Cara Jones, BDO Staff Writer
Getting any diagnosis can be overwhelming. While grappling with the new diagnosis, you’re probably dealing with a range of emotions and wondering what’s next and how your life will change. During these times it can help to turn to family and friends for advice, but how do you do this when you don’t know exactly where to begin?
“There’s a stigma attached to type 2 diabetes,” says Camilla Levister, NP, a certified diabetes care and education specialist in the division of endocrinology, metabolism, and bone disease at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “A lot of patients I speak to have guilt or shame, or they’re worried they’ll be judged by family members,” Levister tells SELF.
Whether you want to talk to your loved ones about your condition for support or keep your family knowledgeable so they can take charge of their own health, it helps to have a plan in place. Here are some tips for talking to your loved ones about your type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
Hold off until you’re comfortable.
Talking to your loved ones as soon as you receive a diagnosis may not always be best. In some cases, it may actually be more helpful to delay telling your loved ones about your diagnosis until you are more knowledgeable and comfortable about the condition, according to SELF.
This may include taking the time to actually learn about the condition, building your care team and learning the best ways to treat and manage it.
Need some additional help wrapping your head around type 2 diabetes?
These resources may come in handy if your loved ones ask any tough questions—or offer off-base suggestions.
A primary care doctor can also help you connect with the perfect diabetes care team, SELF notes. This includes a diabetes specialist, endocrinologist, or a registered dietician or pharmacist who is also a certified diabetes educator.
If you’re up for it Alison Ward, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Washington Medicine’s Diabetes Institute at South Lake Union suggests trying a diabetes self-management course—a program that helps you learn to
monitor your blood sugar, cook diabetes-friendly meals, and more.
Ask for the floor when it’s time to talk.
Your loved ones may be curious about your diagnosis and naturally have questions. This is perfectly normal, but you should be given the space to speak in full first so that you have the opportunity to share what you’ve learned and eliminate any misconceptions they may have, SELF notes.
Levister offers a good starting point that you can easily tweak based on your unique journey and the person you’re talking to:
“I’m telling you about my diagnosis because I care about you and our relationship. I’d like to be able to talk to you about it, so I want to share what I’ve learned so far as I’ve discussed nutrition with my registered dietitian/doctor. They explained that having type 2 diabetes doesn’t mean I can never have sweets or carbs again. Instead, they stressed that I should be mindful of what I’m eating, including my portion sizes. They also said that many of the nutrition changes recommended for people with diabetes are things that are recommended to most people in general, including eating more fruits and vegetables, more fiber, and more lean protein. I want to be clear that I don’t need commentary or feedback on what I’m supposed to eat or how I’m supposed to move. I’m working with my dietitian/doctor to take care of myself. Right now, I would appreciate your support, understanding, and encouragement. If you have any questions about my diagnosis, I’m happy to answer them.”
Once you are finished, you can ask your loved ones to chime in or their thoughts. If they aren’t receptive, the “assertive formula” may help you communicate your needs more directly, Dr. Ward notes.
This dialogue may look something like this:
“It makes me feel [ashamed, hurt, angry, anxious, etc.] when you comment ABC [I ate a specific type of food, I walked for 20 minutes instead of 30, etc.]. In the future, I’d prefer XYZ [you keep judgmental comments to yourself, you trust me to manage my condition, etc.].”
Still not getting the response you’d like? Dr. Ward says that taking your loved ones to a family therapist can help you develop better communication skills.
Be clear about how they can support you.
Although your loved one wants what’s best for you, they may not always know the best way to support you.
“Sometimes you need to tell [loved ones] what you need from them,” Levister says.
Do you need someone to look out for potentially dangerous situations or symptoms? Let your loved one know what