When Support Isn’t Enough

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To Cathy W, who commented about her friend with diabetes on last week’s blog,

It certainly sounds like you’re feeling frustrated about your friend’s lack of self-care and a bit powerless to help her. The interactions you have reported with your friend make it sound like her health is more important to you than it is to her. This type of relationship keeps you on edge about something you cannot control and lets her off the hook about something she needs to address.

In some ways, this relationship is a bit like a parent taking care of a child who is being irresponsible. The parent means well and may feel sorry for the child, so he or she is inclined to continue to pick up after the child or fix things for him. A better technique would involve holding the child accountable and actively involving him in the process. With your friend, it sounds like you feel a combination of anger toward her lack of responsibility and empathy for her for the discomfort she has. It’s really this ambivalence that prevents you from being firm with her and laying out your expectations for her self-care. After all, you obviously care for her and want her to be well, just not at your expense.


I’d also like to point out that I liked the response Coco gave you last week. She suggested that your friend probably needs some professional help, and I agree. The higher incidence of depression in people who have diabetes and the further increased risk of depression when someone has diabetic complications would suggest that some of your friend’s behavior may be due to this issue. What we know about diabetes is that it can be tough enough to control when the person who has it is emotionally healthy.

If there is anything else in her history that is affecting her mental health, she might want to talk about that, too. She may have grown up with some confusion about what supportive relationships look like. This history could be affecting your relationship with her as well. If your friend is open to it, the two of you could meet with a counselor together and you might find out how you can be most helpful as a friend.

Finally, I would suggest that you have an honest discussion with your friend about your feelings about her self-care. Talks like this can at times be difficult and a bit confrontational, but if your relationship is as close as it sounds, then she may also be open to a frank discussion. Obviously, you need to be the judge of what your relationship can tolerate.

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