Taking a Vacation From Diabetes

Many people who live with diabetes struggle with the effort it takes to keep up with all of the related tasks. They get frustrated with the “forever-present” nature of diabetes care and often settle into a type of self-care that is “just enough to get by.” This goes on until about two weeks before their next doctor visit, at which point they become far more serious about following their meal plan and checking and recording their blood glucose levels.

While doing this gives the doctor some information to work with and may help the person with diabetes avoid feeling too guilty, it continues to support a mistaken concept. That concept is that the visits you make and the records you keep are for your doctor, not for you.


This method might work well if diabetes were an acute problem, like a sore throat or a pain that just won’t go away. However, the fact is that diabetes is a chronic issue. Diabetes is there every day, all day, and it isn’t going away any time soon. This isn’t a good thing or a bad thing—it’s just a reality.

There are two parts of this idea that I’d like to look at. Part one is the psychic weight that having a chronic health condition places on you, and part two is dealing with diabetes as a chronic issue rather than an acute problem.

That you live with diabetes means that you are asked to eat better, exercise more, check your blood glucose levels, and be more aware of your weight, feet, eyes, mood, and sexuality. I have come to believe that these obligations create an additional psychic weight for anyone who has this diagnosis. This weight alone places a sense of self-responsibility on your shoulders that is greater than that of most of us who share this earth with you. It is, therefore, no surprise that you might feel a need for some time off from this daily chore.

So…why not take it? Not every day, of course, but once in a while when you need it. Find a confidant, someone who understands diabetes and can discuss what tasks you might want a break from. Then, plan your break—get assistance from your closest allies who might agree to check your blood glucose and administer your diabetes drugs or injections for you for a day. Ideally, these would be people who can even make decisions about drug or insulin doses if a change is needed. Let other people who might be affected by your day off know what you’re doing, and plan it for a day when you feel you can be off your game a bit. If you are able to, set the day up to be one of complete relaxation, a break from other stresses in addition to diabetes.

Please don’t read this as permission to ignore your diabetes. Rather, it is permission to take a brief, sensible break from the psychic weight you carry. You still own it, but by planning a short break you will be acting responsible, not reckless. Taking an occasional minivacation that is refreshing to you may be just what you need to keep up with your diabetes self-care in the long run.

Next week, I’ll address part two of this topic—dealing with diabetes as a chronic issue.

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Joe Nelson: Joe is a psychotherapist in private practice in Minnesota, where he specializes in the psychology of chronic disease and sexual problems and works with couples, families, children, and teens. He has been a Licensed Psychologist since 1985 and has earned a master’s degree from St. Mary’s College Winona, a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Minnesota, and an associate’s degree in human services from the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

Joe has worked with troubled youth in Chicago and Minnesota and on a special project on Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. He was the first social worker hired by an affiliate of the American Diabetes Association. He worked at the International Diabetes Center for 20 years, directing psychological services there for 12 years. A Certified Sex Therapist, Joe co-developed the Sexual Health Center at Park Nicollet Clinic.

Having practiced meditation for over 30 years, Joe offers instruction in mindfulness-based meditation to patients in groups and as individuals. Joe is married, has a 23-year-old daughter, and enjoys scuba diving, motorcycling, golf, and being outdoors doing almost anything.

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