May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and / or your loved one, and how do you cope?
Benny was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just before he turned two. I remember a tough conversation in his hospital room at 3am with a well-meaning doctor. We were talking about daycare and work and I promptly burst into tears. Benny reached over and patted my shoulder with his little hand. "It’s okay, Mommy," he said.
As my baby comforted me, I realized I needed to pull it together. If I fell apart, how would he ever adjust to what needed to be his new normal?
We did adjust and life went on. I've had my moments but, seven years later, most of the emotion of type 1 diabetes is not as intense. I rarely get sad, but I do get frustrated. We have ups and downs, highs and lows (see what I did there?) like everyone. Diabetes is difficult to manage because life is not the same day to day; this condition requires a very delicate balancing act.
Overall, site changes have always been difficult, although they're getting easier as Benny gets older. Sometimes I would go into the laundry room or bathroom after a particularly upsetting insertion and have a moment by myself. I don't think Benny’s been overly troubled by this, he just hates that the insets hurt. They do and that sucks. We talk about shots as an option sometimes. Right now, he’s not interested. So we slap the inset in and move on.
I hate that he has to have extra stuff and do extra things. Going to your friends house? Check your BG first. Do you have your meter or, more frequently these days, Dexcom receiver? Something in your pocket for lows? I can give Benny his independence, but at a price of additional reminders and literal baggage.
I also know that this is not my diabetes. Benny may have answered this prompt very differently and he’ll have his own concerns and worries as he gets older. All we can do is give him the tools to succeed. That goes beyond the meter and pump. He needs self-reliance, responsibility, confidence and a sense of humor.
That's really how I cope. We use humor a lot (more on that tomorrow) and every time my son takes on more diabetes responsibility and independence I mark it as a win. I suppose in a way, I still look to Benny for reassurance, but we've come pretty far from those 3am tears.