One thing I think about a lot is how to describe people who cope well with diabetes as opposed to those who have a harder time coping. I’m sure that I could come up with some fancy sounding theoretical explanation, but I think it really comes down to how people see diabetes. People who have a harder time tend to see diabetes as something that is outside of them and that they need to fight. On the other hand, people who have an easier time see diabetes as something they can integrate into their lives. Looking at it another way, some people see diabetes as an unwelcome intruder, while others see it as an annoying roommate.
People who struggle with unpleasant thoughts and feelings about diabetes, often see it as an intruder in their life. They find their thoughts and feelings about diabetes so unpleasant that they spend a lot of time and energy trying to get rid of this intruder, often at the expense of other things that are important to them. If you see diabetes as an intruder, this response makes sense. If a feeling or situation makes you uncomfortable, it is a perfectly natural response to do whatever it takes to fight off that unpleasant feeling. Unfortunately, there can be a big cost to doing this. Fighting off an intruder takes time and energy. If you are always fighting diabetes, you will probably have less energy to do things that are important to you. For example, you may have trouble focusing at work, or you may find that you are less motivated to be social. Also if you work hard to get rid of your negative thoughts and feelings about diabetes, you’ll find that you just spent a lot of time and energy on diabetes – precisely the thing you are trying to get away from – without making any long-term changes in how you feel.
People who cope well with diabetes tend not to see diabetes-related thoughts and feelings as an intruder, but more like an annoying roommate. It’s not that they don’t have negative thoughts and feelings about diabetes, but these annoyances just don’t have that big of an impact on them. Think about a roommate with some annoying habits. Maybe they were messy or they didn’t clean up after themselves. Or maybe they stayed up late and made a lot of noise. When you first started living together, maybe you fought about these things, but as time went on, hopefully you and your roommate got into a rhythm of living together. Their annoying habits may still irritate you, but hopefully you have found a way to live together in peace most of the time. I think that people who cope well with diabetes usually see diabetes as this annoying roommate. Sure, they wish that they could move out and leave diabetes behind, but since they can’t, they have found a way to live with diabetes in a civil way, without letting the negatives take up too much of their limited energy.
Writing this brings up even more questions that I’ll try to address in future blogs. First, why do some people gravitate to one camp or the other? And more importantly, if one finds that they are in the ‘diabetes as intruder’ camp, how can they do a better job at integrating diabetes into their lives as ‘annoying roommate’?
I am very interested to hear from you if these descriptions describe your experience, or do you have a better way to describe how you cope with the tough thoughts and feelings that come with diabetes? Please leave your thoughts as a comment below!