There’s an unconscious woman on the side of the freeway. I’m a new nurse and my brain is giving me a back and forth between “STOP AND HELP” and “YOU CAN’T DO THIS. KEEP DRIVING.”
I slam on the breaks and pull over my car. Dressed in a full length ball gown, I run towards the woman in my favorite Kate Spade heels. My cello is sitting in the back watching me change from performer to provider in the blink of an eye.
I yell at the woman — she doesn’t move. I tap her shoulders and yell again. Nothing. A man is standing over me crying and calling her name, but I can’t hear him. The smell of burned rubber from my tires makes my eyes water. The voice in my head is too loud.
“You can’t do this. You can’t pass meds on time let alone save this lady’s life.”
My shaking hands are looking for a pulse — nothing. She’s not breathing. It’s now or never. I yell for the man to call 911 and I start compressions.
“1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and…”
It’s surreal. Moments ago, I was using four four time to play a Beethoven sonata. Now I’m using it to circulate blood through a stranger’s body.
“You’re doing this wrong. You can’t do this.” The inner voice is still berating me as I hear the sickening sound of a rib crack.
“I am stronger than I feel” I say over and over until I can’t hear the voice anymore.
I don’t know how long it’s been or how many rounds of CPR I’ve performed when EMS arrives. They take over and I’m left standing there feeling weird in my now stained gown.
And then they bring her back. I did it. Despite what my inner critic was telling me.
Had I not pushed past that voice, someone might have died. I never would have realized my own strength and abilities had I listened to it.
And that’s exactly why you should push past the voice in your head, friend. The same applies to diabetes. You are so much stronger than you feel.
Perfectionism Keeps Us Paralyzed
A common problem my clients come to me with is analysis paralysis. They are so terrified by the mere idea of trying a split bolus for pizza that it’s stopped them from trying all together (they’ve taken down Papa John’s single handedly at this point). Or maybe they’ve tried an extended bolus once before and had a terrible experience. Now they’ve sworn off takeout for the rest of their life (what life is this to live?)
Perfectionism is a common coping mechanism when it comes to diabetes. We use it as a way to maintain (what we think) is control of our situation. Attempting to make the diabetes less terrifying. If we never put ourselves in a situation to fail, we’ll never feel uncomfortable, right?
Sure, this form of coping can work for a bit. But soon you may notice that your world is getting smaller and smaller. Closing in around you. Think Alice and Wonderland, but you’re not as pretty. You’ve created so many rules and restrictions that you stop going out with friends, you eliminate traveling, and you never open up to a new partner.
Your world is you and your in range blood sugar. That’s it.
But at some point, you realize that you deserve more.
Expanding your world with mindful diabetes management
So much of diabetes involves judgment and criticism. We take the words we hear others say and begin to say them ourselves. Before we know it, we actually believe them.
“I’m a bad diabetic.”
“I shouldn’t have eaten that. I should have eaten salad or something good for me.”
“My morning blood sugars are never in range! I wish I could get my lazy self up and exercise.”
Not only are these phrases judgmental and unkind, but they’re WRONG. There is no morality to what we do with our diabetes. Any chronic illness is our own and how we choose to deal with it is up to us. It doesn’t make you good or bad — you are just a person managing your diabetes with the resources you have.
Mindful diabetes management is the act of presently guiding diabetes without judgment or criticism. When you eat, you do it consciously and without judgment. When you exercise, you do it in a way that brings you joy and improves your mood. When you interpret your blood sugars, you do it compassionately. That is living mindfully with diabetes.
Thought management is the next step in practicing how we think.
Manage your thoughts
One of the best ways to start thought management is by listening first. Before you check your blood sugar, what are you thinking? What phrases are floating in? Do you hear your inner critic?
Once you’ve practiced noticing your thoughts, consider asking the following question:
“Am I sure?”
If you’re thinking “Ugh, my blood sugar is gonna be so high after that dessert.”
“Am I sure?”
Is it going to be above target? Maybe. Is it because of the dessert? Possibly. There is no reason to pass judgment because we aren’t sure what the results are or the cause is. Go ahead. Gaslight your diabetes just like your doctor does every appointment (just kidding, thought management is definitely not that).
Try this practice for all situations of your diabetes management. The goal is to practice noticing your thoughts but not allowing them to hold weight. You do not allow them to control you.
Live Fearlessly with diabetes
There’s risk with everything in life: taking that extra tequila shot with friends, living somewhere you’ve never been before, or deciding to raise a child (or four!). Risky behavior at it’s finest.
When we make these decisions, we make them fearlessly. This is, of course, different than being reckless. You probably made sure to look at your budget before having four children (or not YOLO) or you ate a few tacos before that extra tequila shot (salud). Living life fearlessly requires us to move forward without believing the worst-case scenario will happen.
Living fearlessly with diabetes is the same. We do everything we can to keep ourselves safe, but in the end we live our lives accepting some risk. You bolus for the pizza knowing it may increase your blood sugar in the middle of the night. You join the soccer team knowing that you might end up on the bench eating glucose tablets. You build your family even if it means 9 months of counting carbs and dosing insulin more aggressively than ever in your life.
Diabetes makes life harder but not impossible (although the apocalypse with diabetes is going to be impossible so we have to cross that off the list. We’ll let Joel, Ellie, and the other abled’s have it.)
How do you plan on living more fearlessly with diabetes?