Potato, Pohtahto, Part Two

June 24th, 2010 by Amy Gonsalves Leave a reply »

Last month I told you about a study abstract I read that distinguished the psychological health of individuals living with diabetes (both types) based in part on whether they said “I have diabetes” or whether they said “I am diabetic.”

I had to get the study article in its entirety and read it a few times to understand what they actually were doing.  (The study was performed in Portugal and I think just terribly translated.)

They had a total of four combinations for every participant to choose between:

  1. I have diabetes and have lost something due to my diabetes.
  2. I am diabetic and have lost something due to my diabetes.
  3. I have diabetes and have gained something from my diabetes.
  4. I am diabetic and have gained something from my diabetes.

During the study, of course, they used a number of different questions to get the participants into these four groups, and I’m simplifying a lot for the sake of your interest level and the amount of time you want to spend reading my blog.  (Which I must say, I appreciate every day.)

The results were evenly split between those “having diabetes” and “being diabetic.”  But the major differences were seen in the second component, regarding how the diagnosis changed each person’s life.  What it boiled down to was that only 15.7% of the participants said they gained something.  That means 84.3% said they had lost something due to their diabetes. 

What a horrible thing to see the disease that you need to carry with you everywhere at all times as something that caused such a loss in your life.

The examples they gave for “gains” included better dietary habits, more self-responsibility and more self-concern.  The “losses” included diet restrictions, fear of complications and difficulties with daily self-management. 

Now, these questions were worked into a different questionnaire related to depression and anxiety, so maybe those with more traditionally negative outlooks had self-selected into the group to begin with, but I think the conclusions of this study highlight an area that needs immediate attention.

I also should point out that I would hate this study questionnaire.  I hate yes/no questions like this.  I want to take time and explain what I mean!  There are clearly losses, both emotional and physical, with a diabetes diagnosis.  What makes me sad here is to see how few people saw any gains in their lives after being diagnosed that were associated with their diabetes.

The study suggested that the optimal choice was to have diabetes (thereby signaling that the participant objectified the disease as something separate from the participant) and associate gains from the disease. 

I agree.

So how do we get to that point, that we can see more positive aspects as a result of our diagnosis? 

I think it takes work.  Sometimes hard work and sometimes easy work. 

I think it takes a focused and unfailing team of support in your life to remind us all that we are bigger than our disease.  I think it takes a while to recognize that, and it only happens if we recognize that effort as a choice.  We could easily succumb to feeling miserable and different and scared and alone with our disease.  We could fight it every day by not taking our insulin or not checking our blood.  Those are choices we have every day and each day we choose to put our physical needs in front yet continue to move forward in our lives and pursue our goals, I think we win.

I think we need to recognize that we make choices when we have diabetes, and each day we elect to take care of ourselves, we really do give ourselves a gift.  If we stopped taking insulin or stopped checking our blood or taking our meds, THAT would be a loss to me.  We would be in denial of what our bodies need to survive, and how can that denial promote any kind of true positive change?

Look at all you’ve learned since you were diagnosed.  Look at how you’ve grown accustomed to taking care of yourself and your needs.  See how you’ve overcome fears of needles or the sight of blood or what have you.  Look at how skilled you are at knowing the carbohydrates in whatever food is in front of you, and estimating if you don’t know.  You’ve learned what it feels like to be low, and high, and how to go to school or to work and function for your pancreas AND function in the world

You’ve done a great job already.  Yes, there is more to come and yes it takes hard work every day and yes you’ll keep at it. 

If that knowledge isn’t a gain, I don’t know what is.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply