Earlier today, I gave advice to a friend and mother of a diabetic child. I feared I was too harsh and overstepped my friend (and not-a-mom-myself) boundaries. Fortunately, my friend understood the intention behind my words.
My friend’s daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a little more than a year ago. The family was naturally shell-shocked and the last year has been a roller coaster of highs and lows with a steep learning curve.
The learning curve with diabetes never really goes away though. Just when you think you’ve figured out how something affects your body, something comes along to make it change the usual effect.
It can be something as easily explainable as an ingredient or something as miniscule as hormones or change in altitude. During the first year of a diagnosis, every single thing is compounded by about ten fold.
My friend’s family pulls their strength from Christ, but for a young child, the “why me” question needs an answer immediately. Faith isn’t always an option for a pre-teen. Yes, she deserves a pity party. Yes, her life is forever changed. Yes, diabetes will cause her some problems along the way. Yes, she deserves to be angry. But just because this may be the case doesn’t mean she gets to feel sorry for herself all the time.
I told my friend to be strong for her daughter. She may feel helpless and overwhelmed. She, too, may ask why this happened to her daughter. She may look at the negatives and the trials down the road for her daughter, but she can’t show any of that. I told her to cry behind closed doors because her daughter will look to her mother for her own reaction. When living with diabetes, you get three options:
- A) Deal with it and live a fulfilling life.
- B) Deal with it and be miserable. OR
- C) Don’t deal with it and die.
I choose path A, with a B day every once in a while. The world will not cut that beautiful child any slack because she has type 1 diabetes. She will, in fact, need to be tougher because of it. Diabetes does not need to define her because she needs to define her diabetes. That needs to start now, and it needs to start with her mother. As children, we look to our parents for reaction. When we don’t understand something, we look at their face to learn. When we need an answer, we ask our parents the question. When we need guidance, we (sometimes inadvertently) seek our parents’ example to decide our own method of response.
That holds true with her reaction to dealing with her diabetes. She needs to understand now, at a young and early age, that she gets to choose to be stronger than the disease.
I will always be available for my friend if she needs someone to cry to or talk to. I’ve been there on one side, and I know my own mother’s reaction to my disease is the only reason I am as strong as I am today. She is the reason I do not hide behind it, but instead speak out as an advocate. She didn’t let me sit and cry because she knew it wouldn’t solve anything. She is my pillar, and as an adult, I still look to her reaction for my reaction.
Here are a few additional resources for handling the stresses of diabetes and diabetes diagnosis(there are tons more out there, just ask Google):
JDRF: Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, JDRF, answers many diabetes-realted questions.
ADA: American Diabetes Association, ADA, offers answers for newly diagnosed patients.
TuDiabetes: An online community for people affected by diabetes. It’s a great way to find others like yourself.
Diabetes Mine: A helpful blog about diabetes with lots of great information.