There are many things in life that occur, which we can’t possibly control for or have no influence over. Yet, one thing is for sure though; that each step we take, we have choices and make decisions. I never chose to have diabetes, but I would like to think that I have a choice to manage things well and decide upon that. Throughout the years, I’m sure everyone living with diabetes would have experience questions like ‘Do you HAVE to have injections?’ or ‘Do you HAVE to exercise everyday?’. Even comments from our healthcare professionals, who do mean well, such as ‘You MUST HAVE this medication’ and ‘You MUST log your BGLs in this book’. If you’re anything like me, your automated response would be ‘Well, NO! I don’t want to do that,’. Particularly to a ‘suggestion’ that you have to do something because it’s ‘for your own good’.
I think back to an instance where I had been asked whether I had to exercise everyday and watch what I eat. I looked at her and said ‘No, I CHOOSE to do it and I like exercising and eating well’. She was slightly taken aback at my response, which brings me back to my point. As a person with diabetes, we are so routine in our ways of testing, bolusing, treating etc. that sometimes it feels like a chore; just like brushing your teeth and having a shower. Any day, we could turn around and say I don’t want to brush my teeth today, or have a shower. It is a decision you have made but you also have to deal with the consequences (i.e. why people have been avoiding you all day or that funny smell that you can’t get rid of). For diabetes, the consequences are a bit more severe but I think the underlying principle is the same.
I’ve been doing an online course with Coursera on Community Change in Public Health and one of the topics they spoke on was about empowering the community to take charge of whatever program that is running to benefit the community. Studies have shown that there is a higher program success rate if the community feels like they are in control rather than an external organisation imposing changes to their community. I believe this applies to life with diabetes as well. We are often told what we should be doing by healthcare professionals. Some days, we need to think about why are we doing the things we do. Why are we testing our BGLs, why are we recording them down, why are injecting ourselves with insulin, why are we counting carbs, why are we committed to going to so many medical appointments a year. The simple answer, of course, is because we want to live. By doing what we can to manage our diabetes now, we are hopefully holding off those diabetes-related complications at bay. We know the consequences of a high or low BGL and it’s not nice! So we do what we can to avoid feeling like a whole ton of bricks have fallen onto you.
There are days/weeks/months/years we feel like we have fallen off the bandwagon and that no matter how hard we try, nothing seems to work. Some people call them diabetes burnouts. (Or a mid-life crisis, if you’re the right age) When I feel I’m about to give up because I’ve had it with the stupidity of diabetes (to put it lightly), I do the bare minimum to get by. Test, bolus, eat, exercise. Who cares about the number on the meter? But sometimes, I need to be reminded that everything I do is my choice; a decision that means that hopefully I don’t get any complications soon or that I can start a family later down in life. So if I’m always getting readings over 10, it’s time to start asking myself what I can do to change this. And so the cycle goes on of trial and error to get your BGLs back in range. It may be a long process but one that will be worth it.
I often think back to my transition from having two injections a day to four. I remember sitting in my endo’s office and he gave me the options and asked what I wanted to do. Right then, when I told him I wanted to try basal-bolus, I felt like I was in charge of my diabetes. It was a very empowering, powerful feeling. I think it also gave me a bigger head as now I demand what I want in terms of alternatives. The thing I love about my GP and some of the healthcare professionals I’ve dealt with, is that they make me feel like I’ve been listened to and my opinions are of value. I know that I can go back anytime and say, I don’t think this worked, can we try this or that instead. A disclaimer though! This approach may not be for everyone. Some people may need to be told what to do. But I don’t believe in simply following orders, especially when it comes to your health. Because after all, this is all about YOUR diabetes and YOUR life.