Frazzled By Friends and Family

Ask our CDE

Frazzled By Friends and Family

Question:

Dear CDE,

Help!  I am really sick of my friends, family and people that I don’t even know telling me how to take care of my diabetes!I have type 1 and am doing a really great job.  I test six times a day and take insulin 4-5 times a day.  My A1C is 5.9%.  I don’t appreciate it when other people ask, “should you be eating that?” or say things like, “you know my friend had diabetes and she just lost weight and it went away!”  (I am skinny by the way.)

What can I do to stop this, as so far I’ve been pretty nice when I just want to yell, “Mind your own business and let me alone!” ?

Frazzled in NY

Answer:

Dear Frazzled in NY,

First I want to congratulate you on your self-management and the results of your hard work!  Second I want to congratulate you on your self-control…it is really hard to stay composed when these comments come out of the blue from people who you don’t really know and sometimes it is even worse coming from those who love you and mean well.

We all know that if you meet someone with cancer or lung disease, we don’t offer our advice or tell them horror stories about our uncle or friend who had the same thing; but for some reason people often feel it is their duty or their right to make comments to persons with diabetes…no matter how inappropriate.

Many people with diabetes say they have the same problem, so I guess that it is pretty universal.  There is a world of misinformation about diabetes out there, in a world where there is a lot of diabetes!  Primarily people don’t understand two things: Firstly the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and secondly that sugar is not taboo for persons with diabetes.  I guess we can add a third in that many people just don’t understand what is considered good manners or feel that they are being helpful so it overrides any manners that they have learned.

Maybe we can think of these intrusions into our personal lives as a great time to be an advocate for persons with diabetes.  Have a rehearsed response in mind, such as: “Oh thank you for your concern, but I am very well educated about diabetes and my doctor says that my blood sugars are in very good control” (or something similar).  Try to make direct eye contact and plaster a smile on your face.  It takes practice!  Do it into a mirror several times (try not to laugh too much…it ruins the effect)Tongue out.  If it is on the tip of your tongue and just flows out, it will help to keep that stress response from occurring (heart pounding, elevated blood pressure, elevated blood sugar).  Also, that should stop them in their tracks.   If it does not, and you are in the mood, use this as the perfect “teaching moment”. People usually do not realize that they are doing something wrong and are trying to be helpful but need some guidance.

One woman that I know carries several copies of “How You Can Help Your Loved One with Diabetes” (National Institutes of Health) folded up and in her purse for whenever there is a large family get together.  It really gives some good information and puts an end to further discussion without causing a family feud.  The link to this handout is:

http://www.ndep.nih.gov/media/TipsHelping_Eng.pdf

Best of luck and remember…we can’t change the whole world…but we can work on it!