I wrote a book. (Which, aside from the book writing itself, is the most exciting sentence to write.) It’s called Balancing Diabetes (Spry Publishing, March 2014) and when the publisher suggested this title to me, I laughed out loud as I thought, “But I don’t know how to do that. I’ve had type 1 diabetes for 27 years and for those 27 years, each day has been a new dance of variables and efforts. What’s this whole ‘balance’ thing you speak of?”
Then I realized that it’s not about actually finding balance, but remaining in pursuit of it. My pancreas is just a small part of the rest of me, and I try to keep diabetes that way, too. There are a few tips I try to keep in mind as I pursue balance, even though I stumble at times. Whether you’re living with type 1 or type 2, or you’re a spouse or caregiver, male or female, I hope these strategies help you in your pursuit of balance.
‘Reword’ your diabetes
Sometimes the language of diabetes can really get me down. Marking my blood sugar as “good” or “bad” assigns a lot of blame and emotion to what I should be viewing as simply informative data points. Viewing a number instead as “in-range” or “out-of-range” helps me remove the emotion and make better decisions. Same goes for blood sugar “checks” versus “tests,” and favoring “management” over “control.” Using words that aren’t laced with emotion allow me to forgive myself while simultaneously working hard, and sometimes harder.
Check your blood sugar
As much as I embrace the warm and fuzzy methods of diabetes management, there is one basic thing I need to do several times a day in order to stay on top of things, and there’s no faking it: I need to check my blood sugar. I can’t properly dose insulin or bolus for food or plan to exercise or even go to bed safely without knowing what my number is. I can slack on all kinds of other things, but checking my blood sugar cannot be something I slack on. Without that data, everything else diabetes-related feels built on sand.
Even when it comes to my own diabetes, I still don’t know everything I need to know, and my learning curve adjusts daily. I used to be afraid to admit to my family and to my doctor that I didn’t know how to do something or didn’t understand something, but after a while, I realized my silence wasn’t hurting anyone but me. I needed to understand carb counting and medication options and how exactly to use the extended bolus feature in my insulin pump, and I couldn’t be afraid to ask. I needed to ask questions, get answers and apply that knowledge.
Growing up, I didn’t realize how important peer-to-peer connections were until I was out on my own, and wanted to connect with people who “got it.” Now, having access to people who understand life with diabetes on every level, my emotional health and physical health are better for those connections. Being honest about life with illness and disease can be the best, albeit non-prescribed, ‘medication’ yet. While it may also frighten and unnerve, honesty and community can validate, empower, and inspire.
As I wrote in my book, “Life with diabetes isn’t about the diabetes itself, but about the life it’s a part of. There is a life to be found after diagnosis. Being able to take [your] blood sugar and remove the blame and guilt from that result, focusing only on the actions needed to correct that number or duplicate it? That’s balance. Viewing diabetes as something that doesn’t define you, but instead simply serves to explain why glucose tabs live in your glove compartment and there is a pile of used test strips on the floor by your bedside table? That’s balance. Being active and involved in a life that isn’t ruled by insulin but is instead fueled by it? And realizing that diabetes isn’t something we can perfectly control, but we can do our best to manage it? That, to me, is balance.”
I can’t claim to have found it, but I remain happily in pursuit of that balance, and all along the way, I plan to enjoy the ride.
Kerri Morrone Sparling has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1986, and is the creator of one of the first diabetes patient blogs SixUntilMe. She is a freelance writer, global public speaker, and lends her voice to many diabetes-related publications, conferences, and causes. She is constantly inspired by the diabetes community. Kerri lives in Rhode Island with her husband and their daughter. Sparling is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience