Chronic Illness, Type 1 Diabetes

The Five Stages of Grief & Type 1 Diabetes: Denial

Denial: (noun) The action of declaring something to be untrue.

The Oxford Dictionary

Denial is the first stage of grief. They say it’s to help us survive the loss.

I remember the phone call from the doctors office very vividly on the day I was diagnosed. I was at work, lifeguarding at my local YMCA. We came in for our second of three-fifteen minute breaks and I had a voicemail on my phone. I figured it was from the doctors office since I had blood taken that afternoon, but to my surprise, they told me to call them back as soon as I got the message. They even gave me a different number to call them back at if it was after 5pm. I remember looking at the clock: 5:01pm. I called back the alternative number, and from that moment on my life was changed forever.

I remember immediately denying my diagnosis. For the first minutes of my new life, I couldn’t grasp onto the fact that I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, and not Type 2 Diabetes. At that point in time, I thought only kids were diagnosed with Type 1. I remember crying to my mom, asking her how I, a recent college graduate who spent those last five years as a collegiate swimmer, was diagnosed with diabetes. My mom did her best to explain to me that I had Type 1 Diabetes, but I denied it. I went on to tell the rest of my family and close friends, but I thought it was a mistake. I was going to go into the doctors office the next day and they were going to tell me they gave me the wrong test results. That it really was just my thyroid. I remember thinking that there had to be an immediate fix for whatever was wrong with me; that there was no way I had an incurable illness.

The night I received my diagnosis, one of my close friends invited my roommate and I to her house to watch the Olympic opening ceremonies. While we tried to avoid it, the elephant in the room was addressed, and we talked about my diagnosis. I remember telling them that I wasn’t going to go to my appointment the next day. They tried their best to talk some sense into me, but I had made up my mind, I wasn’t going to go to my appointment. I left my friends house still in complete denial that there was anything seriously wrong with me. (Thankfully, I did end up going to my appointment.)

I don’t know why I fought my diagnosis so hard those first few hours. I saw my test results. Even after all of the symptoms that I had been experiencing for almost three months had finally started to make sense, I still refused to believe it. Would it have made it easier if I immediately accepted my diabetes diagnosis? Maybe, but I don’t think immediate acceptance of a life changing diagnosis would have made the transition to my new life any easier. I was scared. I felt alone, and the one way I could avoid feeling that way was to deny my diagnosis. I think it gave me some sense of control during a time that was filled with so much uncertainty.

Denial. It seemed like just as quickly as it set in, it faded away, and soon I was experiencing the next stage of grief: anger.

Check out part two of my five part series: The Five Stages of Grief & Type 1 Diabetes: Anger starting next week Friday, June 5.

2 thoughts on “The Five Stages of Grief & Type 1 Diabetes: Denial”

  1. My fiancé has had Type 1 diabetes for most of his life. It’s a very difficult disease to manage but we’ve found ways to make it work for him. Over time, he’s realized it sucks but it’s part of his life


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