Diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2007, Pam has since struggled with the emotional impact of having the condition, not helped by a lack of support from her local healthcare services. She feels that was a missed opportunity in helping her manage her diabetes better.
Since being referred for psychological support, Pam has found counselling and keeping control of her blood sugar levels have helped her cope with her feelings of stress. She lives in Aberdeen, where she sometimes looks after her grandchildren.
Has lived with Type 2 diabetes for nearly 19 years
“I feel stressed and also stigmatised about having Type 2. I didn’t ask for this, but I feel judged all the same. The public needs to be educated about why people get Type 2 diabetes – we shouldn’t be blamed for having it.”
Pam's journey with diabetes
- Diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2007.
- Her mum also had Type 2 diabetes.
- Suspecting she had the condition, Pam struggled to get diagnosed – at first her GP gave her Valium to treat her symptoms, instead of testing her for Type 2 diabetes.
- Takes Gliclazide and metformin.
- Pam doesn’t feel she’s received adequate diabetes support and care in her area, she’s never been to see a diabetes specialist nurse or attended a diabetes clinic. She hasn’t been offered a diabetes education course, either.
- Pam struggled emotionally, and felt stigmatised and judged about having Type 2.
- It wasn’t until a diagnosis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease that Pam was offered psychological support. She got to speak to a counsellor, and has found talking has helped her cope with her condition. It’s been a turning point for her.
- Pam’s now following a healthy, balanced diet and is upping her activity levels to help her lose weight.
- She’s also found testing her blood sugar levels more often helps her keep better control. It also helps Pam feel better emotionally when she can see the positive impact of changes to her diet and activity levels on her diabetes.
It may seem strange, but I was actually relieved when I finally got my diagnosis for Type 2 diabetes, back in 2007. My mum had it, so I knew a little bit about the condition. But when I first went to my doctor about my symptoms and asked for a diabetes test, I was given Valium to treat them.
This was really frustrating, and it took a while for me to be diagnosed.
"When, eventually, I was told that I had Type 2 diabetes, my doctor was very negative about it, saying that it was progressive – and would only get worse."
Diabetes care and support
When I was diagnosed, I already exercised and ate well. But although I was told that food was important when it came to my diabetes, no one sat me down and explained how to manage it. I didn’t have much access to the internet back then, and I only got patchy advice from my GP surgery about eating fruit and about my diet in general in relation to my diabetes.
"What’s struck me most since diagnosis is the lack of support and guidance I feel there is – it just isn’t good where I am, in my opinion. It’s not rural or anything, but the services just aren’t very good."
I’m under my local GP surgery for my Type 2, but my nurse doesn’t even seem to know the basics of diabetes care, like the annual foot checks and other tests that I should be getting. And I’ve never seen a diabetes specialist nurse or attended my local diabetes clinic.
I know there are so many simple things they could do to improve diabetes care at my local GP surgery/where I live. I’ve even made suggestions about what they could do, but the staff there don’t seem proactive about it at all. It’s not that difficult – all that’s needed is some specific training and a change of attitude.
You can forget about any psychological or emotional support! In the winter, I feel down, so I don’t manage my diabetes as well as I’d like to. At times like this, I’d expect my GP or nurse to understand how I’m feeling and offer me support to help me manage my diabetes better, but they just don’t want to know.
"As far as emotional support for diabetes goes, the GPs need to be interested. They need to address this when they’re talking to their patients – and get more training to be able to do this."
But, it’s not realistic for GPs to be the ones giving psychological and emotional support – it needs to be someone who’s a specialist in this.
It was only when I got referred to a liver clinic after I was diagnosed with liver disease that I was offered some psychological support. There were psychologists on the team and I got to speak to a counsellor. They asked me how I was coping, which really helped me bring things I needed to address to the forefront of my mind.
I was devastated and angry that my liver disease had progressed to cirrhosis. I didn’t know until it was too late. I could’ve changed more in terms of my diet or weight to prevent this from happening, but my GP never gave me any reason to think that I needed to do something about this.
I wasn’t hugely overweight or drank a lot of alcohol. If someone had given me some solid advice, I might’ve been able to help prevent my liver disease progressing to something I now can’t reverse.
"I feel stressed and also stigmatised about having Type 2. I didn’t ask for this, but I feel judged all the same. The public needs to be educated about why people get Type 2 diabetes – we shouldn’t be blamed for having it."
Managing my Type 2
I’m currently taking Gliclazide and on metformin. And I’m now following a lower-carb diet and losing a bit of weight as a result.
I’m also getting on top of my diabetes more by using test strips and a meter. If I don’t test, I don’t know.
"Control means discipline, which helps me emotionally, too, because I feel good when I see that the changes I’m making to my diet, as well as the amount of physical activity I do, are making an impact on my blood sugar levels."
However, I don’t get prescribed test strips, so that’s a big expense for me. I’m frustrated about that.
The diet advice I could find for liver problems, didn’t gel with the diabetes diet advice. There wasn’t and still isn’t enough information on the link between diabetes and liver problems.
What helps me cope emotionally
The one thing that helps is checking your blood sugar levels because you feel that you’re in control. I’ve found that it’s what I need to do to improve how I’m feeling about my diabetes.
"Counselling and talking about how I feel has really helped me a lot, too. I also do mindfulness and meditation."
Having counselling, I’ve learnt lots of coping techniques to help me emotionally, and I’d recommend audiobooks for breathing techniques, too, to help you cope with feeling stressed.