What I’ve Learned From Diabetes After 22 Years: Lesson Two

Editor’s note: Last week, Scott Coulter shared the first important lesson he has learned from living with diabetes. Today, he describes another teaching he has received from his years with the condition.

You CAN’T control everything, but you can’t just give up
Diabetes centers on blood sugar control. Everything we do is aimed at managing blood sugars and controlling an essential bodily system manually. This is not easy. We all know that the human body is not a straightforward, 1+1=2 machine. Some days, our blood sugars react the way we want them to; some days, they don’t. You could eat the same food, take the same amount of insulin, and schedule the same activities two days in a row, and you wouldn’t end up with the exact same numbers. Hopefully they won’t be WILDLY different, but even under great controlling they won’t be exactly the same.


Small things affect our bodies. We might be fighting off a minor infection that isn’t causing symptoms but IS lowering insulin’s ability to operate in the blood. We might be under some kind of stress — we’ve seen time and time again that stress impacts our body in many, many ways. It releases hormones that interfere with insulin, it triggers the body to release sugar, it interferes with sleep patterns that in turn interfere with blood sugar management, and so on. The point is, we can only “control” our blood sugars to a point. After that, we have to let go.

I’ve always preferred the term “blood sugar management” to “blood sugar control,” to be honest. Management implies that we’re interacting with something that we can’t completely control or dominate. We’re negotiating with it; we’re carefully selecting and carrying out our actions, but we’re not under any impression that we can always control how our system will REACT to those actions. Perhaps more importantly, thinking about blood sugar as something we manage rather than something we have to control means we stop wasting energy TRYING to control aspects of our condition that we simply can’t; and that removes a MOUNTAIN of stress for us (which, ironically enough, might actually help with our blood sugar management).

I’ve found the Serenity Prayer is a great tool for reminding ourselves to let go a little bit. You know the line — “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I actually wrote a whole blog entry on the Serenity Prayer once, because that three-part idea is so applicable for living with diabetes. We need to pick our battles. We do need to put forth effort to manage our blood sugars, but we also need the wisdom to recognize the limits of what our actions can control so that we can let go of those aspects we simply can’t control.

I’m sure there is more that I could go into, but these two ideas are the cornerstones of what I feel living with diabetes has taught me. Diabetes is a teacher — one with harsh tactics and not always a kind one, but still something we can learn from. That’s the first lesson for me. And the second is that our relationship with this teacher is a dynamic one — we can’t control diabetes, we can only manage it; we can negotiate with it.

In the end, all we can do is play our part and try our best to live well with this never-boring companion called diabetes.

A diabetes medicine may reduce the risk of heart and kidney complications in people with Type 2 diabetes, according to new research. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.