I have been writing this piece for awhile. It's been hard to write, sometimes I get embarrassed about my experience with burning out and I don't want to let others know that I had a moment, a year..maybe two years of living with a mental illness that nobody recognized as a mental illness....not even therapists.
So I will give you a bit of a run down of what I feel led up to my diabetes burnout.
As a child I was very happy, athletic and did well in school. I never let diabetes get in the way, I took my insulin in the morning and at night and that was it for me. I don't remember often when it was n issue. Maybe a sleepover here and there, or a class trip where my parents had to be educators on my behalf, but all in all it was a non-issue for me. I didn't feel sad or depressed as a kid. I pass a lot of this on to my parents.They never let it show that they were sad or frustrated by diabetes. There were a few lectures about em sneaking treats and how important it was for me to disclose, but their lives didn't revolve around illness. Their lives revolved around our happiness and our strengths. I had a wonderful childhood, I know it's not common for people these days as there are so many struggles people can go through but my parents were and are fabulous parents. I am lucky that I now call them two of my closest friends. I think that a lot of how I developed rests in their hands and overall I am happy with me.
I always try and pinpoint the moment where I started to fizzle, burn out and just lose interest in my future me. I went through a very difficult time with an ex-boyfriend that involved cheating, and overall being emotionally and financially drained. I kind of lean towards that time when I started to burn out because every ounce of my mental strength was being used in holding myself up from crashing and feeling sorry for myself.
My self care and awareness in diabetes started to slip. I went from checking my blood sugar 4x a day to...maybe 4x a week to 4x a month if I was lucky. I wore my pump, but sometimes I would go to school with just my basal insulin running and I wouldn't remember to bolus or check...for days.
This is really hard to admit. As an advocate for living well and happily with diabetes, putting on the Internet that you were, for a lack of better terms a fuckup in your diabetes care is so hard. We always try and project these images that life with diabetes isn't as bad as the media makes it out to be. And usually it isn't. Usually we live happy and normal lives with a few extra steps.
There needs to be more discussion about burning out because of diabetes, and that is why I am sharing with you my story.
So during these days and months I floated through, I never had lows, and I didn't feel highs really. I worked out at the gym a lot, and on the outside I looked like normal old me. What was happening inside...I really don't know. My body was churning mentally due to my outside stresses and my internal stresses were just starting to make me break. I sought comfort through food, and constantly being surrounded by friends and people. I was always trying to meet new people, date new men and do everything and anything to get my mind off my past and what diabetes was doing to me.
For these months I wanted to not be diabetic. I wanted to not be tethered to a pump or glucose or to be different. I was already walked all over by my ex boyfriend and at the time i felt walked all over by my professor in school, my family was giving me a hard time because I was slipping and gaining weight again.
This burnout didn't happen at one moment, it happened over time. It happened after 20 years of juice boxes at 2 am, it happened after 20 years of needles, and insulin, and dead batteries and forgotten injections. It happened after 20 years of me asking for a restaurant to make sure I have diet pepsi not regular, 20 years of me saying I'm not diabetic because I am fat, I am fat because of my diabetes.
This burnout happened after 20 years of my endocrine system struggling and grasping for breath.
The thing with burnout, at least in my case: it didn't manifest as depression. In fact, I was so social, had so many friends and was so with it otherwise, I was told by two separate psychologists there wasn't a whole lot they could do for me. Because in the fields they knew: I was happy. I don't deny the rest of my life being happy. I bought my first car, I dated around, I had great times with friends...it was by all definitions a normal way for a mid-20s girl to live.
I changed in one day. I remember when everything hit me. It hit me hard. I was starting to check my blood sugar more and I kept running high, my A1C through my endocrinologist was 8.9 and I got lectured, and I always had a yeast infection. I Googled everything and I stumbled on the book Diabetes Burnout by Dr. Polansky. I purchase dthe book and within 1 day of receiving it I felt the world around me melt.
I knew what was happening to me. I knew I wasn't alone, but most importantly I knew there was hope.
That night I jumped on twitter and Google. I stumbled on the #dsma twitter chat and Kim Vlasnik's blog at www.textingmypancreas.com
In those few days I turned. I re-grasped my diabetes and decided in that moment that I needed to live and advocate for people with diabetes. We need better access to mental health initiatives, and doctors who understand that diabetes has a massive effect on our brains as well as pancreas'.
It's who I am. Diabetes Burnout is part of my story.