I am casually participating in this year’s Diabetes Blog Week, hosted by Bitter-Sweet’s Karen Graffeo.
How does Diabetes Blog Week work? The main idea for Diabetes Blog Week is that bloggers sign up to post about a set topic each day for a week. This way, readers can jump around the DBlog Community and get a big variety of different perspectives on a single topic. The hope is that new DOC connections are made, and that our voices are raised to spread a little more diabetes awareness.
I missed Monday’s prompt, so let’s move on to today’s:
We think a lot about the physical component of diabetes, but the mental component is just as significant. How does diabetes affect you or your loved one mentally or emotionally? How have you learned to deal with the mental aspect of the condition? Any tips, positive phrases, mantras, or ideas to share on getting out of a diabetes funk? (If you are a caregiver to a person with diabetes, write about yourself or your loved one or both!)
Have you ever played Twister?
The marker spins. “Left foot, red!” “Right hand, blue!” Oh, shoot, now it’s “left foot, green!” Don’t fall. (But if you do, maybe you can take out your little cousin and make him lose too!)
Call me a Debbie Downer, but I didn’t find this game fun. I’ll admit, Twister stressed me out as a kid. For one, I was small and had short limbs in comparison to my cousins. So, I never won. I hated falling down. I didn’t like the fear of my hand getting stepped on. While some get a thrill of trying to bend in strange directions while balancing all of your body weight over a primary-spotted tarp, I didn’t want to try and think about looping my leg through everyone else just so I could land on Yellow.
Why am I bringing up my childhood board game trauma and what does this have to do with the mental side of having a chronic illness?
Having diabetes is a little bit like playing a really awful game of Twister. I start with a daunting board in front of me; there is probably a strategy I should follow to keep myself upright; but one false move and everything comes crashing down.
The strategy to tackle the day to day challenges seems easy per the instructions. Just give insulin with shots. Just eat better. Just exercise. (Left foot, blue!)
But now, the insulin dose was too much. Or too little. Just treat it. (Right hand, blue!)
Now that you have some balance, let’s complicate things. Your insulin brand of choice is no longer covered by your insurance. You do okay on multiple daily injections, but you really could use an insulin pump for better control, but can’t afford it. Or you suddenly lose your health coverage or it changes and the drugs that keep you alive now feel like a second mortgage payment. You are hospitalized for a complicated hypoglycemic reaction. (Left foot, green!)
It’s a lot to take in when you are down on the ground, trying to figure out how to move your foot to yellow when you can only physically be on green. And if you are still standing, the spinner spins again with another instruction to follow. Another command to follow to ensure survival, while hoping that your next move doesn’t capsize everything.
How does one cope with the mental pressure of a chronic illness, like type 1 diabetes? (And not have a phobia of Twister?) I spend equal parts of my life serving as an advocate and educator to those who wish to listen while trying to blend in with my non-D peers in an effort to remain “normal.” Technology is available to me to say “this is close enough” and I’m told I should be happy with that.
I’ve had several burn-outs with diabetes. Periods of time where the Twister round was over, but I didn’t feel like playing anymore. Or I was too busy with other aspects of life to focus on what made me fall in the first place.
There were a few solutions I found for those points of my life:
- There was a book called “Diabetes Burnout,” which was recommended by one of my medical team members.
- Find a new hobby. Possibly one that is active. Nothing forces you to fine tune your insulin regiments like physical exercise.
- Talk about it with others. Blog. Join a support group. Do a walk-a-thon for JDRF.
- Talk to a therapist. I am a huge fan of therapy and think more people should take advantage of this kind of self-care if it’s available. Living with a chronic illness is hard.
- Let it take a back seat for a little while. I don’t mean stop giving your insulin all together or stop treating lows. But, if your status quo is safe and acceptable for a short period of time, roll with it for a bit.