The effect that diabetes will have on your life will become clearer—and will also probably change—over time. Most people react to a diagnosis of diabetes with shock or fear, often followed by anger or sadness. Feelings like these can make it difficult to take steps to learn about your condition and how to manage it. Because your feelings can affect what steps you take to care for yourself, your plan needs to take your feelings into account and include strategies for dealing with them. Your health-care professionals can help you identify such strategies.
If you’re having a rough time or your feelings are keeping you from caring for yourself or doing the things you enjoy, consider seeking out support from others who have diabetes and have gone through what you’re going through. Many hospitals and clinics that provide diabetes education also have diabetes support groups that meet regularly. Some communities also have diabetes support groups that operate independently of any hospital or organization. The people in your group can provide both emotional support and practical information about living with diabetes that may be helpful to you. Another option is to seek the counsel of your clergy or to make an appointment with a mental health-care provider who has experience working with people with diabetes (or at least with other chronic illnesses).
Diabetes doesn’t just affect you physically and psychologically; it can have a noticeable financial impact as well. Even when you have insurance coverage, the co-payments for frequent health-care appointments and multiple drugs can add up quickly. Your financial situation may also influence decisions about what foods you eat and where and how you exercise. Ask your health-care providers for any money-saving tips they may have, and tell them if you cannot afford the drugs or other products they recommend.
Establish your goals
When you are first diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor will probably offer you a plan of action. However, as you learn more about diabetes and as you experience its effects on your life, you will probably want to take on a greater role in designing your own plan. On the other hand, your attitude may be “tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” Either way, let your health-care providers know how involved you want to be in the decision-making process.
One of the first decisions you need to make is what your target blood glucose goals will be. Although the American Diabetes Association and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists have established target levels for the general population with diabetes, your goals may be different. Even if you choose to work toward maintaining near-normal blood glucose levels, there are many reasons it may make sense to set interim goals as you work toward your ultimate targets. For one, you may be just learning how to care for yourself. For another, if your blood glucose levels have been very high, it will take time and effort to bring your blood glucose down into your target range.
Other areas of decision-making include your meal plan, exercise plan, whether weight loss is part of your plan, blood cholesterol and blood pressure control, and strategies for coping with stress and the emotional side of diabetes. Your health-care providers can offer advice about the various options, and you need to tell them what actions you are willing and able to take at this time. Remember, no one knows what will fit into your life better than you do.
Keep in mind that the more flexibility you want in your daily routine, the more work you will probably need to do. If you wish to have more flexibility in your food choices or the timing of your meals, you will probably have to make more daily decisions, monitor your blood glucose more often, or take more injections. That is the trade-off, and only you can decide if greater flexibility is worth the extra work to you.