Life With Diabetes: Loosening the Controls

My family and I flew to New Hampshire recently to visit my dad, and to take the boys skiing. Our boys, born and raised in the south, had only skied once before, and it made me smile to watch the way they marveled at the snow and called their ski poles “sticks.” I watched the pleasure they took in building a snowman and knew that the effort of traveling and the cost of the tickets was worthwhile.

Traveling is always a challenge with diabetes. Anything out of the ordinary is a challenge with diabetes. I manage my life with diabetes by following a regimented routine. I eat the same foods at the same time every day. I run the same route — up and back on the greenway — of varying lengths, every single day. I go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. When there is a disruption to my routine (a doctor’s appointment, a sick child, a meeting, etc.), it stresses me out. When I have a day full of appointments for work and I have to adjust my routine, I get a stomachache.

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It bothers me that I am this tightly controlled, because I wasn’t always this way. I imagine myself as an easy-going, laid-back person, and I know that I appear that way on the outside. I want to be spontaneous and fun loving, but on the inside I am often filled with anxiety. I blame a lot of my controlling behaviors on diabetes, but being a working mother and a slightly obsessive runner also feeds into my need for control. I don’t like gray areas. I like to know what my blood sugar is and it feels like I prick my finger all day long.

Traveling causes me anxiety because I have to give up a certain amount of control. But travel is also something that I love to do, and my husband and I wanted to give our kids this experience. So as we boarded the plane, I made a silent deal with myself that I was going to let go of control for the weekend. Part of giving up control meant that I wasn’t going to stress out when my blood sugar ran high during the flight. Logically, I know that my blood sugar always runs high when flying because I am sitting still for so long and my body is used to moving, but the emotional part of my brain doesn’t listen to the logical part of my brain. The emotional part screams “High blood sugar is bad! Fix it! Fix it!” I usually give extra insulin, but when I’m traveling, my blood sugar still runs higher than normal.

Part of giving up control was also understanding that I wasn’t going to stress out if I didn’t get to run. This was a mini-vacation, and my priority was getting my boys on the slopes. That meant on Saturday morning, I had to ignore the voice in my head that was screaming “Go for a run!” Instead, I went with my family to the ski area. When it was lunchtime, I had to give up control over my meal because he food at the mountain was not even close to low carb or healthy, and as my kids devoured their burgers and fries, I took a deep breath and ordered chili. I didn’t die. In fact, the chili was good, and my blood sugar was great from all my work trying to teach my seven-year-old how to ski.

At the end of the day, my kids were in love with skiing. Their cheeks were pink with cold and they didn’t want to come into the lodge to warm up. They didn’t want the day to end. I didn’t either. I knew we’d go home and I would get right back into my routine. Traveling and being out of my routine for a few days hadn’t killed me. In fact, it reminded me why I work so hard to keep living.

Bitter melon may improve diabetes control and help fight certain forms of cancer. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more from nurse David Spero.

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