Self-advocacy for Optimal Diabetes Care: Advocating Your Needs to Your Circle
Advocating for your concerns and needs with your "circle" will hopefully lead to better family and friend support in your type 2 diabetes journey. Communicating effectively with family and friends will likely be one of the most important and frequent parts of advocacy for your diabetes and self-care needs.
How to get better family support in type 2 diabetes care
How you go about communicating your needs, and what it looks like for you will largely depend on the relationship you have with whom you're speaking. It will also depend on how involved they are in your life. But, regardless of the specifics, the following tips will help you navigate these conversations.
Be open and honest with your needs
When it comes to effectively advocating your needs, especially with family and close friends, open and honest conversation is key. As Ginger Vieira says in her book, Dealing with Diabetes Burnout, "There's no way we can truly expect those around us to understand what we want for support...if we don’t take the time to explain it."1
Be specific about what support looks like
You don't want to end up resenting the people you need support from. Be very specific about what type of support you want from them. This will help you to avoid resentful feelings and get your needs met, and help them to better understand where you are coming from and what to do about it.
Pacify the "diabetes police"
If you feel that it would be a risk with that person for them to hassle or nag you about your request, verbalize that concern when asking for support. Explain to them the concept of the diabetes police. Request that family members who are guilty of acting this way asks you how you would feel best supported before proceeding with their own assumptions of what will be supportive for you.
Squash sabotaging habits
Sabotage interferes or jeopardizes efforts to live healthier. Examples of sabotage and unhelpful support include negative comments, teasing, or nagging. It can be served up with a smile and wrapped in humor. This may also involve bringing home sweets/your favorite treat, offering up unhealthy options, and setting the stage for temptation.
You may hear comments like, "I was thinking of you," "you’ve worked so hard, you deserve a treat" or "I know it’s your favorite." It’s usually unintentional and they don’t even realize that they are sabotaging your diabetes management.
Reasons for sabotaging behaviors
When you encounter sabotaging behaviors from family and friends in your circle, it often helps to understand the reasons for their behavior. Potential reasons for sabotage may include the following:
- The person feels that your new eating habits will adversely affect the way they eat and is not ready to make changes.
- They don’t understand why you want to challenge yourself with exercise or miss the social time of going out for meals.
- A spouse may struggle with jealousy or fears surrounding their partner's weight loss, looking and feeling better; they are uncomfortable with attention from others and fear that you may leave them.
Reminders to better deal with sabotaging behaviors from your circle
- Make self-care a priority, stand firm in your right to care for yourself.
- Have a real conversation with your saboteur. Bring their behaviors to their attention; describe how this impacts you and makes you feel.
- Address his or her feelings of jealousy or fear.
- Remember that you are the one with diabetes and who experiences all of it (side effects, treatment, complications).
You have a voice in advocating for your own unique needs for better diabetes care. Your family and friends may want to support you, but may not understand the many aspects of your diabetes journey and what works for you.
How do you advocate for your needs? How did it go?
Has diabetes changed your exercise routine?