One big thing I have encountered over and over this past year since I have made a huge effort to get in touch with the diabetes community is the fact that although there are tons of medical treatments, diet suggestions, exercise routines, medicine, tools, aids, etc., the fact that diabetes ravages our psychology and emotions is very rarely addressed, and there exists almost no professional help whatsoever.
The only emotional and psychological aid I have ever received has come from family, myself, and other type 1 diabetics I have met. A lot of my physical problems could have been avoided if I had been able to, say, see a professional diabetes psychologist or counselor soon after diagnosis. But I don’t think they even ever existed until very recently.
REALLY?! Why has no one ever recognized the physical impact emotional and psychological diabetes trauma has?
Why has no one ever addressed this issue? Why does no one ever take psychology and emotions seriously?
Our thoughts and feelings drive our behavior. It’s obvious. Mom and Dad are getting divorced. Child acts out because they are confused, devastated, insecure, sad, angry….
It’s the same with being diagnosed at a young age (or even any age) with a chronic illness. I was frightened, confused, insecure, angry, you name it. What did I do to deal with these thoughts and feelings? I rebelled.
If I had been able to have help processing these fears and feelings, maybe I would have come around to taking good care of my diabetes much sooner and avoided all the complications I suffer now.
I did have some support from my family. But there was no real addressing of my feelings. I suppose because I hid it fairly well, I internalized, and so everyone thought I was doing better than I was. But the fact is I needed help.
Six or so months after my diagnosis I was at school. It was after school, actually, and I was playing with some friends on the playground while I waited for my mom to come pick me up. My dad was in the hospital recovering from a grand mal seizure (he was type 1 as well).
I had been acting out I think, because all I remember was my friends abandoning me and me ending up in the bathroom washing my hands. My mom called to me and I didn’t answer her. Finally she came in to the restroom and asked me why I hadn’t answered her, she had been looking for me and we had to go. I turned around and just burst into tears, crying loudly.
“Tamra, baby, what’s wrong?” She asked, obviously concerned.
“I don’t want to be a diabetic!” I yelled and ran into her arms.
She held me there for a bit and told me it was going to be alright. She wished I didn’t have diabetes either, but it was all going to be OK.
I had just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and my dad was also a type 1 and now suffering in the hospital with complications I was probably going to eventually have as well. I may have been young, but I understood the immense weight of it all.
I was scared to death! And I had no idea how to deal with this fear.
It only got worse. My dad, just two years later, died from a stroke brought on by complications of his diabetes. Up until this point I had been rebelling, scared of my diabetes. My father’s death just pushed me over the edge.
I completely gave up all hope. I spiraled into the fear and anger. I shut down and ignored my diabetes as best I could. Hiding from something that I could never escape because it lived within me.
This emotional and psychological trauma was only compounded upon in the coming years when my aunt died from kidney failure brought on by type 1 diabetes. And then my type 1 cousin died a few years later.
The fear, depression, hopelessness; they just fed my rebellion. Some people look at this and ask why seeing my family members die of the disease we share didn’t cause me to try as much as possible to be healthy. No, it all had the opposite effect on me. It killed any hope of a long healthy life I might have once possessed.
My diagnosis began with fear, and I was never given the opportunity to witness a happy, healthy story with diabetes. I was continually surrounded by the truth of the devastating effects of diabetes. Not only did I witness my family die, but I was also drowned with horror stories of amputations, blindness, ect.
No one ever bothered to tell me how good and long and healthy my life could be.
No, it was always, “If you don’t straighten up, you’re going to suffer and die.” It was always negative.
Diabetes was always evil.
Nobody addressed this issue. All I got was stern looks of disappointment and frustration when my A1c once again came back outrageously high. No one thought to treat my emotional and psychological issues in order to help my physical problems.
No one bothered to make the connection…
Eventually I made the connection on my own. This came after nearly dying of heart failure and having open heart surgery. I looked at myself in the mirror, quite literally, and asked myself what the fuck my problem was.
“Why can’t I do what I know I need to do?”
Then through the tears and a good hard long look at my life, I finally figured it out. It’s all in my head. It’s all in my psychology and emotional reactions to my diabetes.
I worked on it. I am fixing it. And the more I deal with my feelings, the better I do at getting physically healthy.
We need diabetes psychologists and counselors.