Late last week, I came across a post by a kindred type 1 spirit talking about her recent travel spree that has left her with — for her — an undesirable A1c level. While reading her musings on how this happened and what she can do about it, I found myself nodding my head and relating to her struggles dealing with the intersection of “real life” and “diabetes life.”
Even after 18 years of living with diabetes, I still find myself struggling to incorporate diabetes into my “real life,” especially when that life gets really busy — like during the holiday season. This is something I personally find kind of strange, because you would think that growing up with a disease means everything about it would be second nature by now… that it would be easy and natural to test your blood sugar eight times a day, count carbs in everything you eat, exercise regularly, and always remember to leave the house with back-up supplies or at the very least, remember to check that you have enough insulin in your pump to last the whole day.
Except, I don’t. I forget — a lot. Well, maybe not a lot, but more than I should.
It’s not that I don’t know what I’m doing or I don’t have the right supplies or technology or know-how to do any of this crap. In fact, I think that’s what makes it so irritating and frustrating. I think that’s where the little devil on my shoulder gets the nerve to say, “You know, Allison, if you can’t figure this out after 18 years, I really don’t see any hope for you.”
Maybe I’m just destined to fail.
Which is bullcrap, if you ask me. No one is destined to fail at diabetes, but one thing I’ve learned (and continue to learn) is that diabetes is never, ever something you can put on autopilot.
It could just be me, but the things we are required to do in “diabetes life” flies in the face of human nature. People don’t like to do uncomfortable things. That’s why so many people avoid the doctor. That’s why so many people just wait it out. That’s why so many people want an easy solution. No one likes to do things that are painful, annoying, cumbersome, hard, frustrating, and unpredictable.
Which, if you look in the dictionary, is the definition of diabetes, right after “(n) a polygenic disease characterized by abnormally high glucose levels in the blood; any of several metabolic disorders marked by excessive urination and persistent thirst.”
After 18 years, I’m still trying to figure out why I don’t always do what I’m supposed to do, or why I insist on trying to take shortcuts that never work, or why I always believe that I can just figure things out later. I try to not get down on myself and think that I’m a “bad” diabetic, but it’s hard not to feel that way, especially when surrounded by people who seem to have better self-control, more internal motivation, and / or naturally better blood sugars.
Another thing I have learned is that you can’t wait for “real life” to slow down so you can get your “diabetes life” up to speed. It won’t happen. The crazy life does not stop once the Christmas tree has been taken down. Whether it’s work or family or friends or travel or some other kind of drama, there is always going to be something that seems more important that you need to attend to. And it’s really easy to think that we can just “get by” until it passes. But that’s when the damage starts to happen, because that’s when habits start to form and they are terribly difficult to reverse.
I see this happening not only in diabetes, but in a lot of other aspects of my life. Although I lost quite a bit of weight earlier this year, I’ve gained some of it back during a busy traveling season this summer and then living in a hotel for two months after being evacuated from my apartment building due to flooding (don’t worry, the apartment is fine now). Both of those things led to eating out a lot. Did I have to gain weight? No, of course not. But it was so much easier to say, “Well, I’ll just get back on track once I’m not traveling / back in my apartment / not as stressed.” But now that I’m not traveling or living in a hotel, it’s the holidays! And once the holidays are over, things might temporarily calm down… until my busy travel season starts up again!
It’s a vicious cycle and it’s one that I’m never getting off because, well… you can’t take a vacation from diabetes and you can’t take a vacation from life, either. Even vacations can be stressful when you have diabetes!
The best New Year’s Resolution I can make for myself this year is to stop waiting for life to calm down and give diabetes the priority it deserves.
But, you know, starting today. Not in three weeks.