When people first learn they have diabetes, many react with a similar emotion: denial. You could be in denial about your diagnosis if you find yourself thinking, “This isn’t happening to me” or “The doctors must be wrong.”
The sentiment is so common that many doctors expect patients to feel this way after delivering a diagnosis. Denial may be our mind’s natural way of coping with bad news. It keeps us from becoming depressed and distraught. But over time, the reality sinks in, and denial gives way to acceptance. People come to terms with the fact that they have diabetes and learn how to live with it.
The Danger of Diabetes Denial
But what if denial doesn’t go away? If you don’t believe that you have diabetes or that your condition is serious, you won’t take the necessary steps to keep yourself healthy, such as eating right, exercising, and taking your medications.
Denial can cause you to make poor decisions that could harm your health. You might light up a cigarette. You might avoid checking your blood glucose levels regularly, or forget to wash and inspect your feet for signs of injury each day. After all, if you don’t believe you have diabetes, why should these things matter? Unfortunately, all of these behaviors could lead to serious complications down the road, such as high blood pressure, stroke, and kidney disease.
Finally, denial can also shield you from learning exactly what you need to do to protect your health. There’s a lot of valuable information available, but if you’re in denial, you may not be open to receiving it.
So take a moment and ask yourself: Have I fully accepted the fact that I have diabetes? Am I doing everything I can to keep myself healthy?
Three Ways to Ditch Denial
Even if you’ve completely grasped the reality that you have diabetes, feelings of denial may surface now and again. That’s normal. Whether you’re still moving through denial or coping with a new bout of it, the American Diabetes Association offers these tips for keeping healthy habits in place:
1. Follow a plan. Write down a detailed plan of everything that’s involved in your self-care. This might include when to check your blood glucose levels. Jot down when and how much insulin or other medications you need to take. Make a note to inspect your feet daily.
Once you’ve made a plan, read through each item and make sure you fully understand why it’s important. If you’re not clear about anything, discuss it with your doctor. Following your plan each and every day will help keep you on the right track.
2. Don’t go it alone. There are people around you who can help, from your friends and family members to your doctor and diabetes educator. If you’re struggling with any aspect of your care, such as your nutrition plan, it might feel easier to forget about it altogether. But this will backfire by compromising your health.
Any time you identify an area in which you’re having difficulty, think about who can best help you through it. For instance, working with a registered dietitian can help you overcome trouble with a meal plan. If you can’t seem to stick with an exercise plan, work with a trainer to develop a routine that’s enjoyable and effective for you.
3. Make it a family affair. Sticking to your self-care regimen can become even more challenging if your family members aren’t on board. You may feel envious that they can eat whatever they want and think, “I can eat that, too.” That’s denial—you believe, even for a moment, that it won’t hurt you. But it can.
Asking your family to adopt some of your healthy habits can prevent these potentially harmful moments of denial. What’s more, making smarter eating choices and increasing the amount of exercise your family gets—such as taking walks together around the neighborhood—will benefit everyone, whether or not they have diabetes.