2010: A Good Year to Come Out of the "Diabetes Closet"
Because accepting your diabetes can go a long way
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
January 2010 — If you have lived through the loss of a loved one, there is a good chance you are familiar with the five stages of grief, the last of which is acceptance. To a certain degree, getting word from a doctor that you have diabetes puts you through a series of stages that are similar to the stages of grief. There is one big difference between grief and the stages that follow a diabetes diagnosis, though: there is little you can do about death, whereas there's a lot you can do to live a long and healthy life with diabetes. In this article, I discuss the importance of accepting diabetes as the key to a successful diabetes management.
Depending on your pre-conceived notions and the type of information you had about diabetes, you may react differently to the news from the doc. But no matter how open-minded you are, most likely the realization that you have a chronic disease, not something that you can get a pill for to get rid of it, came as a big shock. This may come with feeling that you are not in control, but the truth is that you ARE in control: you are just not in control of having diabetes. But you have complete control over what you do about having diabetes.
The shock of being diagnosed may be followed by a sense of guilt mixed with confusion: "Why did this happen to me? What did I do wrong?" "This is all my fault: if only I had exercised more and eaten healthier meals." Does this sound like you? This may be your internal voice talking to you if you have been diagnosed as an adult or it may be a conversation between the parents of a newly diagnosed child. Regardless, it's a dialog that leaves you stuck and feeling powerless, without making much progress about the things you can start doing now that you are faced with diabetes.
Some people never leave this stage. They either ignore their diabetes (as if it were a nuisance like a barking dog in the street that won't let you sleep) or they decide to start managing their diabetes but continue to blame themselves for developing diabetes, without fully "forgiving" themselves and accepting that they have diabetes. As a result, they surround themselves with a wall and don't tell anyone about their diabetes. If you are in this stage, I want to suggest a few thoughts with the hope to help you out of it.
- Once you accept your diabetes, you will be in a better position to accept the inevitable imperfections associated with managing it. After all, as people with diabetes, we are only humans trying to give a hand to our system to have it work as much as possible like a non-diabetic body.
- As much as others may try to convince you about it, especially in the case of people with type 2 diabetes, there's more than just sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits to blame for your diabetes. There's growing scientific evidence about the role genes play in type 2 diabetes, increasing its risk in connection with lifestyle and diet.
- Even if your previous habits are to blame for your diabetes, there's nothing you can do about the past once you have been diagnosed. So there is no point in wondering "what if…" and thinking "if I hadn't…" You can invest that time and emotional energy changing the habits that brought you here: it will go a long way to help you manage your diabetes.
- Acceptance also comes with being open about your diabetes and letting others know about it. Doing this not only helps you come out of the "diabetes closet." It also allows you to connect with others like you, which means you have more people you can learn from and share with.
- Ultimately, once you accept your diabetes you can do much more for the diabetic community by becoming a diabetes advocate, raising diabetes awareness and educating more people about the types, signs and potential complications of diabetes.
Acceptance of your diabetes will not happen overnight. I am not suggesting you wear an "I have diabetes" t-shirt tomorrow. But take time to think about the benefits for you and for the community at large, resulting from coming to terms with your disease. It's going to be with you for the rest of your life (or until a cure is found) and it doesn't have to be a lonely life or a life full of complications, so how about opening that door as the New Year begins?
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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