As a person in the know about diabetes, both personally and professionally, I still find it quite hard to define diabetes burnout. It may be that it differs from person to person. Most likely it is that the way it manifests itself depends on what sort of person you are. Diabetes.co.uk characterises it as the ‘state of disillusion, frustration and somewhat submission to the condition of diabetes’. It’s a loose enough definition to catch a lot of the feels, but firm enough to relate to. It’s a slow creep of apathy, not wanting to care about something you never wanted to have in the first place.
Confession time here- I just hit my 15 year diaversary. Some time last year I became a person who has had diabetes for long than I didn’t have it. Each 10th of January I take a moment to remember my diagnosis. The details get fuzzier each year (maybe a blog for another day). 2015 was a weird year for me, transitional in many ways, and somewhere along the way I fell off the diabetes wagon. In general, my control has always been pretty good, not without effort, but somehow I have always managed to fly just under the radar of my diabetes team. Not struggling enough to worry them, but also not doing amazingly. But they have bigger fish to fry, or so I thought.
I got chatting with @k_d85, and as you all know the Diabetic Shambles blog was born. Shambolic and inadvisable blog posts were published, we really hope they are of use in your diabetic shambling. But even putting pen to paper (or the digital equivalent of this) didn’t bring me any closer to the wagon. If anything it just went further and further out of sight as I felt I could do anything, scot free, now that I was blogging about it. I chatted more to @k_d85 and we mused, wouldn’t it be great if there was some app we could use to support and motivate each other towards regular BG testing? Peer support is one of the greatest tools in diabetes self-management. We know about the amazing MySugr, DiaSend, and no doubt there are other things people use (tell us!). But could the two be brought together? Perhaps just a shared Excel document, I mused, that we could update regularly, and keep an eye on each other? Silence. I wondered if I had over-egged it. Then suddenly, an email from @k_d85 with a link to a Google Sheets document and an instruction to download the Sheets app. And lo, The The BG Testing Mutually Assured Nagging Matrix was born (see below).
I found a fellow burnt out adult, and we made something cool. A couple of others joined (with many years of diabetes under their collective belts), and then a handful more. I’m hoping that a snowball effect will ensue (not that a dog wees on you and you melt after 36 hours. Pfft).
I’m not going to reference this (I leave all of my half-arsed referencing to uni work) but we all know that the incidence of mental health problems is disproportionately higher in people with diabetes, and we need to look out for and support each other if we can. It follows that good physical health begets good mental health (and vice versa) so we must use all tools in the arsenal to maintain both. It’s not for everyone I’m aware, but I am a strong advocate of laying your shit out on the table, it just makes it easier to handle (I actually AM speaking metaphorically, this time).
In December I looked at what had been going on in the Matrix, and what I saw was not pretty. Sometimes it just takes a bit of information to see the bigger picture. Coincidentally, I had diabetes clinic that month so I took myself along and did my usual performance of making nice and being fine. I understand it’s called The Doorknob Revelation (which sounds more fun than it actually is) where the most important information in a consultation is that which the patient says very last. And that’s exactly what I did. I was packing up my stuff, when I finally found the balls to say, actually, I’m not handling this so well. My consultant was AMAZING. She knew she had other patients waiting, but she just completely slowed it down down. She wanted to know it all. We made a plan. And you know, things started to improve.