My diabetic educator (a.k.a the best educator in the entire universe) brought up a very interesting point on Friday, about Type 1 diabetics and perfectionism.
Up in level five of Centre Block at the Alfred, I was going through what I had eaten that week and bashing myself up for it, looking at bad blood sugars and bashing myself up for that, and basically looking at all my stats and bashing myself up for everything.
My educator listened, and listened some more, then sat back in her chair and said something along the lines of ‘See what I told you? Perfectionists!’ to the student sitting in the room with us.
I opened my mouth in protest, but promptly shut it again when I realised that she had got it in one. Despite barely being able to count the number of type one diabetics I know in real life on one hand, I really do think this is a constant theme. Online diabetes forums and communities provide proof of this! Perfectionism. I know I shouldn’t generalise, but I do think we place far too much pressure on ourselves to achieve that ‘perfect’ hba1c, those spot on post meal levels and a perfect range of 5-8.
As my educator said “What came first G? The chicken or the egg? It’s always hard to say whether a Type 1 was like that before diagnosis, or diagnosis made them that way.” I’ve always been a perfectionist. If I’m crap at things, I either work ridiculously hard to get better OR give up completely. In my head it’s better to not even try than to try and fail miserably. This was my logic when I happily failed my year 10 maths exam, and now it’s my logic when it comes to diabetes. Most of my days are hard working days, but there are soem where I wake up with a level in the high teens and I think ‘Fuck it. This day is shot already. Gummi snakes for breakfast it is.”
I think the fact that management of our disease revolves around numbers, graphs and statistics is a bit of a catch 22, for the majority of us who are constantly wanting to do better and aim higher. On one hand, it gives us amazing resources to improve our health and lessen the risk of complications. BUT, and this is what I find most difficult, it can become all consuming. Seeing your daily management in cold hard numbers gives your efforts a concrete element, something to grasp onto. Something to stress about…
I beat myself up when I have a piece of cake, or I get a random 18.4 out of nowhere. I look at that huge spike in my 24hr BGL graph and focus intensely on that angry red line, when really I should be celebrating the other 90% of levels that were IN RANGE!
My aim during Invisible Illness Week (and beyond!) is to cut myself some slack. Honestly, all of us diabetics are bloody brilliant, we self manage a chronic disease 24 hours a day. We are experts in our disease, we try our absolute hardest to keep our bodies healthy, and that should be enough! You can’t try anymore than your hardest can you? 🙂