Under Stress: The Time I Lost Control Of My Diabetes
Have you ever felt like no matter what you did, you could not gain the control you needed of your type 2 diabetes? That’s how I felt at one point in my life. I’d always had control, tight control. However, not during this stressful time…
I started reflecting back on that time period after listening to a peer talk about the stress she was under and how her A1C was high. She was having trouble bringing it down to her normal. She was clearly worried, as any of us would be. I had lived that experience myself. I was under an enormous amount of stress at the time with things I had no control over. My dad had an illness that was progressing quickly and my mom was struggling to cope. I can honestly say, I wasn’t coping well either. That lack of coping was reflected in my blood sugars, if or when I tested. It also would have been glaring in my A1C if I had had the courage to go get it done. I didn’t. At least, not when I should have.
The impact of stress on diabetes
In the past I had always been pretty happy with the daily control I had over my diabetes for a number of years. As time moved forward, my diabetes was changing, slowly, but still changing. I knew it was progressive so no surprise. Other things were changing too. My parents were aging. It was clear dad’s health was changing. It was also clear that mom was having a hard time understanding it. I had many talks with mom about the changes in dad and the path that needed to be done to help both of them. Over time, those talks started to affect me. Add to that, of myself and my two older brothers, I lived the closest to mom and dad and I was 2 hours away. I don’t want to mislead. My brothers were not putting it all on me. It was more about no one lived in town with mom and dad. We did have the ability to put services at the door for our parents but like many elderly folks, they refused it all. This really increased all of our stress across the whole family.
Initially, I tried to stay in control of my blood sugars. I reached out to my family doctor who was the main support I had medically. I talked about what was going on but obviously there wasn’t much he could do. He knew I had resources and basically left it up to me to use them when needed. I reached out to the CDE on my diabetes team at that time but her answer to everything was insulin. That was even before my sugars went high. My last A1C was back up to 8.3 mmol (150mg/dL). Not great, but not horrendous either. As I have written before, there was no understanding of my situation, there was only protocol. I didn’t have the energy to deal with the ‘one answer for all’ mentality. Nor did I have the brain power to learn anything new. She had tunnel vision and only saw the diabetes, not the rest of me. I had to just walk away from her. I couldn’t deal with it.
As time went on and the situation worsened for my folks, the impact on my diabetes became huge. And I kept it fairly quiet. I didn’t say much about what was really happening to anyone, not even my husband. Up until this point, my diabetes had been silent. I had no symptoms, ever. Suddenly I had thirst I couldn’t understand or quench. I felt sick from all the water I was drinking to quench the thirst and of course, running to the washroom more than I ever had. I was experiencing a lot of nausea with everything I ate. I was up at night, couldn’t sleep even though I was exhausted. Headaches became pretty regular too. When I did check my blood sugars, I was seeing 15-18 mmol (270-325 mg/dL) on my glucose monitor. I had never seen numbers that high before let alone on a fairly regular basis. I didn’t say much to anyone in my family about my blood sugars because we all had enough to worry about as it was. It seemed small in comparison. I was terrified but I kept trying to rally and deal with my sugars. I promised myself I’d look after it but found I had no resolve. I stopped checking my blood sugars for a short period of time because I knew how high they were by the way I felt. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure I would have been admitted to the hospital if my A1C had been checked then. Insulin would likely have been started. Probably should have been.
A couple months later, my parents were in a better place. I could then focus on me again. I brought my A1C back down to 6.3 mmol (110-120 mg/dL). I learned a lot about myself during this long stressful period and I promised myself a couple of things:
- I won’t avoid my regular checkups with my HCPs during very stressful times
- I won’t hide my high numbers again from my husband or the HCPs
- I was very lucky I had no bad outcome from ignoring my numbers for a long time
- I have to make my diabetes a priority no matter what else is going on
- I have to communicate better with my HCPs when I’m not coping with overwhelming stress and my diabetes
There are times in our lives when stress takes control, when we lose ourselves in it, when the current situation appears to be all that matters. We forget that chronic disease moves forward whether we devote the attention to it or not. But it does. Things could have gotten really bad for my diabetes and me but I was lucky this time. I may not be so lucky next time. I won’t take that chance.