The Glass is Half-Full with Lemonade.
First, a big thanks to everyone for your thoughtful, supportive comments yesterday. Whenever I write one of those big, emotional pieces there’s a little part of me that’s always petrified that everyone is going to think I’m an absolute idiot, but thankfully that was not the case! I’m glad that what I wrote helped so many of you and I feel much better having written it. When I first wrote it, I thought I was coming off as being harsh and a little unreasonable. My initial focus was on what Penny said in the comments. That there are plenty of noncompliant diabetics out in the world and that she often has to keep her mouth shut in order to not argue with the many people who say there is no distinction between a compliant and noncompliant diabetic. But, as I wrote in my post, there are people who actually don’t take their insulin or test their blood sugar. My grandfather was one of them. He either had LADA or type 2 (no one knows for sure – he was an adult, but my grandmother said he went on insulin very quickly) but never took care of himself. My grandmother would give him his injections and then he would go off and eat candy bars and cookies. He eventually died from complications.
In my initial drafts, I focused quite a bit on what a noncompliant diabetic is. But I decided I wanted to take the opposite approach – I wanted to focus on what a noncompliant diabetic isn’t. I’m glad to hear it helped give some of you confidence, and I appreciate everyone who read it.
I thought today would be a great day for an encore. You may have seen the Five Pieces of Advice You Won’t Find In A Book meme floating around on a few of the blogs. Well, I think yesterday’s post was a pretty good piece of advice, so that will be my #1.
Here are 4 more things:
This has been the biggest piece of advice I have been giving to parents and the newly diagnosed since I can remember. Often I’ll meet parents who are seriously freaking out and I always wondered, How is this helping anyone? It isn’t helping you, and it certainly isn’t helping your child when your every move is filled with hesitation, sadness and anxiety. This does not help you think clearly – and thinking clearly is a very, very important skill for someone with diabetes. So breathe, step away from the edge, take things as they come, don’t worry about the future, don’t worry about things that are done and can’t be helped. Just do the best that you can and odds are, everything will be fine.
This is the biggest mistake of veterans with diabetes. They go on auto-pilot. They do the same thing, over and over, day in and day out, without actually realizing that, ohmygod, their insulin amounts have changed! Imagine that… Seriously though, I know it’s not realistic to be spot-on with analyzing trends every single day, but it’s important to sit down with your records (digital or old-fashioned) and just read them. See if you can see anything, and if you can’t, double-check with your doctor or diabetes educator or your spouse/parent/child. They might see something you don’t. The more you avoid auto-pilot, the better your control will be.
Take a Diabetes Vacation
Okay, okay, before you start yelling at me about taking a vacation from a chronic disease which has no cure (uh, yeah, I got the memo), let me tell you that this idea actually originated from Dr. Bill Polonsky, diabetes psychologist extraordinare. The idea behind this isn’t to completely stop your diabetes management for a week, or a few days or even one whole day. The idea is to cut back just enough on your management that you can relax (advice #1) but not die – which is a good thing. To go on a diabetes vacation can go many different ways. When I go on “vacation” I tend to cut out testing my blood sugar a bit more. I might test my blood sugar 3 or 4 times a day, but I’ll take much longer stretches without testing. Another good one is to have your partner or parent do all the carb counting or even have them program your pump entirely (make sure they know what they’re doing first!). Sometimes a diabetes vacation means eating whatever you want without worrying about high blood sugars. I know The Powers That Be would kill me for saying this but a handful of out-of-range blood sugars will neither kill you nor cause permanent damage (Shhh! Don’t tell anyone!). A diabetes vacation, however, should only last about a day before going back to your usual routine.
If you don’t know why something is happening, ask! You are perfectly well within your right as a human being with a chronic disease to ask questions about it. I mean, you always encourage your children to ask questions in class if they don’t understand something, right? Well, same idea. If you don’t understand why something is happening, how can you or anyone else expect it to change? People with diabetes need to be more vocal not just with each other, but with their medical team. And if your medical team doesn’t give you a satisfactory answer (i.e. an answer that actually makes sense and helps the situation) then you probably need a new medical team.
Also, if you are looking for some helpful suggestions on eating healthy in college, you should check out this new article I wrote for JDRF. It features two great diabetes educators and a handful of kick-ass ladies with diabetes (Sara, Allison, Ashley and Jenny).