Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are serious conditions. A person dies every 10 seconds from diabetes related causes.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are demanding conditions to live with. Some people with type 2 diabetes are able to go into remission with positive lifestyle changes. But for many of us (both type 1 and type 2), there is no respite from it. Every decision we make impacts our blood glucose levels in some way. And it’s because of diabetes, that we end up with a million appointments with a variety of healthcare professionals. It’s because of diabetes, that we stress over achieving the best glycaemic control we can to reduce the risk of complications – the diabetes boogeyman.
Irrespective of the type of diabetes we have, the fear of developing diabetes related complications shadows us. Sadly, some doctors justify this to use it as a scare tactic in an attempt to take more action with our diabetes management. How absurd! Because people with diabetes see developing complications as a fun goal to achieve? Rubbish. Diabetes related complications generally occur from having high blood sugar levels over a long period of time, which are especially damaging to the smaller nerves found in our eyes, kidneys and feet. Damage to our eyes is called retinopathy and can often go unnoticed until it’s too late. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney damage, which is called nephropathy. Neuropathy is damage to the nerves in our feet, which may feel like having constant pins and needles or numbness and could lead to ulcers and eventually amputation of the affected area. Check out the Diabetes Aus – Vic website and Better Health Channel for more information about these complications.
Because all that wasn’t scary enough, some healthcare professionals think it’s appropriate to rub our faces in it each time blood tests come back not being perfect. Admittedly, this may be the motivation needed to kick some people into gear. On the other hand, for those who are already struggling with managing their diabetes, this could push them further into denial. Most of us know what the complications of poorly managed diabetes are and are doing our best to keep our blood glucose levels within the happy zone. But it’s not as easy as simply testing, taking tablets or injecting insulin. People with type 2 diabetes on tablets are at a constant battle with the food they eat and exercise they do. They are still vulnerable to low and high blood sugars. People with type 1 diabetes are constantly fighting a mathematical battlefield in their heads when looking at a plate of food. Mis-calculation of carbohydrates could lead to low or high blood sugars. Any extra activity they do could also impact their blood sugar levels. And for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, stress and illness could raise blood sugar levels too. That’s just the medical side of things!
Many people with diabetes go through struggles mentally, which is often overlooked by healthcare professionals. There’s a crazy expectation that if people with diabetes follows every single thing in textbooks, we would have perfect blood sugars and no complications. Nothing could be further from the truth. Diabetes is crazy and at times unpredictable. You could do everything right, have fantastic blood sugar levels and still develop complications. Sometimes, it’s just bad luck. That’s not to say we don’t try and do the right things. We need to give ourselves the best chance of lowering the risk of developing complications by looking after our health. Not just physically but mentally too. It takes a special kind of resilience to deal with a condition that requires constant monitoring. Not to mention to stigma that is associated with diabetes. But even the strongest of people will go through a period of feeling pretty average with their diabetes management, or a diabetes burnout.
So to all the healthcare professionals out there who use the diabetes boogeyman to scare us, please stop. We are doing the best we can and don’t need judgement from anyone, especially from you. We go to you for expert advice, strategies and support to help us manage our diabetes not for you to simply say we’re not doing a good enough job. And to everyone out there living with diabetes, you can do this! We can do this! Power on.