The first time I lied to my parents about my blood sugar is still a crystal clear memory for me. I was twelve years old and participating in a swim meet at our local beach club. My mom yelled across the pool, “Lauren, it’s time for you to check!” I groaned and dragged my feet as I made my way over to my back pack in my usual cubby. I took out my meter, looked around, and then did something new: I put it right back. I paused a moment, then yelled across the pool to my mom: “I’m 121!” She gave me a thumbs up and a smile and went back to helping time the races.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that would be the beginning of a near seven year struggle for me with diabetes burn out. Now that I’m on the other side of it, I can share my feelings about what I did what I did and why I did it for so long.
1. I needed a break
The reason I lied the first time at my swim meet was so very simple. I was just plain sick of checking my blood sugar. I thought, what’s the harm in skipping?. The reward is I can pretend diabetes isn’t there.
I started off as just lying about my blood sugars, then it turned into lying about giving myself insulin, there was even a phase when I would take my pump off for periods of time without taking any injections. I realized even then that my behavior was destructive, but I cannot tell you how nice it was to just eat a meal without the bru-ha-ha of doing so with diabetes. The freedom of being able to just not deal with diabetes is incredibly liberating and, unfortunately, severely addictive. One might argue that feeling terrible all the time isn’t worth the freedom of not having to do all those tedious tasks, and I can agree with you now, but back then, it was worth it for me.
2. It was all just too much
Being a teenager was already pretty terrible. The hormones, the drama, all of it was insane. Now, add a relentless, chronic illness to the mix. In my mind, ignoring diabetes to focus on the millions of other issues that I had was important. I knew how to take care of my diabetes, I just chose to ignore it and worry about other things.
3. I tried to stop myself
When I was a junior in high school, I realized something: ignoring my diabetes care was impacting my grades, and with bad grades, I would not go to college. I’ll never forget when I went to my high school guidance counselors meeting at the beginning of junior year. She told me that I was in the bottom 50% of my class and that she was shocked.
“Lauren, you have always been in accelerated classes, your teachers know you are smart… so why aren’t you applying yourself?”
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to try, but having constantly high blood sugars was debilitating. High blood sugar completely wiped away my ability to focus in class, and by the time I was home and had to study and do homework, I was so tired that I would fall asleep long before my homework was done.
After that meeting with my guidance counselor, I vowed to myself that I would wake up the next morning, check my blood at least six times that day and remember to bolus for everything I ate. But it didn’t happen. There were countless times when I wanted to wake up the next morning and try harder – but I just couldn’t.
4. I was not trying to kill myself or cause harm to my body
During the time I was burnt out, I was simply that: burnt out. I was not trying to physically hurt myself. I just couldn’t mentally bear diabetes management anymore. I never wanted to die and I never wished my life away. It is important to point that out because if I did feel any of those things, this would be a different story. I knew I was going to be okay one day. I really did. I just was not ready to be okay then.
Today, as working adult, I understand why I have to give diabetes some of my time. I know that while I’d love to just ignore it all, putting on a new sensor and regularly calibrating it betters my life. I know that when I pause to count my carbs, figure out my insulin requirement and take it, I’m actually winning over diabetes. I learned all this from seeing the other side.
I hope I never burn out again. I know if I start to, this time, as an adult, I’ll tell someone I need help. In other words, I’m very thankful for my now developed frontal lobe. It’s a great diabetes tool.