I refer to hitting “rock bottom” as an inevitable occasion where you think you have decent control and then (often through a chain of unfortunate events) find yourself at an extreme low point-such as being unable to test or binge eating.
For whatever reason-sickness, a new exercise regime, lots of new stress, a big life change, you are dealing with high blood sugars for a day or a week-or longer. It feels awful and it sweeps you out of your feel good diabetes routine.
A tiny downward spiral occurs: You have a high blood sugar reading several times in a row or in a day and begin to feel upset about it. You may overcorrect with insulin out of frustration and suffer a few low blood sugar episodes. Then you feel even worse and decide to skip your workout for the day, or you go ahead and eat that pastry you know you don’t really want to eat because you figure your day has already been shot.
Next thing you know you’ve gone a few days feeling consistently awful and you feel out of control. You wonder how you let yourself slip. You wonder how you’ll muster up the strength to force discipline upon yourself again and regain control. Its hard when you feel bad to feel motivated so your lack of energy worries you.
This has happened to me so many times. For me, getting back on the horse has been as important as riding the horse (don’t ask) It was through persevering through these moments when I felt I was at my lowest. Here is how I handle rock bottom now and use hard times to propel me towards steady diabetes management:
1. Emotionally retreat from the situation
This means let go of your anger, frustration, hurt, and pain just long enough to step back and take a logical look at your situation. Think about how your emotions stop you from regaining control and realize that your high blood sugar can be fixed rather quickly and you can soon pretend it never even happened. Don’t look back, just fix your current mishap and move on.
2. Ask yourself some questions
Ask yourself, “Is this high blood sugar episode temporary?” “Will tomorrow be a better day?” “Am I human and prone to failing once in a while?” The answer to all of these questions is YES! When we freak out or get depressed we do so because we lose PERSEPCTIVE. Remember there is always hope, there is always tomorrow, you have survived worse, and you WILL be just fine!
3. Live in the present
We have heard this a million times. Perhaps because it is so true and yet so few of us have managed to do this consistently. From now on, practice living in the present with your diabetes management. When your blood sugar is less than ideal, stop yourself immediately from worrying about future complications or how your day is going to be ruined. Instead, take necessary steps to fix your blood sugar and take a deep breathe. Continue living your life, checking back with your blood sugar to make sure it has been corrected, and then think like it never happened. Do learn from mistakes! But, don’t linger on the horror of your last 300 reading or beat yourself up. Diabetes is exhausting and you are not a machine programmed to never fail. Remember that.
4. Use rock bottom moments to improve yourself
When I hit bottom I think to myself, “Well, there is nowhere to go but up”. Its true. You can only do better. This gives me hope and motivation to not only to better, but to do better than EVER. I’ve always set goals for myself. I’m amazed at how far I’ve come. I used to try to “Get A1c lowered to a 7%” Now I try to “Maintain A1c under 5%”. I used to “Workout 2-3 times a week for 30 minutes”. Eventually that goal turned into “Run 3 miles every day and do yoga for 30 minutes every day”. Set doable goals for yourself and as you reach them, set the bar a little higher. Do take small steps so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
5. Last but not least: Plan ahead
This is where you are allowed to think about the future. I have found that planning ahead helps tremendously. For example: Always keep emergency supplies for lows or highs in purse. If getting on a plane, don’t give insulin within 2 hours of departure and keep something for a low in pocket. When you’ve had a hard day, plan a fun activity for the weekend to give yourself a distraction and something fun to look forward to. Anything positive helps ward off depression caused by a tough blood sugar day or week.
So there are a few things I try to do to help myself overcome the inevitable. Diabetes is hard and we have to be harder and smarter to combat it. Share your tips in the comments! I’d love to know what other diabetics find success with.