There has been a lot of discussion lately about worry, fear and anxiety when you have diabetes. For many people living with diabetes, on the surface daily life is no different to the rest of the world, but other people can not see all of the decisions you are making, like whether to check your blood glucose now or later? Whether to double check in case the reading was wrong, whether to respond to the reading, how to respond to the reading, when to check again, whether you can exercise now or not, what you can eat and how much, whether it is safe to go to sleep, how scary the middle of the night hypo is when you wake in a sweat, wild panic gripping your body, or the deathly thirst of a rebound high. People do not see the fear about what is happening to your body and whether you are cooking your insides with glucose, resulting in terrible complications…….
Case in point – a lovely woman asked me yesterday when I had to cancel a meeting due to a hypo preventing me driving to the city the week prior, whether my blood sugar went up and down. “Oh yes” I said, “all the time!”. She asked if you could just set and forget, was there ever a time you could just get steady blood glucose? She said she had no idea that blood glucose fluctuated for a person with type 1 diabetes. It was a shock to me that her knowledge was so far removed from the reality, because this is the core of diabetes….It was a shock to me that someone could have so very little insight into my life, yet this is a reasonable thing. I have no insight into many things I do not live with.
Medical devices and needles and medications are just part of daily life. A reliance on machines and batteries is a constant background worry. Freaking out when forgetting to take your BGL monitor is a thing, and last week when we went away I had a half hour of panic in the car after realising I forgot my backup insulin pump and couldn’t remember if I had packed my insulin pen. I got my husband to scrabble around in my bag to make sure, as we raced down the highway towards our family break. I have even had phases of stressing about what would happen if there was a world war and suddenly I could not access insulin or pump supplies. The lonely task of wondering why my BGL’s are high is a constant war waging in my body at the moment. Hours of steady levels followed by unknown spikes are leading to daily or even twice daily pump site changes and lots of head scratching. Worse, is the frustration as I sit alone and change my site over and over and over, seeking space on my scarred stomach to place yet another needle…and worrying that I am boring my family with my constant reports of blood glucose levels and what I am doing about it.
No matter how well you are supported, no matter how much you are loved, or how much you know, there is always worry, and sometimes, fear.
These kinds of feelings in themselves are part of all of our lives. They are realistic and often, advisable, as they keep you from making bad decisions and help you stay safe and deal with life. I am going through some tests at the moment that freak me out. I have to go lie head first in a tunnel tonight with an enormous very loud magnet moving around my head, so they can take images of my brain. This actually freaks me out a lot more than diabetes. Despite knowing the results are most likely to be normal, there is a background fear of the “what if”. And the almost worse thought that if it is all clear, then what is wrong with me and will they just blame it on diabetes as per usual, leaving you with nowhere to go….besides the fact I get claustrophobic and hate loud noises!
However I have been facing these fears head on with relaxation, positive visualisation and mindfulness. I have been actively seeking to reduce the fears, so that I can get on with what needs to be done. I think living with diabetes teaches you these skills and so many more. Life with diabetes may be full of things you wish you didn’t have to deal with but on some levels, it enriches your experiences and your life. I think my ways of managing the worry and fear about my tunnel experience tonight have reminded me how much ability I have to deal with fear, with thanks to 38 years of living with this bloody complicated, relentless part of me called diabetes and all of the associated anxiety. Think about all of the days you make decisions, totally on your own. Think about all of the times you deal with a crisis with your diabetes. Think about how you take it all on your shoulders and how most of the time nobody else sees this. Life with diabetes is just, life. It is no different to anyone else’s on many levels, and yet it is so very different. Your energy can be sucked out of you on a difficult day. You can experience overwhelming fear, crippling exhaustion. But you also become very skilled at getting on with life despite this. You rise to the challenge most of the time, and make the best decision you can at the time. You find ways to lessen the fear. You face things head on, and you don’t just live with diabetes, you thrive.