THINK BACK to when you first found out that you had diabetes. How did you feel? Most people with diabetes have a strong emotional response to finding out they have diabetes.
Having feelings of anger, fear, sadness and guilt is perfectly normal. And the good news is that, over time, most people learn how to cope with those feelings, just as they learn to cope with diabetes. How? They figure out how to fit diabetes care into their day-to-day lives. They’ll have days when they struggle and other days when they get frustrated, but most of the time, they are able to cope with their feelings. They learn to manage their feelings and still do what they need to do to take care of themselves.
Hearing that you have a complication from your diabetes can upset this balance. You may find that you have many of the same feelings as when you were first diagnosed. You may feel scared that you are now at risk for other complications, or you might be angry that you now have another problem to manage. Some people feel guilty or ashamed that they were not able to prevent the complications and that others will judge them for not taking care of themselves.
All of these feelings are common and very real. Although there is no magic formula that works for everyone, there are some things you can do to handle these feelings so you can live life to its fullest.
MOVING FORWARD WITH DIABETES
1 Stop the blame game
One of the most common feelings about long-term complications is guilt. People remember all of the times they decided to eat dessert, not exercise or skip their medicine. They may view complications as a judgment of their efforts or punishment for their failures.
But most people with diabetes do the best they can day in and day out, and you probably do, as well. No one with diabetes is perfect, and no one expects you to be. Keep in mind that while blood glucose and blood pressure levels affect your risk for complications, there is no guarantee you will or won’t have them. The longer you live with diabetes, the greater your chances are for having complications. In addition, scientists believe that risk is also partly determined by your genes.
2 Find support
As with any hard situation, getting the support you need is key. The importance of a good supporter cannot be overstated. A good supporter is a good listener who doesn’t say “I told you so” or give advice. If you want to attend a support group, your healthcare team can help you find one. You can also find support through community forums on diabetes websites. Another option is to ask your healthcare provider for a referral to a behavioral or mental health specialist— preferably one who works with people who have diabetes.
Learning about diabetes is one way to feel more in control. But learning all you can goes beyond reading about complications or looking it up on the Internet. You need to learn all you can about how diabetes is affecting you now, what you can do to manage any complications you have, and what can be done to improve your future health.
4 Find out what’s new
Diabetes complications have been a major focus of research in recent years. There are newer and better therapies for those dealing with the complications of diabetes. The damage may not go away, but you may be able to stop or slow down any developments. If your healthcare provider does not have time to explain your options fully, ask if you can make an appointment just to talk about it or if there is a specialist to whom you could be referred.
5 Work smarter
Think about what you are doing to manage your diabetes now and how these same strategies can help you manage this new health problem. Some people find that an early sign of a complication can help them find the motivation to take better care of themselves. Coping with diabetes takes work, and coping with complications is even more difficult. But by learning all you can, acknowledging and expressing your feelings, and getting the support you need, you can be at peace with yourself and your diabetes.
- Know your limits, and don’t try to do more than you are able to do.
- Volunteer your time for a diabetes cause or another cause that is meaningful to you.
- Do something good for yourself, and laugh every day.
- Plan your day, and set goals you can meet.
- Break big tasks down into smaller steps and check off each step along the way.
- Do the most important things first.
- Do fewer things and do them better.
- Remind yourself that you cannot control or change other people.
- Pray, meditate or practice your faith.
- Use ways of coping that have worked for you in the past.
by Martha Funnell, MS, RN, CDE