Being diagnosed with a chronic illness sucks. You go through a flurry of emotions because you can even begin to accept it. From anger to bitterness to nervous giggles and cringe-worthy jokes, few emotions and coping mechanisms will be spared as you deal with this road block. And that’s exactly what I see diabetes as – just a road block followed by detours, even if it feels like you’re falling off the edge of the highest cliff in the world.
I was invited to speak to a friend of a friend about diabetes as a dietitian as they were just told they had diabetes. As soon as I saw them, I had a brief flashback to when I was sitting in my first endocrinologist appointment with my mum. I was nervous, still in disbelief, probably very much in denial and slightly frantic.
We didn’t really know where to start so I introduced myself and started telling my story. That started the ball rolling! All the questions started coming and soon we were laughing at some of our shared experiences. Although it was mostly laughing at all the silly things I learned the hard way (sugar free isn’t always a good alternative, unless your taste buds are broken and plan to take a sick day sitting on the toilet). By then end of our chat, I just wanted to give them a big cuddle and tell them that it will be okay, which I did. My heart broke for them, knowing that they now have to deal with this relentless condition on top of everything else. Yet, I could see how much this simple, casual chat gave them a slight peace of mind. What I would have given to have had something like this when I was diagnosed!
Here were some things that we spoke about:
- Keep calm and don’t jump to wild conclusions that your feet will fall off next week! Your doctor may have called to say you have high blood glucose levels but they haven’t rushed you to the Emergency Department. You’ll be alright. Breathe.
- If you’re going to seek the advice of Dr. Google, search for some awesome diabetes blogs instead to give you a real perspective of life with diabetes. If you don’t come away from this feeling inspired and comforted, you’re doing Google wrong. Some hashtags to browse are
- #DOC (Diabetes Online Community)
- #OzDOC (Aussie Diabetes Online Community)
- #DSMA (Diabetes Social Media Advocate)
- #dblog (Diabetes Blog)
- Before you start worrying about managing your diabetes and making drastic life changes, find your diabetes healthcare A-team. While some people respond better at being told what to do, I prefer a collaborative approach where I discuss diabetes management strategies that suit my lifestyle with my team. There is no right or wrong – choose an approach that fits you.
- Stop the blame game. Diabetes is now a part of your life. You can’t go back in time to change anything and even if you could, there’s no guarantee that it will scare off diabetes. Focus on moving forward and dealing with things as it comes up.
- Allow yourself to be angry and upset! Diabetes is a huge life changing event and it takes time to adjust accordingly. But as daunting it may seem, diabetes certainly isn’t a death sentence. There are many inspirational, larger than life figures in the diabetes community. And if you’re living a full and happy life while managing diabetes, you’re pretty awesome in my books.
What did you wish you were told during your induction into the diabetes world?