“Don't Do Diabetes Alone”
by Dr. William Polonsky, PhD, CDE
As you know, diabetes isn’t easy. Despite your best efforts and best intentions, there are numerous obstacles that make it tough to manage diabetes successfully day after day. Over the past few decades, my colleagues and I have discovered a whole host of strategies to help people overcome obstacles, including tricks for following a more diabetes-friendly way of eating, new ways of thinking about diabetes, and tips for streamlining your doctor visits. But when life is stressful and you are already feeling overwhelmed by diabetes, who has time for any of this? It just seems like too much. So if and when you are ready to take positive action, remember that there is one strategy that gives you the biggest bang for your buck, one that best helps you get things started: Don’t do diabetes alone!
When you have someone in your life rooting for you, giving you the support you need, everything else about managing diabetes can begin to seem a little less tough. When you have someone who understands and cares, it can lighten your load. So here are some ideas to consider:
- If possible, get specific about “what”. Is there some practical way someone in your life could truly be helpful? Maybe regular exercise would be easier if you had someone to exercise with you (after all, misery does love company). Perhaps it would be easier to follow a healthier way of eating if your spouse agreed to join you in making those changes. Perhaps checking blood sugars wouldn’t be so tough if your friends at school or at work weren’t making such stupid comments. It could be something very small, but every little bit helps.
- Get specific about “who”. Is there someone in particular you might approach? If you are looking for someone to walk with each morning, who can you ask? If you have no friends or family who are interested, maybe it is time to make some new friends. Knock on your neighbor’s door, or join a walking club in your community.
- Beware of the diabetes police. You might have people in your life who are providing the wrong type of support, watching you and nagging you in ways that just make everything worse. Remember that they probably mean well, but they don’t realize that their “Diabetes police” actions are making you more miserable. So find a quiet time and thank them for their efforts to help, then tell them how they are driving you crazy and let them know how they can truly be of help. Sounds tough, I know. Check out the wonderful “diabetes police” video by Mike Lawson on www.youtube.com. It is very helpful, and hysterical!
- Be ready to be surprised. Sometime the best help is just meeting people who understand what it’s really like. You may have loving friends and family, but there is something special about meeting other people just like you who are living with diabetes. So think about joining, or starting, a diabetes support group program in your own community. You may be truly shocked by how much this can really help. In our own programs here at the BDI, it continues to be the magic ingredient. When we ask people at the conclusion of our programs what they have found most valuable, the answers always include: “It has been so great to meet all these other people who truly understand what living with diabetes is really like.”
You may have your own, and perhaps better, ideas about how to do this, but do not delay. If you are struggling with diabetes, this may be your first step forward: Don’t do diabetes alone!