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Do You Feel Deprived?

David Spero

September 5, 2012

Chronic illness takes things away from you. But diabetes can take away more than most. Do you ever feel deprived by diabetes? How do you cope with those feelings?

With my MS (multiple sclerosis), I’ve experienced a fair amount of loss. It’s mostly mobility — I have to sit and watch other people do things I loved doing and would still like to do. First it was playing basketball, then dancing, then walking, and a bunch of other things, not all of them athletic. You may have experienced some of those losses, too.

One thing MS doesn’t really take away is eating. The establishment line is that you can eat whatever you want. Some alternative practitioners disagree, but there’s certainly no carb counting, no forbidden foods, no limits on quantities. I can go to a family gathering and eat whatever they put in front of me.

Diabetes is different. Many people with diabetes worry about food all the time. You watch everything you eat, both quality and quantity. Even though you can get used to it, that attention has to wear on you sometimes. Especially when the people you’re with are unaware or unhelpful, or when they’re too helpful and don’t let you make your own choices.

Because so many diets have been recommended for MS, I have been through times of not being able to eat what my friends and family were eating, not being able to order in restaurants or share food at a party. Since I’ve not noted any benefit to these diets, I haven’t stayed on them for more than a few months each, but diabetes is for a lifetime.

Do you ever feel deprived about food? Do you ever just want to pig out on something you shouldn’t have but which you know will be sensually and emotionally satisfying? How do you manage those feelings and control those behaviors? What makes you feel better about the whole thing?

Chronic illness can take away more than food; it can rob your sense of control. With MS, there are few medications to take, no blood testing to do, no worrying about going too low if you take too much insulin. I don’t take any MS medicines, and I don’t even have to waste a bunch of time seeing doctors, since they can’t do much for me anyway. I see my neurologist about once a year at most. Same with my general practitioner.

As a result, I can feel pretty much in control of my health much of the time. People with diabetes often spend a lot of time in doctors’ offices or waiting rooms. Your well-being may depend, or seem to depend, on your medicines and the quality of your medical team. You can stay awake nights worrying about how to pay for your care, or what happens if you lose your health insurance.

Feeling dependent on forces outside your control is a major loss and can be highly stressful. If relying on the medical system makes you feel insecure or out of control, how do you deal with that? Getting emotional or practical support from other people would help, but is that help available? Do you use it?

I wonder about what thoughts are helpful in dealing with feelings of deprivation, and what thoughts make them worse. Of course, even if we know what thoughts to avoid, it’s not so easy to avoid them, is it?

I’ve learned from reading the comments on DiabetesSelfManagement.com over the years that people with a positive attitude seem to enjoy their lives more and cope better. Keeping positive thoughts when parts of your life keep getting taken away is difficult, though. One thing that helps me is realizing how much more I have than most people. It seems selfish to worry about not being able to eat cake when billions of people are struggling to find any food at all.

I can’t walk outside my apartment or drive, but I have a mobility scooter and great public transportation to take me places. Some people can’t afford to go anywhere, or are physically unable to get out of bed. So I’m lucky.

I also count my blessings. I have people who love me and look out for me. I have interesting friends and colleagues to talk to or e-mail, including many on this blog. I have work that is fascinating and rewarding. (One MS friend says “it’s not work. It’s a hobby you get paid for.”) I have my granddaughter Anaya to help take care of and enjoy watching grow.

So basically I feel happy with my life. But I’d be lying if I said there aren’t times I feel deprived. How about you? Any advice or stories would be appreciated.



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