Helping people with Diabetes through Social Support
When I was diagnosed with diabetes at age thirteen, I was incredibly lucky to have incredible best friends. They were startled by my post-DKA/diagnosis appearance as I lay in my hospital bed, but they brought with them a large ladybug balloon and their beautifully-supportive smiles.
As I spent the next several months learning about diabetes, they did too. They learned about counting carbohydrates, and for an entire day they even ate on the same schedule as I was supposed to eat (I was taking NPH insulin at the time which requires a very strict eating schedule). They learned how to draw up my insulin and they didn’t mind waking up with me at when I had to take that NPH.
They walked to the nurse’s office with me when I had to check my blood sugar. They gave me high-fives when my blood sugar was in a healthy range. They sat with me patiently when my blood sugar was low as I drank a juice box. And when my blood sugar was high, they didn’t look at me with disappointment. Instead, they’d say, “Good job, Gin,” because they knew I was trying my best.
And each with a clean lancet, they bravely pricked their own fingers and checked their blood sugars—just once—to experience that with me, too.
And their parents were an important part of the diagnosis as well. Their parents spoke with my parents about what they could do in order for me to be comfortable and safe at sleepovers.
Without that support from my friends—the people I spent at least half of every day with—learning how to manage my diabetes and accept it as part of my life would have been so much harder.
I think the key to finding that kind of support in your friends—even at the age of thirteen—is by simply including them in the education of the disease. Don’t feel as though you have to hide it from them. Don’t assume they can’t handle it just as well as you can.
I’ve heard doctors mention that it is common for young boys with diabetes to hide it from their friends and be very discreet about their healthcare, so much, at times, to the point where they are neglecting their diabetes because they don’t want the other boys to see them as having a “weakness.” Meanwhile, it seems easier for girls to bond with each other over the disease and build it into the development of their friendship.
As with almost anything, fear is often a result of ignorance. If you help educate your friends about diabetes, they won’t be afraid of it and not only will that help prevent you from neglecting your diabetes around them, but it might also help you gain a few friends who can become an encouraging and empowering support system.