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What To Do When You Feel Like Giving Up

Life is challenging even on the best days, and when you’ve got a chronic illness, it seems like the challenges come harder and faster than they do for other people. You may feel like it’s just not worth the effort to take care of yourself, or you may even want to die. Here’s what I suggest instead:

• If you’re feeling suicidal, call 911, or your local suicide hotline (just dial the operator and ask to be connected). Wanting to die is not a normal part of day-to-day life, even with a chronic illness. And if you don’t already have a health psychologist helping you to deal with your illness, get one as soon as possible.

• Get some spiritual support, if you’re a believer. Pray, read spiritual or religious literature, reach out to your faith community, and ask for support.

• Focus on doing what you can, not what you think you should be doing. Sometimes that means just the basics, like eating (something, anything!), and taking prescription medications. The ideal diet can come later. Supplements can come later. The last one of your 13 physical therapy exercises can come later. Just eat, drink adequate water, and get enough sleep.

• Sleep on it. Both depression and anxiety are exacerbated by lack of sleep. If you’re suffering from insomnia, talk to your psychologist or other medical professional, and get some help. For many people, over-the-counter melatonin is enough assistance. But you may need a lot more – even a prescription medication at times – if you just can’t get any sleep. Lack of sleep wears you down physically as well as mentally.

• Call your friends. All of them. People are busy, they know you’re sick, and they don’t know what to say, or they don’t want to disturb you. Call them and talk about something other than your illness or suffering. The mere act of making a connection is healing.

• Education your friends. On a bad day dealing with diabetes, like when someone’s pressuring you to eat something that you know is really horrifyingly bad for your blood sugar by cajoling, “can’t you just eat it this once?,” you may snap, as I once did: “diabetes doesn’t take a vacation!” We all get cranky sometimes, and it’s hard enough resisting temptation anyway, let alone having it thrown in our faces. And sometimes people need to be reminded that, even though you look normal, you’ve got a medical condition that requires special handling.

• Consider taking a break, preferably in coordination with your medical providers preferably. That may be a medication vacation, a temporary lifting of a particular dietary restriction, a few days off from chemotherapy, acupuncture, or physical therapy, a break from assisted reproductive technology, or a break from any other aspect of treatment that’s wearing you down. There are obviously some things you can’t get a break from, but if you’re creative, you may be able to get a sense of relief from the overwhelming burden of having to do it all.

• Get philosophical. Context this as part of your life, not all of your life. If you think of a week-long hospitalization as “all there is,” you’re ignoring the other 51 weeks a year that aren’t nearly as bad. Look at life in balance.

Ultimately, the business of managing a chronic illness is 24/7, and often a lifetime project. It’s normal to have experiences of rebellion, self-loathing, frustration, and just being plain old tired of the whole darned thing. And, you can re-set your mind and body with rest, support, and creativity. No one wins a race if they sprint and collapse; think of this as more of a marathon. It requires pacing, training, concentration, focused effort, and occasional all-out bursts of high performance. With practice and an emphasis on long-term goals and outcomes, you can integrate the rough patches more easily.

What To Do When You’re Diagnosed Pre-Diabetic

Going to the doctor after some lab work and being told that you’re pre-diabetic is enough to cause a major freak-out in most patients.  For some, though, it comes as no surprise, because they’re been on the edge of diabetes or pre-diabetes for a long time.  Regardless of whether you were expecting it or not, it’s kind of scary.  Visions of diabetics who have gone blind or had amputations may pop into your head.  But you’re not there yet – and hopefully, never will be!

Getting scared can send you into a tailspin, or it can send you into ostrich mode, where you’re hiding your head in the sand.  Or, you could express your distress, and then get into fighting mode.  By getting proactive, you take some power back in a situation that feels kind of powerless (the numbers are just getting worse and worse, and it feels like you can’t control it).

How do you become proactive about addressing pre-diabetes?

  • Take some time to absorb the diagnosis.
  • Do a little research on the subject, from reputable sources like the Mayo Clinic or WebMD.
  • Don’t spend too much time on chat boards; reading about symptoms of long-term poorly treated diabetes can be discouraging and fear-inducing.
  • Go back to your doctor armed with questions.
  • Ask your doctor for a blood glucose monitor, and learn how to use it.  It’s simple, and typically free.  What can be costly are the test strips.  If you have insurance, they may be covered.  If not, use the strips judiciously – but do you use them to periodically track on your blood sugars.  That way you can see the impact of what you’re doing with your food and exercise.
  • Make a plan to step-up your exercise.  This may mean getting help such as an accountability buddy, a walking group, a personal trainer, or physical therapy to fix the injury that’s keeping you from becoming active.  Or you may need to join a gym, so that the weather is no longer an excuse.
  • Commit to reducing your intake of unhealthy carbs, processed foods, and most sugars.  Get help from a dietician, a weight loss group, or tech gadgets like the FitBit so that you can monitor your progress.
  • Enlist the support of friends and family members in embracing a healthier lifestyle; you can do this alone, but it’s so much easier if you have cooperation and support.
  • Seek the services of a psychologist who can help you address poor self-care habits, lack of sleep that may be contributing to blood sugar increases, eating disordered behavior, or self-destructive behaviors and beliefs.
  • Go back to your doctor when you’re supposed to go back, and make sure you have your lab work done before you go, so that the appointment is productive.
  • Thoughtfully consider prescription medication such as metformin, the most common prescription for PCOS without diabetes or pre-diabetes.
  • Research selected supplements, such as chromium or cinnamon, and discuss them with your dietician and/or doctor.
  • Be patient, as lifestyle changes take time to implement.  Results take time too, especially when you have PCOS.