Why Are People with Diabetes SO ANGRY?!
We often speak about depression when we’re discussing the emotional challenges of diabetes. And with good reason. Diabetes can be a burdensome and scary prospect for a person – ignorance on how to manage the condition, frustration at failure, or simply the idea of complications, or perhaps remembering stories of what might have happened to a relative. It is easy to lose hope, sometimes.
However, one often forgotten emotion is anger. We do not speak often enough about ANGER in the world of diabetes. And a person with diabetes can experience anger for quite a variety of reasons.
Sometimes, we experience anger at the diagnosis.
We might feel anger at the hot shame of having failed to prevent the condition from arising, and ‘given ourselves’ a disease which is now mired in a lot of social stigma. People with type 2 diabetes may be seen as failures, or slobs who didn’t do their best with their food choices, or were lazy and didn’t do their part with exercising. The fear of judgment puts us out there, and makes us feel vulnerable. Sometimes we feel anger at the sheer impotence of having a condition we feel we didn’t see coming, or couldn’t do anything to stop. Or perhaps we might feel anger because we’re scared we’re not going to meet the high learning curve it takes to manage the condition – we might be scared we’ll fail. We might feel, for the first time, that we are indeed vulnerable to powers of death.
This kind of anger tends to fade with time, as we educate ourselves and learn to better manage our conditions. When we do away with myths, and misinformation, we can thus arrive at a place of acceptance and peace about our diagnosis.
However, once we’re living with the condition, other forms of anger might arise.
Sometimes, we experience anger at the medical system.
Sometimes it’s due to having to argue with an ignorant medical team, or at a hospital, or having to argue with one’s insurance company over the coverage of even the most basic of needs. There can be a LOT of obstacles out there for people with diabetes in order to even live – and the out of pocket costs can be crippling. This topic is endless, but to say that many of the issues we face here are ridiculous is a giant understatement.
It can be especially frustrating when one’s medical team condescends to us; putting down the real efforts we put into managing swinging blood glucose levels, or trying to lose weight.
Sometimes, we experience anger because we’re misunderstood.
We are not always people who are not doing what they need to do, out of laziness. Sometimes we are people who are scared, or who are tired of trying, or who are ignorant and have no tools. Or sometimes, we really are fighting hard and do not have the best tools – yet we get labeled as non-compliant. Understand that what we want is your emotional support, not your parenting. Understand that diabetes has taken away a lot of our independence and spontaneity, and when you police our behaviors, you continue to take our own power away from us – for better or for worse.
Remember how hard it was for you to keep a diet, and failed after about six months? Well, it takes a lot of effort on our part to manage the condition, and it’s not easy to make the daily choice of caring – for the rest of our lives.
Sometimes, we experience anger because of the managing.
We might get frustrated at our loss of freedom and spontaneity, or even embarrassed at needing to take medications with really unsettling side effects. We might feel anger and self judgment for failing to correct blood glucose levels, for having overcorrected them, for forgetting things we need, for making the wrong choice at dinner, etc., etc. We might become burdened at the constant need to carry with us a plethora of things. To top it off, fluctuating blood glucose levels bring with them hormonal changes which directly affect our energy levels and our moods. High and low blood glucose levels can bring with them feelings of anger, depression, paranoia, confusion, etc. Sometimes, if a blood glucose level is low enough, a person might even act out in violence, or seem as if they were intoxicated. Some people with diabetes have been endangered or abused by others, including authorities, for suspecting they were drunk or under the influence of illegal substances. This is a very angering and scary prospect.
Understand that we are not ourselves when our blood glucose levels are out of control. Sometimes, we need a gentle reminder to check our sugars, to take a glucose gel or tablet, or to correct. And in some situations, we might need emergency medical intervention.
Sometimes, we experience anger because of misinformation.
We work so hard to educate ourselves, and others, and it can be broken in an instant, when a major TV station or publication decides to share a poorly researched story, or stigma, regarding diabetes. We then get a sudden influx of well-meaning people sharing these articles with us, trying to get us to see we can ‘cure ourselves,’ or that we should stop having some food or another.
Understand that the science behind diabetes has been rapidly evolving for the last 40 years. That article on sugar you read in 1985, is no longer applicable. There are also a LOT of opportunists, scammers, and even snake oil purveyors, trying to get our dime. Along with everyone else! If there was something genuinely bad for us or if there was a cure for us – believe us, we would be the first to know.
If you want to help us, you may visit a diabetes educator with us. You may take on some of the burden of cooking regular meals, or preparing lunches and snacks. If we are prone to forgetting our diabetes kit, you may learn what we need to pack in it, and perhaps help us remember to take it with us. Diabetes is a very large, and burdensome, learning curve for many. The more it progresses, the more it takes from us to be diligent and manage. Helping to ease burdens, instead of policing, is a great solution.
The anger behind having diabetes can come in MANY forms. However, there are ways of managing and coping with our anger – and unless we are in the middle of a serious medical emergency – there is NEVER any excuse of systematic physical and emotional abuse. If you are experiencing abuse on the part of a spouse, family, relative, or partner, etc. Please, please seek help from your medical team, or a local mental health provider.