I was diagnosed with T1 Diabetes back in 1977 and figuratively, so was my mother and father. I have a fantasy where my parents handled the news of my diagnosis with grace. It’s a fantasy where my mom included my opinion around managing my diabetes and my parents were strong as well as supportive, but alas, they were not.
Parenting issues around diabetes were not due to a lack of effort on their part. It ‘s hard to raise a child with diabetes, and all parents react differently to the news that their child has diabetes.
When it came to my parents, they were overly worried about my blood sugar. They were constantly afraid that I would die from my illness. My father seemed to distance himself, staying at work more often and I saw very little of him.
When it came to my mother, she took a much different approach. She was on me like white on rice. The rules in my house changed drastically after my diagnosis. The rules went from somewhat flexible to the very ridge overnight. My mother started deciding everything for me. My mom loved to say “let’s be Machiavellian about this!”
Despite the changes, I pretended that I could handle the diabetes diagnosis, but like my parents, I fell short. We all tried to pretend that everything was normal.
During the first visit to the pediatric endocrinologist, he stated that there we several ways to approach management. The doctor said that we could create a rigid meal plan; where I would get the same quantity of food and insulin at each meal. The doctor listed several more meal plans.
The endocrinologist stated that a plan with fewer restrictions would be better for me but would require a little extra work on our part. If I ate more, then we would give more insulin to match.
Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, my mother stopped listening after the first management technique and became fixated on the first plan.
When we got home from the hospital, my birthday cake became fruit, and everything had to be diet and portion controlled. Everything I did or ate, was monitored carefully. When the ice cream truck came around, I got to watch my friends get ice cream from my living room window.
As an adult, I can understand what my mother was going through. I can only imagine how scared she was and how much fear she had around not being able to protect her baby from diabetes, or the guilt she felt.
My mother’s fight to simplify and control diabetes caused many issues between the two of us. We became argumentative, distant and the conversation was always about diabetes, instead of school or my friends. I became afraid to tell my mother anything, so I lied about my diabetes and told her what she wanted to hear. The issue of diabetes defined our relationship and, was terrible for my diabetes management.
There was nothing to prepare my family for diabetes and its impact on all of us. What many parents fail to recognize is how important emotional support is to help their family manage the emotional issues like guilt, anger, fear, sadness and many others that come when their child gets a chronic condition like diabetes.
My parents got all the information they could and attended whatever classes were available at the time. The problem was that there is not enough information on the web, in a seminar or at the doctor’s office to prepare you for living through the ups and downs of diabetes.
It is tough to live with diabetes and just as difficult to raise a child living with diabetes. I started to see a psychotherapist six years later and was grateful that I got help managing my intense feelings. Unfortunately, the rest of my family did not.
Diagnosed with diabetes over forty years ago, my mother still can’t accept my diabetes. She still carries the guilt and anger around with her.
Maybe if she went to therapy with me or got the needed help on her own, things could have been different between us. Diabetes could have brought us together instead of splitting us apart. With the right support, my family could have had a healthier, more harmonious home, for all of us.
For more on Diabetes-Focused Psychotherapy and how it might help you, go to my website www.diabetictalks.com and book a free consultation today.