Feelings of defeat are more common than you might think. Over a third of people who have type 1 and type 2 diabetes feel significant levels of distress at any given time.
What does diabetes distress feel like? It may seem like diabetes is controlling your life. You might feel that no matter how hard you work at managing your diabetes, you are still failing. Perhaps you feel you lack support from friends, family, or your health care providers. On some days, it may feel overwhelming.
This is different than depression, and worth discussing with your health care team. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Diabetes is a chronic condition, and it may seem too much for you to cope with today. This is understandable. It is normal to feel burned out sometimes. However, you do not have to feel that way all the time.
Remember the saying – a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Managing a chronic condition like diabetes is no different. You have much to think about, and many ways you may feel you need to improve. If dealing with diabetes feels like a struggle, start small and keep going.
Many people feel stressed by the regimen. How many times a day should you test your blood glucose? What and when should you eat? Are you able to manage it all? Begin by motivating yourself with a short-term goal that you feel you can achieve. Act now – don't procrastinate.
Thinking about everything you want to accomplish within the year might be too stressful, and leave you deflated. Keep it manageable. Do one thing at a time. Maybe you want to lose five pounds, or start walking every morning (most mornings), or add an extra fruit or vegetable to each meal. If you decide you must lose 50 pounds in order to succeed, you set yourself up for disappointment. If you are moving in the right direction, every step is a success! Target smaller, more realistic expectations to help stay motivated. Just keep swimming!
When you are in the deep end of diabetes distress, you might feel doomed. You may fear developing eye, kidney, or nerve disease. Possible complications of diabetes can seem scary. Remember, these outcomes are not written in stone. You can improve your diabetes control in many ways. Other people are available to help you stay healthy. With good glucose management, complications of diabetes become less common.
Your diabetes care team is here to help, every step of the way. Your pharmacist is a valuable member of your team. Many Safeway pharmacies have Certified Diabetes Educators on staff, or can refer you to a certified pharmacist nearby. No one expects you to have perfect control of your diabetes at all times. Certainly, you are not expected to manage without help. Pharmacists can check to see that you are using the right medication and dose, as well as helping you to understand how they work and how best to take them. This is often referred to as a medication review. They can also assess blood glucose results, and help you stay on track. Ask for support. These professionals can help you to live a long, healthy life.
The relationships you build and rely on every day are critical to managing a chronic disease like diabetes. If you start to feel strain in your relationship with your doctor and health care providers, it is important to address this. Part of diabetes distress may be feeling that your health care team does not understand your concerns, or give clear directions. Does your pharmacist or doctor ever tell you that you are doing a good job managing your diabetes? Your team should be by your side on your journey of diabetes. Constant criticism does not help when you are making an effort to manage your illness. If you need more support, have this conversation with your health care providers. Your doctor and health care team should be solving problems together with you.
Get more out of appointments by coming prepared. Keep a list of questions, and ask for further information if you do not fully understand directions or treatments. As providers monitor your A1C and blood glucose, they should check in to see how you are doing mentally. If you are struggling, you are less likely to have well-managed diabetes.
Defeat is a cycle that gets nobody anywhere.
As well, you may have family, caregivers, and friends who try to help (or steer you away from healthy goals). If there is conflict, these relationships can also be distressing. Do you feel you lack support with lifestyle changes, or with the daily regimen of managing diabetes? Your friends and family may not quite understand what it is like to live with this chronic illness.
We all need support. If you need a different kind of help, start by talking to your loved ones and health care team. Turn to those who support your journey with managing diabetes, and call them when you need help.
Finally, consider joining a diabetes support group, and asking for a referral to a mental health counsellor. These may be good next steps to improving your emotional well-being.
Your diabetes is only well managed if you feel both physically and emotionally healthy. Even if you struggle some days, have faith that you will figure it out. If you feel overwhelmed, burned out and ready to give up, it is time to talk to someone. Ask your health care team for help.