Finger-pricking, insulin dosing, tracking food consumption, monitoring glucose levels: type 1 diabetes is a mentally and physically taxing full-time job. As a type 1 diabetic myself, I know how quickly diabetes can become overwhelming when it’s combined with school, work, and social obligations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “10 Tips for Coping with Diabetes Distress” is an excellent resource for people with diabetes who are struggling with managing the burden of their disease.
Tip number 5, “Talk with Family or Friends,” and number 6, “ Talk to Other People with Diabetes,” highlight the importance of diabetics communicating their distress to those they trust. Not only does talking with friends help me process how I am feeling, but it also allows me to educate non-diabetics about the realities of my disease. Diabetes can be isolating, and it is easy for me to feel alone in my struggles. I am grateful to have an older sister with type 1 diabetes to talk to about diabetic burnout, unmanageable glucose levels, and other diabetic issues. I am also a member of my university’s College Diabetes’ Network, where I have met fellow type 1 diabetic students.
I am a generally busy person, and keeping track of everything I need to do diabetes-wise can be extremely difficult. Tip number 8, “Do One Thing at a Time,” emphasizes how tackling each task independently can help with feelings of stress. I have a planner where I write myself reminders such as “Change Dexcom” or, when I know I have a big meal planned, “Increase Bolus.” I try to organize my day in a way that allows me to solely focus on my disease some moments but also place it on the “back burner” for a few minutes when I need to concentrate on other tasks. However, something I still need to work on is tip number 9: “Pace Yourself.” My goal has always been to have stable blood glucose levels, but some days my levels are completely uncontrollable. I have to remind myself that I can’t become a “perfect type 1 diabetic” overnight. I need to discover how my body responds to certain foods, different forms of exercise, and many other factors. Type 1 diabetes is a learning process: I take two steps forward and one step backward. Regardless, I know I am growing and progressing, becoming stronger and more confident managing my disease each day.
Most of the time, I wish I could “clock out” of my chronic illness, leave my type 1 diabetes on my bedside table and forget about it. Each moment of living with this disease brings a new challenge. I am so grateful for organizations like Diabetes Research Connection that support the development of life-changing diabetic technology. Reminding myself that ambitious researchers are currently studying my illness is ultimately the most helpful way to manage my diabetes distress. I am optimistic about a brighter future for all people with diabetes, where our disease’s burden is minimal or non-existent.
This blog was written by Lauren Grove, DRC Intern, who has had T1D for 15 years and is responding to the article,“10 Tips for Coping with Diabetes Distress.”