Finding Diabetes Support
Diabetes is a condition that requires a daily balancing act between food intake, medicines, physical activity, and blood sugar levels. To complicate things further, each type of diabetes has different onsets and features. For some, the diagnosis may come quickly as a shock, or for others gradually, over time.
No matter what type of diabetes you have, it can lead you to feel helpless, angry, or overwhelmed when dealing with the demands of a self-managed condition. That’s where finding diabetes support – through your family, friends, or a diabetes support group in person or online – can be a big help.
When it comes to self-care when living with diabetes, it’s important to reach out for support for good mental and physical health. Below, we outline some tips for finding diabetes support.
Build a diabetes support network
Healthy relationships are a vital part of building a network you can turn to for support. Seeking out a good listener, health partner, or those who can relate to the ups and downs of diabetes can help you feel less alone.
Start with your family members, they care about you and want to help. Some extended family members may also have diabetes. Let them know what you need – maybe it is just to listen and not give feedback, which can sometimes feel like judgement.
Let trusted co-workers know that you have diabetes in case you ever need assistance. Some people find diabetes support at work, especially if there’s another person who wears the same type of insulin pump or takes the same medication.
Like family, your friends care about you and can help. A friend does not have to have diabetes to offer support. Let your friends know how they can best help support you in your diabetes care.
Parents of children with diabetes often find that other parents are the best support system because they understand the day-to-day challenges of caring for a child with diabetes. Befriend other parents at type 1 diabetes support groups, diabetes camps, or online forums.
Diabetes online community (DOC)
The DOC is a great place to find diabetes support, including community and many resources.
Some examples include:
There are also diabetes support groups through social media, including Facebook groups. In addition to online community, Diabetes Sisters, College Diabetes Network, JDRF, and others offer in-person meetings across the country.
Local diabetes support groups
Ask your endocrinologist, Certified Diabetes Educator, or your local American Diabetes Association (ADA) or JDRF office where diabetes support groups are held in your community. Local diabetes support groups allow you to meet face to face with others in your community who are living with diabetes. Some have a featured speaker at each meeting who speaks on a diabetes related topic, while others are support-focused and often include a fun activity.
You can often find community diabetes support groups at local hospitals, diabetes centers, and health departments. If you can’t find a group in your community, gather a few friends who have diabetes and start one.
Prioritize mental health
The best way to care for yourself and your diabetes is to make mental health a priority. Research on the “mind-body connection” shows that emotions, thoughts, and attitudes can have a strong effect on your physical health. The ADA found for people with diabetes, blood glucose levels are raised through feelings of stress, and stabilized when in a more relaxed state.
The daily effort required to manage a chronic condition like diabetes can lead to feelings of stress or anxiety. Because these feelings can become amplified when aiming to achieve “perfect” blood sugar levels, try to strive for progress or small “wins” over perfection.
Also remember to be kind to yourself and practice self-care. Make time for things you enjoy on a regular basis like an activity or hobby, or just for some relaxation time. Talk to your healthcare professional, endocrinologist, or diabetes educator about your concerns and problem-solve together on ways to minimize diabetes-related stress.
When to seek diabetes support from a professional
Sometimes people need more than a friend or support group to tame stress and anxiety. There is no shame in seeking the help of a licensed mental health professional.
Did you know that some therapists specialize in treating people with diabetes, and may even have diabetes themselves? Call the 800 number on the back of your insurance card to find a licensed mental health provider in your area that is contracted with your plan. Plus, many workplace employee assistance program (EAP) plans will cover the co-pay cost of meeting with a therapist if you call your EAP line and explain that you need help.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression is two to three times more likely in people with diabetes than people without diabetes. And among those with diabetes who have depression, only 25%-50% of cases are diagnosed. Depression can make it harder to follow your diabetes care plan which can make your diabetes symptoms worse and in turn, your depression worse.
Working with a therapist can help you be better equipped to take care of your mental and physical health. If you think you might be dealing with symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor about getting treatment. Seek out a licensed therapist that is knowledgeable about diabetes. Don’t wait – untreated depression often gets worse, not better.
The term diabetes burnout is used when people get tired of taking care of their diabetes and feel overwhelmed with being “on” 24/7 in managing their disease. People with diabetes burnout tend to ignore their disease, avoid some or all of their diabetes management, or have difficulty finding motivation to get back on track. However, people dealing with diabetes burnout are not lazy or necessarily depressed. They just feel overwhelmed and sometimes angry about all of the work they have to do to take care of their health.
Managing diabetes is hard work – blood sugar levels will not always be perfect, and can seem to have a mind of their own. Seeking support from others who live with diabetes can be helpful, as they have likely experienced burnout at some point and can relate.
If you feel like you can’t manage your diabetes burnout on your own, seek out a licensed therapist who works with people with diabetes. Be honest when you meet with a healthcare professional about how you’re feeling and talk about small steps that you can manage.
Above all, remember that diabetes support leads to better mental health, and in turn better physical health. You don’t have to manage your diabetes on your own.