On Diabetes and Living With Worry

I’ve been a mother for 15 years, and the worry never leaves me. The worry that one of my boys will be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I’ve been worrying about this for longer than they’ve been alive. I worried in my twenties about whether I’d be able to get pregnant, and then in my thirties I worried about whether I’d be able to sustain a healthy pregnancy. When I was pregnant with our first son, I worried every single day about the numbers on my meter. If they were too high, I worried that I was damaging my baby’s growth. My worries subsided when my first child was born, but they’ve never gone away. The worry that one of my boys will be diagnosed is always there in the recesses of my mind.

An old boyfriend recently contacted me to ask for advice because his 13-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He asked if any of my kids had diabetes and told me he prays every day that his son won’t be diagnosed. He said diabetes doesn’t run in his family and that her doctors told him diabetes is 60% genetics and 40% unknown. It’s the unknown part that’s scary. We want a reason and a solution. We want to know how to protect our children from the unknown.

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By the time our third child was born, I was so busy that I didn’t have time to worry about a diabetes diagnosis. Instead I worried about money, work, marriage, and what I was going to cook for dinner. Every day there was another reason to worry, and while I appeared calm on the outside, my insides were consumed with worry. I didn’t think anyone noticed, but when my oldest son was 8 years old, he was overwhelmed with worries. It was a terrible, debilitating year. There were times when we had to carry Will into school kicking and crying, and I’d walk out the door shaking. Miles’ anxiety kicked in when he was in fifth grade. He was so overcome with worry that he made himself physically sick and would throw up in an attempt to avoid school. I hit my own worry wall a year ago and was forced to stop and face some painful realities about my coping skills. So when Reid started crying on the way to swimming lessons last summer, I knew what to do. I coached him on deep breathing and positive visualization. His first day he had “1000 butterflies in his stomach,” and by his last week of lessons he had just one butterfly.

It’s physically painful to see your child suffer. In the worst moments, I felt helpless and sad for my children. I wanted to wrap them in my arms and keep them safe from the painful realities, but of course I couldn’t do that. We can’t protect our children from life. Whether our children are diagnosed with diabetes or anxiety or Downs syndrome or autism or ADHD or one of many other challenges, the best thing we can do as parents is stop worrying. The best thing we can do is show our kids that they can handle whatever challenges come their way. And while I will always worry about one of my boys being diagnosed with diabetes, I no longer let it overwhelm me. I’m learning how to manage my worries just in time for adolescence and driving, dating, and drinking. I will really have to put my deep breathing into practice…

A number of studies show that hard times actually increase physical health. How could this be, and how might it apply to diabetes? Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to find out from nurse David Spero.