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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Joe Nelson: Joe is a psychotherapist in private practice in Minnesota, where he specializes in the psychology of chronic disease and sexual problems and works with couples, families, children, and teens. He has been a Licensed Psychologist since 1985 and has earned a master’s degree from St. Mary’s College Winona, a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Minnesota, and an associate’s degree in human services from the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

Joe has worked with troubled youth in Chicago and Minnesota and on a special project on Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. He was the first social worker hired by an affiliate of the American Diabetes Association. He worked at the International Diabetes Center for 20 years, directing psychological services there for 12 years. A Certified Sex Therapist, Joe co-developed the Sexual Health Center at Park Nicollet Clinic.

Having practiced meditation for over 30 years, Joe offers instruction in mindfulness-based meditation to patients in groups and as individuals. Joe is married, has a 23-year-old daughter, and enjoys scuba diving, motorcycling, golf, and being outdoors doing almost anything.

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