This Is Not A Contest…

189659_2508If you don’t know this by now, I’m here to tell you.

Diabetes is not a contest.

There are no grand prize winners, no consolation prizes, and no picking what’s behind Door Number 2. You can dress up in a silly costume, but a game show host will not be selecting you to jump up from your seat in the studio audience.

And yet, I see that some people with diabetes trying to make it seem that way on social media.

I belong to a number of groups on Facebook that focus on diabetes. Some groups provide wonderful articles from reputable sources while others, promoted as a place of support, are crammed full with pronouncements and requests for advice.

“What’s the highest your blood sugars have ever been?”

“What’s your lowest recorded blood sugar?”

“How much insulin do you take each day?”

These are questions that pop up frequently on my newsfeed and the answers are almost boastful.

“1125!”

“18!”

“I take 150 units of Novolog every day…”

I’m curious as to why these people ask (and answer) these questions. Is it because they feel the need to compare themselves to others with diabetes? Are they better than others? Worse off?

Diabetes is not a contest. 

Yes, sometimes we play the “Guess my blood sugar!” game with a friend or family member. (John always wins that one in our house; I think he cheats.)

We take bets daily on which dosage will be the right amount to keep blood sugars within range. Sometimes we take a chance with our blood glucose meters.  I’ve played chicken a few times with my diabetes management, and I’ve always come out the loser. Some are diligent and still come out losers. But it’s not a contest, right?

We may try to game our disease, but there are too many slots on the roulette wheel to say for sure where that ball will land… and you know that the house always wins in the end.

And in the end, the quality of life for all of us is compromised because of a disease that doesn’t let us win, but we do get to have the play at home version as a lovely parting gift.

Diabetes is not a contest. 

There are no right answers. No buzzer at the end of the round with commercials from our sponsors.

Every individual with diabetes is different and while some may be coherent (barely) at 35 mg/dl, others may have long lapsed into unconsciousness. Those wandering upright with highs over 500 mg/dl are not to be scorned or lauded; they need help to bring their blood sugars back into range. It doesn’t matter if you take one unit or 1,000 units of insulin per day – whatever you need to keep you safe and alive is what you need.

I have never hid my A1C struggles. My current is 6.7%, up from a low of 6.3% last year. I don’t get a medal for that, just as I don’t get a medal for the A1Cs in the teens during my high school years. My A1C is a signpost and I have a choice to make every day on how I handle my blood sugars and my diabetes.

Some people with diabetes share their A1Cs in an effort to show others that they’ve been working diligently at making positive changes in their lives. These PWD talk about those positive changes, giving their take on their own struggles. I love reading these posts, because this is the reality of diabetes.

Those who, and I’m judging a little bit here, boast about how they’ve never had an A1C over 6.0% because they take care of themselves… well, I can do without the gloating. (And they seem to never give the “how” of how they keep it at 6.0%, more of a “I just follow the rules…”.)

Diabetes is not a contest. 

It’s not a reason to get incensed when an unsuspecting stranger makes a comment that blatantly shows they do not understand the nuances of the disease and its many iterations. I see these posts far too often:

“How dare they tell me that I can’t eat [insert food here]! They don’t get it at all!”

“That mother has NO idea how difficult it is to parent a child with diabetes!”

“I hate that the public thinks we all have Type 2 diabetes! I want to change the name so that they will know it’s different!”

Well, this is, as a former supervisor would say to me, “an opportunity to excel”. Turn the rage into a teaching moment. Rather than getting all indignant and stirring up others who feel like we’re misunderstood, take a moment and breathe, then say:

“Diabetes is a complex disease. There are different types and different ways to treat the disease. If you have a moment, I’d love to tell you a little bit about it, so that you can help others learn.”

And you can change the name of a disease all you want… it will still be the same disease with the same misperceptions. You’ll just spend more time hollering into the blackness about how the name is different.

Diabetes is not a contest. 

It doesn’t matter in the end what diabetes you have. There are preconceptions and misconceptions about both types from the general public and even from within the diabetes community. Have you seen these quotes before?

“That person asked me if I have the bad kind of diabetes!”

“She told me that my diabetes must be severe if I have to take shots!”

“Type 1 diabetes is far more difficult to manage than Type 2!”

“Type 2 is an obese disease. Type 1 isn’t.”

Long term, we all are hunched over from the weight of complications that pick at every part of our bodies. Our pancreases don’t work properly. All diabetes is bad. All diabetes is severe. All diabetes is difficult to manage. And guess what… both types of diabetes can be “obese” diseases.

I am living proof that you can be fat with Type 1 diabetes. I know many people who are thin as rails with Type 2.

Why are we trying to prove to ourselves and others that one type of diabetes deserves more pity or money or time or effort or public awareness?

Diabetes is not a contest.

It’s a disease.

No one wins.

 

 

 

 

 

Starting Point…

1346874_96916526My little butterfly was standing on a chair, asking to jump high. I was watching the machine out of the corner of my eye, trying to focus on both it and her.

I gave up.

“Jump high,” I smiled, holding onto her chubby arms and watching the curls bounce as she descended to the floor. The Kid stopped and cocked her head towards the machine. “What’s that?”

“It’s going to tell me what my A1C is. Mommy thinks it’s going to be higher than last time.” She’s already off, trying to open the cabinets underneath the sink.

Beep.

And like I said, it was higher.

7.0%

I texted John. “7.0% – Boo”, I type. And then Mr. Wisdom texts me back and with one sentence, puts it all in perspective.

“You used to be happy to see that number.”

He’s right. When the pendulum swung and I started to care about my diabetes and my body and my future, I had a long way to go before I saw 7.0% – and when I did, I was on cloud 9 (or cloud 7.0%).

You see, there were years that I would have been happy to just have a single digit A1C lab result. Truth be told? I think I hit above 14.0% in my teens. Yes. I know how high my blood sugars must have been. It was an overwhelmingly dark time in my life. I shudder even now, but have learned to accept the damage that I may have caused my body. It’s tough to swallow.

Nowadays, I shake my head at the old me, but I should also be shaking a finger at the current me. When I sat down with my CDE and talked about my cortisone injection and the crappy blood sugars that went on for weeks, she told me to stop berating myself for the A1C result. And I had been beating myself up in the exam room while attempting to prevent The Kid from stealing a box of alcohol swabs, thinking I should have been trying harder and doing more.

So, I am going to try harder and do more.

Try harder to not be so hard on myself.

Do more celebrating of the A1C I have.

Try harder to remember that I’m doing more now that I did in past years.

Like I said, it was higher.

It’s a good starting point.

A little reminder to all – I’m not comparing myself to anyone else when it comes to A1Cs.

Everyone has a different A1C and if it’s 14.0% or 10.4% (Another quite popular A1C for me…) or 8.0% or 5.5%, it’s O.K. – it’s one point in our life, but it’s not the end. It’s a point and it’s always a starting point.  You can choose to share it out loud like me or keep it to yourself, like my esteemed colleague, Scott of Rolling In The D, who gives his own great reason. I choose to share because somewhere out there is someone who thinks that they’ll never go from 14.0% to a “normal” A1C… and I want that person to know that it is possible.

And I’m rooting for you. And me. And all of us.