Talking about Your Type 2 Diabetes Part 1

Jul 30, 2019

Telling people about your Type 2 Diabetes is something that many people find difficult. One more thing in the middle of trying to figure out how to live with this diagnosis!

Even though it’s difficult, telling those closest to you about your diagnosis is important. Why?

  • They’re going to find out anyway. If you’re managing your diabetes with medication or lifestyle changes, chances are that your close family and friends are going to notice the changes.
  • If you talk to them, YOU get to set the expectations. People who love you are going to try and help you, even if you don’t want it. By talking to them first, you have a chance to tell them what’s helpful and what’s not.
  • Your friends and family care about you and want to help. Talking about it allows you to acknowledge that and set some boundaries and expectations around how you want to manage your disease.

So, who should you talk to? Your health is personal and you get to decide who you want to talk to about your diabetes. Early on, I usually recommend sharing information with as few people as possible until you figure out what YOU want. You can always tell more people later but can’t take back private information once it’s out in the world. Having said that, there are a few people you really should consider talking to.

  • Friends and family you spend time with. These are the people who will be with you on a regular basis. They can help support your lifestyle changes and medical needs.
  • People you live with. Logistically, even if they’re just roommates, they should know about the fact that you’ll be testing your blood sugar and that eating your food could cause serious health problems for you.
  • Anyone else appropriate in your specific situation. This may include your Human Resources department at work if you anticipate missing work and needing to file for federal workplace protections. The same may apply to your school student services office if you’re a student. In the United States, Diabetes is a federally protected health condition. Remember, this is your private health business and you don’t owe ANYONE explanations, including coworkers and managers.
  • This blog post is geared toward talking with the people who are personally close to you. Legal recommendations for communicating with workplaces and schools are beyond the scope of this blog.

Now that we’ve got the “why” and the “who,” what is there to talk about? I think it’s important for your people to understand three important things about Type 2 Diabetes before they can support you.

  1. Diabetes is not your fault

Did you know that Type 2 Diabetes is NOT caused by eating too much sugar and gaining weight? While those things can make it worse, Diabetes is actually caused by lots of things coming together, including genetics and environmental causes. Lifestyle things we all think of can contribute and definitely make it worse, but plenty of people are making the same (or worse!) choices and seem to be very healthy. Many people diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes seem to be “doing everything right.” A huge component of developing Diabetes is losing the genetic lottery of metabolic health.

Many people with Type 2 Diabetes struggle with thinking that Diabetes is something they caused. It’s important that the people closest to them don’t perpetuate this misconception, adding to the shame and blame of Diabetes. As you talk to your support people, do your best to trust yourself when you say this isn’t your fault. It’s a hard thing to wrap your mind but losing the shame is an important part of living your healthiest life.

  1. Diabetes is different for everyone

Treatment for Diabetes is not “one size fits all.” Some people are able to completely manage their diabetes with lifestyle changes while other progress to medication, despite seemingly similar circumstances.

Treatment options can be really complicated and what works for one person might not work for someone else and vice versa. We’ve all heard horror stories about someone’s Aunt Ida who had all her toes amputated or Uncle Chet who went blind because of their Diabetes. This does not mean any of this will happen to you and it’s important that your support people understand that every person with Diabetes is an individual, and the disease has no predetermined course. Each person needs to work with their own Diabetes care team to figure out what’s best for THEM.

  1. Diabetes is a burden

One of the biggest surprises for many people is how much time, money, and emotional energy Diabetes takes!

Diabetes is EXPENSIVE! Insurance covers some of it but there are still lots of out-of-pocket expenses. Lifestyle changes such as improving diet and adding activity can be costly.

Diabetes takes a LOT of time! Medical appointments to go to, blood sugar monitoring, extra time to figure out what to eat and cooking healthy food, adding in more routine exercise than before, and time spent researching the disease all add up. Most people end up taking extra time off work to get to all their appointments.

All this adds up to a huge emotional toll. While Type 2 Diabetes is manageable, it’s a lot of work. There’s a high rate of depression among people with Diabetes. This is understandable when looking at the huge toll it takes on all areas of life. It’s important that your support people understand that Diabetes is more than a simple problem that can be solved by skipping dessert and taking a pill; it seeps into all areas of your life and can quickly become overwhelming.

I just covered some big stuff in this blog post. In the next blog post we’ll talk about SPECIFIC ways your important people can help you out: things for them to avoid doing as well as things they should definitely do.

Meanwhile, I encourage to take a few minutes to think about who you should be talking to about your Diabetes and what you might want to include in your talk with them. I’ve developed a worksheet to prepare your talk. Some of it will make more sense after the next blog post but you can get started now by clicking below to download the worksheet.




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