Here’s a sample script that Levister often encourages folks with diabetes to use when introducing their diagnosis. While it’s a good starting point, feel free to tweak this template based on your unique journey—as well as who you’re talking to:
“I’m telling you about my diagnosis because I care about you and our relationship. I’d like to be able to talk to you about it, so I want to share what I’ve learned so far as I’ve discussed nutrition with my registered dietitian/doctor. They explained that having type 2 diabetes doesn’t mean I can never have sweets or carbs again. Instead, they stressed that I should be mindful of what I’m eating, including my portion sizes. They also said that many of the nutrition changes recommended for people with diabetes are things that are recommended to most people in general, including eating more fruits and vegetables, more fiber, and more lean protein. I want to be clear that I don’t need commentary or feedback on what I’m supposed to eat or how I’m supposed to move. I’m working with my dietitian/doctor to take care of myself. Right now, I would appreciate your support, understanding, and encouragement. If you have any questions about my diagnosis, I’m happy to answer them.”
Ideally, your loved one will be receptive from the start. If that’s not the case, Dr. Ward recommends using the “assertive formula” to help communicate your needs directly. Here’s how it might look in action:
“It makes me feel [ashamed, hurt, angry, anxious, etc.] when you comment ABC [I ate a specific type of food, I walked for 20 minutes instead of 30, etc.]. In the future, I’d prefer XYZ [you keep judgmental comments to yourself, you trust me to manage my condition, etc].”
If your friend or family member still isn’t giving you the response you’re looking for, but you still want them involved with your care plan, Dr. Ward says you can consider talking to a family therapist. That person can potentially help bridge gaps in communication when it comes to your diagnosis.
Be clear about how your community can support you.
Despite their best intentions, family and friends might not know how to be helpful right away. “Sometimes you need to tell [loved ones] what you need from them,” Levister says. Maybe that means watching for potentially dangerous situations: “If you’re on medications that might cause low blood sugar, then it’s good for people around you to know that,” he says, adding that you can tell them what low blood sugar symptoms look like—and when they should step in to help.
You may also want their company at doctor’s appointments or help prepping meals. (A cooking class could be fun to try!) Or, maybe you need someone to validate your emotions when things feel difficult or draining. That part’s key: Frustration that builds up over time can cause problems down the road, like burnout that leads to skipping medications. “Some people keep [their diabetes] to themselves and don’t necessarily share or have expectations of loved ones. It can be a lonely experience,” Dr. Ward says. “Chronic illness is not just your problem. It’s the family’s condition.”
If you’ve chosen to tell someone about your type 2 diabetes, chances are, it’s because you know how much they care about you—and how strongly they want you to thrive. Reach out about your diagnosis when you’re ready, but don’t be afraid to ask for support whenever you need it.