By Kathy Hubbard
For some of us, having a chronic illness isn’t an emotional issue. It’s only about popping a pill or two every morning or evening. No big deal. But, that’s not the case for others. Think about an amputee who has to put on a prosthesis every morning. Think about a lupus sufferer who can’t go out in the sun without total head-to-toe protection.
And, think about those with diabetes. They have to take their blood sugar readings several times a day, make sure they take their medications at the right time in the correct dosage, and ensure they’re eating properly. It’s a life changing experience. It can spark a lot of feelings.
Bonner General Health Diabetes Support Group will address the issue of living with chronic disease at their next workshop on Monday, February 1 at 10 a.m. at The Brown House (on the north side of the hospital). Dr. Terry Johnson, psychiatrist at BGH will lead the discussion. Although this meeting is more specific to those with diabetes, it will benefit anyone who has, or cares for someone who has, a chronic illness.
“Many people are distraught at the diagnosis of diabetes. They ask, ‘what did I do wrong?’ or think, ‘I know all the bad stuff that can happen, so I’m doomed.” said diabetes educator and registered dietician Audrey Buck. “It’s true that uncontrolled diabetes can cause health problems, but there are many elderly people who have managed their diabetes well for years and are as healthy as someone without diabetes.”
Buck said that when she became a dietician in the 1980s the lifestyle change was much more severe. “We had very few medication choices and the meters were big, complicated and took a lot of blood. We put people on ‘exchange list’ diets that virtually no one could follow.”
Buck acknowledges that even with modern medicine improvements, diabetes is still a lot of work. And that “lot of work” can cause a gamut of emotions that are typical of anyone with a chronic disease. You need to know that you’re not alone and that your feelings are justified.
It’s very natural to ask, “why me?” The National Institute for Health explains. Feelings you may experience may include shock and anger. Shock that it could happen to you and anger that you may not live the way you used to. You may be confused or stressed about how to take care of yourself.
“You may feel like you are not a whole person anymore. You might be embarrassed or ashamed that you have an illness. Know that, with time, your illness will become part of you and you will have a new normal,” NIH says. “A person with diabetes may need to learn to test their blood sugar and give insulin several times a day. This becomes their new normal.”
They say that you can expect to feel overwhelmed about what you will need to learn about the disease and the lifestyles you’ll need to change. They recommend that you be gentle with yourself.
“Know that you will adapt over time. You will feel like yourself again as you learn how to fit your illness into your life. Know that it takes a lot of energy to manage your chronic illness every day. Sometimes, this can affect your outlook and mood.”
Buck said that it’s true that diabetes is a pain. “But, it is manageable. We, as healthcare professionals, are trying harder to help you manage diabetes YOUR way: a way of eating that includes all your favorite foods; prescribing medications that work on the body process that caused you to develop diabetes; and providing meaningful testing that will tell you how your food plan and medication are working,” she said.
Managing your health includes managing your feelings. Come to the Brown House on Monday at 10 a.m. to learn more about how you can achieve a better outlook about your illness.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or email@example.com.