Managing the Diabetes Police

You know who they are:  It’s your great uncle, who has the audacity to ask you what your last A1C is.  It’s your spouse who gives you that sideways look when you get up to help yourself to another serving of dessert.  It’s your mom who calls right in the middle of finals to see if you’ve been checking your sugar regularly since she’s noticed that you haven’t picked up a prescription refill on test strips in a while.

Ah, the Diabetes Police.  Those well-meaning folks who seem to make it a mission to “help” you with your diabetes management.  Not only is it just flat-out annoying to feel like you’re being micro-managed (“I’m an adult, already!”); it can also feel really isolating, like no one else gets what your experience is (“Everyone else gets to have lots of dessert at the holidays; I should too.  After all, that’s what insulin is for!”)

Take a breath.  After you’re done your (very legitimate) rant about the injustice of the way the Diabetes Police treat you, I’d like to suggest a few steps to help you manage these relationships in your life:  

First of all, remember that the likely reason folks are talking to you in this way isn’t to annoy or belittle.  It’s because they feel concerned.  It means that they care.  Taking that perspective may allow you approach them in a way that helps them let down their guard.  A good starter: “Hey I know that you must be really worried about me and that’s why you were xx....”  People are always in a better frame of mind to make a shift if they feel understood to begin with.

Next, ask them for a concrete behavioral change that they can make that will help you.  And keep it small.  I know that can sound frustrating, especially if you feel like your particular Diabetes Policeman is really micromanaging.  What you have to remember is that each small change will lay the groundwork for the next one.  But here’s the catch:  Expect to make some compromises on your end as well.  Remember that this is a relationship -- your relationship with diabetes, sure, but also your relationship with the loved ones in your life, who are often also affected by your diabetes. Here are a few suggestions:

“Next time there’s a holiday buffet, I’m going to plan to have lots of dessert, just like everyone else.  I’d like if you could hold on commenting on that when I’m serving myself.  But I’m happy to talk to you about dosing later, if that makes you feel more comfortable”

“My A1C feels like a personal number:  It’s kind of like asking me my weight!  I end up feeling really uncomfortable when you ask about it and would appreciate if we could talk about other things.”  

“When you ask about me checking my sugar, it makes me feel like you don’t trust that I’m managing my diabetes well.  I admit, though, that I have been struggling a little during finals.  Maybe I could think it through with you so I can get a sounding board for taking some better steps for self care.”  

And remember, if your relationship with the Diabetes Police is getting really stressful and contentious, it might be time to bring in a mediator.  It could be that it makes sense to have your Policeman join you at your next endocrinology appointment.  Or if it’s time for a therapist, reach out and call me at 510-708-4636 or send me a message