Voices of Diabetes: Here's one take on why diabetes management can sometimes feel harder than it looks.
One way to visualize diabetes care is as a three-legged stool. For stable health, we need to pay attention to our daily health habits, our mood, and our medications.
Seems simple enough. Eat three healthy meals. Get some exercise. Sleep at least eight hours each night. Look at the world with optimism. Stay in touch with your friends and family. Stop before you feel overwhelmed. After all, aren’t these the things healthy people do every day?
And yet, after a decade of living with diabetes, I can tell you it’s not simple. Even the best-laid plans can go astray. Healthy habits and routines can come undone unexpectedly. Sometimes, our bodies just don’t respond to our best efforts in a predictable way. Despite all this, we’re told that we are responsible for our health outcomes — good and bad.
Held Responsible, But Not In Control
We live in a society where what we are told about health practices can be as much a marketing message as it is based on medical science.
We are fed a constant stream of images showing young, slim, physically active people living their best life. If they can do it, certainly we can too. All it takes is commitment and consistency. Count up the days in a row that you have gone to the gym, or stuck to your diet, or dosed your insulin correctly. The bigger that number, the better off you will be. Break the chain and we have to go back to zero. Perfection is what’s expected, even though our bodies don’t function perfectly.
We read top tips to follow that are supposed to make it easier to reach this ideal. Eat this. Don’t eat that. Exercise in the morning. No, it’s better in the afternoon. Oh wait, evening is best. Take your pill with food to avoid intestinal distress. No, take it with just water. What works for most people, doesn’t always work for everyone.
We are surrounded by people who have thoughts and opinions about what they see us doing. Often they aren’t shy about telling us just what those thoughts and opinions are. If only you did this. Have you tried that? This is what I would do. But, I’m not you.
We also have that little voice in our head. The voice that can keep us aware of how we’re feeling, physically and emotionally. A voice that can, when at its best, keep us motivated and on track with our diabetes care. But also a voice, when at its worst, can turn into a bully aggressively judging what we did and did not do.