With the month of March, our theme springs to Support Systems. This ties nicely into the previous monthly theme (love), but this time with a focus on the importance of involving others in our journey – establishing support systems, being there for others, and allowing others to be there for us.
When it comes to our diabetes, it is important that those we are closest with and spend the most time with are at least aware of the signs of hypos/hypers so that they know what to do in case of an emergency. But even if the hypo/hyper is not a severe case, they can help us get back to a safe range when it is difficult for us because we are in a lower functioning state. Informing others about diabetes puts support systems in place for us for when we are in times of need.
Our support systems can end up being crucial in either getting us through rough patches (or helping to prevent them altogether!). But the only way we can establish these support systems – i.e. a network of people who we trust and who help to ease the burden in our lives – is to be open with others. We don’t allow others to be there for us when we keep to ourselves.
You may actually find that just being open ended up leading to someone being there for you when least expected! But, No input = no output.
Diabetes, at times, is quite a burden and it can be stressful and overwhelming to manage. But we don’t have to to it alone. Speaking personally, I’ve always had a stubbornly independent side – “I can do it all myself!” has been my motto in countless instances. I still believe it is important to be self-sufficient in that you cannot be solely dependent on others to take care of everything for you for the rest of your life – you have to take responsibility for your actions and your life. The problem with this, when taken to an extreme, is that I do not turn to others in the event that I am struggling – and facing problems alone can make them much more overwhelming and even cause them to build up to the point of being impossible to bear.
There is nothing wrong in turning to others for support when we are at the point of no longer being able to manage on our own. In fact, turning to others when in need is actually a sign of strength, not weakness, because it means that you are being vulnerable – admitting and exposing your struggles and trusting in someone else.
Secrets = Isolation = No Support
I have had diabetes my entire life, and never once growing up did I tell my friends that I had diabetes. They found out eventually, of course (and were completely shocked and upset that I hadn’t told them) but I had just never felt the need to disclose that information. I hid my diabetes completely – I always checked/gave insulin in the privacy of the bathroom and silently treated hypos. I didn’t really see this being an issue at the time, but looking back I can see that the way I operated inadvertently created a shameful feeling about my diabetes (as though it was something that had to be kept a secret) and it also isolated me because only I knew what was truly going on. Most days it was fine – I didn’t really mind managing my diabetes privately, but the days where I was struggling or needed help (treating bad hypos!) it really felt like there was a wall between me and the world.
I’m not recommending that everyone just become more brazen about their diabetes. Some of us prefer to be more discreet about our diabetes and some of us are completely open (I was always astounded how my brother could just whip out his tester in public and check on full display – not even under the table!).
What I am saying is that it is not healthy for us to keep it completely to ourselves. Opening up, even just to a select few who we are closest with, is not only beneficial but perhaps necessary to our well-being.
The ICD community is always here for you, so don’t be afraid to reach out for some support if you are not sure where else to find it!