The last few weeks of my life have been intense. Last week, in fact, I wasn’t even able to submit a new entry as I was away dealing with a family crisis in Illinois. I won’t go into detail here, but it was a very intense, very sad, and very emotionally taxing time for my whole family. And it was a logistically challenging time, too — last-minute travel plans, not a lot of sleep, revising reservations, and so on as we responded to a changing situation “on the ground.” We’re through that stretch now, and recovering a bit.
Through all of that, I noticed that I still had diabetes. It didn’t go away while I attended to all of this other stuff. No, it stayed right there. In fact, as it likes to do, it got a little “jumpy” in response to all that lack of sleep, emotional upheaval, and increased stress. My numbers jumped up a little, and in response I had to increase my insulin rates to accommodate. And you know what? I have to say I did a pretty good job considering the circumstances! I’ve had better five-day stretches of blood sugar readings, but when you consider everything else going on AROUND my diabetes, it was pretty darned good!
I know this sounds like a pretty obvious statement (and it is…sort of…), but life doesn’t stop for diabetes. Sometimes I wonder how much we really take that to heart. We often talk about controlling diabetes in clinical terms, in terms that only focus on the internal physiological mechanisms that affect blood sugar. We might include vague references to the effects of “stress,” but it’s easy to talk about diabetes as if it’s some kind of abstract algebra problem, rather than a facet of our human life — something that’s inherently messy, and inherently imperfect, and impossible to completely control. It’s easy to forget, in other words, that “managing diabetes” is something that takes place within the confines of the circus tent of our life, not a perfectly controlled lab experiment. It’s a real-world activity, not an abstract mathematical problem.
Some counterproductive things can happen when we forget this lesson. The first is that we can create more stress than we had to begin with. Take last week, for instance. I didn’t have stellar numbers, but they didn’t go crazy, either. I consider that a win. If I had expected perfect numbers in the midst of such a crazy up-and-down week, full of emotional stress, logistical stress, travel, and lack of sleep, I would have been setting myself up for failure. And I would have been inviting even more stress into my life. If I had flipped out over every “out-of-the-perfect-range” number from last week, I would have driven myself crazy — and paradoxically enough, that added stress probably would have made the numbers go even higher, triggering more stress, creating a nasty cycle that’s hard to get out of.
The other thing that can happen when we forget this lesson is self-judgment. We can become our own worst critics, and beat ourselves up for “failing,” when in fact we’re doing a very good job. I could have looked at my numbers from last week and made the snap judgment that they weren’t totally “on target,” and that I wasn’t “good enough.” But the truth is that I did the best I could in the midst of a challenging set of circumstances, and that’s something to be proud of. That’s really all any of us can EVER do — take the circumstances we’re given and do our best within them. Very often, those circumstances prevent us from “perfection” with diabetes. We’ve got to remember to give ourselves some credit, and remind ourselves that no, life doesn’t stop for diabetes. Diabetes happens WITHIN the imperfect confines of our human lives, and all we can EVER do is to meet each moment as best we can.