10 Things to do When Life with Diabetes Becomes Too Much

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We know that diabetes is stressful and can be overwhelming at times. The day in and day out grind of carb counting, injecting insulin, and checking on blood sugar levels can wear a person down. That is why it is so important to look after your mental health as well as your physical health. Here are a few things that myself and others have done over the years.

Cry, scream or yell in the shower

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Whether you are the person living with diabetes or you are helping someone you love, there are those days when you have had it. You want to kick and scream. You just don’t want to “diabetes” anymore.

Guess what? That is okay! In fact, it is pretty darn healthy! It isn’t healthy to keep those feelings and frustrations bottled up, however.

When you are completely overwhelmed and want to throw in the towel…do it! Find a private spot, like the shower, and just let out all of that pent up emotion. Allow yourself to cry. Go ahead and scream at the universe. Yell at diabetes itself. Simply vent and then…let go. I promise you that while it won’t fix everything, you will feel a little better.

Go for a walk

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We all know that we are supposed to exercise. Did you also know that it really can be good for your mental health?

Take some time to join a gym, sign up for a yoga class or just take the dog for a walk. Do something to get moving and get out of your head for a bit. Shake off the cobwebs as you stretch or lift. Allow all of that stress to hit the pavement as you go for a walk. Taking in some fresh air and taking some time for you will help you to improve your overall health.

Go out on a date

date

Go out for a lunch date with a friend. Meet your significant other for a lovely meal. Take one of your children out for a playdate that involves just the two of you. Simply get out and put diabetes on the backburner.

If you are living with diabetes, you will sadly still have to bring it along but, for just an hour, make it sit at another table. Don’t complain about it. Don’t worry about it. Just focus on the person you are with and leave the rest behind for 20 minutes, an hour, whatever you can spare. Recharge yourself with someone you care about.

Grab a glass of wine

At the end of the day, allow yourself to unwind with a glass of wine, a shot of rum or simply a great cup of tea. If you enjoy essential oils, make sure you have your favourite blend diffusing. Light a candle. Just breathe and relax. Let your mind go blank for a bit and simply unwind. It is okay. You need it. You deserve it.

Enjoy a book

Take a few minutes to unwind with a good book. Put on a Netflix show. Turn on your favourite music and let it flow through you. Dance a little if you like or allow the music to put you to sleep! Do something that requires minimal thought and maximum relaxation.

Live life 4 hours at a time

4 hours

This is advice that truly kept me sane through toddlerhood, preteen years and the teens. Live life 4 hours at a time.

When living with diabetes, there can be highs and lows that appear out of nowhere. There can be highs and lows that show up because you got a bit of air in your tubing, you injected into a different site, or you counted the carbs in a meal wrong. There are more reasons for highs and lows than the average person can imagine. Obsessing over them can drive you completely insane.

My advice is simply to deal with them in short blocks. Rapid-acting insulin has a life of 4 hours (on average). Take your day and break it up into those four-hour sections. When you get up and check your blood sugar, that is the start of your first four hours. If that reading is perfect, do a happy dance and get some breakfast. Savor the victory over the diabetes gods.

If you find that you are running a bit high or low, you treat with food or insulin and move forward. By lunch time, you will either have everything under control or you won’t but that is a four hour time period that is behind you. It is something to look at later and see what you could have done differently. It is not something to dwell on. You have another 4 hours to deal with.

In those next four hours, you can celebrate in range readings. You can ponder out of range numbers but know that there will be another four hours for you to look at and you will get through.

Give diabetes away for the day

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Seriously, give diabetes away for the day. Have someone else think about the blood checks and carb counting. Take the day off.

If you are a parent of a child with diabetes, have your partner or a family member do your child’s care for the day. Remember that they will do things differently. That is okay. As long as your child is okay and you can rest, it will be okay.

If you have diabetes yourself, ask your partner, good friend or even parent to deal with everything for a day. Okay, maybe you won’t be able to handle an entire day but let them scan your sensor. Have them push the buttons on your pump. Let someone else do your site change. Give your brain a break for an hour, an afternoon, a full day if you can!

Join a support group

No matter what, there is nothing like talking to people who get it. If you are on Facebook, join one of the many online groups that are there. Most are private or secret so that what you say in the group will stay there.

If you are a Twitter person, look for the hashtag #DOC or #DSMA and join in diabetes chats. It is a great way to share and meet other people who live the same life as you.

Some people prefer to meet in real life. Check with your diabetes clinic for support groups or diabetes-related events in your area. There are many conferences and camps for both adults and youth that are worth checking out.

Journal

It can be very therapeutic to simply write out your feelings. Start a journal online or in your favourite notebook. Write about your victories and your frustrations. Get your feelings down on paper so that you can better handle them in your daily life.

Seek help

Finally, if you are still finding diabetes too much to handle, please look to finding the help of a professional. There are mentor programs for teens. You can connect with diabetes educators in other areas who will help you tackle getting blood sugars in a more manageable range. You can also connect with therapists who will assist you in person or via remote networks. Some of them like Virtue Bajurny and Joe Solowiejczyk are not only therapists but live with type 1 diabetes themselves.

No matter what you decide to do. Remember that you never have to do it alone. If you are struggling, please reach out to someone or contact us. We will try to help you to find someone in your area who may be able to help.

Support in the Strangest of Places

I am an avid reader. I have loved to read since I was a child. If I could find a way to read for a living, I would be a very happy and ideally very rich person.  I read everything. I read action books, mysteries, spiritual books, diabetes books, and most recently a book about a mother of a girl who has anorexia.

I am not exactly sure what made me decide to open this book and read it.  Perhaps it is my own struggle with my body image. Perhaps it was the fact that is was a mother telling a story of her struggle with her child’s potentially lethal disease.  Whatever it was, this book quickly showed me that being a parent of a child with a disease–any disease, sadly puts you in a club with more similarities than differences.

Brave Girl Eating by Harriet Brown, first hit home when she wrote “you’re not to blame, you’re not alone, and you can make a difference in your child’s life“.  What a powerful statement! It needs to be a poster in our diabetes clinics.  It is a statement that each and every parent of a child with diabetes needs to fully understand and embrace.  As I have said before, we carry our own guilt and are further burdened by the misconceptions of others. We need to know that we are doing our very best and that is all that any one can ask.

For some reason, Ms. Brown seemed to make more than one comparison of life with anorexia and life with diabetes.  I am not sure if she knew someone living with diabetes or in her research she found some similarities but she does make reference to living with the disease on more than one occasion.  She also makes many statements that could easily apply to living with a child with diabetes.

She talks about feeling overwhelmed by her daughter’s illness and then feeling guilty about it. “I can take a walk, read a book, shut out the anorexia for a little while. But its insider her. She can’t get away, not for a second.” How many  parents of children with diabetes have felt that exact same way? How often have we felt guilty because we could sleep through the night when our child went away to camp or when we went on vacation and left them with a responsible parent or loved one? It hurts us to know that we can leave it behind but our children can’t.

She talks about things like her daughter lying to her about food and again the issue crosses over easily into life with diabetes.  In our case, our children tend to reach an age where they lie about food intake, insulin dosing, or bg level readings.  The violation of our trust is devastating either way and in both cases the lie is brought about by frustrations with a disease. It isn’t any better no matter where it comes from. The pain and sadness as a parent is equally overwhelming.

Ms. Brown talks about wondering if her daughter’s behavior is because of anorexia or simply because she is a teen?  When my son was small and would fall asleep during the day, I would panic and test him.  Was he sleeping because he was a toddler who was tired or was he low and had passed out? If he threw a tantrum, was he being a child full of spite and temper or was his rage fueled by high blood glucose and therefore he may not completely responsible for his actions? How did I decide? How did I find a balance with punishment? Like the author, I struggled.

In Brave Girl Eating, the author also talks about stigma.  In this case the stigma of a mental illness. In diabetes, we know that there are many stigmas and fighting the public’s misconceptions can often be almost as difficult as battling bg levels.  To make things even worse, there are an increased number of people living with diabetes who also are dealing with eating disorders (is it any wonder when their lives revolve around food 24/7) as well as depression.  They must understand this book in more ways than I can begin to imagine.  How painful.

Ms. Brown also speaks to the idea that anorexia has taught her to live in the moment. Ironically diabetes has had a similar effect on my own life.  Learning to live life four hours at a time was the only way for me to cope.  Nothing else mattered. Tomorrow was too far away but his NovoRapid would kick in within four hours and it could fix that high, maintain his perfect reading or be just enough to send him low and create more havoc for me.  Four hours–just get through four hours and then go forward.

As I mentioned, ironically she notes the similarity to diabetes more than once. In learning to live with the new normal of life with anorexia, she wrote, “I told her if she had diabetes, she’d have to test her blood sugar every day; at first it would be a pain, but she’d get used to it.  It would become just one of those things she had to do, like brushing her teeth.  It would become part of “normal” for her.”  We know that diabetes is a bit more than testing daily.  We know that you never really get used to lancing your finger each day, but it is something that has to be done…like brushing your teeth.  It is something that you somehow have to come to accept in order to move forward with your life.

Its funny where you find inspiration and camaraderie. I started this book because I was in part looking for insight into my own body image issues.  I finished this book realizing that parents of children fighting illnesses may have many more similarities than we thought possible.  When we open our minds and our hearts, we find support in the strangest of places.

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