How to Feel Empowered with Type 2 Diabetes
The English philosopher, Francis Bacon, said: knowledge is power.
When someone is seeking to know more about diabetes through education, asking health professionals, investigating in reliable sources and inquiring about other people’s experiences with diabetes, they’re empowering themselves.
If I don’t know or understand what is happening to me, the decisions I am going to make about my diabetes will depend greatly on what others say or do. That may empower them, but what about me?
When someone is not ashamed of admitting living with diabetes with a sense of pride, that’s a sign of empowerment. It goes against the social discourse that belittles and pities people. At this point, an empowered person with type 2 diabetes doesn’t see the disease as a punishment but simply accepts the condition and moves forward with a positive attitude. But, a person with type 2 diabetes can move past it and learn to feel empowered today.
Challenges to Feeling Empowered with Type 2 Diabetes
Empowerment isn’t a feeling that’s developed easily. It takes a lot of self-reflection and identifying the barriers to getting to a place of high self-esteem and self-worthiness. Developing that trait means confronting challenges and deeply-held beliefs about oneself. For example, here are some ways people with type 2 diabetes face difficulty feeling empowered:
- Doctors. Having a negative relationship, or the perception of a negative relationship with an endocrinologist, or any doctor, can prevent a person with type 2 from asking questions or voicing an opinion about their treatment. This is essential because every patient should feel comfortable with asking any questions or addressing concerns with their doctor and have a say in how their diabetes is managed.
- Family. Having negative interactions with loved ones, especially family, can result in feeling like a “bad diabetic”—even though there’s no such thing. Such interactions include being nagged about your diet, blood sugar numbers, exercise and doctor’s visits. Even worse is when they use fear to scare you into management (i.e. “You better watch your carbs or you’ll suffer complications!”). Diabetes is hard enough and we need our family to be supportive, even if they think they know what’s best for us.
- Yourself. If you have a lowly perception with yourself, you’re going to have a hard time feeling like it’s worth taking care of yourself. Improving your own perception of yourself is key to improving your interactions with others. You’re able to set boundaries with others and advocate for yourself. This also includes seeking new ways to manage diabetes in your life. You may be less likely to try to find the magic or miracle product to help you with type 2 diabetes and focus on the evidence-based resources instead.
Three Ways to Feel Empowered Today
Don’t “do diabetes” alone
Connect with other people and don’t isolate yourself. seek to improve your relationship with yourself and with those who support you. If you need support, there are an array of social support groups online, you can reach out to your community health centers, or create or join meetup groups. Diabetes associations, camps for people with diabetes, workshops and lectures on the topic, self-help groups for people with diabetes, foundations that support people with diabetes, even Whatsapp or Facebook groups with this topic are useful to connect with other people and confide in one another.
Hold yourself and the people around you accountable to treat you the way you want to be treated, including using the right language to talk to you about diabetes. But, by doing this, you may need to remove people who harm you from your life. Some relationships may not be beneficial to the life you’re trying to build for yourself. If you’re not able to remove these people from your life, set clear boundaries with them and stay true to those boundaries.
Don’t lose your curiosity about diabetes. Stay updated with the latest information from reliable sources and remember learning is a lifelong process. There are plenty of topics: from diabetes education from people like Julissa Rolón of Diabetes Tipo Ju, biomedical technology for diabetes treatments, stories of leaders living with diabetes, diabetes in different cultures and psychology. Personally, psychology is a topic I am passionate about. I enjoy the emotional, behavioral and dialogical aspects of diabetes. Remember that the best decisions you can make are the informed ones. To retain your hunger for knowledge, choose the information that is useful in your daily life.
Altruism and activism are two powerful weapons. The first, you don’t have to wait to have perfect numbers to help others—be of service where and when you can with whatever resources you can provide. Use your own experiences to help other people and their families who go through similar experiences. Share a little of your life lessons; this will give you the courage to persevere in your self-care goals. Finally, there’s strength in your community. Fight for the health causes that could have the biggest impact on your community-at-large. This may mean seeking changes to current laws and policies, starting or promoting health programs, or social marketing campaigns to remove the stigma from diabetes and promote inclusive holistic care. Your voice can be powerful to enact social change.
If you’re going through a tough time, I hope this cheers you up! Like the writer, John C. Maxwell says: “Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others”. May you use this life condition to be a platform to shine, transcend and change the world.