What do you do when you find yourself in a miserable situation? Do you get lazy and slack off? Do you get frustrated and snap at people? Do you suck it up and push forward even though you’re cracking up on the inside? Life being what it is (imperfect in so many ways), it’s a question all of us have to face every now and again. But it’s a question that people with diabetes have to face all the time. And I have a theory on this. Wanna hear it?
My theory goes something like this: Because we Diabetians have to deal with not liking something (and doing it, anyway) every single day, we become A) really good at pushing forward in spite of our resentments, and B) really bad at knowing when to walk away from a bad situation. It’s a Catch-22 — this thing we’re so good at can also become our undoing.
You see, most people have a limit to what they’ll put up with. If that limit is crossed, they’ll stop putting up with it. I realize this isn’t entirely true (after all, people have poor boundaries for a number of reasons), but since I’m theorizing here I’m also simplifying. In any event, people with diabetes often have a tough time holding that line. You see, we don’t get to have a line when it comes to diabetes — there is no point at which we are ever allowed to say, “Enough, I’m done with diabetes. Pack your things and get going… go on, get! Shoo!” So we have to stretch that line to care for our condition.
But we also tend to stretch that line in areas where it doesn’t make sense to stretch it. I was recently involved in a situation that showed me just how dysfunctional this “stretching the line” thing can be. I was in an independent music project. The musical ideas were solid. The musicianship was outstanding. And it had some decent potential. But it was economically unsustainable, emotionally unstable to the point of being harmful, and clearly dysfunctional. It was, looking back on it, a situation that I should have run from screaming. Instead, I didn’t leave until the project did exactly what we all should have known it would do: collapse in conflict and bad blood.
I stuck it out. I ignored the pain, I ignored how miserable I felt, I ignored the blatant dysfunction in front of my eyes. I treated it the way I treat diabetes — no matter how much you might dislike it, you just have to stick with it. I tried to fix what was wrong in various ways (after all, we can and should try to FIX the things we don’t like with diabetes), but the idea of simply walking away never even occurred to me. And it should have. At some point, an alarm should have gone off, and I should have walked away.
I’ve made this same mistake a few times over the course of my life. I can think of a few relationships I stuck with longer than I should have (luckily, in the end I managed to find a wife who I love more than I could ever imagine possible), and a few jobs I stayed in right past the “burnout” point. Each time, I did what comes so naturally to me — I stuck with it, tried to fix it from the inside, and failed to see the obvious signs of demise.
I’m now 34 years old. I’ve gone through this cycle at least four to five times in a big way, and probably hundreds of times in little ways. I think it’s about time I caught it and figured out how to treat life like life, and treat diabetes like diabetes. It’s time for me to stop confusing the two. And if you’ve found yourself in the same kind of situations, it’s time for you to separate the two, as well.
I’ve always said that diabetes has a lot to teach us about life, and it requires a lot of skills that we can apply to the rest of our lives. But here’s one skill we need to handle with caution. Sure, it’s good to be able to persevere through some pain; to push forward even when you don’t feel like it. But as Diabetians we need to be aware that sometimes the answer is to simply cut and run. Not every situation needs to be “pushed through.” Some situations simply need to be left behind.