Glucose Levels: Monitoring Versus Obsessing

I use (and love) a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). I have been using the CGM for about 5–6 months now, and it has already become a tool that I simply can’t imagine living without. Being able to see the trends in real time really makes managing my blood sugar much easier — or, at the very least, easier to analyze and figure WHY it didn’t work out right!

But for about two weeks recently, I had to go without it. I was waiting for my doctor’s office to get in touch with my pharmacy (which was taking a long time thanks to a series of dropped calls and missed e-mails between the two of them), and then waiting again after submitting the order through a mail medical equipment supplier that proved to be cheaper (but required reauthorization from my insurance and some more paperwork).

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Initially, I was going crazy not having the information readily available — I had become so accustomed to being able to tap on my phone and see my very own glucose displayed right there! And CGM accuracy has improved dramatically in recent years, to the point where the FDA approved the Dexcom device I use for insulin dosing! (In my experience, the numbers from a blood glucose monitor and my CGM are usually pretty close.) In any event, it was driving me nuts not having this constant stream of information.

As the days passed, however, I started letting go and relaxing. And when I did, I realized something — a break was exactly what I needed. I saw that what I had been doing with my CGM wasn’t MONITORING my sugar levels as much as constantly obsessing over my sugar levels. I would reflexively grab my phone every 5–10 minutes to see what my numbers were doing. If I saw them climbing quickly I would start to worry, even if the number I saw was a solid 97. The fact that the CGM shows that 97 in the context of how it’s trending is one of its advantages, but I was getting so obsessed with the details — projecting what every little directional dip and rise MIGHT mean about what my number could be in 20 minutes — that it could sometimes be counterproductive. I might compensate before I should have, correct with insulin too early, and so on. And on top of it, I was making myself miserable!

I think it’s an easy trap for us to fall into living with diabetes. I mean, it’s such a numbers game. It’s like living with a video game scoring system for every single minute of our lives — like we should all be walking around with floating numbers above our heads indicating our “score” for the day, the week, the year, and all time. Since we live with all these numbers — blood glucose, carb ratios, A1C numbers, and so on — they can really start to take over our lives. And so we need to watch ourselves a little bit.

Having that break helped me catch myself slipping into some really counterproductive habits. I realized that I wasn’t using the CGM as a helpful tool, but obsessing over it and letting its numbers dictate my whole life! Getting away from it showed me that. And since coming back to it, I have been able to cultivate a healthier, more detached relationship to that information. Of course those numbers are important, and none of us should act like they aren’t. But there’s a difference between monitoring and obsessing. Monitoring is healthy, and helps us make better decisions. Obsessing is thoroughly UNhealthy, and it usually pushes us to overreact when we should have waited. As Diabetians, it’s our job to know the difference, and learn how to keep ourselves on the monitoring side of that line!

The Dexcom G5 Mobile CGM has been granted Medicare coverage. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.