The Struggles of Being Diabetic
Please join DiabetesCoachLive for a special program designed for people living with diabetes and their loved ones. Patients and experts from Joslin Diabetes Center will be walking through insulin options, debunking myths about side effects, and answering questions from the audience.
When people think of diabetes, their mind immediately jumps to insulin and injections and pricking your finger multiple times day to check your sugar. People fear the complication of the insulin without understanding the true benefits and side effects. There are now many forms of insulin used to treat diabetes and there is a right one for every patient that needs it. Yet, the injections and blood sugar are only one of the many struggles of being diabetic.
Diabetes is now so common in the U.S. we probably all know someone who has this disease. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in my mid-twenties and managed it well with diet and exercise until I became pregnant, when it went full-blown: insulin injections up to three times a day, testing my sugar four times a day and very limited carbs. Imagine being a pregnant woman with a craving for Rocky Road ice cream mixed with Doritos and you can have neither (and everyone keeps pushing food in front of you reminding you are eating for two). However, those are not two adults but rather one adult and a couple-pound fetus who can both have dire outcomes if the diabetes is uncontrolled. Thankfully, I no longer require insulin but rather take four oral medications.
No one understands the challenges of being diabetic unless they, or a loved one, have the disease. When you attend their kids’ birthday parties, they tell you to eat that cake just this once because it is a special occasion. Meanwhile, you feel like a heel because it is their kid’s fifth birthday party and you aren’t even going to eat a piece of the prized cake designed especially for this event. You may be left with guilt, or you may just eat it to make them happy only to go home later and feel sick. I have succumbed many times only to spend the rest of the evening vomiting, which is how my high blood sugar manifests.
One of my worst struggles is the fact that I no longer get hungry but rather get hypoglycemic instead. Being a doctor, I get so busy that I often don’t pay attention to when is the time I should be eating. But, when the low sugar comes on me, it comes quickly. First, it is the shakes and lightheadedness, followed by the nausea and blurred vision. If I don’t attend to it immediately, I will pass out. My kids learned from an early age how to treat hypoglycemia. I still remember a time when my daughter was around seven finding her shoving a piece of chocolate cake in my mouth on the sidewalk in front of our church.
Many people falsely assume that diabetics are fine if we just avoid sweets. But, it is rather a fine art of balancing good carbs and proteins in order to feel good. There is no set diet that works for all diabetics, but rather a trial and error process. The biggest struggle is that we want to eat that food we are not supposed to. As a doctor, I know the consequences of cheating both in how I feel and the damage it does to the organs. But sometimes, the craving is just so strong. It is not easy to forever and always say no to the food that is bad for our diabetes.
As the number of diabetics continue to climb, we all need to be more aware of the struggles. Yes, we want our loved ones to share special events with us. But, the food is secondary to the love. People with diabetes are struggling in their own minds, don’t put more obstacles for success in their way. For most people, a donut is just a donut. But, for a diabetic it could be a life or death debate and could leave them guilt ridden no matter their decision.
Please head to DiabetesCoachLive for a special program designed for people living with diabetes and their loved ones, available for free on-demand now. Patients and experts from Joslin Diabetes Center will be walking through insulin options, debunking myths about side effects, and answering questions from the audience.
About the Author
Linda Girgis MD, FAAFP is a family physician practicing in South River, New Jersey and Clinical Assistant Professor at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. She was voted one of the top 5 healthcare bloggers in 2016. Follow her on twitter @DrLindaMD.