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Living with Diabetes

It's OK to need help with your diabetes

6/30/2016 by Scott Johnson

It's OK to need help with your diabetes

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.

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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 diabetes 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 all deserve to get feedback and expert advice from qualified experts whenever we want it. 

Paper is for origami

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 Engagement Manager, USA for mySugr. He's been an active pioneer in the diabetes social media space for more than fifteen years and manages his award-winning blog, scottsdiabetes.com when time allows.

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