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Re: [IP] feeling sorry for one's self-- teens with diabetes
melanie, i've lived on the other side of what you're experiencing. i was diagnosed five days
before my eleventh birthday and so marked the advent of the always fun and hormone-ridden
adolescent period with the added fun of living with T1. i did exactly the same things as your son
is doing throughout most of my teenage years simply because i felt like my life was out of my
control, and that even though i was young and was supposed to be healthy and independent, i was
being controlled by this disease. one thing that helped a lot was meeting other diabetic teens my
age through summer camp and not feeling like i was the only one in the world who had to live with
this. perhaps a summer camp for diabetic kids/teens might help? i attended camp jordan in virginia
but there are plenty of good ones all over the country.
as for what you can *make* him do, i'm sorry to say that there's not much. my mom was (still is)
the hovering mom who nagged and asked about my blood sugars and i became as adept at making them
up as a random-number generator =)
i've had the opportunity to work with children with diabetes since then as well and i think one
reaosn why a lot of kids do this is that many doctors and people around them still use a "moral"
system of thinking about blood sugars. high sugars are "bad" and lower ones are "good," and when
you are "good diabetic" and do the right things everything will be fine. everyone on this list has
encountered the food and blood sugar police in family and friends ("oh you're 300? have you been a
bad girl?") and you really do eventually come to think of yourself as a bad or a good person based
on whether or not you're in range with this kind of thinking. this certainly discouraged me from
testing, as a teen i'd rather just never know what my sugars were and make it up than have the
meter be a judge of whether or not i was a good person. it sounds illogical, but it's true.
the key is to not chastise your son when he's not in target range. the truth is, blood sugars
just don't cooperate sometimes even when you are doing everything a "good" diabetic should do. if
you approach it in a problem-solving manner ("ok, let's plug in this amount of insulin adn these
factors and see if we can get what we want") rather than a "you should/should not do this" manner
it helps him feel more in control and not like he has this black cloud hanging over his head.
a good doctor/medical team is essential to this. if it's at all possible, try to find an
endocrinologist who has experience with teenagers and is willing to establish a partner-type,
rather than authority-type relationship. that way your son feels as is he is an active part of a
diabetes management team rather than a kid who is getting bossed around by everyone. the day that
he feels like an active participant is the day he will feel motivated to keep himself in control,
because his own health is in his hands.
it will take baby steps to get to that point. once a newly diagnosed diabetic realizes that he
won't die (not immediately anyway) if he skips a test or a shot, it gets that much easier to skip
it next time. rather than making the resolution "i will test five times a day for a month," try
testing at three consistent times a day for a week, or three days. to those of us who are
horrified at the thought of not testing six times a day it may not sound like much, but it's a
step up from never testing at all (as i was wont to do).
some do's and don'ts from my personal experience:
DON'T constantly remind your teen that he "could die from this." every person with diabetes knows
that empirically, but teens are teens and they think they're invincible. you're not accomplishing
anything by guilt-tripping them or reminding them of what they already (sort of) know. the only
thing it will create is resentment.
don't assume that you know what the kid is thinking. if anyone is good at hiding how he really
feels, it's a diabetic kid. we learn early how to act like we feel ok even when we're high or low,
and that "skill" easily jumps over into hiding our true feelings. ask your son what he thinks
about having diabetes, and what he wishes he could do about it.
DO find a comfortable finger-sticker and an easy-to-use, attractive machine. you're going to think
i am nuts but at 16, i started testing more often after ditching my clunky 40-second accuchek for
a cute new precision QID. the little things help a lot (i still love getting a fun new meter).
if you're not needle phobic, DO try taking shots and testing sugars with him every now and then.
it's childish but it gave me a little gratification to see my mom try out my finger sticker and
say, "ouch. that DOES hurt."
it takes a lot of sympathy to live with a diabetic teen. they're just as moody and crazy as the
rest of them, but with the added complication of this unforgiving disease. diabetes requires a kid
to be consistent and responsible, something that most kids simply aren't because they're kids, not
grownups. helping your son taking small steps toward independence and responsibility is the only
way to reach good control without his resenting all the things that are happening to him. when i
was a teenager, my goal first and foremost was to forget the fact that i had this disease that not
only made me sick and different, but made me a bad person for simply wanting to live like a normal
teen. i never tested and took large doses of insulin before meals so that i could eat whatever i
wanted, and i felt totally out of control. it's taken me several years, a new doctor, and the pump
to get back to the point where i feel in control of my life, and i won't pretend that it might not
take your son several years too. but there's no other way to do it, one cannot learn big life
lessons over a short period of time. when i think about having been a teen with diabetes, it's
like looking back on a journey through a long, dark tunnel. but i'm glad i made the journey i did,
and i even don't mind having diabetes so badly because i can help other people who are going
through the same experience as i did (and i know there are a LOT). i wish you and you son the best
of luck, feel free to email me.
God bless. sorry this ended up being such an epistle of an email =)
becky =) (dx'd 1/24/92 at age 10, pumping since 11/21/01)
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