Diabetes: The Good and Bad Go Hand in Hand

I don’t have diabetes, and I’m the first to admit that I don’t know what it’s like to live with this chronic condition. But for what it’s worth, I’ve met, worked with, and helped many people who have diabetes. And every day I read about even more people with diabetes, and I learn an awful lot from them.

One thing that often stands out when I talk with or read about people who have diabetes is their attitude. No doubt about it, having diabetes can be tough. It’s hard to constantly have to think about, worry about, and get a handle on a condition that will likely be with you for life. I’ve seen firsthand how it can wear a person down, and I have also seen how it can negatively impact a person’s attitude and outlook. Alternately, I’ve come across folks who have had their fair share of struggles with diabetes, but if they’re beaten down, you’d never know. They stay positive, they look on the bright side, and they treasure and value everything that happens to them (good and bad).

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Now, I’m not writing this week to tell you to become one of these positive people with diabetes. We know that telling people to “just do” something, whether it’ eat better, exercise more, or feel happy, doesn’t work. If that were possible, a lot of us wouldn’t have issues. It’s not that easy. However, much work has been done in the area of becoming and feeling more positive about things. There are exercises that you can do to try and banish those blahs and start looking at the sunny side of things. Two tips to help you get started:

Realize that you have a choice: You can be happy or unhappy. The more you dwell on the negative, the harder it will be to become and stay positive.

Think about the positives in your life — your family, your accomplishments, your home…whatever those may be and however small they may seem, focus on them every day, and especially when you’re starting to feel down.

Turning a negative into a positive
If you’re struggling with your diabetes for any reason, it may seem easier to put it out of your mind and not deal with it. But burying your head in the sand doesn’t take your issues away. Instead, why not try a new approach and tackle your issues head-on? Last week I addressed a few “diabetes dilemmas” (and thank you, by the way, for your feedback. I may periodically write about more dilemmas). Let’s look at some other situations that arise with diabetes and figure out what might be done to address them:

Negative. Your A1C stays high, despite taking your medicines, watching your food, and exercising.

Positive. Your body is telling you that your treatment plan isn’t working. Just like that little orange warning light that pops up on your car’s dashboard, your A1C is saying, “Hey, something needs to change.” You have a chance to fix this. How? Start by meeting with your doctor or diabetes educator. Let him know what’s going on and figure out, together, the best way to help bring it down.

Negative. You’re feeling confused about what to eat. You spend too much time in the grocery store, and you’re still not sure how to make healthy food choices.

Positive. I agree — eating with diabetes can seem confusing with so much information (and misinformation!) out there. But take a look at your resources: You have this website to help guide you and provide you with accurate information. You probably have a dietitian or diabetes classes in your community — take advantage of them and learn how to make the best food choices for you. Ask your doctor for a referral. Even if you need to pay out of pocket for a session, consider this an investment in your health.

Negative. You’ve heard about all of the possible complications of diabetes — eye disease, kidney disease, heart disease, nerve damage. It’s scary, and you just know that they’re going to happen to you.

Positive. Diabetes, if not taken care of, may lead to complications, and that’s a fact. But it doesn’t have to. Many people never get complications. There’s no guarantee that you won’t, but the good news is that focusing on keeping your diabetes numbers (A1C, blood glucose, cholesterol, blood pressure, microalbumin) in your target range most of the time will lower your chances.

The other good news? When caught early on, complications can be managed. And there are more and better treatments available. Try not to let the fear of complications paralyze you into doing nothing. By watching those numbers and keeping up with your medical appointments, you can have some control over the course of your diabetes.

I hope you’ve picked up on a theme: The “positives” focus on steps that you can take to deal with or manage the situation. You’re in the driver’s seat, and while it can seem like a lot of work, there are people who want to help you (your health-care team, your family, your friends, and so on). Something that always helps me during tough times is to find something good about it, no matter how insignificant it may seem. The negatives will always be there in one form or another, but you have a choice to turn them into positives.