Denial in Living with Diabetes

Are you tempted to deny the diagnosis of diabetes or know someone is living in denial and even not fully acknowledging that they must live as if they have diabetes? I have met and know people who go on for years fighting the need for any change in behavior beyond taking their pills or insulin shots. Others pretend not to see the relationship between how much they eat or weigh and problems in controlling their blood sugar levels.

Others never “understand” the connection between their out-of-control diabetes and symptoms such as constant fatigue, chronic infections, or painful neuropathy. Is denial a good or bad thing? It’s not good to deny that you have to change your life to care for your diabetes. But there are times when a little denial can be a good thing. Suppose you were constantly aware of every awful thing that could happen to you as a person with (or without) diabetes, you’d feel useless and unable to cope and manage the condition in no time. Who is to say that anyone with diabetes won’t be struck by a bus tomorrow? Accepting the seriousness of your diabetes without becoming overwhelmed by it is a tricky balancing act. If you slide to either extreme, you will not manage the condition well. If you don’t treat your diabetes with respect, your risk of short-term and long-term complications goes way up. But if you are preoccupied with your condition, the concern may take over your life. Either way, you won’t do all you can to care for yourself. So denial is perfectly understandable.

One big problem with denying diabetes is denial doesn’t work in the long run. It has another downside: it is almost never complete. Even if you are great at denial, you are almost certainly carrying a burden of guilt because you are aware to some degree that you are not taking proper care of yourself. You may keep that guilt inside yourself, but it still gnaws at you.

Are you in denial?

  1. Do you have symptoms that you prefer not to admit, even to yourself, are caused by diabetes, such as frequent urination, chronic exhaustion, infections, blurry vision, or pains in your feet?
  2. Do you avoid getting medical care for fear of what you will be told?
  3. Do you feel uncomfortable acknowledging to others that you have diabetes?
  4. Do you believe you can take care of your diabetes by medication alone?
  5. Do you tell yourself that your diabetes isn’t severe?

You would be in denial if you answered yes to any of these questions. The key to overcoming denial is to transform hopelessness into confidence. How can you build confidence? Three factors are crucial:
-An understanding of your diabetes and its treatment
-Skill in managing your diabetes from day to day
-Skill in coping with the emotional side of your disease

Leonard Pray, the author of The Journey of a Diabetic, once wrote, “Don’t try to be perfect. Try for good control, to be sure, but perfection lasts for a moment, and diabetes lasts a lifetime.”

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