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Diabetes: Dealing With Feelings

Dealing with diabetes can stir up a lot of different feelings, especially after a kid first finds out he or she has diabetes. It's a big change to suddenly have to visit the doctor more often, take medicine, and watch what you eat.

Let's talk about how your diabetes can make you feel, and figure out some ways to feel better.

Your Feelings

When they're first diagnosed, kids with diabetes may worry about what it will mean. Some might worry about having to take insulin shots. Other kids with diabetes might be upset if they have to change the way they eat. And all kids with diabetes may wonder, "Why me?" and think, "It isn't fair." Diabetes also can make people feel sad, angry, upset, or alone because most of their friends don't have to worry about their blood sugar levels. It's just not something a kid wants.

Faced with all this, some kids with diabetes might pretend they don't have it. They might hope they can pretend it away by not thinking or talking about it. Or, they might want to hide it because they feel embarrassed, different, or like they did something wrong to get this illness.

Kids might worry that their diabetes is causing a lot of trouble for their parents or brothers or sisters. Or they might be angry with their parents because they make them take medicines or eat healthy foods. Sometimes a kid might feel angry or jealous of a brother, sister, or friend who doesn't have diabetes.

It's OK to have lots of different feelings about diabetes. Finding out you have it means you have to make a big adjustment. You'll have to get used to taking care of your diabetes and making that care part of your everyday routine. It's not easy to change what you've been doing.

But the more you learn about diabetes, the more you will feel in control and able to handle it as part of everyday life. Eventually, most kids with diabetes start feeling comfortable with their treatments (believe it or not!) and with the tools (like blood glucose meters or insulin shots) they need to use to stay healthy.

In other words, dealing with diabetes becomes easier and just part of normal daily life — like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. Let's find out how you get there.

Talk About It

Finding someone to talk to can help a kid feel better. It doesn't change that a kid has diabetes and has to deal with it. But talking can feel good — kind of like, "Whew, now that's off my chest!" Parents are good people to talk with, and so are other grown-ups in your life, like grandparents and other relatives. A school counselor or your friends also can be helpful to you.

When you have questions or feelings about diabetes, you can tell your doctor, too. Maybe your doctor's office can help you find other kids with diabetes. They can be really good to talk with because they're going though the same stuff. A diabetes support group — kind of like a club for kids with diabetes — is one way to discover you're not the only kid with diabetes. Your doctor's office can tell you if a support group is available in your area.

No matter how many people they could talk to, some kids find it tough to open up and talk about their feelings. If this is you, maybe you can find another way of expressing what it's like for you. For instance, you could write a letter or draw a picture to show how diabetes makes you feel. You might choose to share this with a parent or someone who's close to you, or you might decide just to keep it private. Even if it's tough, try to tell at least one person how you're feeling.

Remember, it doesn't have to be a big, long talk or anything. Just mentioning what's going on and how it is for you can be enough. It's especially important to tell your parent or your doctor if you're feeling really sad or really angry about things. There are good ways to help you feel better if strong feelings are bothering you. And if someone is bullying you or teasing you because of diabetes, be sure to tell an adult.

More Tips

Here are a few other tips for dealing with your feelings about diabetes:

Follow your doctor's advice. Your diabetes management plan will tell you what you need to do to stay healthy. When you follow this advice (with your parents' help, of course), you'll feel better. And when you feel better, diabetes won't get in the way of what you want to do — like play with your friends or go to a party.

Learn how to do some stuff yourself. At first, your mom or dad might do most of the work in taking care of your diabetes. But little by little, you can take over some of these jobs. For instance, when testing your blood sugar, you might choose the spot for testing, press the plunger on the syringe, and read the results out loud. It's good practice for the day when you'll do all this stuff on your own.

Get organized. Even if your mom or dad is still helping you take your diabetes medicine and eat right, there can be a lot to keep track of if you have diabetes. How much insulin did you get this morning? What did you eat at school? Did you pack your medicines? Getting organized can help. Maybe you can make a checklist with your mom and dad. Every night before going to school or other activities, you can go over the checklist and make sure you have the snacks and medicines you'll need for the next day.

Tell friends and teachers about your diabetes. When more people know about your diabetes, you'll probably feel more comfortable about taking daily trips to the school nurse or other things you might need to do to stay healthy. Your mom or dad can help start this process by talking to your teacher about diabetes and what you need to do to at school to keep it under control (like taking breaks to test blood sugar or eating snacks at certain times). If you decide not to tell many people, that's OK. But most kids decide to tell their close friends. It's hard to hide blood sugar checks, medicine, and eating on time from friends who spend the most time with you. And then, if you need to, you can talk to your friends about how you're feeling.

Be prepared for ups and downs. Even once you're adjusted to having diabetes, you might have a few struggles. Maybe your blood sugar will get too high or too low, even though you're following your doctor's advice. Or having diabetes might seem like a real drag when you're on vacation. Your diabetes health care team, your parents, and other supportive people in your life will be able to help. Try to be patient and share your feelings during those rough patches. And be on the lookout for good things that might happen along the way, too, like feeling confident, brave, and proud of all you're learning to do.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013