It's normal to walk out of the doctor's office, newly diagnosed with diabetes, feeling overwhelmed. There are the lifestyle changes along with the physical and emotional struggles that come with diagnosis. Loads of information to learn and take in. You might feel like you don't know where to start to try to tackle this new challenge — or even feel like you're drowning.
Here are a few tips to use as stepping stones to keep your head above water until you get used to the idea of living with diabetes:
Your first priority should be get healthy no matter what it takes. Each individual is diagnosed at a different stage in the disease and in life. Sometimes diagnosis comes when you are already critically ill. In that situation, everything else should take a backseat while you get well enough to even consider long-term treatment. In other cases, you may not know you're sick until the doctor gives you the diagnosis. In that situation, you can immediately start planning and educating yourself in order to get healthy.
One Day at a Time
The most important tip to remember is to take one day at a time. Start with what you already know. If you don’t know anything, follow the instructions your doctor gave you to the best of your ability until you can understand more fully. Don’t worry, it will come. It just takes time. There is rarely a person with diabetes who has a great day every day — even after living with it for several years. The best thing to do is start today and do everything you know how to do to have good diabetes control. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Do the best you can today. Then if today wasn’t great, learn more in order to help you do better tomorrow.
Build Your Healthcare Team
Another great stepping stone to help you cope with diabetes is to find the best doctor and medical team for you. If the doctor who diagnosed you is your general care doctor, you may want to consider finding an endocrinologist, which is a doctor who specializes in diseases such as diabetes. This may seem like a daunting task, but ask around and even ask your current doctor for recommendations. It is important to find a doctor you like and are compatible with and who is going to help you get your diabetes under control. You will be meeting with this doctor on a regular basis for the long haul.
Once you find a good doctor he or she can help you with the rest of your medical team. If your doctor doesn’t recommend you see a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), ask if there is one that they can refer you to. CDEs are life savers when it comes to helping you understand the ins and outs of diabetes. So if you feel like you don’t know anything, find a CDE and hold regular visits with them until you start to get it. It is their job to prepare you to take care of yourself. They also have access to the tools you will need to treat your diabetes on a daily basis, like glucose meters, insulin pens and pumps and more. There are many tools out there and your CDE can help you find the best tools for your situation.
You may want to meet with a dietitian to help make dietary changes if necessary. Diabetes is a complicated disease and food is at the center of it. You have to eat to live, and once diagnosed with diabetes you have to learn to eat the right things in order to live. A dietitian can help you make a meal plan that fits your lifestyle, or help you make changes to your lifestyle in order to create good eating habits that help you control your diabetes.
Take it Slow
These stepping stones may seem like huge leaps, but remember to take it slow and add on as you begin to understand the steps you are taking. It is very important to build a medical team you trust. Along with your family they can be your biggest support as you face this new challenge. They are there for you so don’t be afraid to use them and ask as many questions as it takes to understand. You can also ask your doctor if there are any diabetes education classes in your area. This is a great way to learn more about diabetes and meet others in the same situation you are.
As you start to learn the steps and tools necessary to get your diabetes under control, also start listening to your own body. It will be the best indicator of how you are doing. The longer you live with diabetes the easier this will become. Pay attention to how you feel. If you don’t feel well then tweak something in your treatment or daily management plan until you do feel good. Remember that diabetes isn’t a death sentence. You can live a long happy and healthy life if you continue to learn and take each day at a time doing the best you can.