It Gets Better – Six Things about Diabetes

Quick Note: I managed to keep my exercise streak going yesterday. My plan was to wake up at 5 AM and go for a run before work, since I was going to the camera club meeting; but my blood glucose was a bit too low to exercise in the time that I had. I was eventually able to get a short run in last night after 10:00 PM, and (to be honest) I really needed it. Tonight: swimming.

Somehow Diabetes Blog Day kinda snuck up on me. Being 1/3 of the way through a month of daily posting, I’m happy to have a theme: “Six things I want people to know about diabetes.” As always, this dispatch is for everybody: the newly diagnosed, the “old-timers,” and the friends and family of people with diabetes.

One: It gets better. Of course there are ups and downs, just as there are with the rest of life. Sometimes it seems like there are long stretches where nothing is working correctly. Every August to September, as my diabetes anniversary nears, it seems like I get a bit depressed by diabetes. I’ve been dealing with nerve pain as well but found a great nerve treatment, you can read the full article here. But every time I do something that I hadn’t done before or meet someone thriving with diabetes, it’s a triumph. Sure, I’m a bit hard on myself when it comes to diabetes; it’s hard not to be. But diabetes doesn’t stop me from being “all in” when I really want to do something. That feeling of overcoming adversity and getting to a happier place with diabetes makes it worth the struggle.

Two: People with diabetes need support at every transition. We get a lot of help when we’re first diagnosed, but then we’re kind of cut loose to live the rest of our lives. Our diabetes changes over time, and we want to do new things, too. Eventually we’re going to need to make changes. The healthcare system should have more focused education and hands-on time for people who want to do things like have babies or engage in athletic events, or who have recently changed jobs, lost or gained weight, or done something else that changes how we respond to insulin. Resources are available, but getting people to them can be tricky. (Along with getting insurance to pay for them.)

Three: Diabetes is depressing. And I don’t just mean for the non-diabetic people around us.* From time-to-time diabetes reminds me of all those things I don’t like about myself. It’s frustrating not to achieve the results that you and your healthcare team want, and to feel powerless over one’s body. It is especially hard for me to have high BGs when I feel like I’m doing everything I’m supposed to: checking BGs, bolusing for all the carbs, exercising, doing what my endocrinologist suggests, etc. And sometimes I feel selfish — like a “bad diabetic” really — when I think that I might not be able to lower my A1c without giving up the things that I really love. (And I’m not just talking about food.)

Sometimes having high blood glucose by itself is enough to cause feelings of depression. But, as I said, it gets better. (See #1.)

Four: High blood glucose sucks. Not only can it cause long-term complications, you can actually feel it. My muscles ache and feel weak when my BGs get much above 250. I feel it in my calves first. Then there’s the nausea, dry mouth, and papery hands. Plus, as I previously mentioned, it changes your attitude; I feel a bit manic and depressed. I can recognize it for what it is now, but that doesn’t make it go away.

Five: Get your basal rates figured out as soon as you get on the pump. Hopefully you’re starting from a good place — I wasn’t — but it’s going to take a little while. But you’ve got to do it as quickly as possible. Do overnight or breakfast first and then march your way through the day. Try to live your life as much like normal as possible while testing . . . just with less food.

Six: There really isn’t anything you can’t do or eat. It might be a little more difficult and will take more practice, but you can do anything. I’m doing everything I can to prove that’s true.

My goodness! This post seems a little moodier than I had intended. So just focus on the first one: It gets better.

* — The idea that my diabetes might be depressing or boring to other people is one of the reasons why it took me so long to write about it here. I didn’t want to be “that sad, one-dimensional diabetic guy.”

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4 Responses to It Gets Better – Six Things about Diabetes

  1. Jason Turner says:

    Awesome post Jeff. Mood and mental health is an underserved part of being diabetic. Too bad health care practitioners haven’t totally figured it out yet.

  2. Caroline says:

    Can I just say that I’m really glad for #1? It’s good to hear amidst the doom and gloom of everyone’s lists (insulin isn’t a cure! Diabetes sucks! I really hate this! etc. etc.) THANKS!

  3. Hannah McD says:

    Diabetes can be depressing, whether you want it to be or not! Take it from me, I’m taking Wellbutrin. :P

    I also hear you on being reluctant to talk about diabetes at first. I’ve never been one to sit around and discuss my disease at length…at least until my blog came along.

  4. Jeff Mather says:

    Some days are bit gloomy, for sure. But for the most part I keep coming back to the fact that it does get better — even if my A1c hasn’t yet.

    Mental health is tricky. I find having goals not related to diabetes helps. I know that doesn’t work for everybody. Snark is good, too.

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