You Are Not Alone, Finding Support When You Have Type 2 Diabetes
If you have type 2 diabetes, whether you just got the diagnosis or you have had the condition for months or even years, you may feel like you are alone or that no one else understands how it feels to live with this disease. These are not uncommon feelings, but you should know you are not alone and that there are places to turn for comfort and support and a shoulder to lean on when you need it.
Is anybody out there?
Yes, there are many people, groups, and organizations that are ready, willing, and able to offer comfort and help you with your questions and concerns about type 2 diabetes, as well as serve as a sounding board and a source of ideas for recipes, exercise tips, and how to tackle the challenges that the disease can throw in your path.
Nearly 26 million people in the United States have diabetes (90 to 95% of which are type 2), according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, and 18.8 million of them been diagnosed while about 7 million have the disease and don’t know it. Clearly you are not alone in facing the challenges of the disease: it’s just a matter of you taking the steps to find support.
Here are some suggestions on where to turn to get comfort, help, and resources if you are dealing with type 2 diabetes. (A future article will focus on support for children and type 1 diabetes.)
Enlist family and friends: Many people have family members and/or friends who have type 2 diabetes, and sharing information and tips with them may be a useful way to feel less alone. One way to approach the topic is to let the other person feel like he or she is being helpful.
For example, you might ask a friend if she has some good recipes for type 2 diabetes, or if he has any experience taking supplements for controlling blood sugar levels. Although everyone’s experience with type 2 diabetes is different, it can be helpful to know how other people cope with the disease. Naturally, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before you start any supplements or other treatment suggestions.
Join support groups (live): Many people greatly benefit from attending support groups in their communities on diabetes. Hospitals, clinics, community centers, and other facilities frequently offer diabetes support groups led by a professional or someone who is familiar with the disease. To find a group in your area, you can contact your local hospital, ask your healthcare provider, or look on the Internet on the American Diabetes Association website or the DefeatDiabetes site.
Seek support groups (online): If you prefer not to meet face-to-face, you want a support group that is available 24 hour a day, or you like having a choice between face-to-fact support and online support, then you may want to check out some of the online forums and chat rooms on diabetes. Depending on the site, you can not only chat or exchange ideas, questions, and tips with other people who have type 2 diabetes, but also check up on the latest research, find recipes, and ask questions of professional advisers.
Check out your community: Do you attend or are you a member of a church, community center, gym or health club, home owners association, social club, sports team, volunteer organization, senior center, or other group? Check to see if there are any announcements or activities associated with diabetes that you can attend to get information and meet others with the disease.
Start the conversation: If you belong to a group or work in an environment with at least a few other people, you can take the initiative and post an announcement stating that you are looking for others who want to start a diabetes support or discussion group. You might meet at people’s homes, at a library, park, or even a café for coffee or tea.
Join a study: Type 2 diabetes is a highly studied disease, and so many facilities, universities, and drug makers are engaged in studies and clinical trials that explore drugs, alternative treatments, behaviors, and other information. You may be able to join such studies and not only be part of the latest work in fighting diabetes, but also meet new people and get support in managing your disease.
You can ask your healthcare provider about such studies as well as do a search on the government’s clinical trial website. In addition, you can check individual universities and facilities that often perform diabetes studies, such as Stanford University and the University of California San Francisco under their “research” sections.
Talk to a certified diabetes educator: Specially trained individuals called diabetes educators can be a wealth of information about the disease, and knowledge is power! Certified diabetes educators are usually nurses, dietitians, social workers, or pharmacists who have been specially trained to teach individuals with diabetes how to manage their disease—from information on diet and exercise to how to use test strips and avoid complications of diabetes.
Your healthcare provider can recommend a diabetes educator in your area, or you can inquire at your local hospitals or the American Diabetes Association. The American Association of Diabetes Educators also provides a “Find a Diabetes Educator” resource on its website.
Volunteer for the cause: Organizations such as the American Diabetes Association and smaller local diabetes groups offer dozens of opportunities to volunteer with others to help fight diabetes. Whether you want to become an advocate, help with a fundraiser such as a diabetes walk, or assist with mailings or educational materials, you will have a chance to meet and share with many other people who are dealing with similar challenges.
If you have type 2 diabetes, you are not alone. Opportunities for understanding and support are all around you, so be good to yourself and try several of them.