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Diabetes: Dealing With Feelings

Having diabetes can stir up a lot of different feelings, especially when you first find out you have it. It's a big change to suddenly have to visit the doctor more often, take medicine, and watch what you eat.

But dealing with diabetes will get easier and become part of normal daily life — like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. Let's find out how you get there.

How Do Kids With Diabetes Feel?

What Happens in Diabetes? 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 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."

Having diabetes also can make kids 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.

How Can I Handle My Feelings?

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.

Find Ways to 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 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 can tell you if there's a support group in your area.

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.

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.

What Else Can I Do to Feel Better?

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 a parent's 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. Getting organized can help. Maybe you can make a checklist with your mom and dad. Every night, 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. Most kids decide to tell their close friends about having diabetes. Then, if you need to, you can talk to your friends about how you're feeling.

Prepare for ups and downs. Even when you've 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. Your diabetes health care team, your parents, and others can 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: February 2018
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