Wednesday’s topic was What Brings me down and how to cope. While I’m late to the party, I didn’t want to skip it entirely. May is mental health month and judging by all the posts for this topic, it’s not lost on anyone that our emotional health is just as important – if not more – to our care than the medicines we take.
Someone asked me the other day what’s the one thing (besides a functioning pancreas) that I miss about being a non-diabetic. I said “I miss the days when my mind was ALL mine.” I explained that A.D. (After Diabetes), at least half of my mind was busy keeping track of diabetes tasks, whether consciously or unconsciously. I had to pay attention to how many times I took all 3 flights of stairs at the office, as if I did it frequently, I would be low that afternoon. If I had meetings in different buildings and walked all morning, I had to keep that in mind and account for that exercise with glucose or a temp basal rate. While everyone else just worried about normal job tasks, I was trying to be a good pancreas and have enough food on me as well. While this is certainly the norm for people with diabetes, it took a long time for that chaos to feel normal to me. Maybe I would go low, maybe I wouldn’t – no one can predict!
That “no-one-can-predict” part is the part that gets me. That I can work hard, eat the best I know how, get all the math right (a job in itself) and that day – or week – my blood sugars will still be frustratingly out of control. I can’t blame people who say “why bother?”, as I have said it to myself many times. You can’t predict what your body is going to do. This diabetes “control” (haha) thing is an illusion, just like with the rest of my life. The fears I felt and the anxiety I pushed around were hard, but the thoughts and the guilt that I had were even harder.
Diabetes -That grinding, daily reminder that nothing is certain. That inability to pull back into a cozy delusion that I’m going to be ok. The reminder I don’t know what future my actions today will hold.
My blood sugars respond to my fears and worries just like usual: all over the place and get frustrated because of it. I want what I do to matter. I’m working on my diet to lessen my glucose spikes and I want to universe to show a little concern about all my thought and all the work I’ve put into this. I want a couple weeks of no outside stress so that I can work with my inner stress.
But that’s not the way life is. I didn’t ask to have to wear this Life and Death In A Box on my hip, and I can’t control my diabetes or the events in my life. I can’t pretend I’m completely healthy, and I can’t claim I’m entirely sick, either. The gritty lack of certainty can make my mind race, worrying about everything from the next minute to the next 20 years.
The only thing I have control of is my reaction to my thoughts. Can I stay flexible and responsive, or do I find myself shut down and begging for things to be different than they actually are?
Sitting at the eye doctor’s yesterday, waiting to be examined, was a perfect example of willingness and flexibility for me. My eye burned and my head throbbed: I wanted to tear my eye out of my head and insert ice cubes in its place. I couldn’t see and all I noticed my neck was tight and my jaw was clenched. Even in the pain, I watched my mind come up with stories. A story about that “the Complications Have Begun”; that this would be another time in my life that marked a passage, and my stomach churned while I thought about how precious my sight is to my job and my life. I thought I couldn’t take the pain and was wondering what that stress was doing to my blood sugars. By the time the doctor walked in, I had watched my mind come up with all kinds of stories, any of which could be possible, but none had actually happened yet.
Of course, in reality, it wasn’t that exciting. I had an eye infection. Not diabetes related. Not caused by anything I did. My gland had decided to go haywire and it caused a reaction and symptoms. “It just happens,” my doctor said. It just happens. Like my pancreas eating itself.
Oh, how relieved I was to hear “it just happens”, and how much I dread those words at the same time. But it’s useless for me to fight life and try and come up with a conclusion, an evaluation, to what any of this means. Decreeing that I will always love my thoughts or that I always hate them leads me to fight with reality. It’s more realistic to say there’s always a middle way through my mind that I strive for.
My emotions swirl, and sometimes my thoughts become hardened with evaluations. I have learned that this is no way to live. I have learned that we can control our emotions about as well all our blood sugars, but what we can do is become clear on our thoughts and judgments about them. I have learned that my part in this is whether I decide that the glass is half full or half empty. Because in the end, it’s still the same glass and it will shatter permanently one day. I can’t live my life thinking that control is the secret force that will prevent my glass from breaking.
I have also learned that choosing my outlook is a darned hard thing to do, but I have the tools that I can chose to use .