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Home > Knowledge & support > Resource hub > “CBT helped me to accept my diagnosis” – using therapy to live well with type 1
I was going through a very difficult time in my personal life and I wasn’t well. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and started on oral medication.
But over a period of around 12 months my HbA1c level was not coming down. I was becoming more and more unwell. I lost a lot more weight to the point that a lot of my muscle mass went and I was unnaturally thin.
I work in healthcare and one of the consultants at the hospital asked me if I was ok. I said I’d just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He was sceptical and told me to ask for an antibody test because he thought it was type 1.
I did the antibody test and it was positive. Within a couple of days, I was seeing the diabetic nurse and I started on insulin.
It was a massive shock at that time in my life. Being an ex-nurse, I understood the physiology and I was just really frightened. I kept thinking, they’re going to realise they’ve made a mistake. I was in denial and angry. Why me? What have I done to cause this to happen?
I now had this diabetes sitting on my shoulder every day poking me, saying, ‘What’s your blood sugar’ every minute of every day. It felt like all I had to think about was the diabetes. It felt a huge responsibility.
I’d had 50 years of my life without it, and then I was tied to this insulin pen and blood glucose monitor all the time. Suddenly, you’ve got to take all this kit with you everywhere you go. You’ve got to take jelly babies everywhere you go. Every time you put something in your mouth, you’ve got to think, what is my blood sugar? How much insulin do I need?
After my diagnosis, my diabetes was defining me. I stopped being Carole and became ‘a diabetic’. But I felt that if I told people that I was a diabetic, they would see me as weak and not as competent as I was before. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me.
I’d go into a lunchtime meeting and I wouldn’t say I need to eat something. I was embarrassed to bring attention to myself. I would get back to my desk and be crushingly hypo and then need to urgently try to resolve this.
I thought, I’m a healthcare professional, I’m an intelligent woman, I have a Master’s degree. I should be able to sort this out. In general life, if I come across a challenge or anything, then I sort it out. I was trying to control diabetes and getting really frustrated and hugely disappointed with myself when I couldn’t.
It got to the point where my family and my husband talked to me about it. This was about five years after my diagnosis. They recognised how un-happy I was and encouraged me to find some help and support.
It was a bit of a watershed moment. I realised the way I was feeling was not because I was weak or couldn’t cope or wasn’t able to manage my diabetes. I was doing my best every day.
I started to look at what mental health support was available, and I found a self-referral form online. I got a response quite quickly. I was offered CBT therapy.
I was at the point where I wanted a quick fix. I wanted someone to take away the diabetes. I was unsure this would make a difference.
I thought, what’s this therapist going to do for me if she doesn’t know about type 1? It was only when she started to explore my personality and my coping strategies for life and its challenges, that she could bring it all together and relate it to how I was reacting and responding to my diabetes. It was a holistic look at me as a person. It was challenging voyage of self-discovery, but worth it.
We did around eight sessions. They give you homework at each session. At first I struggled to engage and do the homework. And then I thought to myself, if you don’t do it, what’s the point? Once I did start to engage week after week, I was on a roll. As I progressed, I could hear myself changing the way that I thought. CBT gave me strategies and self-support techniques that have not only helped me accept and live with my diabetes, but also positively impacted on my life in general. I still draw on these techniques today.
I started using Freestyle Libre about four years ago and it’s absolutely revolutionised how I feel about my diabetes. It has freed me up. I love it when people say to me, what’s that on your arm? I’m quite proud of it and happy to say I am a diabetic. I would never have done that before. I wouldn’t even have uncovered it.
CBT helped me to accept my diagnosis and to see that I can live with diabetes, but diabetes doesn’t define who I am. I’m comfortable with the fact that I have the condition. I understand it. I know what I need to do. And I know that it won’t always be perfect.
The NHS describes cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as a talking therapy to help you manage problems and issues by changing the way you think and behave. Find out more about CBT.
Managing type 1 can be tough. Get advice and tips on type 1 and emotional wellbeing.
Read our guide for newly-diagnosed adults including information on the type 1 essentials, how to manage glucose levels, type 1 technology and how to connect with others with type 1.
Find out about the different devices that can help you manage your glucose levels and your insulin intake.
This Christmas, please help fund more breakthrough research for our type 1 community that can create a healthier, safer future for us all. There’s never been a better time: every £1 you give will be doubled!
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Our research is improving the lives of people with type 1 and making strides towards a cure. We’ll keep pushing until we make type 1 diabetes a thing of the past.