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Diabetes and Me: Friend or foe?


With Diabetes and Me as the theme of this year’sDiabetes Week, Dr Jen Nash invites us to take a moment to explore our relationship with diabetes. 


Have you ever noticed that when you talk about diabetes – to yourself, to others, or when other people talk about your diabetes to you – that it’s spoken about as if it’s a lifeless object?


With endless medication doses, kilograms of weight, targets for HbA1c, blood glucose and cholesterol levels not to mention carbohydrate, grams of fat or calories when it comes to food, it’s easy to think of diabetes as a set of numbers, too.


However, when you’re managing your diabetes, it can involve talking to yourself. How are you talking about your condition? I’m sure you’re familiar with this sort of inner voice: 

  • ‘Is my blood glucose high/low?’
  • 'Have I got any food with me?'
  • ‘I’m fed up with all these rules, and being told what I should and shouldn’t do. I’m going to ignore diabetes today and do what I want to do…’
  • ‘My diabetes healthcare team just doesn’t get it. I’m going to pretend I forgot my appointment today…’
  • ‘I’m worried about a hypo, I’ll eat an extra snack just to tide me over.’
  • ‘I feel awful today, why should I bother to take care of myself?’
  • 'Perhaps I shouldn't have eaten that extra bit of cake?'
  • ‘I’m nervous about that event in the morning – forget diabetes, I’m going to eat some ice cream to feel better…’
  • ‘I can’t take my medication in front of these people as no one here knows I have diabetes…’
  • ‘I just keep forgetting all the things I have to do because of my diabetes – life is busy enough…’
  • ‘Have I got my diabetes kit with me?’
  • ‘Oh no, I’m high again.’
  • 'Will I need to eat when I'm out?'

We tend to talk to ourselves about diabetes as if it were a lifeless object, but in actual fact it isn’t – it’s a condition with changing needs and demands – and so we relate to it, just like we relate to the people in our lives. 

Who is your diabetes?

Have you ever thought about your diabetes as a person? Spend a moment doing just this. If your diabetes were a person, what sort of character would it be? Would it be a:

  • Rebellious teenager?
  • Distant aunt or uncle?
  • Annoying child?
  • Critical bully?
  • Suffocating parent?
  • Frail grandparent?
  • Supportive partner or friend?
  • Someone else?

If your diabetes had a name, what would it be? The ‘little devil’, ‘rebel without a cause’ or Ted (based on the obnoxious character from the movie of the same name), are just a few that people have shared with me over the years. 

Your relationship with diabetes

Viewing your diabetes as if you were in a relationship with it can help you to start to make changes to your attitude towards it, if you want to.

Think of a relationship you’re in with someone right now – it could be as a husband/wife/partner, mother/father, brother/sister or friend. How did the relationship between you and the other person flourish? It’s likely that the relationship needed many of the following conditions to thrive: 

Viewing your diabetes as if you were in a relationship can help you to start to make changes to your attitude towards it.

  • time
  • energy
  • commitment
  • ability to forgive a bad day
  • team work
  • getting to know other people through them
  • willingness to put aside differences
  • being able to cope with uncertainties

Have a think about a problem or challenge in your relationship with diabetes. 

Imagine diabetes is sitting beside you now – what would you like to say to him/her/it? And how do you imagine diabetes would reply? Could you use any of the above to overcome difficulties?

Now, imagine yourself as a parent to your condition. How could you be a good parent to your diabetes? Would it help you to give any of the above to the relationship?

Although diabetes can feel powerful and in control, in reality it relies on you and the daily decisions you make, concerning medication, exercise and food choices.The child would run riot if you weren’t there, as the wise parent or carer, to provide what it needs to flourish. 

Get help and support

Is there any support you can receive from Diabetes UK that will help the relationship to flourish? Many people with diabetes say that meeting others who are living with the condition was a great source of support.

Here are a few ideas:

Talk to a trained volunteer who has first-hand experience of living with diabetes, join a Google+ Hangout, or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

So, thisDiabetes Week, as you’re thinking about Diabetes and Me, consider the relationship between you and your diabetes. Relationships are challenging, but we wouldn’t be ourselves without them in our lives – they foster our strengths and teach us about ourselves.

What strengths is diabetes fostering in you? Is it possible that in overcoming all of its challenges, you’re a better version of yourself with diabetes?

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