There’s Nothing Like Diabetes to Make You Think You Suck
You know the drill. Your healthcare team teaches you a TON of information and shows you what to do. You head out thinking you understand most of it. No problem, right? This diabetes thing doesn’t seem so hard. Then you try what you learned, and it only works sometimes. Or even worse, you do what you were taught two days in a row but get dramatically different results. It’s infuriating!
Along with that madness is our tendency toward self-doubt and negative self-talk. We all have those inner gremlins that whisper in our ears about not being good enough or that we’re constantly failing. Combine those inner gremlins with inconsistent diabetes results, and it’s a perfect recipe for a dangerous toilet-bowl downward spiral in self-confidence. Before you know it, your mind is running a repeat loop with messages like, “I’ll never figure this out,” “I’m just broken,” or “Why do I even try?” That’s a brutal way to live.
What if we look at all of this from a slightly different angle? Something more empowering.
Understanding the Complexity of Diabetes
First, we have to acknowledge that diabetes is tricky and complicated. Many people have limited access to high-quality in-person education where they live. And while diabetes tools are pretty good and always improving, they are no match for how our bodies worked before diabetes. It’s not even close.
Think about monitoring blood sugar, for example. Depending on your diabetes, you might check your blood sugar once a day. Or if you are using a more intensive therapy many times per day. If you’re using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), you get a reading about every five minutes. That is about 288 readings daily – so many more than traditional finger sticks, and without the PRICKS!
But compare that to someone without diabetes whose body monitors blood sugar regularly – say once every second. There are 86400 seconds in a day. So their body gets 86,400 readings compared to a paltry 288 at our best with a CGM. That is a HUGE difference! For someone without diabetes, their body measures their blood sugar and constantly adjusts based on that information.
Next, let’s think about variability. Have you ever checked your blood sugar with back-to-back finger sticks? The results are rarely precisely the same. The same thing applies to continuous glucose monitoring (which measures a different fluid in your body). There is some variability. There can also be variability in your medication absorption. You may take the same amount of medicine daily, but your body can end up with a slightly different effective dose.
If you use nutrition labels to measure your food and calculate meds, those can also be inaccurate. Looking at fast food, does every medium French fry container from McDonald’s always have the same amount of fries? No! There are slight differences from order to order and from time to time.
Stacking all of these variables together (and there are many more) boggles the mind! It’s not crazy to think that you might see a slightly inaccurate glucose value combined with a carbohydrate estimate higher or lower than the actual carbs, combined with a dose of medication that absorbs differently, and many other factors involved. It is enough to drive you crazy if you let it. And those are just the things we know about. Countless other things influence our blood sugar management that are either unknown or simply out of our control.
With all of the variables involved in diabetes management, doing well is no small feat. We have imprecise measurements, imperfect tools, and limited time, money, and energy to sort everything out. It is a marvel if we do well most of the time.
And diabetes isn’t the only thing you do. You have an entire life on top of your diabetes. You might have a busy career. Maybe you’re a student. You might be a student WITH an active career! You have family and friends and all of the relationships they involve. You have hobbies and interests. The bottom line is that you have many other things going on in your life besides diabetes.
Celebrating Daily Triumphs
Yet somehow, you can take all of the complicated diabetes information, balance all the variables involved, balance the shift in those variables from day to day, and incorporate a busy life full of non-diabetes stuff. And you make it look easy to the casual observer. Just think – if someone without diabetes had to do all of that work to get through a day, their brain would melt!
So, think about the AMAZING feats you pull off every day! Even when it’s not your best diabetes day, that’s alright! Because most of the time, you do way better than you think. You deserve a standing ovation and rip-roaring applause for living life and managing diabetes!
So when things don’t go as planned, cut yourself some slack, and when things go well, give yourself some credit. You deserve it!