Why Diabetes Can Be Revealing
October 2013 — Receiving a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes is akin to taking a Rorschach test, where every individual registers a different interpretation of what the shapes of an inkblot represent.
Diabetes can reflect not only high sugars, but also who you are and how you cope with adversity.
And like a Rorschach test, diabetes can reveal things about your personality.
What do I mean? Well, take two friends who were recently diagnosed with type 2. Let's call them X and Y. Both were stymied by their post-50 diagnosis; diabetes was the last thing on their minds. One was in the hospital for an infection following appendicitis when she received the news; the other was in the doctor's office for a yearly checkup.
X was overwhelmed: Teary, angry, and upset. Oppressed and anxious, she immediately started a strict diet that cast out all of her favorite foods and treats, and revved up her exercise plan to heroic proportions. It took about a month before she began to slip slide back into her old habits and the few pounds that she had lost regained purchase on her hips. This was not due to any moral failings on her part — although it felt like that, leading to greater anxiety and unhappiness. The whole thing, she said, was too damned hard.
Y was also overwhelmed. But unlike X, she took a more pro-active approach. For one, she told her doctor that she was not going to take the recommended meds, period. The doctor, who wanted to get her started on Glucophage, told her she was a noncompliant patient, something no one wants on her resume. But Y had a plan — she was going to control the disease rather than the other way around. And, amazingly — because I know how hard this is — she did. She took off the extra pounds, started walking and exercising, and emerged slimmer, with lower sugars. She didn't give up all of her favorite treats, keeping dark chocolate on the list of acceptable foods. On a follow-up visit the doctor had to admit that she had misjudged her will.
The important thing in reading these two stories is not that one is ‘good' and the other ‘bad.' They are simply different. Both struggled. And both will continue to struggle. We're not talking about willpower or discipline. We're talking about attitude, and how we face adversity. Whether you view diabetes as a life sentence or as an opportunity for change.
There isn't one way to treat diabetes. It's not weakness to take medication if diet and exercise fail. It's not inevitable that if you fall off the wagon for a few days that you can't get started on a more healthy eating and exercise program the next week.
The important thing is how you look at it, and that you deal with it. It's your choice – not your endo's or your spouse's or your children. It is a choice that is, in the most profound sense, entirely up to you.
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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