It Is OK to Need Help
Getting a grip on diabetes may mean having to let go of male pride.
Through the course of growing up and living with type 1 diabetes I have encountered some challenging situations. Some self-imposed due to lack of planning or unexpected events, and others just a combination of circumstances that led to the need for some creative way to get through it.
I have been exposed to more than my fair share of well-meaning people who don't know the first thing about living with diabetes, yet feel compelled to tell me how to manage it, or what I'm doing wrong.
I am also a young man living in today's world, trying to fit the mold of the strong male, head of the household, dependent on no one and nothing; the mold of being able to forge my way out of anything, to survive and provide for those I care for. I want to be able to manage a career, pay bills, and be a good father to my children and husband to my wife. That is asking a lot of anyone! Add diabetes management into the mix, and it's almost too much!
The isolation of it all can be very overwhelming. So many times you are forced to figure it out all on your own; to trial and error your way through it – with what seems like so much error and constant trial!
All of this has made me fiercely independent, possibly to a fault. I have built up this protective shell, this mindset that I have to be able to do it all myself. It is a survival mechanism, at it's most basic I guess – knowing that I'll somehow figure out how to get through a low or high blood sugar, and on to the next situation of the day.
I sometimes wonder why I feel this need to be so independent. Why do I feel that I must present this image of always being in control? Why am I ashamed to ask for help? Why do I worry about a perceived inconvenience of others when I might need help? Why am I not able to do it all by myself? How can I possibly not have everything "dialed in" after all this time and experience?
Why? Because living with diabetes can be a challenge for the best of us. It is a constant round of counting and calculating, preparing and reacting, balancing and adjusting. A target that is always on the move, complicating the equation even more. It never stops.
The support and encouragement of the online community is probably the best form of support I've found in a long time. A wonderful group of people with diabetes, or parents of children with diabetes who can instantly connect and understand the challenges we all face on a daily basis. Sometimes the best therapy around is to just unload your troubles with a group that "gets it".
There is also the other help that is available. I'm talking about a personal "care team". There are so many wonderful people out there whose jobs are to help you deal with the demands of trying to manage your diabetes the best you can. People who have devoted their life to helping us!
So why don't I take advantage of all those resources?
Because for some reason I feel that admitting I need some help is a sign of weakness. Is it the male ego maybe? Simply a "strong personality"? Or could it be that learned independence, not willing to yield even an inch?
With all of this in mind, it is, in fact, not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of my strength.
It takes strength to take an honest look at my situation and admit that I need help to deal with all of the demands that successful diabetes management places on me.
It takes strength to admit that I might benefit from the support and advice of a professional "care team" – endocrinologists, dietitians, educators, therapists, psychiatrists, and any other person that might play a role in putting all of the pieces of good diabetes management together.
I am strong because I can admit that I need some help with it all. I am stronger because I can admit that I probably need more than some help.
My work ahead is to assemble my care team; work on being able to be honest with myself about where I need improvement, and to be strong enough to take the steps my care team and I identify for that improvement. And of course to stay very "plugged in" to the online community. The people of this community are, perhaps, the very core of my support structure.
dLife's Daily Living columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team 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...