Ask the Expert
The PEP Squad was founded by parents and therapists working together to help families affected by diabetes. We have multiple mental health professionals who are part of the group and willing to answer your questions related to emotions and the psycho-social issues of diabetes. Read the following question submitted by a member with advice from one of our experts!
Question from a PEP Squad member:
My teenager's numbers are out of control. Anytime I ask the simplest of questions about her diabetes, she responds in the most negative way. I want to help her make the right choices, but I don't want her to push me away. How can I help her get better control?
Advice provided by licensed Health Coach Trisha Artman (Coach the Cure):
What is it about control? It seems that no matter what area of life that you are in, control is the forefront of either the problem or solution. You may or may not be considered a "controlling person," but it still exists within. When first thinking about control, I go right to the importance of the control driving my diabetes. Every article I read, commercial I saw, or doctor I met spoke of the importance of being in control. "What the heck are they talking about, get in control?" The article, commercial or doctor's appointment either started with "Are you in control?" or ended with "You need to get in control!"
When you have diabetes or are around it, everyone gets what they mean by "In control." They are referencing healthy blood sugar levels, eating heathy, exercising, testing your blood often and taking your medication at a scheduled time. But that phrase has all of a sudden really started to bother me, because it can have such a substantial emotional impact on the patient and family. In the case of a patient who is in complete compliance with their own diabetes, it may be a wonderful confirmation of the hard work that they have put into a difficult but accepted disease. "Congratulations, your diabetes is in such great control!"
Although those words may give the patient an initial ego boost, feeling of pride or success, why is there no one asking what is driving the control? The truth is that living with a disease like diabetes is challenging on every possible level. Every item you glance at is automatically being calculated into the number of carbohydrates minus the grams of fiber to then be converted into the amount of equivalent insulin, delayed by the amount of fat that will be presented hours after digestion. One small portion of the days’ daily food intake now enters the body ...and the hours, days, weeks, months, and years continue on! It would seem that a very important question that should be considered should be, "Is the patient approaching their burn out point?" or maybe, "Are they on their own, or getting support?" Why does the majority neglect the emotional component that is most definitely the driving force to overall success when living with a diagnosed disease?
Yes, being "In control," may just be a phrase, but what happens to the person who is not in compliance and is "Out of control"? I have been on both sides of this specific coin at different points of my diabetes and I can now clearly see how it impacted the way I took care of myself.
My perfectionism at that time was such a strong driving force in my life. When first diagnosed, I can remember being so quick to take on the regimented role required with having diabetes. But in reality, at 17, I wasn't doing it to be a "good patient," I was doing it so I wouldn't miss a beat with my friends. I was determined to do everything possible to simply keep face. The rollercoaster ride of emotions, that would have been so understandable and even expected, were all pushed under lock and key.
I wonder what it would have been like to cry for awhile? How about scream to the top of my lungs, "This is SO UNFAIR!" But no, the tears and screams never came. Looking back, everything just happened so fast, and for me in that moment, I would receive top honor of an "A" for "Being in Control."
It's interesting how no one really asked me how I was "feeling." The conversations were more like, "Hi, how is your sugar (levels)?" This would become the question that was supposed to tell everyone exactly how I, a whole person made up of mind, body, and soul, was "feeling." This would also become the very question that I despised, resented, and eventually turned my back on.
How could "Trisha," the person so much more than this awful disease, be missed? Not only did I neglect her, but my doctors, nurses, family, and friends did as well. I put the doctors before my family because my family looked to the doctors for guidance. Diabetes was all very new to us, and we all looked to the doctors in how to approach the "new" me. At that time, Diabetes was not a common term to the public and most definitely was not advertised on 3/4 of commercials. My only reference with the term diabetes, was from the movie Steel Magnolias. I could remember how Julia Roberts's character ultimately went against her doctor’s wishes to have a child and suffered a devastating early death. This was the worst representation of the reality of diabetes, yet at that time my only source of reference. That kind of knowledge coming anywhere near what I thought might be my reality, blindly motivated me to move quickly beyond my emotions and dive directly into multi tasking in every other area. Being in control at that point in my life, enabled my 17-year-old self to steer clear of the deep fears I buried inside. I was going to hold on to my image as a whole, healthy, and "normal" person at all costs. "Everyone step aside and please don't ask me how I feel. I am fine, and I am "In Control!"...or am I?
Looking back now at my love/hate relationship with control I have to chuckle at even the thought of the word. They don't say that life is a journey for nothing! The idea of control is an unrealistic expectation and should be more effectively replaced with a set of baby steps that first begin with a deep inhale and exhale.
As we journey along our personal winding road, we need to remind ourselves that the goal is not to be the controller or be controlled, but better yet to be flexible and forgiving for the hidden bumps in our path. Making ourselves a priority by stopping for maintenance, accountability and support along the way is crucial for becoming an advocate for the lead role we desperately desire and deserve in our own life. Knowing what you need to do to pick yourself up after a minor or major "fender bender" is the secret to your journey. The most powerful sense of control we possess lies more in the choices we make after the bump, so we can then figure out the next step to move ahead successfully.
Our healthy inner voice now begins to echo, "This is the information I possess right in this moment and I have the knowledge and support to figure this out and move on with success." This secret grants us the license to drive our own personal path, feeling healthy, secure, and supported, no matter what the terrain.
Welcome back to your powerful sense of self, who is inspired and unafraid by challenge and no longer craves the constraints of control.
We offer special thanks to Trisha Artman for taking the time to answer this question from our group. Do you and your child have issues with control? Post your own experience in our Facebook group> Facebook.com/groups/PEPsquadDRI
>Got a question for our expert? Email it to us. Selected questions will be answered in an upcoming PEP Talk.