Whittling disease management down to a manageable size.
By Kerri Sparling
Diabetes is every day. Every minute. It's there when I wake in the morning and it's snuggled with me when I fall asleep at night. Whether I'm testing my blood sugar to gauge how my morning coffee has affected things, catching my insulin pump tubing on the handle of my desk drawer, or making sure my purse is stocked with a just-in-case juice box, diabetes touches so many moments of my life.
There's so much to monitor that it's easy to become complacent. Tired. Burnt out.
Diabetes burnout. It's a phrase that peppers many of my paragraphs from time to time. When managing a chronic condition, the meddling minutiae of it all can make the day-to-day tasks a bit overwhelming.
Remaining motivated is a challenge for me. Sometimes it's the biggest challenge. My diabetes-related complications are minimal at this time in my life, so it's hard to keep thinking "what could happen" as a way to keep myself vigilant. The threat of complications, though terrifying when I am waiting for the retinologist to peer into the depths of my dilated eyes, isn't what makes me maintain my diabetes on an hourly basis.
I know what fuels me - I want instant gratification. Avoiding complications is paramount, this I know. I want to be healthy. I want to be the 85-year-old woman who is walking around her neighborhood every night (most likely with a cat on a leash or some other sort of foolishness) and chasing after her grandkids. But now, in my twenties, it's difficult for me to force my brain forward to the twilight of my life. I don't want to think about being old. I want to enjoy my youth.
I need short-term goals, the things that are closer than eye complications and less scary to think about, but the end result is the same: good diabetes control.
I think about the iced coffee I want in the afternoon, forcing me to keep numbers tight in the morning. I think about the dress I bought for the event we're attending next month, whose fitted bodice motivates me to trek over to the gym. I think about my own wedding next May and how I want to look as healthy and happy as possible. I think about starting a family after we're married, bringing my body to a state of pinnacle health in preparation for carrying a child.
For me, it's all about whittling the disease management down to a manageable size. I need my diabetes in bite-sized bits. If I look at the proverbial big picture, it tends to swim around like one of those magic eye pictures. Thinking about everything that needs to be monitored and wrangled in can make me feel overwhelmed and scared.
Instead, I need to keep my goals finely tuned and within reach. When I was reluctant to test my blood sugar throughout the day, I set a goal to at least test first thing every morning. When I needed to lose ten pounds, I set a goal to lose two. Reaching these milestones, no matter how small, made it easier to raise the bar ever higher, bringing me closer to better health and tighter control of my diabetes.
There is no "perfect." It's damn near impossible to have it all figured out, this moving target that is my disease. I just need to keep trying, juggling these variables, laughing as often as possible, and keeping the burnout at bay.
Visit Kerri'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.
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