Diabetes Mellitus: The Shock of Diagnosis
Ahmed was brought to the clinic by his mother. She had been called to his workplace because he complained that he couldn’t see. She stopped everything and rushed there. She had gotten many emergency calls for the ten years since his diagnosis with Diabetes Mellitus. At 31, he still struggled to manage his blood sugar. He often had to be reminded about his doctor’s appointments and never thought too much about the many precautions needed to avoid complications. He felt that Diabetes had robbed him of the best years of his youth. It had reduced him to serving the demands of a disease instead of enjoying his life and pursuing his goals. He was always fighting to have his life back. This often meant doing things which a person with Diabetes should avoid at all cost. After ten years, he was still coming to terms with the shock of initial diagnosis.
This is something that happens to many people living with Diabetes mellitus. It is always a shock to learn that you have Diabetes. You may have gone to the doctor because of minor symptoms. You may be one of the many whose first time in the hospital is due to an acute complication of high blood sugar. Or perhaps you were accompanying a friend or more likely a relative. By the time you left the hospital, you were reeling under the weight of a severe diagnosis.
The diagnosis of Diabetes mellitus is never easy on any person. Be it the 69 year old who has lived a good life and enjoyed himself, or the 33-year-old who feels she is just starting out in life or the 7-year-old who can barely grasp what’s happening. Such a diagnosis rattles anyone. It is not easy to accept especially when the doctor informs you that you will need to inject yourself with insulin and test your blood sugar several times a day, for the rest of your life.
And let’s be clear. Every description you get at your first diagnosis leads to the conclusion that you have a terrible disease. You feel that your life is now on a knife-edge. Anything you eat, when you eat, or whether you eat at all have to be activities that are carefully planned. Beforehand, you used to eat whatever, whenever, at whatever quantities and never really thought about it. Now, it all has to be pre-planned. The doctor informs you that these simple everyday decisions are key to your diabetes management, and the wrong move could easily be your last.
Because let’s make it very clear. Diabetes Mellitus is a very dangerous disease and should be understood as such. This isn’t an attempt to scare anyone. It is an important starting point for your journey with Diabetes. Those who fail to recognize the danger of Diabetes from the beginning have a tough time following the prescribed treatment plan because they figure they could get away with anything. No one escapes taking liberties with the management of Diabetes mellitus. It doesn’t forgive.
Poorly managed diabetes mellitus means your blood sugar is high most of the time and may occasionally be too low. The goal of blood sugar management is to avoid both of these outcomes. They are both dangerous. Many people understand that high blood sugar is bad and avoid eating. But it is important to realize that low blood sugar is much worse. You go from lethargy and drowsiness to unconsciousness to coma and death. Without urgent care, the outcome cannot be good.
While it is essential to appreciate the danger that Diabetes poses, what’s most important is to understand that it is manageable and that you can lead a normal life for the most part. Getting past the shock of the initial diagnosis is the first step towards self-acceptance. Denial hinders management and conduces the development of acute and long-term complications. While a diagnosis may be bad enough, you want to prevent complications at all cost. Complications usually mean a point of no return. It means Diabetes has fully taken up your life in a way that may not have been the case at the time of diagnosis. It means complete loss of your independence to a disease which will soon take away your life.
Once you have accepted the new reality, you find it easy to follow the steps of management. Keeping your blood sugar at normal levels is the way to ensure that you remain active and productive for long. This is something the person has to take seriously because Diabetes is mostly a self-management disease. No matter what the doctor does, only you can make it count. To understand how you can remain alive and productive despite the devastating diagnosis, see Diabetes Mellitus: Principles of self-management