A common reaction to a type 2 diabetes diagnosis is, “I brought this on myself.” Sound familiar? Try these simple steps to help you fend off guilt.
Do you blame yourself for developing type 2 diabetes? Worry you could have prevented it by cutting back on sweets or hitting the gym more? “Guilt becomes compounded by listening to ‘how eating sugar, fat and processed food’ caused this problem, and many patients feel they have to ‘explain’ the disease to others, which increases anxiety and feelings of guilt,” says Susan Weiner, RD, MS, CDE, CDN, owner of Susan Weiner Nutrition, NY, and the author of The Diabetes Organizer.
The truth is, having type 2 diabetes is not your fault! In fact, you have to have a genetic predisposition to develop the disease, according to research. And holding yourself responsible is doing more harm than good. In fact, people who blame themselves for having diabetes are less likely to monitor their blood sugar levels, properly inject themselves and make beneficial lifestyle choices, according to an Ithaca College study.
So eliminate all the “should’ves, would’ves and could’ves” and start living a better life with diabetes. Here’s how:
Get empowered. “In order to get rid of a feeling of guilt, work toward a feeling of empowerment,” Weiner says. For example, if you already enjoy walking three times a month, try to do it even more often. Look at it not as exercise but as a step toward a long-term goal and improved confidence.
Don’t dwell on the numbers. Does a high blood sugar reading trip your guilt switch? “Blood glucose numbers are just that—numbers. Sometimes, even when you do everything correctly (eat right, exercise, take your insulin, sleep, manage stress), your blood sugars are still wacky,” explains Weiner. Instead of focusing on perfect glucose levels, celebrate doing the best that you can.
Know your diabetes ABCs. Learn as much as you can about your type 2 diabetes. Brush up on the facts online, or ask your healthcare professional questions. The more you know about your condition, the more you’ll be reminded that your diagnosis isn’t your fault.
Boost your confidence. Low self-esteem can lead to self-loathing and self-blame. So list your best traits—your big heart, your perfect driving record, your great skin—tack your list to your mirror and read it daily to remind yourself that you’re still the same great person you were before diabetes.
Confide in others. “Be open and talk about your feelings,” advises Weiner. Join a local or an online support group for people with type 2 diabetes. Expressing your thoughts to those who “get it” can help ease those pesky feelings of self-blame and encourage you to practice good diabetes management, according to Michigan State University researchers. Good places to start: Facebook.com/DiabetesHealthMonitor and Twitter.com/DiabetesHM.
Try something new. “Doing something different and interesting takes the mind away from the guilt,” says Weiner. So go ahead, get a massage, take a dance lesson, sign up for a knitting class—anything to distract your brain.
Pat yourself on the back. One way to do this: Celebrate your successes. “For example, if you’ve never cooked before and you start to prepare simple meals, talk about that fantastic achievement,” Weiner says. Embrace your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. A victory is a victory, isn’t it?
Take charge of your health. The better you manage your type 2 diabetes, the better you’ll feel. So keep your condition under control by monitoring your glucose levels, taking your insulin on time, getting adequate sleep and exercising daily. Speak with your healthcare professional about the best ways to manage your condition.