Managing Your Diabetes Diagnosis

A diagnosis of diabetes can trigger a grieving for your lost health.

By Jen Nash, DClinPsych

Can you recall the moment you were diagnosed with diabetes? What was the first thought that entered your head? Who was the first person you told? What were your feelings in the days that followed learning the news?

The experience of being diagnosed with diabetes has been linked to the experience of grief. In the same way as you may grieve for a lost loved one, the diabetes diagnosis can trigger a grieving for your lost health. It is common to live life as if you are invincible, rarely considering your health or mortality. However, this dramatically changes when you are diagnosed with a chronic health problem; you are suddenly acutely aware that your life is not without its limits. You now have to rely on regular medication, frequent visits to a medical setting, and a team of doctors and nurses to keep you well.

Below is an outline of the stages of grief. Do you recognize any of the descriptions in your feelings toward diabetes?

Stage 1: Denial — "This can't be happening."
Stage 2: Anger — "Why me?" "It's not fair." "How can this happen to me?" "Who is to blame?"
Stage 3: Bargaining — "Just let me live to see..." "I'd do anything to turn back time..." "If only I could have done things differently."
Stage 4: Depression — "I'm so sad." "What's the point?" "I miss my old life."
Stage 5: Acceptance — "It's going to be ok." "I can take control and manage this

Not everyone with diabetes will necessarily experience all of these emotions, or in this particular order. However, I'm sure you can see the similarities between these thoughts about a diabetes diagnosis, and thoughts you may have when faced with losing someone close to you. In fact, many people oscillate back and forth between a number of these stages for many years, getting stuck at denial, or between anger, bargaining, and depression, perhaps with small acceptances along the way.

So whether you are recently diagnosed or have had diabetes for many years, you may still be experiencing the impact of your diabetes diagnosis. If you can become aware of the way you are dealing with your diabetes diagnosis and recognize at which stage of the process you are in, you can help yourself manage the potential difficulties better.


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Last Modified Date: January 30, 2014

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by Brenda Bell
Many people say that depression is a side effect or complication of diabetes. Without discounting the association of the psychological condition with the physical one, I'm not convinced that our high and/or unstable glucose levels are directly responsible for that change in our mental state. My belief is that the unrelenting need for self-care, for following the sort of care schedules that can drive licensed, professional caregivers crazy, is what overwhelms us...
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