I talk a lot. I talk to strangers at coffee shops, the person in line behind me at the grocery store etc. But the person I talk most to is myself. This inner critic. I have a constant conversation with this critic. Mostly trying to tell it to shut up. When it criticizes me for slipping up, I thank it for the input but remind myself it’s not true. I think appreciating this voice is an important step in dealing with it. Do I sound crazy yet? Like a mad woman with a voice in her head? Well don’t act like you don’t have it. This voice is the one making you think that you might not be good enough when someone beats you in a race, that maybe if you trained an extra hour or didn’t miss a practice then you would’ve won. This is the critic that blames you instead of the clothes when you can see the shape of your love handles through your blouse. Everyone has one and everyone deals with it in different ways.
Diabetes opens doors for the inner critic. The critic is usually a perfectionist, which makes their critiques harsh by nature. There are many rules in a diabetic’s life and when the rules aren’t followed, the critic steps up to the front to speak. Here are some of the rules that when they slip my mind the inner critic makes me feel as though I am “failing” as a diabetic:
Check your blood about 6 times a day (less when the sensor is on)
Oh, but makes sure you change the sensor every 6 days
And in the time between sensor changes, change the pump site every 3 days
Switch out your old lancet for a new one frequently
Bring glucose tabs before you leave the house!
Don’t run out of glucose tabs though, no no no. How irresponsible!
Double check to make sure you have enough test strips for the day
Check before you eat that cookie!
Bolus before you eat that cookie!
Going on a run? Make sure you adjust your basal rate 30 minutes before!
There is SO much to remember in addition to the rules non-diabetic lives follow like putting your seatbelt on, turning the lights off when leaving a room and locking the door behind you. I could honestly come up with about 100 or more of these rules and they are definitely personalized to my own diabetic-self. But when I break one of these rules, I have to pinch myself when the inner critic starts calling me an irresponsible diabetic. I must remind myself that the world isn’t ending and my health isn’t rapidly declining because I left my pump in for an extra day or because that lancet may or may not be two weeks old.
During my adolescent years (this makes me sound old, huh?), I was horrible at remembering to check my blood glucose levels. This lead to a lot of high numbers because I never knew what my numbers were like. I was trying to be independent from my parents but I was having trouble proving to them that I could take care of my health without them breathing down my neck. The high blood sugars cooresponded with the amount of fights I’d instigate because hyperglycemia makes you irritable and frustrated (another awesome perk of diabetes), basically putting you directly into a bad mood.
My father, bless his soul, would try and come up with helpful metaphors to remind me to check my BG and bolus for food. It’s like putting your seatbelt on when you get in a car, you do it without thinking. Or when it came to remembering to bolus for foods...It’s like pressing the send button on a text message, you write the text then you send the message. I understood what he was saying. I had been living with Type 1 Diabetes for a long while and all these rules and things I need to remember to do should be like a habit. He is right though, kind of. I’ve read up on how to create new habits and cut old ones. Some studies say that if you can do whatever it is you’re trying to start or stop for 30 consecutive days, you’ll create a habit. So shouldn’t 15 years be long enough? It’ll be 16 years this March, and I still lose track of the days between pump site changes and hours between glucose testing. I’ll never be perfect. That’s what I tell the critic, at least.
My responsibilities as a diabetic after over 15 years are not as habitual as people might think. When I explain to a co-worker or new friend what my diabetes entails and adds to my life, I put a positive spin on the story. Like don’t feel sorry for me, I’ve been dealing with it for a long time now and I’m confident I’ll be okay. They usually take this as being like diabetes is second nature to me. Just as you put the food in your mouth and chew it, I eat the food and bolus for it. I wish it was like this. I think I may be blind to some of the habits I’ve formed based on my diabetes, like I rarely forget my glucose monitor or a set change when I stay somewhere overnight, but it does happen. For example, at work a few months ago, I showered before work and left my pump in the bathroom. It wasn’t until my ten minute break when I went to bolus for something that I realized this device that has been attached to my hip since I was 8 years old, wasn’t there. These things happen. We are diabetic, but we’re human too.