The Emotional Pain of Diabetes
When we say the word ‘pain’, physical pain is often what comes to mind. I’d suggest most people have had physical pain at some point in their life even if it was only from a paper cut. Many people with diabetes live with chronic physical pain from things like finger pricks to the more serious neuropathy that can affect our feet and other parts of our body.
I believe the emotional pain and anxiety that some of us live with is often overlooked. Similar to other chronic diseases, diabetes is not something that people can ‘see’. It is invisible to those around us. It only becomes visible if someone sees you checking your blood sugars or they see your continuous glucose monitor or insulin pump attached to your body. Or if you choose to share this part of your life with others. So if diabetes is invisible, how would anyone know the emotional pain that some diabetic folks live with? The simple answer is they don’t. It is very real for many people. This emotional pain can eventually move to anxiety or depression which complicates coping with diabetes even further.
Diabetes and judgement
Imagine living your life feeling like others look at you, or speak, with blame.
“You have always been overweight (or obese) and now you have diabetes, that’s your own fault.”
“You are doing nothing to fix this.”
“Why don’t you just lose weight?”
“The reason you have diabetes is…”
If you think folks with diabetes don’t hear these callous and mean-spirited comments, you are mistaken. We all know, people can be very judgmental about things they know nothing about. Unfortunately, many read an article and consider themselves educated or the authority on diabetes. They can’t wait to tell you what they know. Or worse yet, what you did wrong.
Let’s say now I take those comments to heart. To begin with, they hurt, big time. Then I question myself. Did I do this to myself? Why didn’t I lose weight? I blame myself…if only I had done this or that… Now the pain, the emotional pain, becomes real. My self esteem has likely been affected and maybe even lowered. It takes great resiliency to be able to deal with those types of comments and not be affected by them. It is hard enough to deal with diabetes itself and the huge learning curve without having to deal with painful comments!
There is naturally some anxiety attached to diabetes. It is scary and many people are afraid of what it means to them long term. For some people that fear or anxiety is not easily controlled. Diabetic routines are rigorous and at times complicated. Most of the time these routines must be kept to ensure healthful living without complications. Anxiety can be heightened by all the negativity we read about on the web related to diabetes or our innate belief that we have to have perfect numbers, to be perfect. I’m not sure perfect exists and if it does, what would it take to get there? Is it any wonder depression is prevalent among people with diabetes? Diabetes is not an easy health concern to live with.
Professional and personal support
All is not lost though. There is help and support both professionally, and, personally in our own diabetic community. No one, I repeat, no one knows what it’s like to live with diabetes better than another person with it. But we have to find each other out there to get the support. We look after all our physical needs. We need to look after our emotional ones too and deal with the emotional pain. As the ones living with diabetes, we shouldn’t hesitate to ask each other how we are coping, not as a replacement for professional care but in addition to. Hopefully we can reduce the emotional pain felt just by caring enough to ask and being there for one another.
I’ll go out on a limb and say we all live with some degree of anxiety or emotional pain related to our diabetes. Let’s reduce both if we can. Hugs.