Diabetic Fatigue

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I just finished the last day of the 3 1/2 insulin workshop at the Diabetes Teaching Center at UCSF. All week, I’ve been meaning to blog about the experience — what we’re learning, what it’s like to spend three and a half days focusing entirely on diabetes, etc. But every day when I get home, I’ve been too exhausted — both physically and emotionally — to put words to paper.

It’s a funny thing, living with diabetes. We do it every day, all day. And I’ll bet that while we think about it more than we’d like, we also don’t think about it all the time. So it’s strange to suddenly be in a workshop where you are actively thinking about diabetes, nothing more, from eight in the morning till four in the afternoon. Where you’re asked to bring your favorite breakfast in and then watch as nutritionists help you weigh it and calculate carbohydrates. Where you set an alarm for 2am each morning to see how well your basals are working as you sleep. Where a doctor looks at your basal and bolus rates — the same ones that you’ve been using for several years — and suddenly suggests that you change things up, in my case dropping my basals by 50%. Where you write down everything you eat, everything you do, every blood sugar reading, every exercise routine, every period of emotional stress, into a log book, which you carry with you 24 hours a day. Last night I got home after my husband had gone to bed, and spent twenty minutes staring at the numbers in my book, trying to figure out if I’d accurately calculated the units I was supposed to have taken for dinner, and wondering whether I’d mess up my doctor’s experiment if I took a correction before bed. I usually try to estimate carbs, but never to this extent, where merely eating a slice of avocado sends me scurrying to my Calorie King guide to see how many carbs there are in a quarter of each fruit.

It’s amazing how stressful this week has been. The doctor has cut my basal rates by about half what I was on before; she’s suggested different carb ratios for meals, different plans for exercise . . . and as she herself put it during our consultation yesterday, the reason it feels so overwhelming is that coming to one of these workshops is like learning to have diabetes all over again. I’m feeling lost, confused. And, more than anything, frustrated: I have done a very good job this past week of strictly controlling my diet, of eating the exact same thing for breakfast and lunch for the past three days at the same time — and nonetheless getting very different blood sugar results each time. Rather than comforting me, it reminds me that — thanks to the infinite variables that affect our blood sugars — managing diabetes will forever be art, not science.

I’ve somehow decided to sign up for the pump workshop next week  as well, so I will have a chance to check in with the team once again before leaving for the east coast. So I’m going to be continuing this experiment till then — carefully regulating my meals, using the doctor’s suggested basal rates and insulin-to-carb ratios, and seeing if any of it creates consistent results. So far, it’s been frustrating and exhausting — so to make myself feel a little better, I’m going to blog about the experience. Stay tuned.

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