The Courage to Live With Diabetes

I was recently working with a teenager who was struggling with managing his diabetes. He was struggling with school and his family as well and used a technique of avoidance to get through life. This technique is tempting to use, since no effort is made and no new skills are necessary. However, avoidance is also the most likely to have severe consequences and, ironically, lead to the most difficult challenges anyone might face: diabetes complications.

So this kid was struggling because he couldn’t find the courage to brave the challenge of shots, tests, and, worst of all, structure. This is a real dilemma, because he believed that his avoidance was a type of bravado suggesting that he didn’t care about all the consequences of not dealing with his diabetes. In fact, his avoidance was a lack of courage and an inability to deal with his fear of imperfection when he couldn’t get his diabetes controlled just so.


But there are many opportunities for courage with diabetes. Years ago, I worked at “Camp Needlepoint,” a camp in Wisconsin for children who have diabetes. What I remember vividly about this camp was that, at the end of the week, we would celebrate with those campers who had given themselves their first injection. These 7- and 8-year-olds would get up in front of the entire camp to receive an award for having the courage to give their first injection independently. I still get tears in my eyes when I think of the power of that celebration and the smiles on their faces for being recognized for their achievement.

I also recall the 40-year-old who struggled with a needle phobia and had the courage to see a psychologist and work on this phobia so he could give himself his own injections and do his own blood glucose checks. Or the 14-year-old who has the courage to tell his friends he has diabetes. Or the 50-year-old who has the courage to ask her friends at work for their support in managing her eating by changing their usual Friday morning treat to fruit rather than the usual caramel rolls.

This post is for all of you (you know who you are) who have the courage to live well with diabetes in the way that is right for you. Congratulations, and keep up the good work.

  • Barbara

    Thank you Joe,
    for your words of recogniton coming at a time they were badly needed around here.
    I’ve been a diabetic for 30 years, and what I have always found most difficult (besides the oppressive, time-consuming medical bureaucracy – I’m Italian) was to feel supported, i.e. to know that I wasn’t alone, that somebody did know and did understand what was weighing on my back.
    I guess being a woman in a still socially-underdeveloped country makes some difference, since my parents (then) and my husband (now), not to speak of parents in law and elderly relatives, expect that I take care of them without ever bother them with my own needs, Unfortunately, not being healthy forces me to have needs… but I’m asked to ignore them, as long as they interfere with other people’s convenience…and that’s always been a big problem! My only way out so far has been to withdraw from my family’s or my friends’ travels, holidays, meetings (or even simple mountain walks), so as ‘not to cause problems’ and let other people enjoy their experience with no hindrance or fear (of what could happen to me). Sure, it’s a bit depressing to stay home while your loved ones go somewhere nice and share a good time, but at least at those times I’m ‘allowed’ to take proper care of myself without worrying about interfering with other people’s habits,,, A difficult balance.
    Thank you again, a lot, for your words, they gave me courage.
    Best wishes