If you're sick and tired of diabetes, join the club.
with Amy Tenderich
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 2006 —I don't know about you, but I find that the novelty's wearing off. After nearly three years of continuous carb counting, fingerstick checks, pills, injections, lab tests, prescription woes and doctors' appointments, I am officially DOWNRIGHT ANNOYED with my diabetes. I find myself wondering how the veterans do it. How do you "keep up the good work" as your diabetes care drones on and on over weeks, months, and years?
Seems like it's quite natural to go through up and down phases, for sure. But even with the most diligent of care, diabetes can be terribly unpredictable. And often our test results just don't seem to show improvement. Don't you just want to scream? Or give up?
But of course we must soldier on. It might help to examine these feelings more closely, and there must be some proactive things we can do to kickstart our motivation every so often.
Failure & Burnout
Feeling like a failure? You are not alone. Some of the most motivated, well-informed diabetics I know are still asking themselves, "What am I doing wrong?" because their blood sugar levels aren't in "perfect range." I must say that if I learned anything from my endocrinologist, it was that "sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't." When we have bad diabetes days (or weeks), we just have to pick ourselves up and move on.
But of course, there's a boatload of guilt associated with less-than-optimal care. Maybe you've been ignoring your diabetes or struggling with it for many years, and feeling pretty crummy. And all the negative headlines about diabetes and heart disease, gum disease, kidney damage, blindness, etc. certainly don't help your incentive.
I know people with other illnesses have to be diligent, too, but I strongly believe that no other disorder requires such intense, round-the-clock attention and motivation as diabetes does. It can really grind you down. Like Dr. William Polonsky, author of the book "Diabetes Burnout" says, "In order to get everything right all the time, you'd have to be a ‘Professional Diabetic.' You'd never have time for anything else… So you have to find a balance between making an effort for good control and having a life."
A New Toy, or Study Me
Sometimes a new gadget or treatment can really make a difference. I've met quite a few Type 1 diabetics who either get themselves a new meter or new pump periodically, or sign up for clinical studies on a regular basis. Ideally, the new gadget makes a significant improvement in your quality of life. For example, I was delighted when I got the FreeStyle Flash glucose meter, because it requires just a tiny blood drop, and it's small enough to fit into a cute, fashionable purse (instead of that suitcase I'd been carrying)!
Another gal I know was delighted with the MultiClix Lancing Device because she finds it painless and convenient (pre-loaded lancets mean less waste and carrying load).
Being part of a clinical study means your health gets lots of extra attention, both from yourself and from the medical professionals running the study. Added benefits are free stuff – the sponsoring company pays for supplies and exams – and the knowledge that you are helping the diabetes community and further generations by fostering important research. Some people find they get their best care and motivation under this kind of close scrutiny.
It's worth asking your CDE about new products and research opportunities (those without any serious health risks).
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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...