Taking A Break From The Emotional Stress of Diabetes


It’s been a couple months since I’ve blogged, mostly due to the fact that I was trying to make the deadline for my book about vitamins, which was due in May. During the push, I felt the need to narrow my life down to the essentials: book writing, feeding myself, sleeping, and exercising. That was about it. I didn’t really want to talk to people. In fact, I took to eating lunch in a darkened spare office to avoid any chance of human contact. Blogging, journaling, any sort of work that wasn’t book-related, everything took a backseat to writing and rewriting. 

Everything, of course, except for diabetes. Much of the time, I, like most people, am somewhat numb to emotional stress of diabetes — I know that it’s there, and I’m annoyed by it, and I’m tired by it, but I don’t actually feel it in an acute way. It’s kind of like a nerve block, where an anesthesiologist numbs the entire limb that’s being operated on. My husband had one last week for wrist surgery, and I could have put a 20-pound weight on his arm and, while he probably could have recognized the pressure from the dumbbell, he wouldn’t have felt its pain. (Note to world: I did not put a 20-pound weight on my husband’s mangled arm.) 

But when I’m feeling really stressed, as I was with the book, that numbness can wear off. It snuck up on me: one second I was deep in thought about how to fix a particular transitional paragraph, and the next second my CGM was letting out two signature beeps — a signal of a high blood sugar — and I was seized with an urge to throw the thing against the wall. (Isn’t it funny how tempting it can be to take out frustration at diabetes against the inanimate devices that help us live with it?) 

I didn’t, luckily, but when that sensor wore out I did take the drastic step of not immediately replacing it. I just couldn’t. I felt that with all the stress from my work, I could not deal with the additional layer of diabetes — at least not in a form that was constantly beeping at me as I tried to work. 

And oh my goodness, did it feel good. To go back to the analogy of weight, it was as if I’d been going through my days carrying a heavy backpack, one that I’d been wearing for so long that I didn’t even recognize that I was carrying it. And then, suddenly, it was off. I felt light and free — relaxed in the subtle way that comes when you remove a pressure that you didn’t consciously realize that was there. 

The strange part about this experience was that, as far as I know — and I tested 10 or so times a day — my blood sugars were no worse without the CGM than they were when I had it on. Sure, I felt a little anxious going to bed (it is very comforting to know that you are being monitored while unconscious). But overall, I just felt relieved, aware that the respite was temporary, but that for the time that it lasted, it felt really really good.

I’ve since gone back on my CGM — my break was just a few days — and I’m grateful, as always, to have it. Beeping or no beeping, it really is an invaluable and comforting tool. But it reminded me of the fact that, while we may not feel it in our waking minds, the weight of diabetes is always there, that loaded backpack we carry through our days. Whether or not we pay conscious attention to it, it’ll always be there. 


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Megan Fisher
Megan Fisher
9 years ago

I would love to wear my CGM but am one of the unfortunate diabetics with sensitive skin and even wearing my pump causes the worst skin rashes after removal.  I was only able to use my CGM for about 3 months before the rashes became untreatable. 

Bridget McNulty
9 years ago

I’m living in the dark ages as far as pumps and CGMs are concerned – I’m in South Africa, where pumps are prohibitively expensive and CGMs are apparently yet to arrive – and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. My diabetes is part of my daily life, of course, but it’s by no means overwhelming. I think about it when I need to test my sugar, when I need to inject, and when I feel funny… The rest of the time I’m ‘free’.
I don’t know if I could give up that freedom for more knowledge…

9 years ago

Jane, it’s true.  I take a day or two off every time I need to change the sensor.  So it’s typically 10 days on, 2 days off. It’s nice to be free of the device for a bit, but I usually feel like I really miss the info and the back-up. 

Michelle Page-Alswager

I’ve been thinking about getting a CGM and met with the pump trainer at the Joslin Diabetes Center to discuss. (I’m also due for a pump upgrade.) I said to her, “I’m just not sure I want to be hooked up to two devices 24/7.” Without missing a beat, she said, “You don’t have to wear the CGM all the time. You could wear it for a month, take a break, put it back on again, etc. It’s not like the pump in that way.” Suddenly, I felt better, like I could do it. And here you are, Catherine, taking… Read more »

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