Only diabetics truly know what a life changer that diagnosis is. The symptoms of diabetes come on slowly. They are the repeated need to urinate, especially in the night, a greater thirst that’s difficult to quench, lethargy, weight loss you can’t explain, itchy genitalia and thrush in women, ultra slow healing of any cut and hazy vision. It all adds up to a malfunctioning pancreas and glucose not being made available to your body for energy. It is very unpleasant and can lead to serious health complications if left undiagnosed and treated.
Once diagnosed, then the questions begin. Both for the diabetic sufferer and their family and friends, who can empathize but never sympathise. How are going to cope with the new health regime at the same time as trying to lead a normal life? What is it like to manage diabetes? How is it to think consciously about your body, all the time? It may seem all too much and begin by making you very emotional. But it is only to be expected.
Probably the hardest thing to come to terms with is the fact; there will be no going back. Diabetes is incurable and you will have it for the rest of your life. Many diabetics feel they are no longer the same person. But everyone reacts individually. Many say it is like bereavement, with all the emotions of shock, anger, fear and of course a general background anxiety. Many people, particularly men, deny what is happening to them and hide the difficulties they encounter.
In the first stages of life, post diagnosis there is little enough time to ponder the change of life that has come upon you. You will be extremely busy learning all the new and strange details of your treatment. And time really is a great healer. With the passage of months you will learn everything there is to know about your pancreas, your blood and what you must do to maintain the comfortable equilibrium of your body. You will become accustomed to all the little rituals that will enable you to lead a normal (for a diabetic) life.
You will not be very good at the treatment things you have to do and at remembering to change your eating habits, but only at first. Soon you will become very aware and deliberate in getting things right and not long after that you be managing your diabetes almost as unconsciously as a non-diabetic person’s pancreas.
Ideally, the doctors and nurses that look after your case will support and encourage you when you join the ranks of that large minority of diabetics; over 3,000,000 in the UK and counting. But healthcare professionals can only help if they are aware of how you are feeling. It is very important for you to share with them what you are feeling and thinking. And the same goes for your family support. Who can be reassured if they are concerned needlessly, or action can be taken if they spot something going awry before you do.
There is also a lot to be said for self-help groups. Of which there are many. After all nobody can understand better, what you are going through than somebody who has already been there. For people who live alone this is an especially important element of their coping strategy following a diabetes diagnosis.
As a diabetes sufferer living with diabetes you are now in an elite group of people with a big thing in common. For many it is the beginning of a whole new social environment, with voluntary groups and fundraising events.