Looking back on the nine years since my diagnosis, life with type 2 diabetes (T2D) hasn’t exactly been a smooth road.
When I was diagnosed, my A1c was through the roof — above 13 percent! Over the 18 months that followed, I managed to reduce my A1c by nearly half with medication, diet, and exercise. At that point, I was confident life with type 2 diabetes would be manageable.
But, as they say, life happened. Job changes. Illness. Kids growing up and going off to college. Getting older. All of these life events affected how I managed life with T2D.
There’s only so many hours in the day and only so much fuel in my tank. Sometimes I managed better than others. Sometimes, for reasons not clear to me, I didn’t end up with the results I wanted or expected even though I took my medication as prescribed and practiced healthy habits.
After a while, it was easy to feel discouraged and frustrated, even burned out.
You can’t control everything
The first thing I had to realize for my own sanity is that life with T2D is incredibly complex, and not everything is within my control. There’s no predicting with certainty what my blood glucose (BG), energy level, or mood is going to be on any given day. Even when I follow the same routine of self-care, medication, and work schedule, my results could be different from one day to the next.
BG levels are the daily measure of how well diabetes is being managed. But so many factors affect BG levels that they are anything but predictable — the site diaTribe published a list of 42 factors that affect BG. Everything from the amount of carbohydrates you eat to not getting enough sleep or having an allergy attack to even being sunburned can drive your BG up or down.
With all this uncertainty, there have been plenty of times when I got discouraged and frustrated or felt burned out.
You can control your thinking and response
A turning point in my frustration level came once I realized that there is one thing I can control in life. That is how I think about and respond to the ups and downs.
For me, managing my mental game is as important as taking medication and practicing healthy habits. Paying attention to my thinking puts me in the driver’s seat. Once I make a choice or decision, I’m more confident in my outcome.
When I find myself feeling discouraged, frustrated, or even burned out, there are four main things I do to get back on track. You can give them a try and see how they help you.
Four things to try when you’re tired of type 2 diabetes
Be kind to yourself
No blame. No shame. Being self-critical won’t help anything — all it will do is drive you further into despair.
Aim for improvement, not perfection. Perfection didn’t exist before diabetes came into your life, and it certainly doesn’t exist with diabetes.
You want to do better, and sometimes you have to start the road back to better management of life with T2D with baby steps.
Be truthful with yourself
Only by acknowledging what’s really going on can you make an effective change.
In order to make the decisions about what to change, you have first to address what’s really happening or not happening in your life.
Every journey starts somewhere. Sometimes the starting point isn’t where we really want to be, but it’s where we’re at. That’s OK.
Change things up
Try something new. If your healthcare routine isn’t working for you, make a change. If you don’t feel well physically or mentally, make a change.
Sometimes all you need is a little something new to brighten your day. Cook a new recipe. Go for a walk outside. Buy a snazzy new bag to carry your diabetes supplies in.
Sometimes a bigger change is needed. Set up an appointment with a specialist, like an endocrinologist or dietitian. Look into a different medication. Ban potato chips from the house.
Choose what to change based on what’s meaningful to you.
Ask for help
Life with diabetes can be overwhelming. Support from others can lighten the load.
Understanding life with diabetes is a complex and ongoing process. Consulting with someone who knows more about it can help you learn new approaches and problem-solve when challenges arise.
That support can come from anyone you feel comfortable talking with — a friend, family member, your doctor, or another medical professional. You can also reach out to other people who are living with diabetes. Your doctor might be able to refer you to a peer support group in your community.
There’s a vibrant community of diabetes peers online, known as the #DOC, or diabetes online community. Online you can find discussion forums, Twitter chats, and Facebook groups. One of the advantages of tapping into the #DOC is that it’s available 24/7 no matter where you are.
Above all, remember that life with T2D is a long haul. Inevitably there will be rough patches — but it won’t all be bad. You have the power to make choices and change things up.
Corinna Cornejo is a Latina living with type 2 diabetes. Diagnosed in 2009, she’s become an active patient advocate and blogs about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness with type 2 diabetes at type2musings.com. You can find her on Twitter.