Diabetes: The Thinking Person's Disease

This article has been reproduced in an edited version by kind permission of its author, Riva Greenberg, on whose website, www.diabetesstories.com, it first appeared.

| Sep 10, 2007

Diabetes is sometimes called "the thinking person's disease," and it's not hard to understand why. One consequence of living with diabetes is a constant undertow of diabetes-related thought.

We're forever collecting data, experimenting, judging the results of our experiments, calculating, and making decisions.

Take, for example, this morning, when I woke up with a blood sugar of 127. Immediately, the mental machinations began: "Hmmm, a reading of 127 means that my blood sugar is on the rise. If I don't stop it now, it'll be 145 within the hour. Darn, I knew I should have taken that extra half unit of Humalog before going to sleep. But when I did that three days ago, my morning blood sugar was 55!

Let me see…I think I'll take just a smidge more insulin than usual. But, gee, it looks really nice outside - maybe I'll take a walk around the park this morning. Okay, now I have to increase my dose for the rising blood sugar and decrease my dose for the walk. Hey, anyone got a calculator? I'm still a little sleepy here."

Are we thinkers first, or do we become better thinkers because living with diabetes has forced it on us? I don't know that answer, but we all know that the thinking never ends. There's the counting carbs for every single meal (a mental burden that's especially unwelcome during supposedly relaxing social events).

There's the remembering to take our medicine and meter when we leave the house. There's the ordering of refills before they run out so that we don't have to call the doctor, and then the remembering to call the doctor after we forget to order the refills. And on, and on, today, tomorrow, and forever.

Here's one more thought. Maybe we could use our buffed-up brain cells to think about bigger things than the everyday mechanics of managing diabetes. In focusing so intensely on the minutia, we lose sight of the big picture and forget why we're doing all this work.

Isn't it so that we can live a long and healthy life? To enjoy our friends and our family? To discover a second career, watch the grandkids grow up, perhaps 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. We need to remember that it's to enjoy this life, to find our mission, to contribute our gifts, and to feel connected, loved, and present in the world. We need to find a way to keep that thought ever present.

To that end, I think that every diabetes healthcare provider - whether it's our endocrinologist, physician, diabetes educator, podiatrist, ophthalmologist, social worker, dentist, or reiki healer - should ask us at every appointment: "What do you love to do?" "Who in your life gives you pleasure?" and "What's your dream?" And their response to our reply should be "Okay, now let's create a treatment plan that includes those answers. I'm prescribing you to do five things that you love this week, along with getting more lancets and test strips."

True health is not just about controlling our blood sugar. While that's important, so is creating a full and happy life and finding a way to integrate diabetes into it. Yes, there is life outside of diabetes.

Why else are we bothering? Somewhere in the midst of all the work and responsibility is a road we need to carve, a life path that we're fully engaged with and that we're happy to wake up to. That, I think, is where to aim when looking at our diabetes management. Such a goal is truly worthy of all this non-stop thinking.

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Categories: Blood Sugar, Diabetes, Diabetes, Inspiration, Insulin, Type 1 Issues

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Sep 10, 2007

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