Are you having mixed feeling about diabetes?

Your doctor diagnosed you with diabetes. Are you in a state of disbelief or hoping that the doctor is wrong?

You can’t believe the news you’ve just been given. You can’t possibly have diabetes! Maybe you’re feeling angry because you already exercise every day and watch what you eat. Maybe you think the lab made a mistake with your blood tests. Or maybe the thought that from now on you have to take medication and check your blood sugar every day is just too overwhelming.

Whenever we’re faced with bad news, we go through a period of grieving. While you might think that grieving over a chronic disease seems strange, when you consider that you’ve just been given information suggesting the end of your “normal,” healthy life it makes sense. It’s the same as grieving for any other loss in your life.

According to the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief, the grieving process includes these stages:

  • Denial—This can’t be happening. The doctor is wrong. The tests are wrong. The person often refuses to follow the recommended diet and/or take the prescribed medication.
  • Anger—Why did I get it? Why me? People often blame themselves or blame others for their condition.
  • Bargaining—People at this stage now try to bargain their way out of the diagnosis. Maybe if I lose weight, the diabetes will go away. Maybe if I do what the doctor says for a month, I’ll be ok. I’ll do what the doctor says for now, but then I’m doing what I want.
  • Depression—At this point, you realize that your lifestyle has to change. Knowing that you have a chronic disease may make you feel sad. These feelings are normal. However, changes to diet, exercise and adding more steps to your day like remembering to take medication may seem too overwhelming. If this stage lasts very long or seems more than overwhelming, you need to consult your health care provider.
  • Acceptance—You now realize what steps you need to take to improve your health and you make plans to start taking these steps. You know that what you’re experiencing is normal and that life will be ok.

These five stages may not occur in the order listed or you may find yourself recycling back and forth through several stages before you reach acceptance. Your goal should always be to keep moving forward. Set action steps every day that will move you forward.

Michigan State University Extension offers PATH workshops (Personal Action Toward Health). These workshops will help you develop the tools to set goals toward improving your lifestyle and managing your chronic disease. For a workshop near you contact your local MSU Extension office.

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