Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Well, I’m sick this week. No denying it — for the last few days I had that scratchy “almost-sore-throat” feeling, but today, it’s a full on cough, sore throat, and congestion. To top it off, my computer ALSO decided to get sick this week. The power source for the thing is bust, so it’s in the computer hospital waiting to receive a new part by the end of the week. That means this week’s blog entry is being written on a tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard. Not ideal, but it’ll do in a pinch.

I think the overriding theme of this week is “making do when things aren’t perfect.” A few other things have cropped this week, in fact, just to drive home this point. Now, diabetes is never perfect. It’s the epitome of imperfect, never responding EXACTLY the way we think it should. That doesn’t mean we can’t manage it well, of course. Little fluctuations won’t sink the ship. But even on the best days, diabetes throws a little UNpredictability our way.

Being sick changes the game a little bit for diabetes, though. For most people, being sick just means muddling through while feeling a little congested, a little lousy, a little less energetic. For someone with diabetes, being sick means much more than that. Because when our bodies get busy fighting off a cold or other “mini-malady,” our blood sugar gets “wonky,” as my friend likes to say. With all of the immune system antibodies and hormones raging in our blood, our blood glucose levels push upwards.

In the few weeks leading up to today, I had a few high numbers — miscalculations for meals and such. But in the past few days, my range has gone from 70–140 to 100–200. But I’m not freaking out. Because I know this is what happens when my body is fighting off a cold. Instead, I adjust my expectations and have a little more leniency with myself. I check for ketones if I have to, I monitor the numbers, and I rest so that I might bounce back to full health.

So, since my background is in the field of counseling, I’m going to offer my “sick-day mental health suggestions for Diabetians.” We all know the medical do’s and don’t’s well enough, and I’m not a doctor, so it’s not for me to even offer that advice to anyone. But I might be able to help with the mental strain of it.

Be flexible!
Understand that when your body is engaged in immune system warfare with a foreign invader such as a cold, your blood sugar WILL be affected, and don’t let the stress of higher-than-normal numbers wear you out. You’re already sick, and the goal is to relieve stress and get better. Fretting over higher-than-normal numbers won’t help. Understand that when you’re sick, you have to adjust your expected blood glucose range a bit. Be safe, check for ketones, monitor yourself, but don’t expect your normal numbers when you’re sick.

Be consistent
Keep tracking those numbers, even when you don’t particularly like them. It’s amazing what knowledge can do for you. I recently started keeping better track of my finances, using a smartphone app to monitor my checkbook and see where I was spending my money. Without even setting any kind of goal, I’ve noticed my finances improving, just because I directly see the impact of each amount spent. The same is true for diabetes (and to top it off, there are quite a few smartphone apps for tracking blood sugar levels, too). Just knowing where we stand will improve our control before we even set a single goal.

See the big picture
So I was supposed to go to a rehearsal tonight. It’s for a project I’m really very excited about, and one that might do some pretty great things in the future. I really wanted to attend this one, and I don’t want sound like the guy who’s being “lazy” by calling out. But here’s the thing — going to that rehearsal tonight would add days to my cold, and might cause me to miss an actual performance with that group on Sunday. Calling out tonight lets me continue resting, gets me back on my feet faster, and ultimately works better for everyone. I think a lot of us with diabetes feel bad about calling out sick — there’s a kind of machismo that goes with living with diabetes, one that says, “Diabetes doesn’t sink me, a cold ain’t stoppin’ me, either.” But if we get too aggressive, that can backfire and keep us down much longer than we have to be.

Well, hopefully next week I’ll be writing you with clear sinuses and a throat that isn’t sore. Good health to my fellow Diabetians!

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