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Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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Dave's story: kids living with diabetes should have emotional support

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Dave Salmon

Diagnosed age 5.

Knowing what I know about people now and being from a counselling background I recognise that being diagnosed with diabetes feels like a loss.

Dave’s diagnosis with type 1 diabetes at the age of five triggered a huge range of emotions, including anger and denial. Now qualified in psychology and counselling, he recognises how much he would have benefited from greater psychological support at diagnosis and during his childhood. 

Journey with diabetes

Dave's experience with type 1 diabetes

  • Dave was in denial after his type 1 diabetes diagnosis at the age of 5 and would avoid injecting his insulin.
  • Because of this he ended up in hospital throughout his childhood.
  • Dave is now trained in counselling and psychology and believes that children should get more psychological support following their diagnosis.
  • He has struggled with eye problems brought on by his diabetes.
  • Dave's brother was diagnosed with type 1 when he was 21.

Emotions

Diagnosis and denial

When I was first diagnosed I was in complete denial of having diabetes, and so I was not properly taking insulin between the age of five and 10 or 11. My mum would load it up for me and she’d bring it in for me to do it myself. I used to do things like inject it into the sofa, something I did constantly, and spent two out of four years in hospital. 

To be honest I think it would be better for people with diabetes to have a doctor and a psychologist at an appointment rather than a diabetic nurse, because they understand the conversations that are going on in the room. They see the potential for lies and read between the lines. 

I’ve had quite a journey. I messed around until I left school, but overall I feel I’m quite lucky. I’ve had issues with my eyes and feet but I’m actually reasonably healthy. I’ve been quite strict in the last 10 to 15 years and I’ve got better blood sugar levels because of that.

 

Psychological support

I myself struggled a fair bit in my earlier years with diabetes and feel that having emotional support would of helped me loads. I don’t think anyone has asked me about my emotional wellbeing, because they were more interested in the mechanics in it than me as a person. 

If I’d had someone to talk to I might have been more honest about what was going on.

Round the age of seven or eight it would have been good to speak to someone about it, when I’d not been taking insulin for a few years and I was in hospital more than I was out. 

It’s funny how things have changed, and that people are still injecting, things haven’t changed at all. Kids probably struggle to get their heads around being a diabetic more than adults. It’s a big journey for a young child. 

I used to go to diabetic clinics as a kid, and talk to other diabetics. Now I have a degree in counselling and psychotherapy, I hear my story from others, but in a different way. Knowing what I know about people now and being from a counselling background I recognise that being diagnosed with diabetes feels like a loss. 

Diabetics struggle with loss and it’s difficult to move on. There’s sometimes anger, bargaining and denial for years. 

I think psychological support should be given soon after diagnosis, particularly in childhood and as a teenager, which I think would have helped me. Nobody picked up the problems I was having. I was signed off sick, because I have problem with my feet now. The turning point for me was when I started having eye problems

Complications

Eye problems

When I had eye laser surgery 17 years ago, they sat me down and said, "If you don’t have a handle on your diabetes, you’re going to be blind in the next five years." I knew it was serious because I’d had surgery on both eyes five or six times, and that was enough. 

It sounds weird, but the diabetic doctors were telling me about complications of what would happen if I didn’t take care of myself.

After I first went to the eye clinic, every two weeks I had to go back and forth to treat each eye again. I didn’t like having to stare into that bright light. I was living with a problem and it was real – I was dealing with the possibility of going blind. 

Diabetes UK and me

Support from the community

I log onto the Diabetes UK Facebook page, and because I’ve been there myself I’ve commented on conversations where people are struggling with same kind of things as me. It helps to normalise things.

I’ve also met people through clinics, online and through other Facebook groups. My older brother has type 1, and at times it’s really helpful to know that you’re not alone.

 

Did you know that 7 out of 10 people have felt overwhelmed by the demands of living with diabetes? But most people can't get the emotional and mental health support they need. 

This has to change. If you agree, please join our campaign today.

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