‘Diagnosed with diabetes at a young age and overwhelmed with worry. Please help!’

Hi Haya,

I’m in my mid-20s and have been diagnosed with diabetes recently. This diagnosis has left me shocked and really worried about my health. I had never imagined facing such an unbelievable health update so early on in my life.

I’m worried about the sudden change it has brought to my dietary lifestyle. I love cooking and eating food, and being asked to stay away from the food that I so dearly love has left me heartbroken. While I can control my diet and overall lifestyle, it is taking a toll on my mental health, particularly the fact that I now have to cope with it.

What is it that could help me come to terms with this new reality of my life?

— An anxious diabetic

Dear anxious diabetic,

I’m really sorry to hear about your recent diagnosis. It’s completely natural to feel shocked and worried, especially when facing such a significant change at a young age. As a therapist, I want to assure you that what you’re experiencing is a normal response to a major life event. Let’s talk about some strategies that could help you come to terms with your new reality and support your mental health.

Firstly, it is important to acknowledge the emotions you’re experiencing. A diabetes diagnosis can bring about a range of feelings, including grief over the lifestyle changes, fear about the future, and sadness over the loss of certain freedoms you once enjoyed. These feelings are valid and part of the natural process of adjusting to a chronic condition.

You might find yourself moving through various emotional stages as you adjust to this diagnosis. These can be similar to the stages of grief:

  • Denial: Initial shock and disbelief.
  • Anger: Frustration and resentment about the changes.
  • Bargaining: Trying to find ways to negotiate the impact.
  • Depression: Feeling overwhelmed and saddened by the reality.
  • Acceptance: Gradually coming to terms with the diagnosis.

It’s important to note that not everyone experiences these stages in a linear or predictable manner. People may move back and forth between stages, skip stages, or experience them in a different order.

Now, everything may not be in your control in this case but we can take a look at what you can do to make life easier.

Educate yourself: Learn as much as you can about diabetes. Understanding your condition can reduce anxiety and empower you to make informed decisions about your health.

Seek professional support: Work closely with a healthcare team that includes your doctor, a nutritionist, and possibly a diabetes educator. They can provide you with the knowledge and resources to manage your condition effectively.

Support groups: Connecting with others who have diabetes can provide a sense of community and shared experience. Support groups, either in-person or online, can offer practical advice and emotional support.

Mental health support: Consider seeing a therapist who would be able to process your emotions and develop coping strategies.

Set realistic goals: Set small, achievable goals for managing your diabetes. Celebrate each milestone, no matter how small, as it can build confidence and a sense of accomplishment.

Creative cooking/finding new ways: Channel your love for cooking to explore new recipes that are diabetes friendly. There are many delicious and healthy options that can still bring you joy in the kitchen.

Create balance: Find ways with your healthcare team on how you can still incorporate the foods you enjoy. It may not be in the same frequency and quantity, but it will give you some pleasure to still enjoy the foods you love eating.

Mindfulness and stress reduction: Practices like mindfulness, meditation, or yoga can help you manage stress and stay grounded. These techniques can improve your overall well-being and help you cope with emotional challenges.

Regular check-Ins: Have regular check-ins with your therapist or support system to discuss your progress and any ongoing challenges. This can help you stay on track and feel supported.

Align your perspective: Focus on the aspects of your life that haven’t changed and continue to bring you happiness. Maintaining a balanced perspective can help you appreciate the positives in your life.

Self-compassion: Be kind to yourself. The most important one. Adjusting to a chronic condition is challenging, and it’s okay to have moments of struggle. Practice self-compassion and remind yourself that it is a process.

Adjusting to a diabetes diagnosis in your mid-20s is undoubtedly challenging, but with the right support and strategies, you can navigate this new reality. Remember, it is okay to seek help and take time to come to terms with your diagnosis.

By focusing on what you can control, embracing new culinary adventures, and prioritising your mental health, you can find a way to live a fulfilling life with diabetes.

Haya Malik is a psychotherapist, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner, corporate well-being strategist and trainer with expertise in creating organisational cultures focused on well-being and raising awareness around mental health.

Send her your questions to [email protected]

Note: The advice and opinions above are those of the author and specific to the query. We strongly recommend our readers consult relevant experts or professionals for personalised advice and solutions. The author and Geo.tv do not assume any responsibility for the consequences of actions taken based on the information provided herein. All published pieces are subject to editing to enhance grammar and clarity.

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