My Lost Year with Diabetes Burnout
How a decent A1C score and a mask of a positive attitude hide feelings of despair for one young woman with Type 1.
I thought the term “diabetes burnout” would never apply to me. I had been caring for my diabetes since age 9, and I determined at an early age to always stay positive about it. I wouldn’t acknowledge any downside to my condition, and I was constantly striving to lower my A1C every chance I got.
Then came my junior year of college, and my days were way too full. Between class, my job, and volunteer involvement, I was on the go from seven a.m. to midnight seven days a week. Sometime during the year, my positive attitude evaporated. I began to hate diabetes, not just those moments when my blood sugar levels were out of control, but every moment I was awake. I began checking my blood sugar less and not keeping track of patterns for possible changes, rotating and changing my pump sites less, and canceling doctor’s appointments.
A part of my identity that I used to celebrate, I now detested. I felt like a hypocrite. To cover this up, I put on a mask of positivity and didn’t breathe a word about how I felt for months. I was able to keep up this facade because my A1C barely went up and I somehow avoided any extreme highs or lows.
In the movies, many characters escape burnout with a eureka moment, that shining beat when everything becomes clear and they decide to make a big change. For me, it was a long, drawn-out process. I switched my health care team, which helped, but it took me a while to even hint to them that I was feeling burned out. Instead, I slowly climbed out of the pit of my emotions through internal retrospection.
I eventually realized that I had been skimping on my own self-care. Even though I was doing all the right things to keep my blood sugar levels basically in range, I wasn’t doing enough self-care to feel whole and stable. To combat this, I made a commitment to carve time out of my schedule to do something good for myself each day. I also learned I was being my own worst critic; now I make sure to pat myself on the back when I do the little things I need to do to stay healthy.
Here’s the thing, though – I know diabetes burnout isn’t necessarily a one-time thing. If it comes again, I know I need to let myself feel it, and I need to speak up about my feelings. I have to remember that acknowledging burnout is a sign of strength, not weakness. Accepting that is an important part of taking care of myself.
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