I’m writing this entry the day after yet another mass shooting in the United States, this time in San Bernadino, California. It was only a few weeks ago that we were hearing the horrific news from Paris, and before that the massacre in Oregon. These stories overwhelm our emotional capacities. We respond with anger, with fear, or with apathy — none of them particularly helpful in the long term, but appealing in the immediate aftermath of overwhelming bad news.
When confronted with situations that feel unmanageable, or beyond our ability to psychologically “contain,” we start falling into unhealthy patterns. We see it on a global level in the news everyday, and it was this latest round of tragic news that got me thinking about these emotional patterns. I thought of this because we also see it in our daily lives with diabetes, and that’s the focus of today’s blog entry — understanding how to catch ourselves when we’re about to fall into an unhealthy emotional cycle, and what we can do instead. (*And of course, the skills we master in managing our diabetes often do translate to other areas of our lives — so perhaps today’s blog entry can be about those overwhelming global problems, as well)
The central problem that diabetes presents, on a psychological level, is that it can feel so UNmanageable, and so “never-ending.” When our control is poor, whether for a long or even a relatively short period of time, the perceived “unmanageable and never-ending” nature of diabetes brings up surges of intense emotions. And unfortunately, they tend to come up in “bunches.” Anger gets enmeshed with feelings of hopelessness, which mask feelings of sadness, which is tied to fear, and so on. We feel a surge of emotion, usually with anger leading the charge because it’s the easiest to feel and because it feels the most proactive.
But when we let these unexamined emotional surges take over, we really lose out. In essence, we let ourselves become powerless twice — the first time we feel powerless over diabetes. Then when the emotional surge comes up, we latch onto that feeling of anger because it feels momentarily proactive. But as we all know, that feeling is fleeting, and largely false. We’re not being proactive, we’re letting ourselves be taken over by anger, and that anger seldom makes good decisions.
So the questions we need to address are these:
1. How do we “shrink” diabetes down to something that feels emotionally manageable, particularly when it’s not responding “properly” to our interventions?
2. How do we untangle that surge of feelings that can come up when we see high numbers on our meters, or experience some of the pain and limitations Diabetes can impose?
Let’s start with “shrinking” diabetes. This is no small task — after all, diabetes IS a never-ending, 24-hour-a-day, 365-days-a-year, “maybe-there-will-be-a-cure-in-10-years-if-we’re-lucky” kind of disease. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon, and we’re left deal with it every day of our lives. It’s no wonder it can feel overwhelming. But in spite of all that, shrinking it down is possible…
Tune in next week for Scott’s suggestions on how to shrink diabetes down to size…
Metformin may not help overweight adolescents with Type 1 diabetes manage their blood sugar, according to new research. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.