Living with the unwanted houseguest.

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2012-04-12 00:41:43 -0500
Started 2011-07-17 20:50:08 -0500

When we talk about a medical diagnosis, we often refer to it terms of war: the beast, the enemy. We refer to treatment as a battle. We refer to ourselves as fighters, struggling to maintain and survive in the face of this tremendous threat.

This is not to say that there isn’t a battle going on, or that a chronic condition is your friend. Of course it isn’t. Chronic conditions like diabetes do require that you be empowered, that you do everything possible to protect yourself in any way you can from the progression of your condition.

However, there is a flip side. Living with the mindset that life is an ongoing battle is exhausting. It keeps you in fight or flight reaction, and turns on all of those unhealthy stress hormones that accompany it. The resistance kicks in and you question why you have to be compliant with treatment and self-care, maybe you feel frustrated that you can’t seem to get it under optimal control, or want to give up some days. Basically, the constant battle mindset can cause you to focus your energy on how you hate, hate what the enemy is doing to you. Living with all of that resistance a hard way to live.

Here is another way to look at your chronic condition:

Chronic conditions are like an unwanted houseguest who has taken up residence on your living room couch, who makes demands, interferes with routines, complicates your relationships, costs you money, does scary things at times… and won't move out. You’ve tried everything, you’ve tried to ignore him, you’ve had arguments, you’ve threatened, you’ve begged and pleaded. But he’s still there, blasting the TV and demanding breakfast in bed.

So at some point, you decide that since he doesn’t seem to be going away, you may as well join the resistance – stop fighting and learn to live with him. You decide to understand him and therefore understand what you can to keep him in his place, but not to go through each day with your fists clenched and ready to swing. In other words: moving from “You’ve ruined my life forever” toward “How would you like those eggs cooked?”

This is living life on life's terms, recognizing that a medical diagnosis will mean making changes, and working with your condition rather than against it. This attitude begins with making a slight tweak in the question that is most likely on your mind.

“What am I going to do about…?” becomes “What am I going to do with…?”

“With” means co-existing with your diabetes, living life on life’s terms. Taking a more balanced – and peaceful – approach to the struggle.

Instead of baring your teeth and putting your fists up, swinging wildly in every direction, calmly face your opponent and coordinate your movements with his, as if you were looking at each other in a mirror. If you have ever watched a group practicing tai chi, a form of martial arts, then you know what I mean here. This begins by paying attention to him so that you can learn how he moves, know his rhythms, where he seems to be strongest, and where he might be vulnerable. Coexisting, but cautiously.

Here are some ideas to keep in mind to help you to maintain a peaceful, balanced approach to managing – by coexisting – with your diabetes:

Know when to retreat. Rest when you need to rest. Cut back on activities when your body isn’t up to the challenge. Set priorities, so that you don’t end up being your own opponent. You’re not giving in, you’re not giving up. You are honoring your own needs. After all, nobody’s awarding any Purple Hearts here.

Make adjustments in your expectations for yourself. Decide that your house doesn't have to be spotless, that you don't have to be the superstar at the holidays. You decide between what's essential, what's not, and where your ego has been driving you like a taskmaster. Stop beating up on yourself.

Don’t fight with your own feelings. Let yourself feel how you feel. Don’t force yourself to smile and pretend everything is fine when you aren’t feeling well, physically or emotionally. You have enough on your plate without reporting yourself to the positive thinking police. You can be optimistic but still have days when life just isn’t what you wish it would be.

Recognize stress and address it. You can accomplish a lot more for yourself by imagining a sandy beach than imagining a boxing ring. Learn some ways to relax and stay calm.

Stay educated. Working with your opponent means knowing as you can about him.

Get emotional and spiritual support. Be ready to call in the troops for backup when the battle fatigue sets in.

The unwanted houseguest can be kept in his place. Face your diabetes from a position of competence, calmness, and strength. Stay focused on what can do to take the best possible care of yourself, day by day. Do something with your diabetes, not about it.

Balance is power!

22 replies

tootsma 2012-04-12 00:41:43 -0500 Report

All i can do is live with it but i dont have to like it.For 22 yrs i have been struggling with this horrible disease.Diabtes,yeh because you will die because you cannot beat it. Maybe it is my fault i have it runs in the fam. I dont have a life that ceased in 1992.

2012-01-05 17:23:07 -0600 Report

That was one of the resolutions that I have made. Is too live w/the disease. I know that it's way above my knowledge of comprehension to fight it, to curse the day that I was diagnosed w/it. I lived with it for this long, I can live with it for the rest of my life.

robertoj 2011-08-18 01:47:00 -0500 Report

I have ceased fighting my health conditions. I will not feel sorry for myself nor will I dwell on the mistakes I made that helped me get here. Instead I choose to learn all that I can about the disease and go forward and work on the things I need to change. Some days I don't have quite the resolve that I usually have but that is fine because I have the ability to laugh at my weakness. If nothing else all of my issues came at a time that I was able to deal with them taking a calm and balanced approach. I realize that most of my fellow diabetics may no be so fortunate.

Gimpalong 2011-08-18 01:46:55 -0500 Report

Hi Gary, you just keep coming up with those thought provoking articles. Thank you. It's hard at times to let me feel what I feel, when my son doesn't get it about D. He thinks that I should be able to go and go and never get tired. I finally had to tell him that I was OK with my company, and if he wanted to go, then go. It didn't bother me. But for me, I just know that if I push and keep pushing I'm going to pay the price for several days. Thanks for showing us that it is alright to have good and not so good days. Keep keeping us informed.

robertoj 2011-08-18 02:21:42 -0500 Report

It is important to make sure that your support group is educated about diabetes. A class for the family should be provided after the dx. I know that it can be difficult for them especially the children. They don't understand and that can make you feel guilty or make you push too hard. Both are bad options.

Diaschm 2011-08-18 01:35:40 -0500 Report

Again another great article. Thanks for always writing such positive articles facing diabetes with confidence that if you are calm you can deal with all the ups and downs. To know when to get help both emotionaly, physicaly,and spiritually is what its all about. Recognizing when you are stressed and facing it learning ways to decompress and not let it eat you up is the best advise. Finding peace with Diabetes and oneself. Diaschm

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2011-07-19 00:20:06 -0500 Report

The arrival of diabetes in my life was as unexpeced as the appearance of my grandmother's sister on our front door step when I was a child. She would arrive every few years without warning. Reorganizing most aspects of our life, from sleeping arrangements (beds for her, her daughter, and 1 or 2 grandchildren), meal times, and daily schedules. She was an early riser with a loud voice and love of early phone calls to strangers who might have been related to children she had gone with to elementary school several states away from where we lived. She was a catalyst who sweeped all into her wake with no change of her plans.
Turned out of our beds, my sisters and I would have a slumber party in the family room. We would wake up giggling at the one sided conversation as she explained why she was calling strangers at 7 am. She almost always managed a lunch or supper invitation with the unseen person. Several days a week my Mom would leave her on someone's doorstep to wait for them to get off work and share their dinner. She would be returned to us around 10 pm.
So far diabetes has been much more manageable than Aunt Mary.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-07-19 16:11:10 -0500 Report


This is a great story. Wow, what a character your Aunt Mary was! I love this. Just amazxing. And certainly a houseguest that required lots of accommodation.

Thanks a lot. I hope your post gets a lot of eyes!


Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2011-07-20 20:46:41 -0500 Report

Her visits where an adventure. Reading your post made me think how she helped me learn how to go with the flow. Often we ended up doing something completely different from what had been planned prior to her arrival. But her plans did offer many interesting moments.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-08-10 15:33:05 -0500 Report

Sometimes our harshest or most difficult teachers impart the most memorable lessons. We grow through the experience of knowing them, and we don't forget what we learned. Hope you are doing well! Gary

jayabee52 2011-07-17 22:36:12 -0500 Report

A very insightful posting DrGary! Thank you for sharing that with us. IMO what you have shared here is quite valuable and worth a great deal of thought. Thank you!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-07-18 21:43:36 -0500 Report

Hi James, thanks a lot, s always. Much appreciated. I hope are doing well!!!

jayabee52 2011-07-18 23:30:49 -0500 Report

outside of my kidney numbers "going south" and getting ready to go on dialysis, I am doing well, thank you Gary

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-07-19 15:55:00 -0500 Report

I remember that you are dealing with some kidney issues. I am really sorry that you are being hit by that. I know you have a positive attitude. Please let me know if I can support you in some way!

jayabee52 2011-07-19 16:08:14 -0500 Report

Thank you so very much Gary! Right now my attitude is kinda "Been there, done that, it's no biggie!" And I am actually kinda looking forward to it when I get back from my trip to visit family because I have been having stamina problems, and pray that the dialysis treatments will restore some of my energy.

Thanks again Gary. I will let you know if/when I need you.

Gimpalong 2011-08-18 01:29:31 -0500 Report

Hi James, I hope that you're still enjoying your visit with your family. Take care of yourself. Sorry about your having to go on dialysis, but I pray that your stamina will return soon. Keep hanging in there. I'm praying daily for you and your health problems. Nancy

jayabee52 2011-08-18 02:12:21 -0500 Report

Thank you so very much Nancy. Your prayers are very much appreciated. I wrote the above from my mom's home, but I had returned to LVNV on 7/27. It was quite enjoyable visiting with mom and family and friends around the area I grew up.

Now I'm looking forward to seeing my #1 son get married in Detroit Oct 22. Most of the family should be there.

JoleneAL 2011-07-17 21:21:37 -0500 Report

Wonderful article. Today I took a walk and cried half way through the first part of it. The last two days I've fought my highs and lows by the hour and was exhausted emotionally and physically today. I should have just curled up in bed like I wanted to, but walked instead. I over-heated myself and spent the rest of the day dealing with that on TOP of the diabetes. Fortunately, the walk did stabilize my levels for the day, but man I am a mess of emotions. Tomorrow will be better, but I'm not hiding my feelings anymore - period.

robertoj 2011-08-18 01:59:13 -0500 Report

Your approach to this disease is pretty rough. Life should not be so hard. Of course a good cry can be a relief. I'm glad you shared this. Hopefully you will learn not to be so hard on yourself. A bright outlook can lead to a better outcome.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2011-07-18 21:48:17 -0500 Report

Hey Jolene,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Sounds like you pushed yourself a little too hard. On the other hand, you are trying to take good care of yourself. Just maybe a little off balance today.

Yes, no need to hide your emotions. They are just feelings. They won't take over your life if you let them out.

Sorry to hear that you are struggling right now. You're right. Tomorrow will be a better day.

Great to hear from you. Please stay in touch!


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