Type 2 diabetes Peer Mentee celebrates her success during Diabetes Awareness Week

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*Sally decided to speak to one of our peer mentors having struggled with managing her type 2 diabetes for several years. She’s shared her story this Diabetes Awareness Week.

When I was first diagnosed, I suddenly felt very mortal and old. I thought that this meant that I couldn’t have any of the things that I enjoyed ever again and there would be no pleasure in eating, which was awful because I love my grub! I felt guilty too, like I was responsible for my own predicament. I also felt judged for my wicked ways.
                I had help from my lovely, local diabetic team who were very understanding and supportive, but I also felt like I was on a conveyor belt and like I was now in a box. I felt scared that it would impact my life in unexpected ways; like telling car and travel insurance and being penalised for my condition.

I first came across Brigstowe when I went along to a Diabetes UK group a couple of years ago to see if there was any support, as I was struggling with my motivation to eat well. Fortuitously, the type 2 diabetes Peer Support Coordinator from Brigstowe was there that week talking about the peer mentoring programme. I’d never heard of it before and it sounded exactly what I was looking for.

 I knew I should try peer mentoring but when I first started, I didn’t think it would make a difference as I tried so many things and nothing had ever worked.  I had tried slimming clubs but I found that they only made my bad habits spiral down long term. I felt like I had nothing left to lose, so I decided to give peer mentoring a go.
                My friends had been very supportive, but speaking to my mentor who was in the same situation was great. Our meetings weren’t just a chat but had a purpose and focus, specific to my diabetes. It also felt good to be able to share my guilty feelings without judgement and have someone there who was encouraging me to change.

The weekly interval worked well as I felt that I only had to try new things for one week and then I could regroup my feelings and discuss them with my mentor. There was such positive energy in the meetings and I began to want to try to change and eat better, even if all I had thought about before the session was eating chocolate. When I left the meetings, I always felt like a better person.
                The mentoring made me realise that I could make realistic and achievable goals. No matter how small these were, my mentor made me feel that they were valid and worthwhile. It was hard for me to accept praise, but eventually realising that it was me that was making the changes was a revelation! I did not think it was possible.

I enjoyed talking about food and habits in a non-judgemental way and the honesty and openness with which I could speak. The meetings were like a confessional, and when I did well the response back to me was unequivocally positive. It was also great to talk about positive habits, sharing recipes and knowledge. Something that I appreciated later on was the knowledge that someone had invested all that time in me. I am immensely grateful.

For anyone who is struggling with type 2 diabetes, I’d urge them to ask for help and not to feel guilty or like a failure. We are all worthy and need a hand with things sometimes. It’s hard not to use a cliché here, but a journey really does start with a single step.

Before I started mentoring, my HbA1c level was 70mmol/mol and is now down to 43mmol/mol and my latest non-HDL cholesterol level is now below the recommended limit at 2.3mmol/L. I have also lost 10kg since my last check. I’m still working on reducing the waistline measurement though! I never thought I could change my behaviour but I have, much to my own amazement!

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