Young Adults...That’s YOU...What next?
By Wendy Satin Rapaport, Psy.D., L.C.S.W.
(June 2011) Now you’re on your own. You leave the over- or under- protective nest and then, there you are, not a child with diabetes but an adult with diabetes. And you might be thinking, now what?
It’s now up to you to be successful, have fun and take care of yourself by yourself, without all the supervision, camaraderie and/or nagging you’ve previously come to know (and you may be thinking that you need a new team of friends, doctors and support around you.) With that said, the way you feel and present yourself at work and in your social world is up to you. People will respond to your lead and what you project is what you will get. So it’s up to you to update your sense of worth.
Meeting your soul mate
My take on people with diabetes as mates is that they are superior, if anything. They have more sensitivity and insight; an appreciation of priorities and what is important in the world; better health habits than the average person; and ambition – perhaps from thinking they have to be better than others. (We know that’s not true, but motivation is motivation, after all.) In addition, they have intimate contact with the accomplished medical world.
When do you tell people you have diabetes?
There is no right time. It’s very individual, of course, and you set the tone. Keep in mind that your confident, non-defensive style tells others how to feel about your diabetes. (Thank goodness for “ignorance,” which is what most people are when it comes to diabetes.) In my professional point of view, “privacy” and “secrecy” are overrated and worrying about going low or not feeling free to test or think through decisions openly can cause anxiety. The openness leads to better diabetes control, which in turn improves mood and outcome – and of course, safety. Often, the response to telling people you have diabetes will be one of nurturance and compassion with a bit of control thrown in (which can, of course, be corrected).
So many times I have heard how angry the “partner,” girl or guy, was when someone did not share that they have diabetes with them. The partner feels that you didn’t trust him/her, or that you thought it was your business or that perhaps you felt fearful that you wouldn’t be accepted. Really, those are your feelings, not the friend’s or date’s feelings. You are not “damaged goods.” How inaccurate that is! Rather, you are pancreatically challenged.
Remember, it’s how you feel about yourself that is what attracts a terrific mate. Poor control of your diabetes is not sexy; good control and being knowledgeable and up-to- date on the research is appealing.
Sometimes people say they want their diabetes to be invisible and so they don’t choose to wear a pump. But others tell me they would never take it off - even during sex (hope your parents aren’t reading this!) because they consider it a body part to be loved and adored alongside you.
Patience, feelings and truths
Be patient with any fears that potential mates or in-laws have. These are merely feelings, not truths and you and your family had them too, in the beginning. Tolerate and even allow for mixed feelings and respond with understanding. Take your diabetes seriously, but when you talk about it, use humor and perspective.
Bottom line: hit the “reset” button if you feel that your confidence is lagging. Feel free to do it with a therapist to realize that you are amazing and you have diabetes. Repeat to yourself, I am beautiful and I’m okay - because you are!