The Type 2 Safety Net
Diabetes support has a huge impact on our overall health.
By Travis Grubbs
March 2009 — One of my childhood memories is of going to the circus. I am not talking about a big professional circus, like Ringling Brothers, but one of those smaller generic versions (think low-budget). The whole operation was pretty bare bones. I can still recall a female performer, in her "death-defying" feat, as she walked across a tight rope some 50 feet in the air. Below her were three scruffy looking male circus workers (think carnival workers), serving as her safety net as they walked beneath her while looking upward.
Two thoughts occurred to my ten-year-old mind:
1. If she fell, the guys below were probably going to get hurt as they tried to break her fall. I was glad I wasn't one of them.
2. Safety nets must be really expensive since the circus didn't have one and instead put the workers (as well as the performer) at risk.
Fortunately for all concerned, the "death-defying" diva made it safely to the other side! We all cheered, and I suspect that the "human safety net" was relieved as well.
Thirty six years later I have another perspective of the term "safety net." I see one's diabetes support network as a safety net, which is comprised of ones doctor, pharmacist, other medical personnel, family, friends, and other diabetes support groups. While each segment of the net is important, I am of the opinion that the support garnered from family and friends has the greatest impact on one's attitude and mental well being. It is this segment that "lives with you," sees you when you are up and down, and knows you the best.
If this segment is truly supportive, it listens to your problems and frustrations. It encourages and motivates you when you are discouraged, and lets you know that you are not in this battle by yourself. My wife fills that role for me.
However, family and friends are not always supportive. I recently came across postings at two different diabetes social networks where the authors were writing about the lack of diabetes support they were receiving from their families.
One guy was having hard time with his wife accepting the fact that he was determined to eat less, exercise, and lose weight in his effort to help control his type 2 diabetes. It seems that his wife has her own weight control issues and does not want him to become fit and trim. Never mind he risks losing his eyes, kidneys, etc. if he remains "as is."
One woman was faced with the challenge of cooking separate meals at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She is to prepare a diabetic meal for herself and a normal meal for her husband and kids. It seems her family has decided that they want to continue eating the same fare that helped lead to her type 2 diagnosis. I would love to see a picture of this family. I suspect they all have full (or chubby) faces and bulging bellies, just like I did before my type 2 diagnosis.
What do you do if you don't get support at home or from your friends, or want to expand your own safety net?
First, I suggest talking to your family and friends about your chronic condition. Educate them on what you are facing, how they can help you, and how much you need them.
Second, see if your local hospital has a diabetes support group. If they don't, think about starting one yourself. I am in a great diabetes support group at my local hospital.
Third, get hooked up with some of the various on-line diabetes communities. My favorites include TuDiabetes, My Diabetes Central, and Diabetes Rockstar. And now (drum roll) dLife is getting into act! Check out the new dLife diabetes online community. These sites are a great resource for connecting with others dealing with their own diabetic challenges.
I encourage you to build a strong safety net. There will be times when you will need it, and will appreciate its presence. I have definitely benefited from, and appreciated, mine.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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Years before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, The Other Half came out of a doctor's appointment with a diagnosis of "borderline diabetes" and an ADA exchange diet sheet. His health insurance agency followed up on the diagnosis with a glucometer and test strips. After a year or so of trying to follow the diet plan and test his glucose levels, things appeared to be back in "normal" range, and stood there until a couple of years after my own diagnosis. Shortly...