numbness in their feet,” she adds, “then they may suddenly decide they have to do something.”
Moving past the denial
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with diabetes — or even if you’ve lived with it for years — how do you know if your emotions are a part of the normal denial process or something more serious? The American Diabetes Association has a list of warning signs that suggest denial has become a problem.
For example, you tell yourself that you just have a little bit of sugar in your blood, or a “touch” of diabetes. But diabetes is diabetes — there’s no such thing as just a little, whether your blood sugar is very high or just a bit above normal.
Other warning signs include convincing yourself that a bite or two of a high-sugar food won’t hurt, ignoring sores that won’t heal, putting off seeing a doctor, ignoring meal planning, forgetting to examine your feet every day, and continuing to smoke.
You’re also in denial, according to the ADA, if you don’t regularly test your blood glucose levels. You may prefer to believe that you don’t need to test because you can “tell” what your blood sugar is by how you feel — a recipe for trouble. You’re taking risks if you feel you can’t ask your family members to change their eating habits or fear you might have to eat alone. And finally, you’re in denial if you tell yourself that because you only take oral medications, your diabetes isn’t serious.
Of course, even if you deal with your diabetes well, denial may creep back in once in a while. This is normal. In other cases, Laura Riggi says, fear can overwhelm diabetics and paralyze them from taking action. “And sometimes,” she says, “people just get tired of all that goes into their care.” When this happens, it’s important that you learn to recognize the warning signs so you can get back on track.
If you’re still plagued by denial, you can start to take control by writing down your care plan and health care goals and learning to understand why they are important, according to the ADA. Be realistic and remember that whatever your goal — say, losing 50 pounds — it might take a while for you to get there.
Remember, too, that a good support system is essential to good diabetic management. Talk to your family and friends so that they will understand your needs and what they can do to help. Consider consulting a diabetic educator and a nutritionist for help as well. And if concerns about your diabetes are overwhelming you and you feel depressed, speak to your doctor. There are millions of other diabetics out there struggling with the same issues, so you shouldn’t have to feel alone.
* All the names of the diabetic patients in the article have been changed.