Friendships are not always easy with diabetes, so I’d like to share some things I have learned over the years. Let’s start here…
Top tips for friendship challenges:
1. I feel most supported when my friends are curious and make an effort to research diabetes on their own time. Friends that are less open to learning about diabetes might be less invested in the friendship.
2. Diabetes is super complex! People might not always understand or accept all aspects of your diabetes– it’s ok to take breaks or set boundaries with those friends.
3. Surround yourself with people that understand how diabetes fits into your life– you are not a burden!
My story: I attempted to share my needs to my friends, explaining that I need to eat lunch at a specific time which didn’t align with their lunch schedule. They were frustrated that we couldn’t eat lunch together, and despite my best efforts at communicating, they were not very understanding in the long run. While it’s not easy, I know it’s ok for relationships to shift over time.
Top tips for self advocacy in friendships with diabetes:
1. Take the time to explain diabetes to your friends. It makes things easier in the long run and communication is key. Communicating needs along with things that make you feel more comfortable when blood glucose can go a long way to improve friendships.
2. Let your friends know when you do or do not want to talk about diabetes. And let them know if you’re comfortable with them disclosing your diabetes to other people.
My story: Here is some of the good news; there are people curious about type one and people who will accept you. In fact, some of my best friends really know the basics about diabetes. People who are curious about T1D, but also respect your boundaries when you don’t want to talk about it, are often good friends.
Top tips on what support can look like:
1. I appreciate when friends check on me when they notice low blood sugar symptoms– sometimes they catch my lows before I do!
2. One of my friends suggested a pump after doing some research, and it was a really nice gesture.
3. Friends will pause what they are doing to check on me and my blood sugar. If I’m low, we pause the active activity, and then switch to talking or something else that works with my blood glucose.
4. When my friends occasionally check up on my mental health it has prevented and reduced burnout symptoms.
5. It’s helpful when friends offer snacks when my blood glucose is low.
My story: It is really important to take care of your mental health because it influences your physical health and your social circle. One of my friends got me a ‘self care is important’ sticker and I put it on my low treatment box– it really helps when I don’t feel like eating low treatment.
Top tips for your most important relationship (you and your diabetes)
1. Be patient with yourself. This is sometimes the most difficult relationship to deal with, especially when blood glucose numbers are off.
2. Separate yourself from your diabetes. It can be hard at times but do not get mad at yourself when you overeat for a low or forget a bolus.
3. Set reminders to bolus and post motivational messages on your phone. Even though some of these things seem cheesy, believe me they help.
4. Take time for yourself each week to reflect on how you have improved and/or on your strengths that you used during the week. If you struggled during the week with how you viewed diabetes, take time to be kind to yourself and spend time doing a favorite activity.
Dealing with diabetes while also figuring out your relationships with friends and yourself can be complex– but with a little bit of effort and patience you’ll figure it out, and it’ll be worth it!
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