Hey Dr. Gary,
Lately have been feeling so alone dealing with my diabetes. I really have no one in my life that has ever had diabetes. I'm trying to take it more seriously but everyone is telling me that I'm fine! I feel like yelling at them and saying if I don't take good care of my disease it will affect my life later on. I want to live a long healthy life. How do I get everyone to understand?
Living with diabetes is not an easy road, and it sure helps to have some company along the way to give a few words of understanding and encouragement, starting with family and friends. Your story is one that I hear so often from clients.
I want to begin by saying what I always say in this situation. We can’t control how other people choose to think, feel or behave. As much as you would like to have the people around you being supportive — or at least acknowledging that you are diabetic — from what you wrote, it sounds like you’re not all on the same page right now.
I am not making excuses here, believe me. Some people are able to step up to the plate and be a real support, while others aren’t. There are a lot of reasons for this. But one of the main reasons is helplessness. Sometimes people don’t know how to react when someone they care about is living with a chronic condition. They think they have to say the “right” thing or that they should be able to “fix” you in some way. And in the absence of knowing how they should react, they feel kind of helpless. The result is the “oh, you’re just fine” reaction. That’s plain, old denial: “If I don’t think about it, then it will go away.” Not what you need to hear. And then, you probably have people in your life who don’t want to be reminded that their own eating habits aren’t all that great. After all, misery loves company.
I encourage you to focus on the big picture here. What’s your goal in maintaining your diabetic self-care? I suspect it is to take the best possible care of yourself. To stay as healthy as possible so that you can live your life to the fullest. In other words, your diabetic self-care is all about being the best you can be.
Stay focused on your vision for your life. As much as you would like their support and encouragement, whether they can step up to the plate or not, your self-care is about you (and yes, about being there for them, even if they don’t seem to appreciate it). This may sound harsh, but when it comes to taking care of yourself, you need to put yourself first. Regardless of what other people think.
It might help to take advantage of teaching moments that arise. For example, when you are choosing the healthy option and not the carbs or sugar, you might want to respond to any of those “come on, have some” comments with a few words about how managing your diet helps you to be your best, and what can happen when you don’t follow your diet. Along with a reminder that the reason you look so healthy is that you are taking care of your health.
Friends and family members have been known to come around over time, to understand what your diabetic self-care means to you after you have repeatedly demonstrated that you are committed. But in the mean time, enjoy the benefits of staying compliant.
But about that support… You are part of the most supportive group of people on the planet. So I hope you will stay in touch with us, my friend. You are not alone! Keep us posted!
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To learn more on this topic:
Ask an Expert: I Can't Stop Eating Too Much
Ask an Expert: Why do I Keep Doing This to Myself?
Ask an Expert: When Family and Cultural Traditions Don't Mix With a Diabetic Diet