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.

Your doctor plays a very important role in diabetes management. If you have a good doctor, they can be the light on your diabetes journey illuminating the way to help keep you on track.

However, you do have to find the right doctor for you. There are many doctors who can treat diabetes; but the first step in good diabetes self management is to do some research to find out what kind of doctor would be best for you in your personal treatment of diabetes. You may choose to go to your family doctor, or general practitioner. Or you may choose to go to an endocrinologist or other specialist that can really crack down your diabetes control. You may also choose to see a dietitian or Certified Diabetes Educator for additional help. Those are all decisions that you personally have to make, and you must do your research before making that kind of decision. This person is going to be in it for the long haul with you, so you had better like him or her.

Even if you have a great doctor, there is only so much that they can tell you about the day to day management of diabetes. Most of them do not have personal experience with the ups and downs of diabetes on a daily basis. They may be really good about getting the right prescriptions for you or treating complications that may come up in relation to diabetes. But there is so much more to diabetes management than the prescriptions and lab results. That is why you have to be the one in charge and practicing good self management. Now, that doesn’t mean you should disregard what your doctor advises. You should still listen to them and take your medications diligently as they prescribe. If you feel that your doctor has prescribed the wrong medication or that isn’t working, and they don’t seem to understand, then it is time for you to find a doctor that you trust, because trust is key in the communication between you and your doctor.

Doctors can shine a great deal of light on your understanding of diabetes. However, they will never be able to tell you what the stepping stones are for you individually. They can guide you in the right direction, but you have to decide which steps will get you there. Here are three areas of diabetes that you'll have to manage yourself.

  1. You have to decide which foods are the best for your body, because people with diabetes have different reactions to different foods. So you need to be responsible for finding a diet that will not send your blood sugar levels on a roller coaster. You can only do this through trial and error. Much of figuring out diabetes in general is trial and error, but once you find the right combinations, your life can become much easier.

  2. The emotional side of diabetes is something else that you will rarely hear doctors talk about. They can’t do much for you on that front. The longer you live with diabetes, the better you will be able to tell whether the emotions you are feeling are due to low or high blood sugar or something else. Once you know what to expect, it can be easier to work through it. Again, only you will be able to know your own body and how to react to such emotions.

  3. The biggest thing to remember in order to have really good diabetes self-management skills is to not live by anyone else’s rules. Create your own management program and daily routine. Then take it to your doctor so he or she can assist you wherever you need it. You should have a care team made up of your doctor and any other medical professionals you choose to help you with your diabetes, as well as close friends and family that can help support you in your diabetes management. But you should be at the center of your team making the decisions and taking the steps to better health. Everyone else is just there to help along the way.