The stereotypical view of people who live alone is that they’re lonely and depressed. While some no doubt are, many are not. Some people are quite content to live alone. However, no matter which camp you fall in, it’s important to remember that sadness and loneliness are not the same as depression. Sadness is a feeling, while depression is a treatable illness. Some symptoms of depression include sadness or anxiety, feelings of emptiness, loss of interest in ordinary activities, decreased energy, fatigue, sleep problems (insomnia, oversleeping), eating problems (loss of appetite, overeating), difficulty concentrating or remembering, inappropriate feelings of guilt or worthlessness, irritability, recurring aches and pain, and thoughts of death or suicide. If these symptoms last for two weeks, seek help from your primary- care doctor or a mental health professional.
Even if you’re not depressed, you may feel lonely or wish you had more support from others in coping with your diabetes. How you go about it will depend on what feels comfortable to you, but it is possible to make new social contacts, deepen your relationships with people you already know, and meet others with diabetes who can sympathize with you and offer both practical and emotional support. Just because you don’t live with your family doesn’t mean you can’t keep in touch and have a close relationship with them. Spending time communicating with your family or friends over the phone or with e-mail can take as much or as little time as you want, and it may help you feel less lonely and more supported.
Joining a diabetes support group, whether in person or online, will put you in touch with people who are facing some of the same issues that you are. Support groups can help people with diabetes adapt to the diagnosis, cope with complications, and learn to manage the disease more effectively. If you participate in an online chat or forum, for safety’s sake, do not use your real name and do not reveal your phone number or address.
You may also be interested in attending a diabetes class instead of or in addition to a support group. Learning more about diabetes and developing self-management skills can make dealing with many challenges much easier. Diabetes education programs are available in many parts of the country, and Medicare and most insurance companies will cover part of the cost of attending them. To find information on support groups and education programs in your area, you can check the American Diabetes Association (ADA) Web site, www.diabetes.org (click on “Community Programs & Local Events”), or call the ADA at (800) 342-2383. Another resource is the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Online Support team, which consists of volunteers from around the country who are available to personally answer your questions and concerns about diabetes and provide support. Visit the Web site www.jdrf.org to learn more.
Living alone with diabetes may present certain challenges, but there are resources and tools at your disposal to help you live safely and healthfully.