In diabetes management, numbers seem to rule our lives. Doctors judge our diabetes “control” from our three-month blood glucose average (HbA1c). They look at the numbers to see if our cholesterol and lipids are within acceptable range. Our weight gets pulled into consideration, especially if we are insulin resistant. Finally, they look at our blood glucose levels that we ever so diligently record and bring into every appointment with us (/sarcasm) to see how we go day to day.
Often we get told that our diabetes “control” is not good enough or that our HbA1c is too high. Yes, people with diabetes are well aware of the complications that accompany diabetes if we don’t look after ourselves. But you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t care about their health.
When I was diagnosed, I had no idea what the ideal BG or HbA1c targets are. I remember feeling excited when I saw my BGLs fall in the single digits. I remember feeling crushed when I was told it wasn’t good enough and the panic when I was told they needed to be under 8.0 mmol/L all the time (like seriously?!).
I know I’m not the only person who goes through this. I hear it far too often, from clients and even from friends. Eventually some stop testing because they don’t want to see the number on that screen and the feelings that accompany it. It seems silly to think that one number could instil such panic, self-resentment, sense of failure, disappointment and despair in a person. But that is what we learn from some healthcare professionals – that numbers are more important that your wellbeing.
For years I chased perfect BGLs because I was terrified of the complications. I made a list of foods that raised my BG (pretty much everything) and chose sugar free options where I could (even chocolate). I went to the gym every single day because I needed to, not because I wanted to. Unsurprisingly, I was miserable. I hated that it seemed like diabetes had put me in a jail within my own life. I hated diabetes. And I had no one I could relate to.
After meeting other people with diabetes, I realised that striving for perfect BGL’s 24-7 is not realistic or sustainable. There is no flat line when it came to BGLs, even with a fully-functioning pancreas. Being around people with diabetes has taught me that diabetes shouldn’t hold you back from living your life. Even now, I am continuously inspired by the achievements of members from the diabetes community, some of which I wouldn’t even dream of attempting!
So here’s to chasing a fulfilling life and wellbeing rather than perfection. Because diabetes can’t and won’t stop us.