Diabetes Forecast

5 Ways to Deal With a Diabetes Complication

Moving forward when you have a diabetes-related problem

By Lindsey Wahowiak , ,
5 Ways to Deal With a Diabetes Complication

Gregor Hocevar/Getty Images

You do your best to manage your diabetes. But sometimes that’s not enough to prevent diabetes-related complications. You may be facing damage to your heart, eyes, nerves, or kidneys. Being diagnosed with diabetes can feel like a world-rocker—complications can seem like the end of your world, although they can be treated. Here are some steps you can take to move forward emotionally after receiving the news that you have a complication.

1. Identify your feelings, and feel them.

When someone gets a serious diagnosis, they may pass through the stages of grief—shock, denial, anger, and sadness—before they’re able to accept it, says Judith Margerum, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist in Southfield, Mich. “That [diagnosis] really creates a sense that the world is not the safe place you thought it was,” she says. It’ll take some time before you can really accept what the next steps are in caring for your complication. That’s OK. Just try to recognize how you feel at the time, feel it, and then let it go.

2. Ask questions.

Sometimes when a doctor gives you bad news, it envelops you in a fog, and you might not be listening or thinking clearly about what comes next. That’s common, says Shelley Diamond, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist in San Francisco. You’ve just gotten a big shock. “You’re going to need time to figure out what does this mean as a big change in your life,” she says. So once you’re a little removed from that initial diagnosis, feel free to ask as many questions as you have. You may want to write down your questions so you don’t forget to ask them at your next visit. 

3. Assess your needs, and act on them.

“People need to be aware of what helps them when they’re overwhelmed,” Diamond says. That might mean taking some time off work to decompress. For others, it might mean diving right into work to distract themselves. Some people want to tell everyone they know right away; others will tell only a trusted few. None of that is wrong. This is an OK time to be a little selfish and do what’s right for you. But staying active in working through your feelings is important, says Nicoletta Skoufalos, PhD, a clinical psychologist in New York. Even taking time to just meditate can bring you into the present—and help you feel better about your body and yourself.

4. Retain what makes you “you.”

If you love to tap-dance but have painful nerve damage to your feet, you might find your old moves challenging. But that doesn’t mean you should give up dancing. You’ll just need to find new ways to do it, such as gentler modern dance or dancing in your seat. “Continuing on with your life is really important,” says Margerum. “You have to have a vision of who you want to be and go forward.”

5. Lean on your social support system.

You may have family members who understand diabetes well and can give you guidance and support as you cope. Or, you might want to find a support group of other people living with complications. Even finding support online can help, says Skoufalos. She started blogging about her own experience living with lupus at psychologyofchronicillness.blogspot.com. “One of the biggest buffers in helping people to not fall into depression is social support,” she says. “Find a group who will understand because they’re having the same kinds of experiences, or a mental health professional.” The grief cycle can last up to six months, Diamond notes, so if you’re not feeling better by then, it’s probably time to find a counselor or psychologist who can help you.



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