Jeanette Terry was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 11 years old, and she has since lived with diabetes through difficult life transitions, including the teenage years, college, and having children. She addresses the day-to-day struggles of living with diabetes—going beyond medical advice—to improve overall adherence and management.
Sometimes people are inconsiderate and unaware when talking to someone with chronic illness.
There, I said it.
Those of us living with a chronic disease like diabetes have felt this kind of frustration toward someone at some point. In fact, I am sure everyone has felt frustrated with another person in varying situations and circumstances. As someone living with diabetes, I used to get quite embittered and often embarrassed when people were impolite or didn’t understand what I was going through.
It doesn’t bother me much anymore. I guess I have developed a thick skin when it comes to dealing with lack of knowledge about diabetes—there aren’t many things pertaining to diabetes that make me uncomfortable anymore.
But diabetes can be a very sensitive subject, and it can be hard to talk about, so I would like to write this to all of you who have a loved one or someone you associate with who is living with diabetes.
If you truly want to help your loved one, do all you can to learn about diabetes. Here are five things that people living with diabetes would like you to know:
1. We feel bad, and we don’t know why
Sometimes people with diabetes just don’t feel well. We don’t know what is causing it exactly, but we know something is off with our diabetes. When you ask what is wrong and we can’t tell you, just accept that as our answer. And don’t think that we are making it up to get sympathy from you. It is real, and if you had diabetes, you would understand.
2. We get emotional
It is important to understand that a lot of the time the biggest struggle with diabetes is emotional and psychological. Just because we look fine doesn’t mean it is true. Diabetes has a strong emotional impact, so we're sorry if we lash out for what may seem like no reason or sob on your shoulder or take you on our crazy emotional roller coaster with us. If we are being unreasonable, consider our diabetes before you jump to other conclusions.
3. We don’t need critiques
It is really annoying when our food choices are critiqued. We know you mean well by pointing out every unhealthy food choice we make, but please keep it to yourself. Unless we have specifically asked you to help us with our diet, let us eat a few scoops of ice cream in peace.
4. We can’t control everything
Diabetes changes, and it can be unpredictable. When we struggle to keep our blood sugars stable, don’t keep reminding us that we would feel better if we were to get our blood sugars under control. As a diabetic who frequently visits the doctor and measures my blood sugar daily, I know that. We can’t just make a change and magically have perfect blood sugar levels. Diabetes management is a system of trial and error. If one thing doesn’t work, then it is time to try something different. So we can’t just “do better.” But we do need encouragement to stick with it.
5. We need your support
Living with diabetes is hard. You have to be a strong person to deal with diabetes on a daily basis. When you look at us, it may not seem like we are struggling. Even though we have a smile on our face, we may simply be fooling you. Know that it takes a LOT of work to have good diabetes control. Sometimes diabetics can feel lonely when we don’t feel like we can share our feelings and struggles. We need your support and love more than anything else.
Ask us about our diabetes and how we feel. The more we share, the more confident we can become in controlling this disease.