Living with Type 1 Diabetes

My Lost Year with Diabetes Burnout

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.

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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.

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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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Mindy is the Communications and Partnerships Coordinator at the College Diabetes Network (CDN) in Boston, MA and is a former CDN Chapter Leader. She graduated Cum Laude from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor’s in Social Work and a minor in Sociology. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on March 8, 2000 when she was 7, and she has been involved in the Diabetes Community since then. She thoroughly enjoys diabetes camp, travel, crafts, reading, and being awkward. She blogs about life, diabetes, mental health, and women's health on her blog.

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