Background: Research conducted by Ward, Muller, Tsourtos, et al. (Soc Sci Med 72(7):1140-1148, 2011) has led to the development of the psycho-social interactive model of resilience, which reveals the interaction between individual resilience factors (i.e. coping, confidence and self esteem) and external resilience environments (i.e. employment, supportive family environments and health promoting policies) in facilitating the development of resilience. This present study explored the utility of this model of resilience for understanding how people self-manage type-2 diabetes. Methods: Data were collected via 14 semi-structured life-history interviews with women and men living with type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Participants varied according to socio-demographics (gender, age, education level, income) and were recruited based on their self-reported management (or lack thereof) of T2DM. Results: The inter-play of internal traits and external resources with additive and subtractive resilience strategies were consistent with the psycho-social interactive model of resilience. Self-management was influenced by life history. Differences in self-management and material disadvantage were also identified. Alongside increased disadvantage are higher levels of external barriers to self-management practices. Conclusions: This paper supports the concepts of additive and subtractive resilience strategies for use with diabetes populations; providing health professionals and policy makers with an increased understanding of how to recognize and foster patient resilience for the improvement of self-care, disease management and ultimately health outcomes.