For people living with chronic illness, our physical health is typically the priority. Doctor appointments, medication, lab work, nutritional needs, etc. Very often our emotional health is put aside. How do we balance our physical and emotional health while dealing with chronic illness?
My subconscious goal has always been to make my life look easy. School, parenting, career. Giving birth to five children without medication, exclusively breastfeeding, using cloth diapers, being a stay-at-home mom, going back to work after the youngest started school - these were all things I felt I needed to prove to others were easy. Why would diabetes management be any different? I didn't realize until recently that I felt I needed to be the "perfect diabetic" - perfect eating habits, perfect lab work, perfect exercise program. All this while still being the perfect wife, mother, friend, and teacher. It started to weigh me down!
One day three years ago, some people did something really nice for me to acknowledge a huge accomplishment. I tried to appear thankful, but for some reason I saw this as an inconvenience. That made me feel terrible and ungrateful. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't do that again. Unfortunately I broke that promise to myself.
Earlier this year, my insurance company put me in a program that is designed to help me with my physical and emotional health. I am in contact with a nurse from the program but I also meet with a counselor and dietician. I was ok with the idea of a dietician and nurse, but the counselor put me off a bit. Knowing several people close to me who see a counselor gave me the unspoken support to try it. As my husband puts it, there was an imbalance between my emotional capacity and my emotional load. I was overwhelmed!
I have so enjoyed talking to my counselor on a regular basis and will be sad when we've used up all the sessions I'm allowed through this program. She has not only helped me with taking care of my physical health, but my emotional health is all the better for our time together as well. Because of our sessions, I feel better about myself on the inside which has helped me take care of my health. My self-esteem and self-worth have both grown. I have started cooking dinner for the family more often (Italian sausage on the grill and green beans tonight!). As a result, our financial health has improved which also helps my emotional health.
Counseling used to be seen as something for those who were weak. Some still see it that way. Thankfully we've been working on stigma as it relates to mental illness. Even if someone doesn't have a condition like depression or anxiety, seeing a counselor can be a great help for the day to day stress that we all deal with as a part of life. Everyone can benefit from seeing a counselor. If you need a listening ear or can't understand why you don't have a desire to do the things you used to enjoy, find a counselor. If you don't like that first person, try someone else. Please find a counselor in your area that you "click" with. Take care of yourself physically, but don't forget emotionally.