The Fear of Having Diabetes
“I would like a large #1 combo, with the crispy meat burrito, and a large Coke.’ I took the man’s order, along with his family’s, in what was obviously their weekly night out. They were laughing, in conversation, and excited. Nothing out of the ordinary. I see scenarios like this very regularly, since I have a second job, working part time at a restaurant to earn a little extra money.
But then I happened to look down at the gentleman’s legs. I froze in place. I instantly recognized the brown spots on his shins, varying from light to dark and going all the way down below his socks. My father sported them as well – signs of advancing diabetic complications, and out of control glucose levels. Diabetic dermopathy.
Anxiety and stress
Suddenly, the anxiety of having diabetes came over me; the stress of dwelling on all the potential complications – some within and some outside of my control… and the things I was ignoring. I was unable to look away; as if staring at my own life into the future. As if staring into my own diabetic crystal ball. The fear brought on by having diabetes can be crippling.
You see, my father died of diabetic complications when I was in my 20s. He lived with type 2 diabetes for 23 years, dying at the age of 63. The rapid degeneration of his condition caused us, as a family, to make deep commitments and sacrifices regarding his care, and we were his nurses, and dialysis providers. He was completely dependent on us. It was a very sobering and frightening experience.
Often as a diabetic community, we don’t care for discussing these realities. Especially the complications of diabetes – or the havoc it can wreck in families. I can understand this perspective – after all, managing the stress from diabetes, and diabetes related worry, can be very challenging. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to consider visiting a therapist who specializes in chronic illness management, and adopting techniques to help us carry the load. If we ignore this stress and anxiety, it can often lead to anger related issues, as well as depression, and other mental health concerns.
However, one of the reasons why diabetes is a ‘silent killer,’ is that for the most part, we don’t ‘see’ diabetes in our lives until there’s a complication. Diabetes just seems like a frustrating annoyance to many of us. We struggle making dietary changes, taking medications, testing blood glucose levels, etc., dealing with unsympathetic family members – OR, we live in denial, pretending there’s nothing there, pretending nothing will go wrong. It’s not often we are faced with the reality of the danger before us: when I saw this man ordering food, it was like staring at diabetes right in the eyes -- waiting to take my life… if I let it. I could simply not deny its existence.
And so came the fear. I was shaken to my core, but I can make my fear work for me, and so can you. When we manage our diabetes, and take actions TODAY, we give diabetes the healthy respect it deserves. If you haven’t done so, speak to your doctor about visiting with a Certified Diabetes Educator, or a Registered Dietitian, to learn how to manage your condition, and take baby steps to better manage your health, rather than an ‘all or nothing’ approach. You may also want to consider looking into local diabetes support groups in your area, where patients can relate to others, and share their experiences.
If you take control today, you can control tomorrow.
Have you experienced any foot complications from diabetes?