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Self Esteem 

I had a conversation over the weekend with a good friend of mine that I want to write about. My family and I were having lunch when she walked into the restaurant we were in and sat down to join us. We did the typical catching up on family and work stuff as friends typically do.

“So was this weekend your anniversary of having diabetes?” When she asked it kind of threw me since we have never really talked about but then I remembered that we are Facebook friends and I may have mentioned it on there once or twice.

I told her about the walk and celebration and she was really moved at how many people came out to be apart of it. It was nice to have someone not think it strange that people I had never met before would be willing to fly out to meet me and several other people with diabetes. It made sense to her. She could see that supporting one another creates a bond that is different than typical friendships. You share on a different level and that level can be very strong and important.

She soon started talking about a friend of hers who has a son that was diagnosed not so long ago with type 1.

“He has issues with self esteem and feels like taking care of himself is pointless.” I wasn’t sure how to respond. Self esteem has been a problem of mine all my life that I am still working on.

After a moment I said, “There is a whole side of diabetes that really takes it toll on your emotions. I mean, I am broken. I don’t work right. But there is no trade in’s or returns. It can be so depressing and lonely and that is why this community helps me so much and is so dear to my heart.” I was trying not to get too emotional since you know I can be a teary eyed ninja.

After our meal we went on our way but I could not get this thought out of my head. Does diabetes affect our self esteem? Is it just because I had such a struggle with self esteem that diabetes made it worse? My self esteem is better now but not great. When did it change? When did I finally start believing in myself?

Then it hit me. My self esteem issues have improved because of the OC. I realized that all of the encouragements, pats on the back, and support that I have received from all of you is why I am slowly starting to not doubt and dislike myself.

I had never really thought about this added bonus of being part of this community but it all seemed very clear to me afterwards. Do you feel this way? How is your self esteem? Was it better or worse because of diabetes? Do you think diabetes affects it? Does the OC help?

I would love to hear what you think. I wish I could sit and talk to all of you about this. It is weighing on my mind for some reason.

Reader Comments (17)

Great point George. I think it's probably something we all struggle with sometimes (if not much of the time).

Diabetes does affect my self esteem. In that I'm both broken and stand out sometimes because of what I have to do. But I'm also extremely proud of myself for doing all that I do, and in that regard my self esteem bursts with pride and accomplishment.

The OC helps with the positive side of it, no question.

October 18, 2010 | Registered CommenterScott K. Johnson

I think self-esteem is connected to that "you're not alone" feeling. There are so many aspects in my life that I feel require lengthy explanations - why I was homeschooled, why my family moved around a lot, why my skin is so pale (usually no explanation necessary until neighbor kids are telling you to go to a tanning salon at age 7), and then... diabetes.

With the DOC, I don't need to explain that. People already get that - and not having to explain in order for others to understand helps me feel a little more secure in who I am.

I agree with you - just my two cents. :-)

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDayle

I wrote about this a while ago, wondering how my kids felt inside. They don't show that they are having problems or doubts, but are they...I mean deep inside are they mad, sad...? As a parent I truly worry about the emotional side of this disease. I know they can go thru the routine of things, but what it does or others do to their emotions is what scares me the most. Because, as you know, if your heart is lost the routine goes by the wayside...then it's just a spiral.

All I can do as a parent is have faith and keep the communcation open.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRenata

Hey George - I guess for me because of having diabetes so long - my self esteem has never been effected for some reason. I think having a big zit on my face before a dance date at high school on a Friday night was more my issue - then diabetes and what's involved with "Stayin' Alive" (Bee Gee's tune going thru' my head here - way before your time by it's okay - I'm fine with aging myself <lol>).

Maybe because today we are so much more aware of what is happening within our diabetes due to technology that we have, and knowing 24/7 what's going on in our bodies that diabetes maybe eats away at us more and our self-esteem? I know this will probably get alot of diabetics angry with that comment, but I have to be honest here. I just plod along with diabetes and I guess refuse to let it effect me. Though when I'm sick, and my BG meter is saying unkind words to me, then maybe I'm feeling abit on the low self-esteem side, but it's soon back to regular programming for this Beaver once I'm back in the zone again.

Of course, having the D-OC is a great God send to many - as a late bloomer to this high tech society - I'm enjoying getting to know all my D-friends (and hoping to one day meet a few of you ..... D-prom!!!).

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFatCatAnna \\^^//

The biggest way (for me) that diabetes affects my self-esteem is not so much the "big picture" in that I'm a broken person, but it's the daily maintenance and any number where I feel I've "failed". I feel like any BG test that is not between 90 and 120 mg/dL is due to some fault of mine. If any number is not "normal", then I automatically start playing the, "What did I do wrong this time?" game.

It's amazing how one number can instantaneously affect my mood and stay there until the next test. This is something that I'm constantly struggling with everyday. If I go above 250 mg/dL, I think, "Well, that'll show me to think I could have those cookies." or some other internal dialogue bashing myself. Any number that doesn't reflect what a "good diabetic" should be is killer to my self-esteem.

But like you said, this is where having the DOC is extremely helpful. Any other person would see my number and think, "Oh, she must not be taking of herself." But the DOC knows how variable of a disease diabetes is, and any one variable can screw a good BG reading. We need to focus our attention away from the numbers, but on how we handle them. But of course, I need to listen to my own sermon. My self-esteem is pretty nonexistent these days.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

Diabetes does effect our self esteem. We look the same, but we are different on the inside. Most of us are 90% flesh and blood and 10% mechanical or bionic. I hate that it makes us act differently or do things that aren't common to others with fully working bodies like we get pissy and mad when high or depressed or combative when we're low. And we can't help but think "What the hell do they think of me now?" after we have "a spell" (as the older people call it). Not only that, it's embarrassing sometimes. We go from lookling just like everyone else to someone sickly or a jerk.

I hate it, and I used to hate myself because of diabetes. But now, since being a part of the DOC, my attitude has changed. I'm more proactive with diabetes and managing it. And, when I'm talking with people in the DOC, I feel whole. I feel normal. I feel like I'm just like everyone else.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSARAH

My almost 7 year old's self esteem has definitely been affected. She started to talk about hating herself and wishing she was dead a couple of months ago. She keeps telling me that she is wrong and that her pancreas still works. It's heartbreaking. The DOC has helped me tremendously to cope and to see that we are the only family struggling with this. I can't wait for her to be old enough to find the DOC too.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly, Meal Mommy

Scott - I hate when we stand out sometimes. Sometimes it feels good as an opportunity to educate but other times, it reminds me I'm sick.

Dayle - Good point, there is less explaining and more of "they get it!"

Renata - Faith keeps me going so often.

FCA - Your comment was great! I love your honesty and I can see how your starting off point would make a difference as far as SE and Diabetes is concerned. You are awesome!

Holly - It is easy to be so hard on ourselves. I love that the DOC doesn't say, "don't take care of yourself" but rather "taking care of yourself is not easy and it's okay to stumble."

Sarah - Having a low in public makes me feel like a total freak of nature. I know we should not worry what other people think but still, I like the invisibility sometimes.

Kimberly - This breaks my heart. Please stick around and connect with the community as much as you can. We are all here to help you and her and anyone who is hurting. I love how this community comes together to help each other. We're here.

October 18, 2010 | Registered CommenterGeorge Simmons

I think you are right on about the emotional side of diabetes. I'm not an expert, but there are studies linking diabetes with depression. Anecdotally, I wonder if there isn't something that directly links metabolism and your emotional state... on a physiological level there could be some of the same hormonal paths, or possibly even some of the same neurotransmitters related between the metabolism side of things and the emotional side of things.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan L

Aw dude...my self-esteem was low when I was 11 and got diagnosed...so of course it got worse from there. Back then since we had to use NPH and R insulin I was put on a 3 meal and 2 or 3 snacks a day regimen and it made me gain weight, all that frequent eating (I'm from Venezuela where people eat large meals but don't necessarily snack much in between meals) Anyway, I gained 30 pounds in the next few years as a teenager and then I gained another 30. It was devastating. That was just the beginning because as you know everything about having diabetes can affect our self-esteem. Of course this only happens if we let it but, it feels almost impossible to fight this. Sigh....I feel like I'm in therapy and your the doctor. Thanks for listening. And sharing :) As for the OC helping I haven't been on long enough yet (and my twins keep me so busy) but, I love the sense that I'm not alone (even though I wish diabetes were much less prevalent). In some ways my self-esteem is stronger. I think hard suffering can give us strength over time. I feel I'm at this point now. But you can bet I'm still bitter as hell as I try to lose my last 20 pounds :D

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSysy Morales

Major self-esteem issues were going on for most of my life before diabetes - at first, it made things worse, especially with body image and weight. Somehow, I became stronger along the way, doing things I never thought I would - don't know if it is fighting the diabetes or growing older & wiser (haha). Not to say that some of that poor self-esteem still creeps in now and then, of course...

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

I had low self esteem before I was diagnosed but it got worse after my dx. Which came first, my depression, diabetes or low self esteem? I guess it doesn't matter as long as I take care of myself and the low self esteem and depression while I take care of the D. Anything that makes you different from others and the expectations you have for yourself will effect your self esteem. Thank goodness for the DOC! Support makes all the difference for sure!

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Hey George
I think you are right on the mark.The emotional side of Diabetes is as big an "illness" as the lack of insullin and unfortunately rarely addressed. Three cheers to your blog and the DOC helping all of us that are connected and lurking

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Oh George, you hit the nail on the head with this one. I posted about a month ago on "Parenting Self-Worth". I had read a gal named Jessica's Blog (Path to Omnipod, I believe) and she stated how she hates how she ties her value as a human being into her perception of her diabetes management.

Exactly what I would like to avoid for Joe.

Painful, as a parent of a CWD to think that this beautiful human being will doubt himself or deem himself of less "worth" due to some shitty numbers or his "compliance" with "D" management. Which, btw, is exactly what I do sometimes...ironic. I can easily slide into a depressive state once the numbers game is leaving me a loser and "d" the victor. A few "ugly" lows make me feel like a crappy pancreas. Highs that last for weeks can reduce me to tears if paired with other stressors in life.

As his mother, I find great support in the DOC. I find that I don't quite beat myself up as much as I used to. I can only hope that my beautiful Joe finds the same peace and solace through a type 1 community of some sort. Great post.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterReyna

The reality is that no matter what we say, I still tend to view a number that's out of range in spite of following all the rules as a personal failure. That really does damage to our self-esteem, and does a number on my nerves, too! But I do think having a community of people out there who "get it" without a long explanation is immensely helpful.

October 18, 2010 | Registered CommenterScott S


Excellent post. I understand where you are coming from through the eyes of other people in the DOC. I was 23 when I was diagnosed. I didn't have get self esteem until 2001, I gained it and I refused to let anyone take it from me, again. Now, I do get frustrated with diabetes and upset that i am getting a few love handles but I am beautiful and so are you. My heart goes out to everyone that is facing esteem issues. I know I am just one person but you know what. You are amazing!!! Beautiful and Kind hearted! You are a blessing.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCherise

So many people here have hit it exactly right, and I've been struggling to go beyond saying "yeah, me too!". Diabetes has taken a tremendous toll on me and my self esteem. But I've always struggled with self esteem - eating too much, too little, probably a little depression thrown in to make it interesting. When diabetes came along as my new and special companion, I was already an adult, so everything was thrown at me, and I just had to deal. There was no emotional support, and certainly I hadn't even realized how much I needed it. Fortunately I did deal well through my pregnancy (having become pregnant shortly after dx - not gestational), and it went very well. But with the new baby, diabetes took a back seat and stayed there for years. My focus was less on myself and more on parenting. As time went on, and facing either doctors and others who didn't get it, and worse, I didn't see any doctors at all for years. I even had early attempts at joining email groups, but I didn't connect. It seemed to me that everyone was Type 2, with a list of issues, albeit valid, I couldn't relate and I moved on. I started to take care of myself by educating myself as a first step, and this was the start to realizing that I could take tentative steps to take control. It wasn't until I stumbled on the DOC that I realize that I wasn't alone. And this was HUGE. I realized that here were many others like me, and who got it, or at least could lend a sympathetic ear, and I could even help others too. The DOC is what turned it all around for me, and has made a difference to me.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJamie N

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