Dear Healthcare Professionals, My Diabetes Inklings

Reducing the Mental Burden with Apps

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, the importance of tracking my blood sugars was drilled into me. I started out tracking my sugars in a paper diary, which I soon digitised by creating a Google Sheet I could update in real time via my phone.

A few examples of my online logs – things have definitely changed over time; from the early days of multiple daily injections and being obsessed over tracking my weight to carb counting and fine tuning my food intake, exercise and blood sugars

After this, I discovered the world of diabetes apps to help with tracking blood sugars easily. I went through several different apps before I found that I absolutely love and still use today. With my app, I can see my data that has been represented visually in a way that summarises all the key relevant information in relation to my diabetes management. I can choose to look for patterns if there are things that need addressing urgently or store it away to review with my diabetes team.

Funnily enough, the same approach has been hugely helpful when it comes to looking after a baby. When her last feed was, which boob she fed from, when her last nappy change or nap was…there are so many things to keep track of and it’s nice to identify any patterns as fleeting as they may be. Having all of this info easily available on an app has been amazing to help reduce that mental load, especially amidst the sleep deprivation fog.

However, sometimes when I pull up my baby tracking app during our maternal child health nurse appointments, I felt judged for having to look up details on the app because I can’t tell you off the top of my head how many naps or feeds she has a day. It’s made me come away from appointments feeling like a failure of a mother for having to rely on an app to help me look after my baby. But then I think back to how and why I use these apps in the first place.

Apps don’t need to be fancy either. Something with a nice user interface, easy to navigate and most importantly does the job you want it to is all you need.

The biggest benefit of tracking data for me is the reduced mental burden of having to carry all that information in my head all the time. I just log things as they occur like a hypo or pump site change or a diaper change or feeding session. This leaves my brain to focus on the million other things I’m working on. I can then easily troubleshoot when bub is crying whether it’s time for a feed or diaper change or nap because I am rubbish at differentiating between her cries.

Of course there is a fine line when it comes to tracking data. There have been moments (especially looking back at things now with diabetes) where I developed an unhealthy obsession with the numbers and lost sight of the big picture. It’s taken me a while and regular reminders now that the information I’m tracking are data points to inform my next steps. The reduced mental load helps me to live my life and enjoy the moments and the information collected is not a reflection of myself or a sign of success or failure.

Most importantly, tracking this data is my decision and choice and I certainly won’t care for judgement from a healthcare professional. Everyone will have different ways to managing their data. I hope that healthcare professionals can acknowledge this and be open to learning from their patients around what works for them. You’ll never know when it may help others along the way.

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