I’m going to warn you, this post is about one of the biggest struggles I have faced.
Diabetic Burnout is serious and is not spoken about anywhere near as much as it should be.
Accepting that I was diabetic didn’t actually happen to me until I was around 18, by this point I had already had it for 10 years. You may be thinking, why did it take you 10 years to accept something that wasn’t going to go away? See, there is a difference between knowing why you have to do something (insulin = staying alive) and actually accepting that this is something that I will have to do for the rest of my life. Every single day and deal with all the ups and downs.
As a child you don’t really have a care in the world as your parents are the ones that are watching over you, worrying about you, helping with your injections, ensuring you always have your supplies, making appointments, ensuring you take all your medications. (Well, that and the fact that you haven’t reached puberty yet so your hormones haven’t kicked in). For the whole time I was assigned to the paediatric nurses every single appointment that I would have I would ask them whether a cure had been invented yet. Every. Single. Visit. You could say that I wasn’t exactly the smartest child considering the answer was always the same but I would rather think of the younger me as hopeful.
Being a teenager with type 1 diabetes was especially difficult for me and that was mostly because I was in denial. Starting secondary school was something that didn’t help, they didn’t have a medical room so in order to do my injections I would have to go to the disabled toilet which as you can imagine wasn’t exactly the most hygienic of places. The main reason I wanted privacy to do my injections was because of the looks I would get from others around me, I can’t blame them, seeing someone willingly insert a needle into their belly probably isn’t something you see on the regular, but I was at that age where other peoples opinions would really bother me and I would become so self conscious.
I began not telling people I was diabetic and not wanting to leave the classroom half way through the lesson because my sugars were low or because I needed to pee due to them being so high! Both of which can be really dangerous if left untreated. I was told growing up that I wasn’t different from people who didn’t have diabetes but the truth is I am.
Now, I’ve accepted that but my journey to acceptance wasn’t easy in the slightest.
You see, type one diabetics ARE different from others. There are things we can’t do and that is not something to be ashamed of. There are things that we have to do that a non diabetic wouldn’t even think twice about. For example, before driving a car it is advised that we check our blood sugar levels- this is to ensure that if we were to be involved in a crash it wasn’t due to our sugars. Or that when I’m arranging to go out for a meal I need to ensure that we eat no later than 7pm- I also need to know what time we’re going for a meal ideally the day before so I can schedule my other meals and insulin later in the day to make sure that my sugars stay in range.
I know that by telling us we are no different is an attempt to ensure that we don’t feel embarrassed about it but in reality it causes more damage when you come to realise that this statement is extremely false. Being different is ok and I personally don’t think that it is something we should shy away from. My diabetes caused me so many health issues in my teenage years and a lot of them would likely have been caused by diabetic burnout. I would purposely not take my insulin when going out for a meal so I would feel ‘normal’,
I remember the first time I ever did this was in Mcdonalds. I had been taken there by my uncle and cousin. When it came to dinner time my sugars were so high (obviously because I hadn’t taken my insulin & my uncle, bless him didn’t really understand it the importance of insulin) My mum questioned why they were so high and I remember telling her that I just wanted to be normal like everyone else. Hearing your child say that most likely wasn’t the easiest thing to hear.
Thinking about the younger version of myself feeling that way is heart breaking I won’t lie, as I got older my denial just got even worse.
I spoke about diabetic burnout earlier- if you dont know what this is, it is essentially where you stop caring about your diabetes. It is surprisingly common although it is rarely spoken about and not every diabetic burnout is the same. For me, my diabetic burn out came into affect when I was around 15, I began to feel so fed up and overwhelmed with having to watch what I ate, when I ate, my sugars having a mind of their own and I felt like no one around me really understood what I was dealing with on a daily basis. That’s the funny thing about diabetes, it can make you feel so alone. Especially if you don’t know anyone else with it.
I began taking lower doses of my insulin (which resulted in stomach cramps and being sick), not caring what I ate and eventually skipping insulin doses. Obviously this then impacted on everything else. I lost a lot of weight and ended up in DKA a fair few times. The weight loss then affected my self esteem which began a vicious cycle. (If diabetic burnout is left untreated it can turn to depression.)
In 2016 I had given up on everything. I felt like a failure. My weight was ridiculously low, I had been in and out of hospital due to my poor diabetes control and I was struggling and couldn’t see it getting any better.
If I had known about diabetic burnout then I can honestly say I don’t think it would of changed what had happened but I would of known the signs. I would have known that I’m not alone or that I wasn’t a failure because my sugar levels weren’t that great.
I would of known that there are SO many other people out there with diabetes that felt the exact same way I was feeling and that it’s not something I should be embarrassed of.
An upsetting statistic is that if you are a type one diabetic you are twice as likely to suffer with depression than those who aren’t . My question is, with this statistic why isn’t diabetic burnout spoken about? Why are we left to just accept that our lives have changed and not get to have a say about it because “It could be worse”. I disagree. Having diabetes is ridiculously tough, it shouldn’t be sugar coated because you don’t want to upset people. We should be allowed to rant, cry, scream, moan, whine- whatever makes us feel that little bit better at the end of the day.
Thankfully, with the right help and support I started to feel better both mentally and physically. My management is getting better and I’m not ashamed to speak about my experiences. It’s hard to type and I’m sure, hard to read but it is so real and so important. I’ve accepted that my diabetes isn’t going to go anywhere- it is as stubborn as I am, I know that there are going to be days where I just can’t be bothered with limiting my chocolate intake but thats ok, I just need to ensure I take my insulin. There are also going to be days where I feel like I’ve got everything together as my sugars have stayed in range. No two days are the same and funnily enough I quite like that- it makes it interesting doesn’t it.
I want you to remember that if you are struggling with diabetic burnout you are not alone. There are so many great services online that you can access for free (I will link them below!). You’ve got this. Everything happens for a reason and I truly believe that you’re only dealt the cards that you are strong enough to deal with.
These set of cards may have tested my strength to the max but at least I know that I can pretty much deal with whatever is thrown at me now, no questions asked.
As always, thank you for reading and until the next time….
Diabetic burnout – https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/emotions/diabetes-burnout