Updated: Jun 2, 2020
Anyone who have Type 1 Diabetes would agree, the condition is a mind-game. We are focused on our blood sugars, testing and experimenting with insulin, timing and foods 24/7, 365 days a year. Aiming for great blood sugars is very important, but it can sometimes become obsessive and start causing more harm to your mental health than good to your overall health.
We all know that mental health and support is curtail for a healthy life and a happy body. So how can we minimise the impact of T1D on our mental stability? There is a decision that each of us has to make: adjust your life to T1D or adjust your T1D to your life. It is a personal decision and at different stages of life either one can be useful. I want to share my experiences of the two approaches with you and leave you to decide which one is best for you right now.
Adjust your life to T1D
In this approach, you let your blood sugars decide whether you will or won’t do somethings. For example, one time (actually more than one) I really wanted to go to a spin class, but my blood sugars were a rollercoaster, going high then low, then high again, and I don't like training when I am high or low, so I skipped the spin class. That was the correct decision for me at the time, although, I did miss out on the class, but my mental space was easier to deal with.
When you start adjusting your life to T1D, you prioritise taking care of the condition over everything else, which is great during periods when you are learning more about how hormones can impact you, how exercise may impact you from external sources: doctors, courses, podcasts. It is good to focus on blood sugars as you learn to truly be able to trace the patterns and find which of the things you’ve learnt are for you and which aren’t.
This approach is by no means a sustainable method to take care of your T1D. In a while, it starts sucking the life out of you, eating up your social life, taking away foods and activities you like away from you at times, brings fear of failing if you get bad blood sugars and endorses perfection. You can never be perfect with your T1D, everyone has bad days, even the ones that have enormous knowledge about T1D and the ones that follow the strictest routines will still have high blood sugars sometimes.
Letting your Type 1 rule your life is not a good idea long term. We are so much more than our numbers, and whilst staying in range the majority of time is important, we need to allow ourselves room for mistakes. In fact, we need to let go of perfection and allow life to happen, because there is no point in taking care of your health, if you are not using your health to live a life to the full. Take care of your condition, do what you need to in order to have a wholesome life, full of emotions, adventures and unforgettable experiences.
Adjust your T1D to your life
This approach is the one where you learn to let go of your “perfectly straight” blood sugar graphs and allow yourself some space, still aiming to be in range. So, with the same example of the spin class, I would instead correct the blood sugars with insulin or some glucose and make sure that I have glucose with me on the bike. This time, I would let go of the fear of messing everything up again and of the desire to be perfect with my blood sugars. I would allow life to happen and just take care of my T1D, whatever it decides to do.
The Type 1 community is amazing, but sometimes, I feel that it starts putting too much emphasis on wanting to have a perfect blood sugar all the time (i.e. the unicorn = 5.0 mmol/l or 100 mg/dl). There is no need to have that all the time. There are much more important things in life than a perfectly straight blood sugar graph. It makes no sense to try to avoid complications to live a longer life by depriving yourself of life whilst you do that.
Finding the fine balance between good blood sugar control and living a wholesome fruitful life is not easy. By going through a period of adjusting your life to T1D you can learn to adjust your T1D to life. You will find freedom in living a stress-free life with more space for mistakes and be calmer about life overall.
The best mind-set to adapt for this approach is to be curious. You need to be willing to make a mistake to then be able to avoid that mistake in similar situations in the future. You need to accept that Type 1 I a learning curve, with lots of hick ups, but also periods of calm. As long as you stay in rage most of the time and keep on learning, your physical and mental health will be at their best and you will be the healthiest best version of yourself.
I have experienced both approaches, and both have taught me a lot about T1D and life in general. Adapting the latter approach gave me true freedom in decisions, but it takes a while to switch over, change how you make decisions and what you prioritise: life or T1D. Type 1 Diabetes is a mind-game, but you choose how to think about it and what mind-set you want to adapt. Your life is in your hands, as is your Type 1.