Living with Diabetes

It's OK to need help with your diabetes

6/30/2016 by Scott Johnson

I'm embarrassed because I struggle to make sense of my diabetes data. It feels overwhelming, and I often don’t know where to start. I know I’m supposed to look for patterns and trends, but sometimes it's just too much for me.

Let me clarify. I have the information, but I get frustrated when I try to figure it out. And I’m not sure how to translate what I see into actionable therapy changes. At some point, I give up. I throw my hands up and say, “I don’t want to deal with this right now, it’s too complicated!” However, giving up leaves an aftertaste of disquiet. There’s a steady rumble of nagging inside that says I should be good at this by now, and that I’m not trying hard enough. Diabetes is a real beast that way, isn’t it? It’s exhausting! So maybe it’s no surprise that I surrender and procrastinate when I’m overwhelmed.
Unsettled man at the beach
But what about when something’s just not right, or when I really need help? What if there’s a big life change? Or what if I’ve bumped into another health condition and need help managing diabetes around it? Maybe I want to start a new exercise or run a half-marathon? Or maybe I just want to rid myself of that damn nagging! What if I want to live with the confidence that I’m doing the best I can? I think I deserve that. We all deserve that.

But help is hard to find

Where can I go when I need help? I get a small dose of help when I see my endocrinologist. However, the appointments are short – usually about 20 minutes.  We spend a little bit of time looking at blood sugar values, but it’s very high-level, and we never have enough time to take a close look. Additionally, I only see him once every few months. Between visits, I have to figure everything out on my own, which can feel a bit isolating and confusing. Meeting with a certified diabetes educator (CDE) is a different story, and they’re worth their weight in gold. I usually get much more time with them, and we’re able to review my data in detail. But it’s not always easy to find one I like or one that fits my schedule.
The hands of two people discussing something at a table
The diabetes online community is wonderful for peer-to-peer support and some psychosocial aspects of life with diabetes. But sometimes I need much more than that.

Too close to the details

But why am I embarrassed about diabetes data struggles? I've been thinking a lot about this lately, and I’m seeing it all wrong. On one hand, I should be able to do it myself, right? Nobody knows my diabetes better than I do. I spend the most time with it, I see (and feel) every up and down, and I’m the expert at my diabetes. But on the other hand, that’s just it – I’m too close to the details! I need another perspective to help me step back and look at everything! And that’s where CDEs show their magic. Let me illustrate with a quick sports example. Pro basketball players are experts at playing basketball. They are on the court dribbling, passing, shooting, rebounding, defending, etc. But behind the scenes, they have coaches who make them better in each of these areas! These coaches watch from the sidelines and analyze everything so they can tweak, tune, and offer feedback.
Guys playing basketball outside
And it’s not a huge stretch to apply this analogy to diabetes, is it? Can you imagine how a diabetes educator analyzing blood sugar records is like a coach reviewing game film? Can you see how chatting back and forth with a dietitian about a new lunch technique is like doing practice drills for a new basketball technique? Of course, these things make sense to me because I’m a basketball guy. But even if you hate basketball, you get the idea, right?

Changing today's world

Today we’re tied to an appointment schedule, and that doesn’t always fit my needs. Maybe it’s inconvenient to travel to the clinic for the appointment, or perhaps I’m feeling great about my diabetes care right then and don’t need the extra dose of help. I want something to supplement my appointment-based care. I want something that I can tap into when I’m feeling alone, when I'm feeling vulnerable, or when I'm confused. I want a qualified expert that I can connect with about my personal diabetes care when I need help! Right now, I feel a little stuck and alone when I want help between appointments!

We deserve better

We all deserve to get feedback and expert advice from qualified experts whenever we want it. And guess what? We've worked that out as a special prize for you today! But first – What do you think about all of this? Am I crazy? Do you have similar feelings or experiences? Or do you feel that you're able to manage everything on your own all the time? Let me know in the comments.

Now, on to your prize!

Would you like to win a free session with Gary Scheiner?! Gary runs Integrated Diabetes Services, he won AADE's 2014 Diabetes Educator of the Year, he is the author of "Think Like a Pancreas," and has lived with type 1 diabetes since 1985. He and his staff at Integrated Diabetes Services specialize in one-on-one expert care via remote consulting for people who use insulin to treat their diabetes. How cool would it be to have Gary Scheiner and his team in your pocket? Amazing, right? EDIT: Drawing is closed, all spots are filled. Thanks!

Scott Johnson

Almost famous for his addiction to Diet Coke, Scott has lived well with diabetes for almost forty years and is currently the Patient Success Manager, USA for mySugr. He's an active pioneer in the diabetes social media space and along with his work at mySugr, he manages his award-winning blog, when time allows.