The Diabetes Roller Coaster

Daily management can throw blood sugars and emotions for a loop.

Scott K. JohnsonBy Scott Johnson

The phrase "roller coaster" has a special place in the vocabulary of many people who deal with diabetes.

A non-diabetic person may think of amusement park rides, fun, and excitement. They may think of good times. There's probably also a significant portion of people who are scared to death of roller coasters, and normally have the option of not ever riding one again after coming to that realization.

I don't like roller coasters. I've just never been a big fan of scaring myself for personal enjoyment.

Living life with diabetes is often like being stuck on a roller coaster, whether you enjoy it or not. It's not a ride that you chose to go on, and more than not, the ups and downs of the ride seem to be well outside what any reasonable safety parameters should be.

I think, for the most part, we are all pretty familiar with the analogy of the roller coaster ride in terms of the spikes and drops of our blood sugars. But I want to apply a similar analogy to our daily lives in another way.

At this point in my life, dealing with type 1 diabetes is mostly a mental thing. Sure, there are days when I'm feeling run down and tired because I'm riding that blood sugar roller coaster. But I would say that about 80% of the time I have a pretty good idea of why my blood sugar is where it is. For the most part I know what the tools of the trade are, and I feel pretty confident that I usually know how to apply them.

It's the lack of motivation and emotional energy to apply those tools that causes me the most trouble. The all too enticing trap that letting things go one more day can't possibly be that bad. The luring temptation to procrastinate and tell myself I'll get my act together tomorrow. Or the "Monday" trick. You know, a Monday seems like such a good day to start something – that is until that Monday is today! Same thing applies for the first of any month. It is especially true for the first day of the year.

I ride this tide of negativity and procrastination for a while, getting more and more frustrated as each day passes. Feeling stuck in the dumps, feeling that it is just too much work to pull myself out of it. Then I finally get so angry that I muster up whatever energy that it takes to get back on track. I spend a period of time riding the high of it all. The reward of seeing good blood sugars and feeling great providing the motivation needed to keep up all of the hard work.

But then something comes along to throw me out of my routine, and I start descending again.

This is the emotional roller coaster I ride. The peaks and valleys are much more subtle. The ups and downs are much less immediate and jarring. Maybe it's more like a train ride through some mountain region.

When I'm on top, I feel strong. Resilient. Ready to encourage and empower. When I'm on the bottom? Well, that is more like being paralyzed by the seemingly crushing force of all that it takes to maintain decent blood sugars and a healthy lifestyle.

It seems to go in cycles. Not quite predictable peaks and valleys – they still catch me by surprise much of the time. I draw some comfort by knowing that when I'm down, it will not stay that way forever. But I have not yet figured out the secret to pulling out of the slump as quickly as I would like though, and that is something I continue to work on.

Do you too experience this emotional train ride? What are your tricks for pulling out of the valley?

Talk about it in the forum today.

Visit Scott's website.

dLife's Daily Living columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team to find out what will work best for you.


Last Modified Date: March 04, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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