Ginger Vieira was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 13, celiac disease a year later, and fibromyalgia in 2014. Ginger provides great insights into life with multiple chronic illnesses, including how to make the most of your life despite your health setbacks.
If you have diabetes and only see your family once or twice a year, those encounters, especially over the holidays, can lead to some extra stress.
You're not alone if your family tends to:
- gasp (and lecture) when you choose to eat something sweet
- tell you that you need to pay better attention to your blood sugars
- lecture you on diabetes with random things they read on the Internet
Handling those comments without screaming can be very challenging. You've been living every day of the year with diabetes and yet, during the holidays, when you're all reunited, your family suddenly thinks you need their help. That's frustrating!
5 tips for handling the "diabetes police"
Remind yourself over and over and over that they love you and their comments come from a place of concern and care (hopefully). It's hard to expect the people closest to us to simply not care or not wonder or not be concerned about our health. If they had a high-maintenance health condition, we'd probably be curious too, and we'd want to help them take care of themselves. Knowing how to do that in a positive, effective way can be very challenging for a non-diabetic to learn.
Take a deep breath and explain things to them. You might say something like, "You know, actually, I can enjoy sweets in moderation as long as I pay attention to my blood sugars and take my medications properly. People with diabetes can have dessert now and then, in moderation, like everyone else on the planet."
Tell them what "good support" looks like to you. Some people might actually like having someone hold them accountable around every morsel they eat. (I don't know any of those people…but they might exist!) You, on the other hand, might appreciate someone who helps you estimate the carbohydrates in your meals or someone who helps you remember to check your blood sugar before bed. The point is that you're explaining very clearly what kind of help you would like from your family so they can feel as though they're supporting you.
Educate them in ways that feel comfortable to you. The more your family understands about your diabetes and the more they realize that YOU are very knowledgeable about your diabetes, the less they will try to tell you what to do because they'll know you're doing a great job. Try to teach them more about how you make decisions, how you take your medications, or what your blood sugar numbers mean.
Stand up for yourself boldly. If your family is pushy, critical, and simply nags you constantly about diabetes, it may be time to say loud and clear, "Please, I know you care about me, but your comments don't feel supportive. They make me feel criticized and stressed. I would greatly appreciate it if you let me handle my diabetes care myself and refrain from making comments or telling me how to take care of myself. Thank you!" Sometimes, people need to hear the message directly in order to get it…and back off!
In the end, it comes down to communicating clearly and remembering that your family loves and cares about you. Do you have any members of the diabetes police in your family? How do you handle them?
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