A Perfectionist Surprise
Your doctor can be an important ally in your journey to achieve optimal health.
By Deanna Glick
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
January 2008 — I finally dragged my butt to the doctor a couple weeks ago; the director of the Diabetes Center at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, in fact. And it was well worth the traffic-free 90-minute drive from my home in Virginia. But the journey up until this long overdue trip was not so breezy.
It had been a year and a half since my last appointment. And there were some good reasons for the delay: moving across the country, juggling the needs of my young daughter with writing assignments, and volunteer work. But putting off going to the doctor was more about pride and expectations for my diabetes control, for which time and energy were scarce.
As I drove to Baltimore, I dreaded what my Hba1c would be. I had no food log. I hadn't even downloaded let alone written down or analyzed my blood sugar readings. My diet had been sporadically satisfactory. Exercise was fairly frequent, but its effect hadn't been documented.
My fears dissipated soon after my arrival at Hopkins. I was reminded once again of how my own extremely high standards are also my own worst enemy. I've been called a lot of things: overachiever, perfectionist, worry wart. I'm always looking at how I can improve, zeroing in on imperfections and plotting a detailed route to improvement. These are actually traits that have made me a pretty good diabetic throughout the years: testing four to 12 times a day depending on my physical status and activity level; adhering to a healthy, scheduled, and fixed portion diet during my days of injections; and mastering carb counting during my transition to becoming a pumper. But at times my own high standards have made me an emotionally exhausted diabetic as well.
I got a surprise reprieve that day at the doctor's office.
As I answered his questions and received favorable responses about how many times a day I test (eight), my diet (complex carbs, fruits and vegetables, red meat once or twice a week), how often I exercise (three to four times a week), I basked for that moment in how many things I'm doing right. If my answers were good enough for the director of the Diabetes Center at Johns Hopkins, why not for me?
The doctor praised my efforts and health status and happily reported my Hba1c was 6.9 – a bit higher than what I have maintained for most of my nearly 15 years with diabetes, but nonetheless considered excellent by medical standards.
I'm not letting go of doing better. But I realized that my fear of disappointing the doctor was really a fear of disappointing my own slightly unreasonable standards. It was clear that I had truly found an important partner in my care that doesn't wish to scold or point out flaws, but remind me of my victory in surviving and living well with diabetes and help me attain my goals to improve (i.e. learn to say no to my daughter and yes to accurate carb counting and boluses during meals).
As it turns out, the psychological lift I received that day was all I needed to make the improvements I had been seeking. The doctor's encouragement unearthed my resolve buried beneath the mothering monotony. And it freed a piece of my mind to become more aware of my care amid the terrible twos, or at least until my next appointment that's already marked on the calendar.
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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As a Type A personality with a perfectionist streak, diabetes management is something that easily gets under my skin. If I can’t do something perfect, then I’d much rather just not do it at all. Which is why burnout creeps up on me super fast. A few days of pesky numbers and I am ready to throw all things diabetes out the window and watch it get hit by an 18-wheeler. So attempting to get my A1c into the lowest possible range ever has proven incredibly tasking for my perfectionist...