Ok so you’ve got diabetes. Your pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, any insulin or defective insulin. Whichever it is, the result is the same. Without insulin your body can’t get energy from glucose and you can’t do life. So you have to walk the tightrope of diabetes management. Fall off into the too much glucose abyss and you’ll begin to feel very bad and may end up in a coma. Fall off into the insulin overload abyss and it’s a hypoglycaemic coma (insulin shock) at the bottom.
Insulin production and glucose absorption are two complex processes that are going on all the time, in all of us, but managed by the unconscious mind of the ‘normal’ person.
However, for the diabetic, it’s a question of conscious management and lots of support from two teams of people; friends and family and the health care professionals. You can only walk the tightrope in perfect balance if you collaborate openly and constantly with these two groups. But never forget it is you out there in danger. And you are the only one who can take full responsibility for managing your diabetes.
It is important to share your thoughts feelings and rationale for health decisions with your family and friends. When they are involved in the process they can provide feedback and a helping hand to keep you on a steady course. Always take a relative or friend with you when talking to the health care professionals too. Two heads are better than one. Keeping your sense of balance can also be aided by getting in touch with other diabetics. Friends can be empathic, but only other diabetics can have genuine sympathy as well as helpful hints and tips from walking their own tightrope. There are many voluntary groups who run weekend support groups, talking shops and Internet contacts.
As with everything else in life, knowledge and understanding is the foundation for success. Once diagnosed you need to make yourself familiar with every aspect of the condition and quickly assume the role of diabetes commander in chief. Nobody is as interested in your life and health as you are. The very act of taking control is also the best medicine.
List out the everyday tasks that must be done to stay in balance, gather the materials you need to treat yourself and keep them handy. For example, you are the ideal quartermaster when it comes to insulin stock control, rotation and use. Be totally open and honest about how your condition is at any point in time, both with yourself and with your support teams.
Set your own lifestyle and health goals and take responsibility for acting upon the items on your care plan ‘to-do’ list. For example, inspecting your feet regularly and scrupulously with or without someone else to help you, ask for help if you are ill, and know and understand the so-called ‘sick day rules’. Always keep the contact details of your medical team handy.
The basic thing with collaboration is to always keep your clinical appointments and when this is not possible to rearrange them in a timely fashion. Write down any and all observations and feelings along with any questions you may have. This really helps make the most of yours and your doctor’s valuable time. Always carry medical information about you and your condition.
Pregnant diabetics in particular need a great deal of support before during and after the birth. The aim is to grow your unconscious competence at managing your diabetes and to become as sure-footed on the tightrope of insulin production as any circus funambulist.