Ignorance is bliss, or so they say. In some cases the not knowing can indeed be a great comfort and it most certainly cannot hurt you. So is it better to remain ignorant of the facts and continue on in your ignorance?
Diabetes has taught me otherwise because I didn’t have the option to remain ignorant. I had to develop an understanding of what was happening to me and that did not happen overnight. In fact it has taken many years for me to even begin to acknowledge all the ins and outs of this condition and I still have a lot more to learn. Even without the diabetes, maintaining good health doesn’t happen all at once, it’s continuous and takes a good amount of determination and patience. Being able to accept that diabetes is now a part of your life isn’t an easy thing to do. I’ve experienced several emotions when I was first diagnosed, months and even years after my diagnosis.
Although I’d made the decision not to be ignorant of my new found condition and all that it came with, initially I must admit that I did experience several emotions, one of which was denial. In all honesty, I found myself at different stages with this emotion in my diabetes life. There are five stages of denial, these stage include Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross explains these stages in her book ‘Death and dying’. Everybody is different and therefore maynot experience all these stages or in the order listed. It really depends on the indivdual.
So what is denial?
Denial – A denial of something is a statement that it is not true, does not exist, or did not happen.
“You can’t change what you refuse to confront.”
To begin with I found it extremely difficult to make all these new adjustments in my life. It was very unfamiliar and all so confusing to comprehend. Even though the lack of insulin in my body had now turned me into a skeleton and all the blood tests came back indicating that I was diabetic. I still sometimes thought that somehow the doctor must have been mistaken. I still found it hard to believe that these were my results. “How did it come to all of this?”
On the other hand, seeing my injections for the first time and my fluctuating blood sugars beginning to settle down, allowed me to understand that I needed to keep injecting in order to avoid going back to my pre diagnosed self. Remembering that I had just experienced first-hand what it was like to be deprived of insulin. I knew I certainly didn’t want to go back in that direction. I didn’t want to feel thirsty all the time, urinating uncontrollably and ultimately I just wanted to become the old me, the healthy me that diabetes had taken away.
It made me aware that I wouldn’t be doing myself any favours if I chose not to deal with my diabetes. It was all too real and it certainly wasn’t going to go anywhere. I couldn’t just pretend it didn’t exist. I had to take the steps to start to change things in my life. From that moment I decided I wouldn’t let it take over my life in a negative way. It was now a part of me and I had to find a way to work with it in order to be normal again.
Nevertheless, a little acceptance of my diabetes wasn’t the end. I still struggled with my emotions towards having the condition. At times I found myself feeling very angry and pushing those feelings onto others around me and I’d find I’d become upset over the smallest of things. I used sports as an outlet for my anger. I swam, played basketball, tennis, netball and I ran every race I could run. I found I was pretty good at them all which helped me to change that negative energy into something more positive. Playing sports to the best of my ability was a way for me to deal with this new emotion of anger. I actually didn’t recognise it as me being in denial about my diabete it was only with time that this became more clear. I grew to like the sports I played and in turn I grew to like the way it made me feel.
Looking back I think that it would have been beneficial if I was able to talk to someone about these emotions and work through them whilst understanding them in relation to this condition. Although I had a great deal of support from my family, there was only so much that they could grasp and help me with. I think my family also had a difficult time with the changes that were happening to me and understanding what their roles were and how they could help me get through it. The doctors and nurses were very positive and helpful in any way that they could be. However, if I recall, how I was feeling with regards to my diabetes it was never really something that was discussed. I think it was discussed more with my parents, maybe because I was a child at the time. I’ll have to ask them about that.
“To change your life you need to change your priorities.”
I definitely feel diabetes forced me to grow up a lot quicker than my other siblings. I stopped playing with my dolls and started learning more about my condition. Everything was put on hold. I asked more questions during my appointments and with the help of my mother I started a subscription to a diabetes magazine. In one of the magazine editions, I found an article on Dr Frederick Banting. It had pictures of children who had diabetes, how they looked before insulin treatment and once on insulin therapy. I could finally relate to someone else who had gone through what I was now experiencing, (although that someone was just a picture image). The drastic before and after pictures were proof that I could be me again, if I just did what was right for me.
”You don’t have to do it alone.”
Thereafter I was going to deal with my diabetes, most of the time that meant handling things on my own. I somehow found the strength and forced myself to get on with it. Initially that meant even refusing to attend the young diabetes group that my family and nurses tried so hard to get me to attend. Maybe I’d taken the ‘dealing with it by myself’ to an extreme. With time I was able to let go a little and let others help me more. However this new trait of doing it by myself definitely became the norm in other aspects of my life. Even if that meant it was hard for me, I was going to do it by myself.
“And now I’ll do what’s best for me.”
As I grew up, I also learnt how to express my feelings better and in turn it helped me. I wasn’t bottling things up and waiting for them to explode on the nearest person I could find. Instead my family, friends, doctors and nurses were going to hear my tales of diabetes woes. I wasn’t going to do it all alone. I began to understand that they were crucial to my diabetes management and in order to obtain good control and regain my good health, I would have to utilise them when I could. The nurses introduced me to other Type 1 diabetics, online diabetes communities and gave me several numbers I could call for support from them and other diabetes associations. I was going to give it my all.
Coping with a chronic illness was never going to be an easy thing to do. I’ve come a long way with my emotions and diabetes. I’ve learnt to deal with it in a certain way. I’ve accepted it for what it is. It is a part of me. A part of me which I have to tolerate and not hate. It has been my companion for so many years now and we’ve been through a lot together. It’s made me the responsible, strong, patient adult that I am today. It continues to drain me, challenges me greatly and has allowed me to be more positive about other aspects in my life. I have a better understanding of myself, a confidence that grows with each passing year, that I am still here and that I’ve been successful in managing this condition. Having a blog has also helped me to continue to deal with these emotions. It has become a platform, an outlet for me to express myself. I’ve been able to connect with so many other diabetics who are just like me, going through the same daily struggles. We’ve been able to exchange stories and I hope I’ve helped them as much as they have helped me on many occasion.
The most important thing about having a chronic illness is not to give up on yourself. Keep fighting it and don’t let it drag you down. With the help of others you can maintain and manage it to the best of your capability. You just have to give yourself the chance to live as normal and stable life as possible. If you are recently diagnosed or even if you’ve been diabetic for many years now and find yourself struggling with your emotions, it doesn’t hurt to seek advice and help from others. Actually I strongly recommend it. If you want to do what is best for your health and live ahealthyl life style, you have to make diabetes a priority, you have to get your mind right in order to be able to manage this life style you’re in.
Here are a few ideas to help you with your diabetes emotional management:
– Create a support system, whether this is your family, friends, doctors, nurses or other diabetics.
– Educate yourself and others around you
– Don’t be afraid to ask questions
– Don’t be too hard on yourself
– Take your medication because god knows you need it.
– Test your blood sugars regularly
– Stay active
– Take it one step at a time
– Don’t let diabetes define you.
– It’s ok to be angry about your situation.
-Don’t bottle up your emotions, find an outlet, a way to work through it.
Support and Advice Links:
Diabetes blogs are a great way to connect with other diabetics. Here are a few of my favourites.
4)The Grumpy pumper and many more……….
http://www.facebook.com – several diabetes groups