Recognizing and Overcoming Diabetes Burnout and Distress

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Hello everyone, welcome to my editorial 🙂 My name is Stéphanie, I’m 42  years old, I’m a nurse, and I’ve been living with Type 1 diabetes for 27 years, and I also became a mother in 2017, of a child living with T1D.

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease. This means you have to live with it all the time: day and night, while out and about, at work, on vacation ⛱, with your partner, with friends… Think of it this way: is it easy to live with someone 24 hours a day without ever being able to take a break? Absolutely not! 

Yet our goal is always the same: to be healthy and live an active and balanced life. We all have different ways of dealing with our diabetes, depending on our age, our hobbies, our surroundings, our personalities, etc.

Diabetes can be difficult to manage and accept. People who live with it on a daily basis are bound to get frustrated and fed up with it, or even experience diabetes burnout or distress.

The Signs of Diabetes Burnout 

One day you get up and you’re not feeling so great. You sit down for breakfast and instead of thinking about your blood sugar and preparing your insulin, you have some coffee, a piece of toast, some fruit, and then… Oops! You tell yourself: “I’ll take my insulin later, after breakfast.” Then, as if nothing happened, you continue with the rest of your day. At noon, you check your blood sugar, and naturally, it’s too high! 

Then and only then do you remember that you forgot to take your morning insulin. Pulling yourself together, you take a quick dose to get back to normal.

But at 6 p.m., you feel thirsty and tired… Yep, your blood sugar is too high yet again… You had your morning dose at noon but forgot to take a dose in the afternoon. And, you didn’t check your blood sugar level. 

Frustration sets in, along with a few choice words for Type 1 diabetes, your lifelong companion: 

“I’m so sick of my diabetes.”

“There’s no freedom, no flexibility… I can’t take it anymore.” 

“I give up! Diabetes is ruining my life.” 

“I wish I could eat whatever I want without always having to think about it. Like normal people.”

I’m sure you can think of some more; I’m keeping it on the polite side. Who knows, one day I might launch a “diabetes tirade” challenge—just so we can all have a laugh!

Even with the help of loved ones, a diabetes support group, an association, or a team of healthcare professionals, you can still feel alone when dealing with Type 1 diabetes. 

Everyone is different and has different ways of dealing with their condition. Diabetes doesn’t have to be your enemy. In fact, it can even become an asset, a source of strength that helps you grow as a person.

 Tips for Avoiding Diabetes Burnout 

  • Take a “mental health day.” Sometimes you have to stop fighting your diabetes and simply let yourself go—without taking risks, of course. 
  • Buy a punching bag and let off some steam whenever your diabetes has got you stressed.
  • On a blank piece of paper, write a letter to your diabetes and list all the things that annoy you about the disease.
  • Draw a picture of a monster representing your diabetes and stare it down.
  • Talk about your diabetes with others.
  • Online influencers, groups of people living with Type 1 diabetes, and associations can be wonderful sources of support.

Burnout is never a good reason to stop treating your diabetes. Diabetes treatment is demanding, but it’s necessary. We may never do it perfectly, but we try to do our best. If your disease seems too much to handle, reach out to your diabetes specialist and/or other healthcare provider. And above all, don’t fall into the trap of refusing treatment—it’s just too dangerous.

Take care of yourself. At the end of the day, only you can decide the best way to incorporate the disease into your everyday life.

I hope my experience has helped.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can improve your life by taking control of your diabetes!

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