reach out.

My therapy practice was created to help anyone living with diabetes. Please call (917) 272-4829 for more information or to schedule your first Diabetes-Focused Psychotherapy® Session.

www.diabetictalks.com Helping People With Diabetes Thrive!®

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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