Support, What Do You Think It’s Good For?

On October 4, I wrote a blog entry proposing a “day off” from diabetes. This suggestion evoked some strong feelings—mostly anger at my lack of sensitivity about life with diabetes. I accept responsibility for irritating those of you who responded. Your responses have helped me clarify my ideas about the psychic weight of living with diabetes.


My suggestion of time off should have focused more on the usefulness of support that can help some people combat the sense of loneliness that can come with any chronic medical condition. But what I did suggest would not be a day off for you, and maybe nothing would.

Your responses also reminded me that giving advice as though it would work for everyone is a mistake. If there is anything I’ve learned in working with people who have diabetes, it is that in most instances you have the best knowledge and ideas yourself. This is not always true for people who are newly diagnosed, but those of you who have lived with diabetes for a while have probably figured out what works for you. Thanks for your honesty.

What I want to ask about this week has to do with support. What helps? What doesn’t help? When working with people with diabetes and their families, if I had to choose just one piece of information to learn about the situation of the person with diabetes, it would be what his support system is like.

Some people are extremely independent and work hard to keep others out of their diabetes care. (For instance, this may be the case with the commenter who said he didn’t want to create a burden for anyone else with his diabetes tasks.) This is great if it works for you, but in many families, someone is always trying to help—which can be a good thing or a bad thing.

How do you respond to a person who is always offering help, even when you don’t need it? You know the “helpful” reminders people can come out with, like “Should you be eating that?” or “Isn’t it time for you to check your blood glucose?” If this sounds like someone in your family or friend group, feel free to share any ways you have found to deal with it. Do you find their suggestions at all helpful, or just intrusive? Do you give in to their requests, or ignore them? Or do you just get angry about the intrusion and tell them off?

What kind of support is helpful for you? What can you do to make sure you get the support you want?

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  • Cathy

    I agree with Coco about people who feel they should comment on any food we eat or don’t eat. Also I once had a boss who kept trying to blame my diabetes on anything I did in the office. If I made a typo, she would ask me if it was time for me to check my blood sugar!

    Support? The best comes from others with diabetes. Just today in a wood carving class I take, 3 of us sat and talked as we carved. One was concerned about going low and her doctor’s response to it as no big thing. We assured her it most certainly IS a big thing and urged her to go to her diabetic educator if her doctor isn’t listening – or better yet, get a new doctor. She felt so much better knowing that it wasn’t her “fault” that her levels went low.

  • Coco

    Thank you so much for understanding the points of view expressed regarding your Oct. 4th post. As far as people who try to offer help by commenting on a food choice I just try to explain to them that I know how many carbs are in said food and I can dose the appropriate amount of insulin.Usually these people stare blankly back at me.I try so hard to not let it bother me and to use these opportunities to educate people.But there is just so much to teach! This is why I generally don’t divulge my condition to people I am not that close to. What helps is when the people around you don’t make a big deal when you pass on dessert (Oh you can have a little!) and when they don’t make a big deal when you do choose to eat it. The worst thing is when someone makes you feel singled out. I once had a friend make a spectacle out of how I shouldn’t eat any of the pasta that was being served for dinner in front of everyone at the table. That was awful.

  • Sharon Smith

    I’ve had diabetes eight months, due to surgery. I’ve asked my family to remind me to test my blood glucose, to take my insulin shot, and to take my enzymes (my pancreas was removed). Very seldom does anyone but me remember. I’ve described the symptoms that could be problematic and they seem to listen but don’t do anything to help. I realize that it could be annoying if someone was always reminding me to do something I was about to do myself, but at this point in my life, I would take it as a sign of love if someone would pay attention to my needs! It becomes burdensome to always have to remember everything.

  • Cathy W

    I am a very long time friend of a person who has daibetes and does not have control of it at all. Her A1c test is 11 her sugars are alot of times in the 400’s and she has infections in her hair folicals on her head the Dr.’s say it is very bad (I have gone with her many times by her request) They say we can’t cut off your head if this don’t go away (She has to wear a wig due to most of her hair is gone). My question is how can I help her? All I ever seem to do is try and control her when I am with her? I don’t want to sit back and do nothing and watch her die?! She is only 44 yrs old! Any suggestions?? Please?

  • Joelle

    I don’t deal well with people offering to help. I agree with the person that says they don’t want to burden any one else with their routine. I tend to get defensive when people try to help. Almost as if they are critiquing my ability to control my own disease. My Mom and my husband pretty much leave me be- I have barked at them in the past, you know what it is like, your sugars have been running high and all they can seem to say is “Is there anything I can do?” “Yeah, how about a pancreas that works!”, was my last response. I guess I deserve to be left alone.
    I am getting an insulin pump after 20 years of being with the Brimley, and my husband said he would like to come to pump school with me. I felt like he said he was going to sew my feet to the floor, I don’t know why, but I really don’t want him to come and I should. I think I don’t like people to ‘wait’ on me or treat me differently so if I do it all myself I am the same as them.

  • Coco

    In response to Cathy W about her friend with poor control – unfortunately there is nothing you can do to MAKE her take better care of herself. She is the only one who has control 24/7. It is so unfortunate that she doesn’t seem to want to help herself – especially when there is SO MUCH she can do to help heal her infection and control her blood sugar. If I were you I would encourage her to seek some kind of professional help to find out why she wants to kill herself slowly this way, and just be her friend. That is really great of you to go to her appointments with her. I don’t think she has had that moment yet where everything “clicks” and you suddenly realize that you reap what you sow and you hold all of the power to live a healthy life with diabetes. It sounds like she is still living in denial.

  • tamigirlrocks

    As for my primary support people, I need them to ask me if I have taken my meds that day (diabetes, blood pressure, psych, ect).
    I don’t mind them asking me when the last time I checked my blood or even when I ate last. Somehow I seem to keep a tight control on my levels, so I do not want anyone telling me I “shouldn’t be eating that”, though!
    As for other people, I welcome questions, as I want to properly educate folks on diabetes care. However, I don’t welcome advice from people who “mean well”.

  • Betty Marie Worley

    I have type 2 diabetes was dianoised 5 years ago, I know how to manage it but I keep going from denial and accepting it.

    My biggest problem is I will be following the diet the dietion gives me. and someone comes along tells me I should follow another kind of diets. and it totally confussions me so much that I just give up.And then there is and matter co-pay. ans that is where my husband complains about, so I just don’t tell him that I need to get my meds refilled. He does give me some support in everything else.

  • Joan

    What if you have no one? You live alone and get so in a hole you can’t dig out? Are there any support groups in St.Louis,Mo? I want to start a stess/anxiety,depressive group. How do I go about it? People have to talk,to share to actually feel that someone is listening and does care.I talked to my Doctors staff they were negative on the idea saying no one would attend. I find this hard to believe.
    I care and I would attend. I want to help others and I need someone to help me. At times I am desperate.
    Please give me ideas.

  • Bryan

    The support issue is a tough one. There is either support or there is no support.There are those who mean well like tamigirlrocks mentioned,but it means nothing for them to offer advice that has no meaning. Its tough to accept support from just anyone. For people who are not 100% into it or are not interested in learning all they can learn about this disease is unfortunately not the support that can be used.You must teach a little at a time,and if they seem like they lose interest after a couple “teachings”,they are not cut out for the task. It’s tough to explain to a person what diabetes is when they either don’t know the basics or do not see,or want to see the “big picture”. For example, to some it seems like a simple disease, to some, they think that you cannot eat sugar or high levels of sugar. Until someone understands the basics of the disease, they cannot offer true support.
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