Diabetes burnout feels like being mugged. It comes up behind you, seemingly out of nowhere, and robs you of any positive (or neutral) feelings towards diabetes that you may have had. In its aftermath, you are left feeling vulnerable and discouraged… temporarily stunned and immobile… And, although there’s nothing wrong with these feelings (in fact, something’s probably wrong with you if you don’t feel them), there come’s a time when you must get up and take action, despite how you’re feeling. You must report the crime to the police, and put your trust in them. You must accept that you’ve done all that you can, for now.
I was recently mugged. It seemingly came out of nowhere. My most recent A1C was the best it had been in 9 years, I was testing as often as I needed to, and I was exercising almost every day. Things were looking up! I was proud. The days (years) of not paying close attention to my type 1 diabetes were behind me…so I thought.
Something happened. My attention became lax, and, gradually, all my progress became unraveled. What once came naturally had turned into a disgusting chore. All of this happened right under my nose.
That’s the thing about diabetes burnout: it seemingly hits you out of nowhere, and it takes time to register what has just happened to you. Although it might be obvious to an outsider that all is not going well for us in dealing with diabetes, it isn’t immediately clear to us. Awareness comes in time. We’re not often immediately cognizant of diabetes burnout. It appears gradually; once it appears, our awareness of it is also gradual.
During my most recent encounter with diabetes burnout, it took me a good month to become aware that I had fallen. Until then, life seemingly went on as it had before.
Self-awareness slowly established itself. Initially, I was only aware that I wasn’t feeling as well as I had when I was testing more, exercising, etc. Then I put two and two together. Being aware of this, however, wasn’t enough lift me out of diabetes burnout.
Then things took a turn for the worse. I ended up – somehow – in the unenviable position of having to live my life while almost constantly being over 200. Numbers in the upper 300s, and even the 400s, had become a regular occurrence. Although, by then, I was painfully aware of my burnout, that awareness wasn’t enough to lift my out of the whole I’d fallen into and spur me to action. If anything, in the short term, my awareness only succeeded at torturing me.
At this point I knew that I had fallen into a deep hole. I was painfully aware that my ever-present hyperglycemia was slowly killing me. None of this helped. It only fueled the flames of negativity that hyperglycemia had started. It only succeeded at increasing my feelings of dread. I dreaded all of the habits I’d have to reestablish. I dreaded the thought of having to experience more hypoglycemia. My self-awareness still left me stuck in inaction. However, there are no eternal nights; this mental state did not remain for long.
What helped me begin the process of lifting myself up out of the hole I had fallen into? Honest self-expression. I didn’t let my pride get in the way of me expressing how I felt on tumblr. I didn’t let fear over what other people might think dictate what I published. I allowed my mask of strength to fall off, and showed my vulnerability by expressing my feelings of disgust, disappointment, and despair. Unlike in the past, I did’t let these feelings fester in me. By being willing to “stare into the abyss,” and express what stared back at me, I opened up the opportunity to take the necessary actions to restore myself to full health.
Where I stand now, I’m taking things one step at a time. Through my experiences of dealing with diabetes burnout, I’ve been taught the dangers of being over zealous. By rushing to improve things too quickly, we often set ourselves up for failure. Life with diabetes is all about balance. I have yet to find the proper balance, but I have faith that I eventually will, so long as I persevere.
I am doing what I can do, rather than focusing on what is out of my control. I can’t always control what my numbers will be, but I do have the power to get into the habit of doing the things that are necessary to get back on track. In short, my focus will be on the concrete actions that are needed to be healthier, rather than the abstract goal of “better health.” If I stick to this approach, I shall return to my former glory in no time 😉