Psychosocial

Support Groups Can Help You Manage Your Diabetes Better

I feel even the best websites are not perfect at providing everything everybody needs. Having access to websites like HealthCentral.com and Mendosa.com might be the best way to find information and get the latest news on managing diabetes and pre-diabetes, but websites still can’t offer the peer support we get when we are in face-to-face contact with members of our communities.

But people everywhere are becoming more separated from their cultural roots. Because community and culture go together, most people are more separated from their community than ever.

Once you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, your priorities need to change to a focus on your health, leading you to become even more isolated from your culture and your community. While the internet can keep you up-to-date on diabetes management, the growing focus on connecting with others through computers and smartphones makes finding community even more difficult.

The way out

But if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, you have a way out. Look for a local diabetes support group.

I know from my experience that participating in diabetes support groups helped me manage my health better. The interest and support that I received from other members of the group encouraged me to improve my blood glucose levels.

The curious paradox

When I accepted that I had diabetes and needed to manage it, I took the first step toward better health. As Carl Rogers, Ph.D., a founder of the client-centered approach to psychology, wrote in his book, “On Becoming a Person:”

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

Sharing reinforces acceptance

Then, by sharing my health problems with sympathetic listeners in diabetes support groups, I reinforced my acceptance of them, paving the way to the changes I had to make.

But looking for a local diabetes support group isn’t as easy as it was when I wrote my first piece about “Local Support Groups.” That was back in 2002, when I completed my sixth year of writing my column, “About the Internet,” for the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

Stymied

At that time, the ADA’s online directory contained information on 774 of these groups. But when I recently tried to find it on the organization’s website, I was stymied.

So I called Michelle Kirkwood, the ADA’s director, strategic communications and media relations, for help. She told me that the organization has stopped maintaining that directory.

So many groups

“It is really challenging to have accurate and up-to-date information about local support groups,” Ms. Kirkwood said. “There are so many groups, and they come and go. Some people also saw our listing of a group as an endorsement by the ADA. Consequently, the ADA is removing their listings from the website while the site as a whole is being rebuilt.”

Instead, she suggests that you contact one of your local resources. Your best bets now are your local hospital, university medical school, YMCA, endocrinologists or primary care physician, Certified Diabetes Educator, registered dietitian, local health department.

No local group?

But what if you can’t find any diabetes support group in your area? That’s similar to the problem I faced nine years ago when I couldn’t find any local groups that supported what I think is the optimum diet for people with diabetes, eating very low-carb.

When I learned that two friends of mine who didn’t know each other were interested in following a very low-carb diet to manage diabetes, I invited them to meet in a local coffee shop. One thing led to another, and soon we had a group. I told this story in my article “Inside a Local Support Group.”

No problem

If that’s your only option, no problem. Even if, like me, you don’t like to take a leadership role, starting and managing a group can help you as much if not more than the other members. A teacher often learns more than the student.One way or another, successful diabetes management requires balance. Get the news and information that you get here on the internet and the support you need from friends who share your concern with diabetes.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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