On Losing My Security Blanket

Tonight, I’m sitting on the couch in my apartment, writing this blog post and listening to “Hello” by Adele (which is hauntingly beautiful, and somewhat appropriate for what I’m writing).

A year ago today, I was also sitting on a couch, back at home. I was clutching a pillow and watching “The Golden Girls.” And I would stay there until 3 am, finally choosing to eliminate all distractions, and try for some much-needed sleep.

I had just ended a relationship; gotten rid of my security blanket. I lost something that had been a constant in my life for two and a half years, something that carried me through the difficult transition to college. I lost many of the plans I had made for the future. I lost my sense of direction.

But on that night when I lost so much, I took something back, too- my sense of self.

The anxiety-and stress-riddled girl who barely left her room and HAD to be perfect at everything? That wasn’t me. “Me” is someone who gives everything her all and tries her best- and THAT is perfect for her. And above all, she takes care of herself. Perfectionism is way less important than happiness. The quiet girl who shied away from getting to know new people, and barely talked? That wasn’t me either. Nowadays, if I’ve got something to say, you bet I’ll say it! I also happen to think I can be pretty witty and funny at times. That was a side of me I didn’t even know existed a year ago.

Last year, I had plans for my future. Today, I still have plans- they’re just different. And a lot less rigid. (Seriously, what 20- year old knows exactly what they’re going to do with their life? No one.) I’ve learned how to live- to be open to new experiences, discover passions, give myself credit for my abilities, and make my life anything I want it to be.

A year ago, I lost my security blanket. I took back myself, and my future.

In the words of Adele ~

“Hello from the other side.”

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Burnout & Blindness: The Emotional Impact of Diabetes

I wish I could say that I had stellar control of my blood sugars. I wish I could say that when I get my A1C checked in a couple of weeks, that number will be better than last time. I wish I could say that everything is just peachy with my diabetes.

Because at this moment, it’s a little bit out of control.

My CGM looks like some sort of insanely treacherous mountain range. The other day, I accidentally fell back asleep after clearing my low alert at 2 am (happens to the best of us…right?) and spent three hours at 70 mg/dL. Thankfully, my CGM went off again when I hit 55 mg/dL; the rare (for me) quadruple vibration sent me into panic mode, and I quickly downed a juice box. Later that day, I soared up to 360 after inserting a faulty infusion set that felt more like a sword stabbing me in the stomach than a 13 mm piece of plastic. I put in a new site, corrected, and my blood sugar performed a blindingly fast descent to 75 mg/dL in about 90 minutes. I spent the rest of the night eating and drinking about 50 carbs worth of juice, gingersnaps, and granola bars, hoping for up arrows instead of down on my CGM.

I have seen it all with my blood sugars over the past few weeks. From spiking to 300 at 1 am (necessitating my basal rate to double- for about a week), to strange mid-afternoon lows despite my basal being 0.3 (seriously- it can’t get any lower), I have come to dread looking at my CGM. Scrolling to the 24-hour display is like a form of torture. I’ve been used to super tight control for most of my life- and this is anything but tight.

I’ve lost hours of sleep making sure lows come up and highs come down. I’ve spent nights out with friends glued to my CGM, waiting for my blood sugar to drop so that I could eat. Some nights, I’ve elected to just stay in all together- the pressure of trying to manage my blood sugar and have fun at the same time was just too much. I left class one day crying because my blood sugar was 300 and I had no idea how it happened (I still haven’t solved that mystery).

Diabetes is one of those things where you can do everything right, and end up with less-than-stellar results. There often isn’t a big return on the investment of your time; I have given diabetes management 150%, and my A1C has not budged in 3 years. It takes an emotional toll; I’m exhausted, discouraged, and if giving up didn’t have serious health consequences, I’d be waving a white flag. We don’t talk about the emotional impact of diabetes very often- but we should.

Ask any diabetic about the complications we may face one day, and they’ll quickly rattle off a list of scary physical ailments. But fewer people will mention depression, “diabetes distress,” burnout, anxiety, and diabulimia. These mental and emotional side effects of managing this chronic disease 24/7/365 are no less serious than physical effects, like blindness and neuropathy, but the attitude in our culture surrounding mental health allows amputations and nerve damage to dominate most of the conversation regarding diabetes complications.

If anything, we should be talking about the emotional impact of diabetes even more than the physical impact, especially for children and young adults. These concerns are much more relevant to this age group; at 19 years old, I was much more concerned about burnout than blindness. Being able to voice concerns, express our anger, frustration and joy, and get help when we need it; these things will help us feel more balanced in a life that can seem so out of control, so that we can take care of ourselves- and worry less about what diabetes will do to our bodies and minds.

So if your blood sugars are having a great day- cheer! Celebrate! If you’re having a not-so-great-day, rant about it. Talk to your friends or family. Just know that you never need to hold your emotions in. You have every right to express how you feel about this unpredictable disease you never asked for.

I’m just gonna cross my fingers and hope that my A1C isn’t TOO bad next week. And even if it is- I did my best.