Being a teen can be an emotionally tough time. Hormones are already potent in affecting our emotions, not to mention the addition of a health condition. The best thing we can do to cope with the emotional side of diabetes is to deal with it head on! Diabetes is not our fault!
Feel sad, mad, embarrassed, or worried? Open up and talk about it
It might be hard at first to open up and we may have trouble finding the words. We should try to talk with someone close to us (a friend, a parent or a doctor) about what we are going through. Telling someone who will listen and understand our feelings can help.
As time goes by, remember to note and mention about the positive feelings too. With time, we may notice that we’re feeling more calm and confident.
What about school? Talk to our teachers
Telling our teachers at school that we have diabetes can make things a little easier for us — for example, we can tell our teacher that we need to check our insulin or have a snack at a certain time each day. That way we can just leave class without drawing extra attention to ourselves. Also, if our teacher knows we have diabetes, he or she can always be on the lookout for symptoms of diabetic problems and can call for medical help if and when we need it.
If, for any reason, we’re not sure how to bring it up on our own or don’t know what to say, we can ask our doctor to give us a note that covers the basics for our teacher. That can get the conversation started.
Getting overwhelmed by all the new tasks? Get organised
There can be a lot to keep track of if we have diabetes. How much insulin did we take this morning? What did we eat at school? Did we pack our medicines?
To help us feel less worried about how diabetes will affect our health, it is important to get organised. We can start with a very simple thing, which is: every night before going to bed, we must remember to pack our snacks and the medicines that we will need for the next day. In this small and simple way we will begin to feel prepared and in charge.
Still feel like throwing in the towel? Stick to the plan
It is very normal that we may act like many others who have diabetes, get sick of dealing with it. Sometimes people may think they have managed the illness good enough and they do not even feel it, and they start to wonder if they really have to follow the diabetes management plan. Skipping medicines, not following the meal plan, or not checking our blood sugar is not going to help us in any way. If we ever feel like throwing in the towel, we must talk to our doctor. He or she will definitely help us find solutions that fit our life and help us stay healthy.
Feeling out of control? Take 1 step at a time – Regain control again
If we take good care of ourselves and manage our diabetes well, we will probably get sick less often, need fewer extra shots or tests, and we will be able to do the same activities as everyone else. If we feel well enough to do some exercise (it can help us to get into a great mood), we will feel better, too.
When we’re ready to take charge, sit down and talk to our parents and doctor about how we can start making changes. We can track our blood sugar levels, adjust and take our insulin injections, and also take responsibility for preparing our meals and snacks. Taking charge of these practical tasks will help give us more of a sense of control and power over diabetes. We will also begin to feel proud — even amazed — that we are doing things we never imagined we would be able to do.
It’s easy to lose ourselves in all the negative ways diabetes affects our world. If we think and feel that diabetes is taking over our life, it may be a good idea to write down our strengths — and all the stuff we love. Who am I? Am I a hockey player, a reader, a music lover, a spelling champ, a math whiz or whichever? Am I a future astronomer, teacher, doctor, or poet? Diabetes is really only a tiny bit of who I am. It is very important and absolutely necessary that we keep track of our dreams and hopes, and find time for the people we love and do the things we enjoy.
We will be surprised to see, as we adapt to our diabetes, how very proud, confident, determined, hopeful, interested, relieved, relaxed, loved, supported, strong — and yes, even happy we feel. In time, we can become an expert at recognising and dealing with our emotions, and doing our parts to care for our health, taking full responsibility of ourselves. In fact, having diabetes sometimes even teaches us ways to cope with and adjust to life’s ups and downs, in a way that many other teens can’t.
Take our time
Over time, our feelings about diabetes will change. Today we will definitely feel worried about the future and being different from our friends, but next year we will wonder why we were so upset. As we learn to manage diabetes on our own and take a more active role in our health, we will find that it is a lot easier dealing with the ups and downs of diabetes.
Sometimes, it can take a long time to deal with having diabetes and there’s no set adjustment period. Some people accept it and adapt quickly whereas some need more time. Of course, even people who have lived with diabetes for a long time may still feel fear or sadness from time to time. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed occasionally.
Having a really tough time or think you might be depressed? Reach out and let an adult know
We may have some signs of depression, like sleeping or eating all the time or not at all, or we feel sad or angry for long periods. Sometimes we may need more professional support from a counsellor. Our doctor, parents, or another trusted adult can put us in touch with a counsellor. It is important to get all the support we need and deserve.
It’s common to get upset if we’re going through a difficult adjustment – like dealing with diabetes and the strong feelings that go with it. But if we find that we are not able to control our emotions, feeling really down or really angry, or having a difficult time managing our health routines, we must let our doctor know. Working together, our doctor can work out a plan and get our situation under control.