Diabetes Burnout

I visited a new endocrinologist a few weeks ago, and we discussed the possibility of switching to a pump. Right now I take daily injections, and while they’ve done the trick for the past 20 years, my more recent numbers have been a little too “up and down.” It seems that my system may greatly benefit from the flexibility and variable basal rate possibilities of the pump. I’ll find out more next week.

In the meantime, I have been checking my blood sugar more times each day than I can count. At minimum I’ve been checking 10 times each day, some days as often as 15–18 times. I’m trying to get a real comprehensive picture of my daily patterns to bring back to the endocrinologist so that we can create a solid, coherent plan and figure out what will work. And I think I can safely say that I’ll have a very complete picture to bring back to my next appointment.


But while all of this information is useful (and it really is — even using my current daily injection approach I’ve been able to adjust a little to bring sugars in line for now — though the underlying pattern will probably not be able to be addressed fully until I have the chance to try the pump), it’s been…tiring. I’m starting to feel like nothing more than a collection of blood sugar readings. And earlier this week? Well, I was just feeling downright burned…out!

The 24/7 disease
Diabetes is such a 24/7 disease. Of course I don’t mean that other conditions aren’t 24/7. But diabetes management requires a whole lot of tracking, monitoring, calculating, and executing to keep in check. And that can start to get tiring sometimes. That’s particularly true when our blood sugars aren’t responding in a way that makes sense to us. When I started this intensive period of monitoring two weeks ago, I was really hitting the wall. I kept getting high numbers and didn’t understand why. It wasn’t until I was a solid week in, with several fasting checks under my belt and a lot of experimenting with meals and ratios, that I started to really see the underlying pattern of what my body was doing.

Now, I’m seeing a pattern. It’s not yet been corrected with a long-term solution, but I am managing to keep my numbers in much better check with my multiple daily injections. It’s not perfect, as I’m needing to use short-acting shots with meals to counteract a too-low daytime basal rate that I can’t RAISE because doing so will send me dangerously LOW overnight — hence the probable switch to a pump that can accommodate different basal rates for different times of day. Nevertheless, seeing the pattern at least lets me address it to a certain extent.

I think often times diabetes burnout comes from impatience — I know it does for me. This is a good example. The pattern DID become clear, and there’s an increasingly clear path forward. But while I was in the midst of the “high-low” jungle, it was hard to remain calm and not get frustrated.

Moses in the desert
Those periods in our lives when things aren’t making sense can feel so aimless and frustrating, can’t they? I’m Buddhist myself, but I often think back to the story of Moses in the desert when I’m going through one of those periods. I understand that I can’t just give up, or quit, or lose hope. But it can be so hard not to!

But the clearer we keep our heads, the sooner the answers will come. If we’re too emotional, too caught up in panicking over our numbers, it becomes very easy to MISS the patterns. Spotting patterns is a critical thinking skill. And critical thinking requires focus, a feeling of calm, and a certain level of detachment. The million-dollar question, of course, is HOW to keep that ability in the midst of the walk through the desert without just getting permanently lost there.

I think the answers to that question are as varied as we are. Some rely on their faith, others rely on conversations with friends, family, and loved ones. Some rely on meditation, physical activities that help focus the mind, or music. One of my favorites? Petting our cats. I’m serious. When I was feeling frustrated last week, I sat down on the couch, turned off the TV, and curled up with a purring furball for about 45 minutes. It didn’t solve any of my high numbers, but it sure made it easier to deal with them. It calmed me down, helped me see things more clearly. And that made it easier to SPOT the pattern a few days later, which DID make it easier to correct those high numbers.

It’s ironic that the moments when we need clear, calm thinking the most are usually the moments when we’re feeling the MOST frustrated and least likely to be ABLE to stay calm and think clearly! Diabetes definitely challenges us on that one, pretty darned frequently. It’s our job to stay one step ahead of it. So the next time my numbers are bonkers, I’ll find one of my cats and get some purr-therapy. What’ll you do?