“When I hear the word ‘can’t’ [I] take it like a challenge” – Kevin Gates, 2016.
You may know of Kevin Gates. You may not. That’s not important.
Diabetes is a condition where you hear the word “can’t” quite often. People LOVE to tell you no, you can’t do (fill in the blank). I heard it all the time growing up and still hear it to this day.
What matters more is how you RESPOND to that doubt, that questioning, and how you turn it into motivation.
Diabetes does knock you on your butt sometimes. It’s not the easiest thing to manage. You’re dealing with something 24/7/365, with no days off.
You’re manipulating a hormone that can kill you if you aren’t careful with it, whether you take too much or too little. Your blood sugar has an “ideal range” to stay within, and 20+ factors can influence blood sugar, so even if you do EVERYTHING right, that may not be enough.
So when it does come around and knock you down, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go back at it again.
3 ways diabetes has challenged me over the years:
- Low blood sugars at the most inopportune times
Whether you’ve been T1D for a month, a year, or 25 years, I can guarantee that you’ve had a situation where you went low at the ONE TIME you didn’t want to drop.
I’ve had the pleasure of being low during workouts and athletic competitions, where I had to sit patiently, drink my carbs, and wait for my blood sugar to come up. More often than not, it takes longer than the 15 minutes I hoped it would take, and suddenly, I’ve missed half my game or need to warmup again for my workout.
I went low during AP testing in high school. My brain went completely cloudy, my focus disappeared, and I spent the next 45 minutes waiting to feel good enough to continue. Thankfully, I had accommodations so it didn’t hurt my score, but still…
I’ve been low on dates. That’s a fun conversation to have…
Her: “OMG I’m so glad to finally get to hang out for real!”
(Mind thinking: I’m low – must eat.)
(Awkward 30 second pause)
Her: “Are you good?”
You can imagine the rest from there.
- Always thinking about food and the aftermath
Maybe this isn’t such a bad thing, given I’m dedicated my career to food and becoming a registered dietitian, and this undoubtedly influenced my decision to go this route. But since I was 7, my thoughts look like this:
Scene: At restaurant with my friends
Friend 1: “Wow, this (fill in the blank) looks awesome!”
My brain: “Well, this probably has 60g carbs in it, plus there’s fat, which is going to require an extended bolus. Now what percent of my bolus do I take up front and how much over what, 3 hours? Do I need to consider protein? What if I eat dessert after the fact? Oh snap, I just ate a whole loaf of the bread that they give you when you sit down…probably should bolus for that. I missed the pre-bolus window, $#%#”
You get the idea. Diabetes has always challenged me to think about what I’m putting into my body and how it will affect me, quite simply because I want to feel good two, three, four hours from now.
Nearly everything we eat affects our blood sugar, so we need to account for that.
People think I’m OCD for entering most of my food on MyFitnessPal, but if I can stay on top of what I eat to maintain better blood sugars, why not?
It does get really tiring after awhile when I just want to indulge without thinking about it.
- (Bonus) When I eat something and have no idea what is going to happen
Y’all know this one only too well.
You’re in the aforementioned situation and don’t have the slightest clue what amount of insulin to take, so you…
It’s like Russian Roulette. Sometimes, you’re handsomely rewarded with an in-range blood sugar hours later.
Other times, you’re forcing yourself to shove glucose tabs down your throat when the thought of food repulses you. Or you’re taking insulin on insulin trying to lower your 350 that seemingly wont budge.
It’s not fun, but you have to live a little too, and this is the risk we sometimes take.
- Stress + Blood Sugar =….?
This one is brutal, especially in my graduate school experience.
In today’s world, it seems like everyone is ridiculously busy and overcommitted, without giving himself or herself a chance to catch their breath.
Stress mounts. And you know what?
Stress and blood sugars are like oil and water. They don’t mix.
Tons of stress will elevate your blood sugar, and…drumroll…
…not allow it to drop quickly, even with insulin.
I’ve had days where my blood sugar has just SAT at 225, no matter how much insulin I took, how much I exercises, how much water I drank, etc.
The moment the stress went away, BAM. I was 130 without doing ANYTHING.
It’s insane how the mind-body connection really has such a drastic impact on health.
These are just a few ways in which diabetes has challenged me over the past 18 years – how has it challenged you? Leave a story in the comments below!
I am not a diabetic but my son is. Thank you for writing about diabetes from your perspective. It helps me understand my little guy better.