The thinking person’s disease

I seem to keep reading that diabetes is the “Thinking Person’s” disease. Well, yes, I do think a lot, but I couldn’t say that’s why it picked me. Rather, if you are a mental, analytical type, I can imagine diabetes is easier to manage. It’s not hard to understand why. 

Living with diabetes you’re constantly collecting and examining data,  experimenting, judging the results of your experiments, making calculations and making decisions. Hmmm…woke up at 8 A.M. with a blood sugar of 127. Most people would think that’s just fine, but I’ve learned through experience that means my blood sugar is already on the rise, and if I don’t stunt it now it’ll be 145 within an hour. Darn, I should have taken that extra half unit of Humalog before going to sleep, I knew it. But that thought last night was led astray remembering that when I did that three days ago, my morning blood sugar was 55! But now that I am 127, hmmm…let me see …I think I’ll take just a smidge more insulin than usual. But, gee it really looks nice out, I think I’ll take my walk around the park this morning. Hmmm…O.K., now, I have to increase my dose for the 127 and decrease my dose for the walk. “Hey, anyone got a calculator? I’m still a little sleepy, here.” 

You get it. There’s the judging carb grams for every meal, the juggernaut being a restaurant meal, or a friend’s cocktail party where you start eating foods you haven’t eaten since college. There’s the remembering to take your medicine and meter when you leave the house and ordering refills before they run out or you’ll have to call the doctor, who has so many people calling him because every TV ad tells millions of people, “talk to your doctor!” My doctor’s probably so busy talking to everyone, it will surely take him forever to do something as low on the totem pole as write me a prescription. And on, and on, today, tomorrow and forever. 

I often think some of my friends, whom I adore, but would lovingly label as ‘air heads’ could never do this, never in a million years. Hmmm…this could be like the chicken and the egg question? Which came first? Are we thinkers first or do we become better thinkers living with diabetes because we are forced to? Oy, that’s far too much thinking for me.

Except here’s one more thought. Maybe we could use some of these brain cells for thinking about things, other than the every day mechanics of diabetes, that would also help us manage diabetes. Looking so intensely at the minutia of this everyday balancing act, we tend to lose sight of the big picture. In other words — the “why” we’re doing all this work. Isn’t it so that we can live a long and relatively healthy life? Isn’t it to enjoy our friends and our family? To discover our second career, watch the grandkids grow up, create the best vegetable garden on the block? It’s so easy to lose sight of why we’re working so hard to achieve good blood sugar numbers every day. But I think we need to remember it’s to enjoy our lives; to find our mission, contribute our gifts, feel connected, loved, and present in the world. I think we need to find a way to keep that thought ever-present. 

In fact, going further, I think every health care provider, whether it’s your endocrinologist, physician, diabetes educator, podiatrist, opthomologist, social worker, dentist, reiki healer, I think all of them should ask us at every appointment: “What do you love to do?,” “Who in your life gives you pleasure?,” “What’s your dream?” “O.K., great, now let’s create a treatment plan that includes the answers to these questions and act on them. I’m prescribing you do 5 things you love this week, along with get more lancets and test strips.” 

True health is not just about controlling your blood sugar. While that’s important, so is creating a full and happy life and finding your way to integrate diabetes into it. Yes, there is life outside of diabetes. Why else are we bothering? Somewhere in the middle of all the work is a road we need to carve; a life path, that offers a life you’re fully engaged with and that you’re happy to wake up to, along with the responsibility of learning about and managing diabetes.  

That, I think, is where to aim when looking at your diabetes management, and that is truly worthy of all this non-stop thinking.

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