I remember back in the day, when I was alone with my disease. No one I knew had it and most didn’t know I had it either. It’s not like anyone would introduce themselves like, “Hi my name is Eliot and I have diabetes! ‘Really, me too!’” Nope people with diabetes were all alone and I had to do it all by myself.
With no support and no one to talk to I felt lonely and isolated. Many including myself were told growing up that it is important to be independent and “If you are not you are weak!” Teamwork seems to be shunned in a capitalist society and doing it your-self is praised. After all, you don’t want the other person to beat you to the prize, reach the top of the corporate ladder ahead of you or win the race.
Unfortunately, for most, diabetes is not a race or a prize, but something you have to live with. Being independent is a weakness when living with diabetes!
Being independent comes with a cost when living with diabetes. What it has cost me has been high. I have had many arguments that were around diabetes and not letting loved ones in. It caused many fights that were caused by not telling people when my blood sugars were either high or low. Blood sugar control was more erratic due to being more sensitive to others wanting to get involved and creating more drama in my life.
As a child, I suffered from depression for many years till I sought out help and shared how difficult life with diabetes was. I still struggled with managing my diabetes for several more years, but it was a start.
I still hear that inner voice every now and then. “Don’t let them know your blood sugar is high or they will blame you and think you are bad, weak or maybe even punish you.” That was my irrational voice talking because, as an adult, no one can punish me unless I let them. It is how I felt a haunting voice from the past.
If in a relationship, and someone does penalize you for sharing. Then maybe it is not you, but how the diabetes is being managed in the relationship. If that is happening maybe it is time to live a more interdependent life. The first step might be going to see a therapist, where you can discuss the challenges in your relationship as it pertains to diabetes.
Being interdependent comes with great benefits when you are living with diabetes. Being more accepting of people helping, reduces sensitivity around discussing diabetes management and increases blood sugar control. Fewer arguments, less drama, increased emotional stability and better control of my diabetes and me.
Involving others (who are receptive) helps a person living with diabetes to feel and be supported as well as feel less alone. Sharing that you are experiencing high blood sugars creates understanding as to why you may be over sensitive or emotional with the one you love. It allows the significant other in your life feel less like an outsider helping them be more understanding.
If you don’t give others a chance to empathize or understand, then no one ever will and you will continue to feel alone.
Back in the 1970’s there were few to no place to get support outside your immediate family. Now, there are many places. Online communities, chat rooms and Meetup groups to name just a few online resources. Organizations like JDRF, Joslin Diabetes Center, Children With Diabetes, ADA and others, have events where people with diabetes and their families can meet, interact and get helpful information on diabetes self-management as well as much needed support. Oh, almost forgot to mention ongoing emotional support of the mental health communities and informational support provided by Certified Diabetes Educators.
So reach out. Help is here. You just have to ask.
Blog by Diabetes Focused Psychotherapist Eliot LeBow LCSW, CDE