Does your diabetes impact your friendships?

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2018-07-12 20:40:33 -0500
Started 2018-06-25 14:07:07 -0500

Does your diabetes affect your friendships with other people? If so, for the better? Or not always?

My clients often talk to me about their personal relationships, including friendships, and how they feel their diabetes impacts relationships.

Here are some examples of their concerns and frustrations:

People who seem uncomfortable around them, possibly out of fear they will need their help, or because they don’t want to think about their own health concerns

People who see them living an exemplary lifestyle and feel ashamed of their own unhealthy habits

People who are overly concerned about them, to the point of trying to tell them what they should be doing or eating

And people who make an issue out of their diabetes, assuring them over and over that it doesn’t affect their friendship, but raising the question of whether this is an offer of friendship or charity

I wrote an article about how an offer of friendship can feel like charity. Here is a link:

Now, I am interested in knowing if – and how – your diabetes affects your friendships. Not at all? Maybe somewhat at first, but you have educated your friend over time? Or, have you lost out on a friendship because of the potential friends’ attitude toward your diabetes?

So, how does diabetes affect your friendships? What have you learned about friendships over time? Any advice to share?

24 replies

Dakota Blue
Dakota Blue 2018-07-09 20:34:05 -0500 Report

I usually speak openly about it. However, unless you're a type 1 diabetic, people have absolutely no clue what it entails. The "OMG" it must be tough does nothing for me except to respond "You have no idea." It's frustrating for me because most people do not know the daily struggles of living with diabetes. They think if I stay away from sugar, I'll be fine. That is the least of my problems. I'm a brittle diabetic so it's 100 times harder to control than some. I hate diabetes, and I always will.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2018-07-12 20:23:46 -0500 Report

Hey Dakota Blue! Great to meet you. And thanks for checking in here. What you are describing here is something I often hear from my clients. Nobody can really understand what it's like being diabetic if they aren't traveling the same road as you. There are a lot of misperceptions out there, staying away from sugar being one of them. And I know, the uneducated comments, and advice, don't help. Usually, people mean well but that isn't always much of a comfort. I am glad you are here. Everybody here gets what you're dealing with. So I hope you will stay in touch.

GabbyPA 2018-07-07 11:49:05 -0500 Report

I don't hide it, I talk openly about it, so I really don't know. I have had a few raised eyebrows or some wagging fingers along the way, but as I educate them and make them realize what it is, I find it kind of fades into the background. Even with other diabetic friends, I try not to get into comparing notes. It's only a part of me, and there are a lot of other parts that are a lot more fun to talk about.
So I have not noticed that it does anything one way or another. But I have "old" friends who know me. I am just now making some new ones at work. So far they have not looked at me like I have two heads and horns. LOL

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2018-07-12 20:35:16 -0500 Report

Gabby! Thanks for checking in. You describe well here the value of "patient" education. Taking time to educate someone on diabetes can increase their comfort level and deepen your friendship, as well as help you by not having to deal with inappropriate or annoying comments. I hope those new friends get over their double vision soon, and stop seeing two heads when they look at you. More patiently educating them should help with that.

Chopstix 2018-07-06 20:53:31 -0500 Report

I usually keep it to myself unless somebody asks or my wife tells them. Yet if she is in the room when I start to stick myself to bleed she goes poof. In the trucking industry it is common knowledge that there are drivers who may be Type 2 Diabetic. I was at a company driver appreciation picnic one time and someone in Safety noticed how this one driver in his maybe mid 30s was eating and had him go to the clinic to have his blood glucose checked. Yes, they can do that. We are also subject to being tested for drugs and alcohol at any time.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2018-07-12 20:40:33 -0500 Report

Hey Chopstix, I assign students to research Type II diabetes in the trucking industry in a college level class I teach. I think this is an issue that needs to be addressed, I have a lot of concern about truck drivers who aren't getting the treatment they need, starting with effective diagnosis. And so often, it seems to me, drivers are working so hard they don't take time to get regular physicals or other needed medical care. And the diets many truck drivers follow are not healthy, always eating on the fun. I am glad to hear companies are taking steps to better monitor the health of their drivers, including requiring they get their blood sugar checked. It's tragic. The drivers suffer unnecessarily and safety on the road is also at risk.

2018-07-03 21:54:51 -0500 Report

At first, my diagnosis was foreign to my friends and family. Sadly, several have been diagnosed as prediabetic or diabetic over the past couple of years. Now, it is sadly a struggle we share.

Greymoon 2018-06-29 12:54:37 -0500 Report

I have a close circle of friends. A few that have lasted 40+ years, a few newer ones. Most are in different States, a few close by. But, one thing is for sure, Diabetes has not affected my friendships with any of them. A few times when I have gone out with them, they oft remind me to watch my sugar, however, later on in the evening, they are tempting me with all kinds of goodies!! Unlike cancer, I lost a few friends during that time because they were extremely uncomfortable around me. The ones who stuck by me, were there when I needed help, (much like now), and they always kept me motivated and spirits soaring. It's not often friends will come to a chemo treatment with wigs!! Much the same my last birthday a friend made me a sugar free cake in the shape of a syringe. I should mention I have an oddball assortment of friends.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2018-07-03 10:09:48 -0500 Report

Hi Greymoon, thanks for sharing your perspective here. I think it's interesting how friends react to their friend with a chronic condition. Watch your diet, but eat dessert so I can feel okay about eating dessert. Ironic, right? I have heard similar cancer stories from my clients. People don't know what to say, so they go into hiding. Others step up to the plate and become supporters and cheerleaders. People are always interesting, and full of surprises. I love that image of friends showing up at chemo with wigs. And that cake is a hoot! I hope you all got a good laugh out of that. I am a big fan of oddball! Thanks for sharing this.

suecsdy 2018-06-28 14:08:06 -0500 Report

Mostly no, I think because I don't let it. I don't hide that I'm diabetic and I'm pleased with myself for being able to take good care of "me and the D". I do have a friend though who seems to equate diabetes with disablilty maybe because she does know lots of other diabetics who don't respect their diabetes. I'm not disabled at all in my mind unless I don't take the care that I need to. If I'm talking in circles, blame it on post drugs.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2018-07-03 09:54:07 -0500 Report

Hey suecsdy, nice to see you. It's been awhile. I'm glad you checked in. Very interesting word here, "disability." You said it well. This shows a lack of understanding of diabetes, most likely due, as you said, to lack of experience. Or -- very insightful -- being around diabetics who didn't take care of themselves and did indeed become disabled as a result. Very interesting. No, you are sure not talking in circles, you are making a lot of sense here. Hopefully, your friend will recognize how empowered you are and broaden her perspective on diabetes. Thanks for sharing this!

danielhealthadviser 2018-06-28 07:26:44 -0500 Report

Yes, you are an absolute right. Diabetes affected my friendship and my relationship. Every people go the distance to me. These feeling very hateful. but some time ago I read zovon article and change my life. I read zovon article and follow all tips for debates. these time my Relationship and friendship very strong and I am very happy with zovon information.

haoleboy 2018-06-26 14:12:35 -0500 Report

hmm …
I got to watch myself
I can easily become a "food nazi"
fortunately, all my "friends" are virtual so I try to do a lot of editing before I hit send

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2018-06-28 12:10:41 -0500 Report

Hi Steve! There is an advantage for sure to having that opportunity to edit before sending. How often do we wish we had that in real life, or, wish other people would edit before speaking? Thanks for checking in, my friend.

msann 2018-06-26 10:23:57 -0500 Report

well i dont have any friends that cause me any concern because they know me i am going to take care of myself and sorry i dont care what they think just being honest this is a question out of my scope least thing on my mind

Type1Lou 2018-06-26 08:50:54 -0500 Report

In my 42 yrs with diabetes, I don't feel it has affected my friendships at all. I do not hide that I have diabetes but I don't flaunt it either. It's just something that I've learned to deal with and get on with my life. Casual acquaintances may not realize I even have diabetes while close friends are certainly aware of it since they will try to accommodate my dietary choices when we share meals. If the opportunity arises, I will explain what diabetes means to me and try to correct any misconceptions about it. I try to not impose my "diabetes restrictions" on anyone. Ironically, sometimes, I'll find that people will try to use my diabetes as an excuse for a decision they favor…for example, my insulin pump allows me great flexibility in meal-times and does not tie me to any clock; I can skip meals if I want to. Yet, sometimes friends will say that "Louise has to eat now " (rather than later). I realize that not all diabetics have this flexibility though and am happy that my friends are watching out for me.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2018-07-03 09:38:20 -0500 Report

Hey Lou, thanks for checking in here. That's a really interesting perspective. Sounds like you are using "patient" education to educate your friends when you have the opportunity. I am sure they benefit greatly from that. I am especially not surprised that "Louise needs to eat" comes up. I suspect you may sometimes wonder if that friend is worried about you or just hungry and hopes you are, too. :)) Always good to hear that friends are watching out for their diabetic friends.

BB42 2018-06-26 07:54:27 -0500 Report

I think Alex could use a good dose of sensitivity training. Has diabetes affected my friendships? When first diagnosed it did. I joined Diabetic Connect and was frustrated by all the people who were able to manage their condition. Then, as I became more successful at managing my diabetes, I found many off my friends were frustrated with me. Much of my social life revolves around wine tasting and food. Diabetes restricted my ability to participate, especially when it came to food. That frustration was expressed by expressions and comments about why I had to be so careful about what I ate. With time, they understood and the frustration they expressed abated

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2018-06-28 12:54:44 -0500 Report

Hi BB42! Nice to see you. Thanks for sharing your perspective here. I have heard similar stories from clients who said they had friends who were frustrated with them because they could no longer participate in certain shared activities, and showed the same lack of understanding, if not plain old denial. Glad to hear your friends have become more understanding over time. I suspect that may have been the result of some "patient" education on your part, emphasis on patience. And glad to hear that being a part of this amazing community has been helpful to you. :))

MrsCDogg 2018-06-25 19:13:07 -0500 Report

I guess in a way diabetes impacts my friendships. I have ESRD and now require dialysis. I don't do much else except go to dialysis 3 times a week, the grocery store and doctors appts. I have a cousin who I was very close to but now I never see her, never hear from her. She has her new job and her religion so she no longer needs me. Most of my other so called friends have dropped off the radar too. My one friend from high school also has some serious health problems so she and I support eachother via text messages.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2018-06-28 12:49:43 -0500 Report

Hello MrsCDogg, nice to see you again! I am really sorry to hear your friends have abandoned you. I don't understand why people behave that way when they have a friend in need. A mystery and disappointing. Glad to hear you have someone who stays in touch by text, that's great. And of course, you have a lot of friends right here, including me. I hope you are having a good week, my friend!

Stuart1966 2018-06-25 18:08:44 -0500 Report

Dr Gary,
Happy summer to you.

Never had the particular experience which you describe very well. People who do not know me intimately well do not get told a huge host of things, MY diabetes among them. Do you tell people you barely know all kinds of intimate personal things?

The closest I can come to what you describe would be those very close who sadly remember over and over low blood sugar episodes/event(s) from the hopefully ancient past. That kind of thing bothers me, considerably.

Unpleasant experience(s) because of me, I apologize for having "traumatized" them and assure them it was a one time thing. I do not truly believe such for even a nano second,

They want to feel I am "controlled", "safe" I guess? I will never tell them differently. Deep friends, ask better questions, and earn the right to know more if they dare to ask… friends share.

Dating that is a different creature entirely. When it comes time to share such things, by all means. Dated another T1 once upon a time, it was a… pleasant experience for the most part. Learned a great deal (wistful brief smile) from her.

Advice, there is no need to share anything you are not ready or simply do not wish to share. With some people, you will, others not at all… IMHO-fwiw

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2018-06-28 12:46:30 -0500 Report

Hey Stuart, thanks a lot for jumping in here. A really interesting perspective. I have also had clients tell me they felt like they had to apologize for, as you said so well, traumatizing their friends, as if they had experienced a blood sugar episode on purpose, out of laziness, or even to get attention. Another example of how so often people don't know how to cope with someone else's chronic condition, and just want to be reassured they won't be made uncomfortable. You're right, real friends ask better questions, and are open to whatever you might want to tell them. I also agree that diabetes is yours to share, or not to share, and that other people don't have the right to ask personal questions. I have had clients tell me they feel sometimes as if the other person either fears they are contagious or might, as you said, cause them unwanted "trauma." Diabetes is your information to share, I agree. I have also had clients tell me interesting stories about dating diabetics and non-diabetics, for different reasons. Nice to see you!

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