Creatures of Habit

It always kind of ticks me off when people say that managing your diabetes is “like brushing your teeth.” It’s a helluva lot more work than that. But the one similarity is that it is kind of habit-forming. I always hold the toothbrush at a certain angle, and pretty much get the same (however effective or ineffective) results every time I brush. I guess the same is probably true for most of my diabetes habits:

- Unzip the carry case, lean on knee

- Grab a test strip while cocking the lancing device

- Hold my OmniPod “just so” to get the blood on there just right

- Lick finger (hey, it’s a habit!)

- Stare at results and conduct brain scan of last few hours (what did I eat or do to make that number appear?)

- Stuff used test strip into carry case pocket, while pressing pump buttons accordingly

- Repeat about every 2 hours throughout the day (no s**t)

Our buddy Scott J wrote a great dLife column recently about D-habits and how a change in the public restrooms at his workplace actually upset his balance. “It is all in an effort to be more environmentally friendly and cheaper to maintain. I’m all for efforts to be more green and economical, but I am having a hell of a time adjusting to these new ‘friendly’ (paper towel and soap) devices… So far, it has been a really interesting reminder of just how ingrained habits become after a short time,” he writes.

Heck, yeah. Science tells us that it takes just approximately 21 days to develop a habit. In that case, our habits and routines for “doing diabetes” must be pretty well hard-wired into all of us by now.

As I once again stuff a plastic vial of glucose tabs down my sports bra for my afternoon jog, like Scott, I find myself wondering: “How many little D-habits or routines do we have, knowingly or not? And are these habits mostly constructive or destructive? Do they build us up or tear us down, or are they just there…?” For example: does excessive use of alcohol wipes make us really sterile, or just paranoid? Is it OK to use your teeth to clamp off your pump tubing? (If it ain’t broke…?)

Badhabits_2What the authorities call “effective diabetes habits” is really a laundry list of How To Be a Perfect Diabetic. NOT.

What I’m thinkin’ about now are the not-so-helpful habits that make us human — things like margarine dependence, reading while eating, noshing while cooking, and changing your lancet needle only once every few months. I’m thinkin’ about skipping the gym whenever the gym clothes are still in the wash, whenever there’s too much mail piled up, or whenever it rains. I’m thinkin’ about any number of semi-destructive habitual behaviors that everybody falls prey to — that are so disproportionately awful when you’re living with diabetes. Darn it.

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4 Responses

  1. Scott K. Johnson
    Scott K. Johnson May 16, 2008 at 7:30 am | | Reply

    Thanks Amy!

    I’m sure that I have a TON of habits that I’m not even aware of. Sometimes it takes a little shake up to make me take notice of them.

    It makes me think about the potential of trying to change one “not-so-good” habit into a better one!

  2. Gene Hopstetter
    Gene Hopstetter May 16, 2008 at 12:14 pm | | Reply

    My routines and habits are necessary for my sanity. Considering how unpredicable diabetes (and being an adult and a parent) can be, the only way to feel any sort of security is to be consistent in how I respond to to diabetes.

    An old friend of mine once told me it “blows her mind” how I have so much to do, all the time, because of my diabetes. “Well,” I told her, “I don’t have a choice. I have to do it.”

    I’ve been told that there is a higher incidence of anxiety among PWDs because we spend SO MUCH mental and physical energy just keeping healthy.

  3. Lauren
    Lauren May 27, 2008 at 2:34 pm | | Reply

    I also dislike the “brushing your teeth” analogy. It feeds into the misconception that an injection of insulin is all there is to it. It’s all the corrections and endless testing and inability to ever perfectly match intake & exercise to insulin that presents the challenge. My coworkers recoil at the sight of needles, and think the needles are the worst aspect of the disease. I’d happily give myself a shot with a huge veterinary needle three times a day if I could perfectly dose myself each time.

  4. Rachel
    Rachel May 27, 2008 at 2:35 pm | | Reply

    Thanks, Amy! I do have my habits! I get somewhat freaked out if I don’t have control over what time or where we’ll be eating. I feel safe being in my house, my kitchen, with my food. Working out at my gym at the same time every single day. And yeah, I lick my finger after testing, too. :)

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