The Questions I Keep Asking
One mother asks the question, How much is too much?
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!
December 2006 — As I begin my fourth year of parenting a child with diabetes, I find myself still struggling with many of the same issues and questions that plagued me when our son was first diagnosed: When will I feel in control of this disease? How will I make his life "normal"? Will I be able to keep him safe? Is there ever going to be a break from thinking about this disease?
The three plus years we have lived with diabetes have added even more questions to the list of those we struggled with in the beginning: Are the choices we make now good enough to ensure him a long and healthy life? One that is free of diabetes complications? When he thinks back on his childhood, will he remember having fun and being carefree, or will he think of a nagging mother asking him to test or that he was the "different" kid in school? As he gets older and goes off to college, will he be able to handle his own diabetes care, and all the challenges that go with it, all by himself?
The original questions remain and more daunting, long-term questions have been added to the list. This is where the balancing act that is diabetes comes into play. You hear the phrase "balancing act" so frequently in relation to diabetes, but it usually refers to carbs and blood sugars, or diet and exercise. The balance I am referring to here is between allowing yourself to consider all the serious questions I listed (and more) and becoming completely preoccupied with those concerns. So the big question becomes, "How much is too much, whether you are referring to carbs or worries?" Whether you or your child is the one with diabetes, you will have to figure out this balance for yourself. This sounds so simple and obvious, but when diabetes invades your life - as I am sure you are well aware - it is neither. You are so certain there must be a single way to handle it that you become engrossed by what others are doing to manage it more successfully than you are. And you are so desperate for a concrete answer, just one answer.
I have spent the past month or so asking myself the question: "How much is too much?" referring to carbs and sweets in my son's daily diet. I have asked it of myself, my husband, diabetes reference books, diabetes resources, other parents, and his primary diabetes care physician. No two answers that I received were the same. That told me something immediately - that there really wasn't that one answer I had been looking for, no matter how desperate I was for that answer. Again this sounds so simple, but it isn't. From that evolved the second question: "How much is too much?" referring to worrying about his health, diet, and potential diabetes complications. If I asked the same sources I consulted for the first question, I knew I would get the same variety of answers.
No matter how much we want there to be one answer about how to live with diabetes, and how much we think if we just do what this person does we will obtain the same results, living with diabetes just doesn't work that way. This has to be one of the most frustrating aspects of living with the disease. What is "the answer" for one person is not the answer for the next. What works for one person does not work for the next. We each have to find that balance not only when it comes to carb ratios, food, and exercise, but also when it comes to dealing with the emotional aspects of balancing how we will live with the real concerns that surround having diabetes and how much leniency we will allow ourselves or our children to maintain what resembles a "normal" life. We have to accept that everything is a trade off and what may work for another child just may not work for our child. This is a process that will probably take a lifetime. At times, we will need to be reminded to give ourselves a break, and remind ourselves that getting there is a journey, not a destination. We have to work, learn, and struggle together to find the balance that is right for us.
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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