My Take on Diabetes and Support

It’s November 20th which means that it’s Day 20 of the Happy Diabetic Challenge! Today’s prompt is “biggest supporter”. Since it’s impossible for me to identify a single person as the biggest source of support with my diabetes, I decided to write about how my thoughts on diabetes and support have changed over the years.

Emotional support is a lovely thing. It feels good to have people in your life who you feel have your back. And it’s twice as nice to have when you’re dealing with a chronic illness like diabetes.

I talk extensively about diabetes and support in the most recent episode of the podcast, Ask Me About My Type 1. (Here’s the link in case you haven’t listened to it yet.) Rather than rehash everything I said in that episode, I’m going to use this post as an opportunity to reflect how my wants and needs in terms of support for my diabetes have changed over the years.

It’s interesting (at least, it is to me) to think about how and why my desire for support has changed as I’ve grown older. My childhood was very normal despite diabetes. It was always there and it was always a thing I had to deal with, but I definitely didn’t feel compelled to talk about it as much as I do now, let alone lean on others in difficult times. Why is that?

I think it has a lot to do with getting to know myself better as I’ve aged.

HUGGING THE CACTUS - A T1D BLOG
In this post, I get all self-reflective-y on diabetes and support.

After all, they say that with age comes wisdom. And though I don’t exactly consider myself a wise old sage or anything of the sort, I do think that I’ve acquired some enlightenment about myself and the way that I process things in my adulthood.

Specifically, I realized in the last few years that diabetes has instilled in me a strong desire to feel in control of every aspect of my life…not just diabetes. When something doesn’t go according to whatever carefully thought-out plan I’ve cooked up, I get upset. And I tend to either bottle up my dismay, which is never a good thing to do, or I totally take it out on the whichever poor soul happens to be within my vicinity, which isn’t fair. Neither of those reactions is a healthy method of dealing with things, but at least I’m aware of that and I’m actively trying to improve how I cope.

I think that this example shows how important diabetes support has become to me because I’m able to lean on others in those times that all of my diabetes plans don’t work out the way I envisioned them. I’ve figured out, over time, that it’s just about the only thing that really works for me. Talking to other people with diabetes (and without diabetes) about struggles that I’ve faced makes me feel less alone. It used to be scary for me to be so vulnerable with others, but I’ve found that it’s worth it because it helps me heal, move on, and forgive/accept myself for feeling whatever I’m feeling.

Support from others is truly powerful…but above that, learning to rely on others – learning how to best support myself, really – is more than that. It’s magical and absolutely enhances the quality of my life with diabetes.

How to React When a Loved One With Diabetes is Struggling

If you have a partner/spouse, relative, or friend with type one diabetes, it can be difficult to know how to best support that person when they’re experiencing struggles related to diabetes. You might try to offer a shoulder for your loved one to lean on, but that might not always work. Your loved one might push you away or continue to internalize their issues. It can create turbulence in your relationship with one another, and it’s frustrating all around.

So what can you do?

We Have 10,000 Followers!

As someone who both has T1D and loves others with T1D (my mom, my aunt, many good friends), I believe that the best way to react is to just listen. Whenever I’ve faced serious struggles or emotional turmoil due to diabetes, nothing has helped me quite like a person who spares time for me to listen to me. Whether I just need to spew out an angry diatribe (LOL at the pun), cry about my problems, talk through issues, or seek advice, it’s worked wonders on me to know that I have individuals in my life who are willing to listen to me. Let me emphasize the listen part once again – listen, not tell me that I’m right or wrong, or offer advice (unless I specifically ask for it).

I get it; sometimes, it’s easier said than done to just listen. A few people I know are so determined to help me fix the problem that they can’t help but react emotionally along with me when I’m dealing with diabetes drama. But trust me, that usually heightens (rather than alleviates) the tension.

It’s all about teamwork. Give and take is involved. Often, enormous amounts of patience are required. Sometimes, it takes awhile for the struggles to subside. But one thing that is certain is that your loved one with diabetes will always thank you and be grateful for your support in their time of need. It’ll strengthen your relationship as well as function as proof that diabetes can’t break your bond, no matter how hard it might try.

 

Diabetes and Honesty: Don’t be Afraid to Speak Up

It’s said that ignorance is bliss…but as I recently (re)learned, ignorance can cause fear and misunderstanding in times that it’s better to be honest.

The lesson was hammered into my brain after fibbing to my significant other about my blood sugar a couple of weeks ago. It was a Saturday night, we had spent the day moseying around the city, and we were looking forward to a chill evening doing a whole lot of nothing. We decided to get into a collaborative card game while we watched the Red Sox play against kick the Astros’ butts.

As we set up the game, I knew my blood sugar was high. But I ignored it, figuring that my insulin would kick in soon and bring my levels back down to normal. I should’ve known that it wouldn’t be so simple (is ANYTHING ever simple when it comes to diabetes?) because after an hour and a half, no progress was made on the BG front and my mood was worsening as a result of it. My partner, ever-attentive, asked me more than once why I seemed so cross. He even directly asked if it was related to my blood sugar, and I…didn’t exactly tell the truth.

diabetes honesty

Okay, I lied! But it was only because I didn’t want him to worry. I was already worried enough for the two of us. And I thought I was doing the right thing here. I really, truly thought my blood sugar would come down in no time at all, and I hate, hate, HATE using anything related to my diabetes as an excuse for my behavior…so rather than admit what I was going through, I brushed it off, which only exacerbated everything. Not my proudest moment.

As the night went on, we got deeper into the game and my blood sugar climbed higher. I was beyond agitated at this point, and my heart certainly wasn’t into the game. Besides neglecting to open up about my blood sugar problems, I’m also ashamed of my lack of interest in the card game. In hindsight, the healthy thing to do in this situation would’ve been to have faith in my treatment decisions and try to enjoy myself in the meantime. But I was too caught up in the negative mindset that the high blood sugar put me into, and unfortunately, it marred an otherwise perfectly nice night.

The next day, when my blood sugar situation was back to normal, I came clean to my boyfriend. I think he was a bit irked with me for hiding the truth from him, but I also think that he understood a little more after I explained why.

In this case, diabetes won…at least it did in that brief moment in time. Between ruining my mood and causing a mild rift between me and a loved one, I felt pretty damn defeated by it. In the long run, though, I think this experience will be more of a boon than a bane, because it reinforced the notion of honesty being the best policy – even when it comes to diabetes.

 

I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends (Diabetes Edition)

Let me introduce you to Nelly Needle:

F9013708-EC39-480A-9C5A-438CD3B59B68
A cactus filled with needles that don’t prick is my kind of cactus.

This adorable cactus-in-a-cup was handmade for me by one of my dear college friends, Emma. She made it for me for my birthday and I nearly cried tears of gratitude when she gave it to me. I felt the same way when another college friend, Kira, sent me a box for my birthday that contained a thoughtfully-chosen book and a cute little cactus pin that now adorns my meter case.

Emma and Kira, as well as our other friends from college, probably don’t realize how nervous I was to explain my diabetes to them when we first met. All my friends from back home had known about my diabetes growing up; as a result, it’d been a very long time since I had to open up about it to brand new people. I worried that they wouldn’t accept it or would treat me differently after learning about it.

I’m happy to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Within the first few days of my freshman year of college, I found the group of people that I wanted and needed to have in my life. They were not only accepting of my diabetes, but genuinely curious about it. They peppered me with questions that I was pleased to answer and marveled at my ease with injecting myself in the middle of the dining commons. To this day, they still express interest and desire to learn about diabetes, which means more to me than words can express.

The cacti I’ve amassed over the last few months, courtesy of my friends, serve as daily reminders that I 1) have some really incredible and supportive friends and 2) should always remember to embrace diabetes for what it is, needles and all.