3.27.17

Truths Found Inside Diabetes Burnout

It’s a stretch to say, as a person with diabetes, that I’ve always been on top of my health. The truth is that I struggle with diabetes burnout often, and I am not afraid to admit it.

In life, no one ever wants to admit that they are struggling or hitting a rough patch in their lives.  No one wants to show weakness or sadness to their peers for the fear of being judged or looked down upon. THAT is the mindset that I have been battling since my diagnosis.

I never wanted to let people know that I was giving up on myself. I was refusing to take my insulin at some meals, missing my nightly Lantus injection, or just eating poorly and not caring.  I kept that shame inside, and I tried to ride it out.

The thing about Type 1 is that most people do not even know that you are struggling inside, which was a good thing for me at the time.  I could be over 300 and be feeling dizzy, light headed, fatigued, and have blurry vision, but no one would really know.

The ups and downs of diabetes are real, and they change by the minute.  So did my willingness to give 100 percent attention to my health.

I recently experienced this type of burnout for about 3 months, starting in October of 2016. This was when I moved across the country from San Diego to Washington, D.C. for a job. I had been having SO MUCH difficulty refilling my prescription for my Dexcom G5, due to switching insurance companies.  I had trouble getting all of my other supplies for my meter and my pens as well.  I was frustrated beyond belief.  I found myself on the phone with the hospital, the diabetes supply company, and my insurance company for weeks until some sort of action occurred.  There were so many loopholes, forms, authorizations, referrals, and “sign-offs” needed for supplies that I desperately needed.

I was fed up and frustrated.  I was constantly stressed, upset, and overwhelmed with trying to get these supplies.  The three months without my Dexcom were extremely hard, and I lost the motivation to manually check my levels as much as I should.  The Dexcom is so crucial because it is a device that is injected into your skin, and sends your blood glucose levels to your phone every 5 minutes.  It also predicts if your blood glucose level is going up or down.  That way, you can correct your levels in advance to avoid any emergencies.  If I am in the middle of a workout or out one night, I can quickly glance at my Dexcom app and see how my blood glucose is. The alternative method is pricking your finger every time you want to see what your level is.  Very tedious, annoying, and not efficient.

I used that as an excuse to be casual with my health (the worst possible excuse).  Sometimes I took my fast acting insulin for meals, sometimes I didn’t.  I guessed many times about what my blood sugar was instead of checking.  I did have a cold, so I just let my levels stay higher because I knew that it was from sickness.

I was in a vicious cycle of constant fatigue and dizziness. When I was at work, the screen sometimes was so blurry that I could barely see what I was typing. I went to bed early and slept as much as I could.   My energy levels were very low, and I was trying to push through it as much as I could.

At the end of November, I was finally able to be seen by a primary care doctor at Walter Reed Naval Hospital in Silver Spring.  Then, I saw my A1C…(The A1C test measures your average blood glucose during the previous 2-3 months, but especially during the previous month)

There it was in red…10.

For a diabetic, you want your A1C to be below 7.  A non-diabetic’s A1C is between 4 and 6. An A1C at 10 meant that my average blood sugar was 275. A non-diabetes average blood sugar is 100.

I have never had an A1C at that level since my diagnosis.  I had been recording A1C’s below 7.5 for many months, and this number hit me like a ton of bricks.

Of course, a number cannot define your success or indicate how bad of a “diabetic” that you are.  For me, I needed to see that.  I am a competitive person, and seeing that number was like seeing a FAIL on a test.  I didn’t want to keep getting the F.  I wanted the A.

When Christmas came, I FINALLY received my Dexcom.  As much as it is a pain having a device on your body, I was so happy to have it back.  I saw how my body had stayed comfortable in the 300’s, which was alarming. It has taken me days to balance out my levels and find my revised insulin dosage.

I can now say that having all of my supplies plus my lovely Dexcom has made me more determined than ever to stay on top of Type 1.  The added motivation of training for a half marathon has also lit the fire to avoid burnout.

The point here is to explain that burnout is common, and it happens.  Circumstances come up, life gets in the way, and things change.  Slipping up is normal, but staying in that mode can seriously affect your health.  It took seeing that A1C to change my mindset about the consequences of my laziness.

I feel SO much better now, and I am honestly thankful that I got that type of reality check.

Find that motivation that makes you rethink your wellness and get you back on track to your health goals.  Set those new goals for yourself, and stick to them.

My name is Alex Reidy and I am 24 years old currently living in Washington, D.C. When I was 20 years old, I was unexpectedly diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. After months of frustration and denial, I have become fully invested in taking control of my health and my T1D.

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