In this 5-part blog series I am revisiting my 5 key diabetes coaching strategies which are the foundation for my new HOME COACHING VIDEOS! The videos (to be released in November) help YOU build vital skills that dramatically improve your ability to deal with all that diabetes throws at you. It is more than just diet and exercise. Diabetes impacts every area of your life, you need skills for body, mind and soul!
“I’m sorry this happened to you.” Those were words it took years for someone to say to me. Because I was a nurse, people expected a diabetes diagnosis to be easy for me. I knew how to give shots, do finger sticks and was highly experienced in the care of patients with diabetes. So, I put on a smile and acted like I was fine, while inside so much was happening, I struggled to even know what it was.
It was a kind therapist who saw my pain and offered her “sorry”. Diabetes was such a burden to me, while I rejected it wholeheartedly in my inner world, the rest of the world thought I was managing pretty well. In this therapist’s office, I couldn’t find the words to express how I felt. I managed to compare it to my older brother tickling me when I was little, past the point of it being fun at all. I just wanted him to stop. She said, “You are frustrated”. And just like that this inner pain had a name, which somehow changed it. It wasn’t unknown and it made sense in the context of my diagnosis. Of course, I was frustrated! Who wouldn’t be? Diabetes is HARD WORK, that I didn’t ask for, didn’t like and threatened my very existence. Frustration seemed like a fine emotion to have!
What I have learned since that day some 25 years ago, is that diabetes comes with MANY emotions, yet no one really tells you about this. Or how to handle these ugly, internal feelings, because they impact you EVERY day! I now realize this is why so many people struggle. As humans, we are hardwired to avoid pain: physical or emotional. Since diabetes brings a good amount of both sorts of pain, it is no surprise so many people want little to do with it. Until that magic “cure” comes in 5 years (ha! I have heard that since 1991 – yes I am skeptical), the best plan is to improve your resilience skills and that includes dealing with your emotions. The quickest way I have found is twofold. Get curious and create distance.
1 – Get curious about your feelings, figure out what they are and name them. When you see them and label them, they weaken. I am not sure how or why, but I know it is true. When they linger unknown in your head, they appear more powerful than they really are. Slap a name tag on them and they shrink in size!
2 – Create distance by realizing they are just feelings and NOT YOU! If you can notice your frustration, fear, anger or “insert favorite emotion here”, you come to see that YOU are noticing the emotion and therefore the emotion is not YOU. Just something you are noticing, something over there, separate from you. Emotions do have some purpose, they strive to tell you a message or point out a risk. So, in many cases, just acknowledging its purpose can calm it down. Sounds silly but it works! “Hello Mr. Frustration. I notice you over there causing a ruckus. I agree yes this is hard, and yes it’s not fair, and yes we don’t deserve this. Correct on all counts, but you are making this harder on me. Let’s just deal with it and move on to better experiences. Thanks for what you do, but I got this”.
Give it a try – can’t hurt anything, right?
I would be remiss not to mention how many of our emotions stem from grief. Yes, grief. Even though no one died, the familiar picture of life in our head vanishes. Diabetes takes a lot of things away. We lose things – freedom, sleep, safety, perhaps some dreams, but most importantly, the image of what we thought life would be. It is a real and tangible loss, and it needs to be grieved fully. All of us go through denial, anger, bargaining, frustration, acting out, resentment, fear, and depression. Just a few of the many emotions associated with grief. But do we understand how to grieve them?
No one told me I would grieve. People just wanted to cheer me up. What I needed was for a few souls to sit with me in the ugly places, with snot-nosed, wailing cries and a lot of deep from-my-core “Whyyyyyyyyyys?”. I needed for someone to see my pain and acknowledge the truth of what I was experiencing. We all need that to crawl out of a dark place and begin putting the pieces of our life back together, but the grieving must happen first.
I see so many people labeled as “non-compliant” and I know they are just stuck in grief, anger, denial and fear. Those emotions are too heavy of a load to carry AND manage the extra burden that is diabetes. For me, it was hard to dig into the dark places of my inner world, but it was soooooo refreshing to process all that badness and leave it behind. I am so fulfilled now to coach others through this tangle of diabetes emotions and grow in resiliency.
A resilient life requires an awareness of your emotions and ability to sort them out. A skill that you can improve! If you feel stuck in a ‘diabetes rut’ maybe you need to learn a bit more about your emotions and how they are holding you back? There are several ways to take your next step!
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