Editor’s note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a healthcare professional’s diagnosis, treatment or medication.
A Balancing Act: Type 1 Diabetes Awareness – Part 2
One challenge for people with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is keeping their blood sugar within a target range, usually 70-150 mg/dl, all of the time. This requires diligent monitoring, analyzing and adjusting various factors which affect blood sugar all day and night, every day of the year for one’s entire life. It’s a lot of work and it’s nearly constant.
When a T1D pricks their finger to test their glucose level, they must consider the following factors when deciding if they need to take any action: Is the reading high or low? Are they planning to eat? How long has it been since insulin was last injected and how much is still “on board”?
Have they been or will they be exercising soon? Are they stressed, nervous, or excited? Where are they in their menstrual cycle? Are they getting sick? Have they been vomiting or had a decrease in food intake? Is it excessively hot or cold outside? Did their last meal contain lots of fat that would cause the food to be absorbed much more slowly? Did they remember to wash their hands before poking their finger? Is their glucometer, pump, or continuous glucose monitor functioning properly and accurately? Did they figure the carb count of their food correctly?
All of these scenarios will either increase or decrease blood sugar and adjustments must be made, not just once or twice a day, but sometimes on an hourly basis throughout the day and night. Blood sugar management is always in the back of a T1D’s mind.
Understandably, life with diabetes can become tedious, overwhelming, or frustrating. One’s emotional response to daily diabetes management can go up and down and burnout is common. As a person with T1D, it is important to realize when you’re heading for burnout and to exercise self-compassion, get support, and consider a brief break from the routine.
Diabetes is hard, it doesn’t always make sense, and you really are doing the best you can. Maybe you’re NOT doing the best you can and you feel guilty or like a failure. That also needs to be approached with tender curiosity and self-compassion. What could be blocking you from taking the best care of yourself? Speaking with your healthcare provider, diabetes educator, coach, or counselor about this can help you gain perspective, create an interim plan, and even start to uncover what is getting in the way of your self-care and willingness to act.
Parents who take care of children with T1D need to recognize that they themselves may become burned out at times. Added to all the usual parenting responsibilities is unrelenting diabetes care. The whole family is at risk for stress, sleep loss, moodiness, not feeling well, extra work with every outing and meal, financial strain, anxiety about highs and lows, fear of severe complications and even death, feeling alone, and being misunderstood.
The reality is that diabetes is 24/7. There are few, if any breaks, and it’s lifelong. Even the most committed parents experience periods of burnout.
As a family member, friend, or healthcare provider of a T1D who’s in a slump about their diabetes care, it is especially important to be supportive without being judgmental; compassionate without being preachy. As much as you might think you know about what a diabetic “should” be doing, keep in mind that unless you have experienced it yourself, you likely don’t have full appreciation for what it’s like.
Do you know how a low blood sugar episode feels? What having high blood sugar does to your energy, brain power, or mood? Can you imagine how tedious it is to have to pull out your glucometer in public to “figure it out” before you can eat, drive, exercise, or do almost anything? Do you take for granted the fact that you can just pop food into your mouth at any time without measuring it, calculating the carbs, and injecting insulin? What about the fear of going to sleep and not waking up if your blood sugar should plummet during the night? That’s downright scary.
On a positive note, it is quite possible to live a full, healthy, satisfying life with T1D and to be able to integrate the management of it into a normal routine. When more non-diabetics have awareness of what living with diabetes is like, it creates a culture of understanding, compassion, and support – all of which make it easier for a type 1 diabetic to thrive.
Contact Dr. Julie Verfurth’s naturopathic practice through julieverfurth.com or 503.886.8622.