Living With Diabetes? Give Yourself Some Slack!

I just watched the last “presidential” debate. I couldn’t do it sober, so I had myself a good bit of wine and watched the mayhem on CNN. But I have Type 1 diabetes. According to the strict rulebook, I shouldn’t have done that. I am allowed one or maybe two glasses of wine (I had a little more than that) with dinner (I did have my first with dinner…). Now, I don’t want to go into politics — it’s clear we as a country have lost our ability to objectively talk about anything remotely political and might as well make our decisions based on who wins a mud-wrestling match in the center ring of Congress. Please, no comments about either candidate — it can’t lead anywhere worthwhile.

What is worth talking about, however, is how to deal with the dissonance that can occur between the ideal ways we “should” conduct ourselves, and the inherently imperfect ways we actually do conduct ourselves in the real world. Or put more simply, what do we do when we’re watching the most horrifying election in U.S. history and we just feel like drinking? Since this is the incident that inspired this evening’s entry, let’s start there (and don’t worry, I am no longer feeling said wine).

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Like I said, tonight I felt like downing a good dose of wine. And I drank more than the rulebook’s preferred portion. But I didn’t just go chugging straight from the bottle, either. I sipped — an important tactic for anyone with diabetes. It can be VERY dangerous to simply “down” alcohol for us, as it is exceedingly easy to become far more intoxicated than expected far more quickly than anticipated. That can lead to states of potential blackout, and that could spell true disaster. And I monitored. I checked my blood sugar periodically throughout the evening, making sure I kept control.

However, I wasn’t shooting for absolute perfection in my blood sugar tonight, either. I was aiming to keep it under 160, and I’ll make sure I’m at least 100 before I go to bed (since alcohol can lower overnight blood sugar). The point is, my intention was to keep myself safe, to avoid dangerously high or dangerously low numbers, and to let myself simply be an utterly overwhelmed and depressed American voter tonight.

What I didn’t do is hold myself to an expectation of absolute perfection — either in my numbers during this evening, or by expecting every single day of my diabetic life to be straight from the pages of the “how-to-manual of diabetes.” I did what I could to make sure I was safe, I kept myself within the lines of reason, but beyond that I gave myself some slack.

I think it’s incredibly important for all of us to remember that we are human beings first. Diabetes is a thing we all have, and an important part of our lives. We should absolutely do what we can do manage this disease, but we have to know when to cut ourselves a little slack. There are nights when we eat too much. There are nights like tonight when the craziness engulfing us is just so bonkers that we reach for some wine. There are times when we aren’t living by the textbook, and that’s OK.

Of course, this is not a suggestion to live carelessly. That would be a horrible idea — and the consequences would far outweigh the short-term fun to be had. But living carefully doesn’t mean living perfectly. Living carefully means making sure you’re always safe; it means tracking your numbers and taking them seriously, particularly the long-term trends and the all-important HbA1c readings; it means doing all the daily things like testing, calculating carbs, working with your health-care team, and all the rest; but it also means letting yourself be human.

I was human tonight. And my numbers were actually just fine throughout. But even if they spiked a little bit, that would have been OK with me. Once in a while, it’s OK to not be perfect. Even for us.