Coping with diabetes as a teenager is not easy, but have hope

When we’re young, most of us feel invincible. We’re ready for anything and everything is possible. We are poised to face the responsibilities of adulthood and the exciting challenges of becoming independent.

Being an adolescent is a time of change and rapid developments both physically and mentally. As a teen, you’re probably trying to develop your own individuality and identity. You are most likely to identify with your friends and even feel that your parents and family don’t really understand you. You may also spend more of your leisure time with your friends rather than with your family. However, this period may not feel as exciting or fun when you are coping with a chronic illness like diabetes.

Adolescence is also a very trying period marked with confusion, hope, angst and mood swings. Your hormones are raging and emotions can be unpredictable and contradictory. It does not help that your blood sugars can also affect your moods and make it an even more turbulent ride for you.

In addition to these various challenges, you need to cope with your diabetes. Some of you may have had it since very young and some of you may have just received the diagnosis. Regardless of how long you’ve had diabetes, you may start to resent having to live with it. You may experience a lot of new, intense negative emotions towards your diabetes care regime.

There may be times when you wish you were no different from your friends and could eat whatever they eat and do whatever they do. There may be times when you just want to disregard everything you have to do to control your blood sugars.

You may dread being seen as unhealthy and needing medications when all your friends see their health as a given. Life seems so unfair and you often silently scream “Why me?!” Indeed, most people in your shoes would also struggle.

How to cope with diabetes as a teenager

Be open about your feelings and frustrations with diabetes

Although your parents may have given you more responsibilities regarding your diabetes care, they are still there for you. Talk to them about your feelings, your frustrations and your anger. Let them share your emotions and even help you resolve some tricky situations regarding your diabetes care. If necessary, you can even seek help from a counsellor to help you manage your emotions.

Learn and discover what helps you manage your blood sugar level

Arm yourself with knowledge. Don’t get frustrated with trying to achieve normal blood sugars. That is a hard challenge at any age. It is especially so for a teenager who needs to contend with many other physiological turmoil factors. Here are some tips:

  • Have a curious mind and investigate what works.
  • Learn to focus on what works.
  • Troubleshoot different situations with your parents and your diabetes team. For example, discuss with them what you can do if you want to go for overnight camp or attend birthday or other parties.

Assume responsibility for your blood sugar level

No one can control your blood sugars except yourself. It is not the doctors’ nor your parents’ job to do so. But you certainly don’t need to do this on your own. Get them from them to achieve YOUR goals. They are there to support you and help you cope.

You are you! You are not diabetic

Don’t be defined by diabetes. You are NOT defined by this condition. Remember you are a person with diabetes and not a diabetic (that is just a label).

Diabetes does not determine who or what you are or who you want to be. Diabetes is only one aspect of you. It is NOT you.

You can live a normal healthy life just like anyone else. You just need to keep in mind certain considerations, just like someone who learns to roller blade or ride a bicycle needs to think about wearing a helmet and knee guards.

Ref. T12