Diabetic Burnout. It Really Is A Thing.
If you haven’t noticed, I have not been creating content or streaming. I’ve been battling some severe depression, and according to today’s therapy session, I am so much worse than I could have ever imagined. One of the major contributions to my depression is my diabetes.
I’ve been living with Type 2 diabetes for a third of my life. I’ve shared how much it costs to treat my diabetes and the toll it takes on my health. I’ve had to wear masks before they were commonplace. I’ve fought anemia and vitamin deficiencies. I have damage to my kidneys and liver. I’ve been unable to lose weight because the very medicine I need to stay healthy makes me gain weight and keep it on. Despite all of this, I’ve stayed very positive…until recently.
Maybe it is the result of the pandemic. Maybe it is the stress of certain changes in the workplace. Maybe it is the strong emergence of ignorant people crawling from underneath their rocks of uneducated drivel dismissing science and drinking hand sanitizer. It could be a lot of things, but I am exhausted.
I did a little Internet research and stumbled across the term “diabetic burnout” and the more I read, the more I accepted that I am definitely experiencing it. I don’t think any of my diabetic educators have ever mentioned burnout to me. I would gather that is because I’ve always done what they asked. I’ve never given my educators, or team of doctors, a reason to suspect that I am struggling. In fact, at my last endocrinology appointment, she happily exclaimed, “I wish I had a sheet of gold stars, because you’re doing great!”
But, that is the thing. Just because we try really hard, and keep things in check to the best of our abilities means that the disease is most undoubtedly taking over our lives.
The following is specific to TYPE 2 DIABETES and my experience living with Type 2. Please do not compare my struggles to someone who is living with Type 1 diabetes. If you do not know the difference, I implore you to take this opportunity to educate yourself.
EVERY DAY FEELS LIKE AN EXERCISE IN FUTILITY
Let that statement sink in. Chronically ill people have a routine that MUST be followed to stay healthy. If you want to feel your best, if you want to stay healthy, if you want to lead as close to a normal life as possible, you must follow your routine with little to no deviation every day of your life. At some point, you wake up and realize how much time and work you invest just to make it through the day. What makes this feeling worse is the tone-deaf comments received from friends and family and even strangers. Below is a statement a “friend” told me:
“I don’t see how it is any different than me going to the gym every day. You just have to suck it up and do it. Don’t let it bother you.”
The biggest difference is, if you stop going to the gym, barring some huge medical reason on why you need to go to the gym every day, you won’t feel or have any immediate health repercussions. Sure, you might gain a few pounds, or your cholesterol might go up a bit, or you might feel out of shape, but you will continue to lead a productive life without it. Just because you engage in a task that is soul crushing and unpleasant to you in the name of health does not even remotely make it relatable to someone experiencing chronic illness. If I slack for even one day, there is a long list of side effects including worsened vision, migraines, and yes. Possibly even coma or death.
ROUTINE. ROUTINE. ROUTINE.
It is mentally exhausting to maintain the routine. Something as simple as eating isn’t simple for a diabetic. I can’t put one bite of food in my mouth without a routine. First, I have to check my blood sugar. Luckily, I have a very expensive sensor on my arm that allows me to scan it with my smartphone and get an instant reading. Without my sensor, I have to wash and dry my hands making sure to rinse any soaps or lotions present. After drying my hands, I have to set up my glucometer with a testing strip. Then, I have to prick my finger with a lancet device. Then, I have to apply the drop of blood to the testing strip on the glucometer. Once I get a reading, THEN I can decide the best course of action regarding how many carbs I get to eat, and how many units of insulin I have to take. No matter how hungry, or how tired, or how irritated I am, I MUST go through this 5-10 minute ritual every meal. I have to worry about needle disposal and medical waste. If I am out and about, I might have to take my insulin in a dirty bathroom. Most days, it is habit and I go through the motions without a second thought, and other days, it is such a heavy burden. After that routine is done, I have to remember to check my glucose levels 2 hours after I eat. This helps my endocrinologist determine whether I am taking the appropriate amount of fast-acting insulin.
BUT, WAIT!! THERE’S MORE!
I have to take TWO types of insulin. Yes, there are different types of insulin with varying degrees of onset and peak times. The insulin I take before meals is fast-acting meaning it starts working 15 minutes after injection, peaks at 1-2 hours, and only lasts about four hours total. It’s perfect for meal adjustments. Then, I take nightly “ultra-long acting” insulin. This insulin takes six hours to reach the bloodstream, does not peak, and lasts 36 hours. As you can see, there is a lot of math that goes on.
BUT, WAIT!! THERE’S MORE!
I also take a non-insulin injection. Wait, what? Yes. You read that right. A non-insulin injection. I take Trulicity which not only protects my heart, but it also works to help my body.
I take four different oral medications. With diabetes comes blood pressure, heart, and other issues that can be prevented with maintenance medication. I don’t necessarily need them, but the longer I keep those numbers normal, the better. This includes a blood pressure medication, a cholesterol medication, and two oral diabetic medications.
I CAN’T LOSE WEIGHT
There is a misconception out there that you only get Type 2 diabetes because you got fat first. While that may ring true for many, that doesn’t ring true for everyone. Any time my fast-acting insulin is adjusted, I gain a lot of weight. When I can reduce it, I lose weight. The medication meant to save my life, is also making me gain weight, which makes my diabetes worse.
Take a step back for a moment. How long can a person live like this? I went to the gym six months straight every morning. I lost 10 lbs. The only time I lost weight was reduction of my insulin. You have to live with people judging you all the time. They assume you are fat for an unhealthy lifestyle, or that you became diabetic because you’re fat. You try to not let it bother you, but every time you look in the mirror, there is a reminder that your fat face and body are out of your control. You can’t just cut calories, or walk more because the very medications meant to save you are making you fat. You suddenly aren’t doing those things to lose weight, but to stay as you are, and that is depressing.
SOMETIMES, YOU DEVELOP EATING DISORDERS
I was called out today. Today I was told, “You have an eating disorder.”
I have grown to hate food. Every bite I take is trying to kill me. I spend every waking moment counting carbs. Adjusting insulin. Every waking moment is consumed by survival. Now, you might think that is dramatic, but is it? It feels that way to me. I force myself to eat. I forget to eat. I avoid eating. My relationship with food has soured. I mean, how could it not? If you meet someone, and they try to suffocate you, you aren’t exactly their friend, right?
THE EXHAUSTION IS REAL
Every day, I don’t want to get out of bed. It takes roughly 30 minutes for me to motivate myself to do it. Diabetes makes me very, very tired. Emotionally. Physically. I hurt all the time. I stab myself four times a day. I wear stupid sensors that yell at me every two hours. No one can be perfect, but that is what this disease requires of you. Perfection. Otherwise, you are slowly killing yourself.
So, that is where I am at. I want to stop caring. I want to pretend that my life is more than this disease, but it makes it very, very hard. I get stressed because I miss so much work. I push myself when I really should stay home. Society doesn’t really want to understand chronically ill people. We’re usually just overweight people trying to find an excuse to be lazy, right?
So, that is where I am at. I’m exhausted and struggling to find the meaning of it all. I’ll get through it, but sometimes, you just have to let people know where you are at, and this is where I will be. For awhile. If I can educate just one of you to be more understanding of a fellow diabetic, that would be great.