It’s fall — the days are getting shorter, the air is getting colder, and diabetes is getting on my last nerves. This seems to happen every year. I know I’ve written similar blog entries several times, and I think it tends to happen right around this time every year. So call it the annual emotional cleansing, the annual therapeutic yell into the pillow — it’s time to tell diabetes what I think of it. And while dressing it up as some therapeutic process might be a stretch, it’s not completely absurd, either; it is very important that we give ourselves the space to just be angry every once in a while. I can say that — I’m a former therapist. Let’s start the countdown!
10. Human pin cushion!
In the grand scheme of things, shots for us Diabetians aren’t bad. The needles are tiny, and a mosquito bite hurts more. Nevertheless, I calculated it the other day, and figured I’ve given myself close to 40,000 shots. 40,000!!! Even if I don’t particularly mind them anymore, it makes the list due to sheer size!
9. Scar tissue.
Related to shots, scar tissue is number nine on my list. Scar tissue is what develops when you repeatedly stab your own body over and over, say, 40,000 times, for example! Scar tissue messes with absorption, and it can turn a seemingly simple meal into a drawn-out ordeal of hunger and high numbers as you wait, and wait, and wait, and then wait some more, for that insulin to FINALLY make its way to your system and affect blood glucose!
8. Alone in a crowd.
I wrote a whole blog entry about this a few weeks ago — diabetes has a unique psychological toll that nobody without diabetes can really 100% get. I’m not trying to sound overly dramatic — yes, we can manage this disease, and yes, things could be worse. But there is relentlessness about diabetes, particularly when you’re on insulin, that can drive you a little crazy. And explaining WHY it’s so irritating is, in my experience, simply not possible when talking to your non-Diabetian friends. However well meaning and concerned they might be, they won’t quite understand.
7. The THREAT of bad things.
Diabetes complications are no joke, and they dangle over all of us 24/7. I haven’t experienced any yet, but I’ve had this disease for 23 years, and I know the odds are that someday, I will face some kind of issue. Even the most tightly controlled among us doesn’t have 100% normal blood glucose all the time, and there is a toll on the body we all face. The menacing “someday-ness” of complications is no fun.
6. Bad advice.
Diabetes is common enough that plenty of people know the hugely abbreviated summary version (the disease with too much sugar), but infrequent enough that few understand what’s really involved. This can lead to comments like, “You can’t have that cookie; you have diabetes,” or “Why are you drinking that juice? That has sugar in it!” or “If you lost some weight, you wouldn’t need insulin anymore.” Ah, ill-informed and unsolicited advice — always fun!
5. Stingy rewards.
Diabetes management demands immense brainpower, constant calculating, serious planning, and mountains of data that must be sorted through to reveal patterns of cause and effect. It is a 24/7 job that you never get to leave. And the reward for all this? Blood sugars that are only slightly worse than non-diabetic levels instead of much worse than non-diabetic levels. And when our system is out of whack (because of stress, or because a bug is passing through town, or whatever other reason you can think of), we have to work harder, and the results inevitably get worse.
4. Bad things.
I talked about the vague threat of complications already, but the actual complications take number four. It should probably be higher on this list — and it might be in the future if I find myself faced with some of them. I have been lucky so far, and I don’t want to presume to speak for others here. But here’s a partial list: Nerve damage; increased rates of heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks; kidney failure; damage to the eyes and even blindness; loss of limbs due to circulation problems; and more. So, yeah, diabetes is no joke.
3. Severe lows.
I’ve been taken to the ER twice in my life due to severe hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels). Over time, your sensitivity to low blood glucose diminishes, and having had Type 1 diabetes for 23 years, mine isn’t great. I wear a continuous glucose monitor, and that has been a godsend for me since it will alert me to a low even if I can’t feel it coming. But hypoglycemia can come at any moment, and even if it doesn’t send you to the hospital, it will mess with you. Symptoms include sweating, shaking, dizziness, confusion, inability to speak articulately, and more. A severe low simply STOPS whatever it is you WERE doing, and you can’t resume it until the low bounces back.
2. Severe highs.
High blood sugars are maddening, particularly when they don’t make sense. If I eat a donut and I didn’t take insulin for it, well, I asked for the result. But when blood sugar just starts climbing and there’s no clear reason WHY, it can drive you up the #$&!!! wall! When you’ve done everything RIGHT, calculated everything according to your ratios, and you still get that 257 on your meter, it can turn on the inner Hulk!
The number one thing I hate about diabetes is this: it never stops. I have been dealing with this disease for 23 years straight. I have been monitoring and calculating and recalculating and planning and responding 24 hours a day for 23 years. That’s 276 straight months, 8,395 straight days, 201,480 straight hours! In all that time, I have not had a single MINUTE in which I could drop diabetes from my mind, from my awareness. It is part of every single breath I take, and will continue to be for the rest of my life, barring a miraculous cure (and I’m not hopeful). It is relentless. It never sleeps, it never takes a break, it never stops.
So there you have it — my list of the ten things I hate about diabetes. I hope I’m not bumming everyone out. Anyone out there who’s also living with this disease knows we’re stronger than it is, and I have lived a happy life full of wonderful times, people, and memories. Diabetes is only a part of it. But that doesn’t mean I have to love it!
Want to learn more about maintaining your mental health with diabetes? Read “Dealing With Diabetes and Depression,” “Reducing Diabetes Stress: Alternative Treatments” and “Relaxation Techniques for Stressful Times.”