Information, Not Evaluations
Breaking through blood sugar testing results.
I heard Dr. Korey Hood, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, say this at a Children With Diabetes conference a few weeks ago. And this statement stuck in my head for many days.
To be honest, I was tempted to put it on a flag. You know, for those people who like to ask, "Hey, what was your number?" and when you reply, "Oh, it was 212," they say, "Wow. That's not very good." And then I can wave the flag around and casually say, "Yeah, well blood sugars are information, not evaluations." (In my mind's eye, the person gets bopped in the face with the flag as it dances back and forth.)
I have a hard time with some of the adjectives assigned to blood sugar results. When that 52 mg/dl result grins up at me from my meter, I have to beat back the phrases that jump into my head. "Bad number!" "What did I do?" "Wrong!" "Scary!" Same for the 342 mg/dl that comes with the same kneejerk reaction of blame and shame.
I'm not sure where it started, but growing up, blood sugars were either "good" or "bad." I don't fault my parents or my endocrinologist, but more the perception that we had so many tools to manage diabetes, so of course we should be able to hit all the suggested marks! Also, "good" is easy to reward by way of Barbie Dolls and being allowed to stay up late, but each "good" comes with a guilt-inducing "bad" counterpart.
After living with type 1 diabetes for over two decades, I've come to realize that nothing works more efficiently and effectively than a properly functioning pancreas. All my insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors and exercise can only take me so far. That's the reality of life with diabetes: It's not a perfect science, and perfect diabetes management isn't an achievable goal. (Not to mention, it's a constantly moving target.)
Knowing that perfection isn't possible makes dealing with the day-to-day of diabetes a little easier. When I test, I know that my blood sugar isn't going to be between 80 – 110 mg/dl every time. Seeing those numbers is a cause for celebration, but seeing numbers that aren't within that range isn't a reason to hang my head. Letting those kinds of thoughts enter my head isn't healthy. As Korey said, "Blood sugars are information, not evaluations." I need to find ways to stop myself from assigning emotional worth to my blood sugars. Instead, I need to see them as what they are: Information.
So I've started removing the words "good" and "bad" from my blood sugar vocabulary. They've been replaced with "in range" and "out of range," or "high" or "low." Something as simple as making the adjectives associated with each meter reading makes the result easier to learn from and to move past. These numbers don't define me, and they don't define my life. What they represent is information about my diabetes control, and they give me a point to start again from. Low, high, or right in range, I need to stop fearing the result and instead learning from it.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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