In the past couple of months I have met a few people who are newly diagnosed or friends have shared with me that they have a relative or friend who is newly diagnosed and wanted to know how they help.
To the Newly Diagnosed:
Yes, having diabetes can be a scary, but it’s not a death sentence.
Yes, having diabetes can be depressing, but it’s not a death sentence.
Yes, having diabetes means that you will have to change some things in your daily routine, but it’s not a death sentence.
The first time I was informed that I had diabetes, I was completely stunned with disbelief. The first thing that I remember saying (after exclaiming “I am not diabetic”) was “I’m gonna die.” A friend who had taken me to the ER said, “No, you aren’t gonna die,” but I was convinced. I repeated it over and over again, “I’m gonna die,” even as tears flowed down my cheeks while they gave me an IV of insulin STAT.
Mind you, when I found out that I had Type 2 I was already dancing with a diabetic coma after going unconscious for an unknown amount of hours and the truth is had I not gone to the ER that day, I would have died, but that’s not the point here.
The point is…I couldn’t see living with diabetes as a reality. I viewed it as a slow death sentence and could already see that my death certificate would have written on it “Diabetes” as my cause of death. But as time progressed, I realized that I am not the author or the finisher of my fate and I could focus on dying with diabetes so much that I get by bus. Surely, having diabetes wouldn’t matter at all then.
Thus, I decided to focus on LIVING with diabetes. I was faced with two choices: I could see it as a slow death or I could see it as just one more thing that I am LIVING with. So, if you are newly diagnosed and depressed about it…you’re not alone. No one wants diabetes. But there is a life to to be lived and you don’t want to miss out on it.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
I’m sure you’ve heard that you have to change your diet and get some exercise. But you may not know what that really means. Here’s some insight.
1. You need carbs. Deciding that you will never eat carbs again is NOT the way to go. You may have to reduce your carbs and/or diversify your choices (ie. fruit over bread). But carbs are what gives the body energy.
2. Try to eat according to the plate method daily. Here are some examples of meals using the plate method.
3. Count carbs. I wasn’t a math person, but living with diabetes has changed that. Counting carbs can be overwhelming, so start with the foods you eat regularly and then move into foods you eat on occasion. I started with rice and grits, since I use to eat both almost daily. Here is a list of snacks that are 15g of carbs.
4. Get that body moving. Exercise helps you burn excess sugar and makes it easier for your body to use insulin. If you can’t go to the gym, that shouldn’t stop you. Make dancing at home a daily activity. I often have “Beyonce Breaks” and “Kirk Franklin Fun” in my house. I turn on my favorite song and shake what my mama gave me. It’s best to move for 10-20 minutes after you eat.
5. Take your medication. If you are on oral medications, take them with your vitamins in the morning and evening and you won’t even notice the addition. If you have to give yourself injections, just do it. I don’t know anyone who takes pleasure in sticking themselves, but when your life depends on it-you gotta do what you gotta do. And, YOUR life depends on it. The first time I gave myself an injection, I cried like I found a lump of coal in my stocking. But after weeks of three times a day, my philosophy became…Stick it and Forget it, until the next meal.
6. Educate yourself about Type 2. I would say the average person doesn’t really understand Type 2 and the more you learn about Type 2, the better you will be able to educate those around you. (Here’s a link to a video I made about things people said to me when I was newly diagnosed).
7. Tell those who are close to you. You need a support group that can help you get through the rough days. We all have them. There are online twitter groups #T2DOC and #DSMA and you can search for local support groups.
Remember, diabetes is as unique as the person LIVING with it.