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Getting Over the Shock of Diabetes Diagnosis

Luck, said Aristotle, is when an arrow hits the guy standing next to you. But when that arrow comes out of the blue and hits you—with a diagnosis of diabetes—“it can shake you to the core,” says John Zrebiec, MSW, CDE, Associate Director of Behavioral Health Services at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.

After the diagnosis of diabetes, he says, “You name the feeling and people are going to have it.” Some people can’t sleep, burst into tears, or worry a lot. “These are all very normal responses.”

Zrebiec states that other common reactions include:

  • Questioning why this happened to me
  • Feelings of helplessness and vulnerability
  • Changes in self-esteem or body image
  • Fears of making treatment mistakes or dying
  • Fears about how others will treat you

Tips to Move On. Learn as much about diabetes as possible. Most people don’t know much at first, so this is not easy. “It’s like taking a post-graduate course at a time when you’re emotionally overwhelmed,” says Zrebiec. “But it is important to learn survival skills to re-establish a sense of control.”

Try to rally support from family and friends to help you deal. Research shows that the more support you get, the better off you are.

How you define yourself in relation to your diabetes may make a dramatic difference in your emotional well-being and how well you take care of yourself. Do you see yourself as sick, victimized, dependent and pessimistic, or as normal, optimistic, independent and in control?

Asking for Help. “I think everyone should see a counselor at least once after being diagnosed,” suggests Zrebiec. It’s as important as the medical appointments and diabetes education, in his view. “We can talk about what it is like to be diagnosed, the struggles you can expect, and how you are going to live with it.”

Counseling is offered at the Joslin Center Affiliate at Desert Regional Medical Center along with a variety of programs for diabetes self-management including a four-day class (2 hours each day) that covers all of the basics of self-management, and includes an initial evaluation and assessment, plus one-on-one time with an educator for individual meal planning and trouble shooting. Persons with diabetes should be referred by their primary care physician and many insurers cover the cost.

They also offer a 90-minute class called “Just A Start” geared towards persons who have been told they may be pre-diabetic. This free class is held monthly in Palm Springs and La Quinta and all participants receive an educational book from the Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston.

For more information on diabetes visit www.Joslin.org or call the Joslin Diabetes Center Affiliate at Desert Regional Medical Center at (760) 323.6881.

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