Tired of Type 1: Tips for Dealing with Diabetes Burnout

Young adult with long hair wears sweater and shorts and rides bike, arms stretched, down a path into distanceIs type 1 diabetes getting you down? If so, that is understandable and even to be expected. How many other physical health conditions necessitate so closely monitoring every carb that goes into your body? Not to mention the constant blood sugar checks, insulin injections, endo visits, and the ridiculous comments from well-meaning friends. Whether you use pens, pumps, or syringes, managing type 1 diabetes is a full-time job. For children and teens with type 1 and for their parents, the challenges of managing the condition can be even more daunting.

For those who aren’t so intimately familiar with type 1 diabetes, educating yourself is key to supporting a loved one with the condition. Here’s a quick primer: In type 1 diabetes—a chronic condition also known as juvenile diabetes—the body’s own immune system mistakenly shuts down production of the hormone insulin in the pancreas, depriving cells of sugar and energy. This can lead to a variety of serious health problems, including damage to the eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Although a number of factors can contribute to the onset of type 1 diabetes, it is sometimes rooted in genetics or exposure to environmental factors such as viruses.

Only about 5% of people with diabetes have type 1. Nonetheless, it is a far more common struggle than many people realize. The American Diabetes Association estimates about 1.25 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, with around 40,000 being newly diagnosed each year. Many of them are under age 20, but anyone can develop type 1 diabetes.

There is no cure for type 1 diabetes, but with proper treatment and maintenance, it can be managed effectively. And as with most physical health conditions, part of any effective treatment plan is supporting and maintaining mental health. In that spirit, here are some tips to help with your diabetes burnout—or to share with someone you care about who may be experiencing it:

  1. Do things you enjoy: You are so much more than your diabetes. You have other interests, talents, and parts of your identity that make you whole. Nurture those things and allow them to distract you from the diabetes management. Create balance.
  2. Do not try to be “perfect”: High and low blood sugar levels are inevitable even if you do everything right, so aiming for perfection is a setup for disappointment. Control what you can control and let the rest go.
  3. Separate your self-worth from your diabetes: Do not judge yourself on your blood sugar numbers. The numbers are simply information so you know what you need to do next. If you are struggling, recognize you are NOT the problem. Diabetes is the problem, and you can partner with it to figure out best way forward.
    If you are struggling, recognize you are NOT the problem. Diabetes is the problem, and you can partner with it to figure out best way forward.
  4. Utilize creative thinking: If you were an architect designing a home, your first blueprint would not likely be the final version. You would likely tweak your design until it was closer to your ideal home. Think of your plan for improving your diabetes management in this way. You are figuring out the best initial course of action and then modifying as you go, depending on what works for you. An architect would not feel like a failure if the first version was not the final product, so don’t beat yourself up, either.
  5. Honor your hard work: Do something nice for yourself; perhaps even throw yourself a dia-birthday, if you’re feeling it. You have been putting in daily effort toward improving your health and well-being. Encourage your friends and support network to join in celebrating that. They may have also been putting in energy toward your success.
  6. Set small, attainable goals: Thinking about bringing your A1C down? Instead of having that be your all-or-nothing goal, break it down to manageable, measurable parts. Set an intention for the day. Today, commit to checking your blood sugar three times, giving insulin, and giving yourself positive affirmations, regardless of what the meter reads. We need to think about both the mind and the body if we want sustainable change.
  7. Find meaning, no matter how small: Are there any positive ways diabetes has impacted your life? Did you meet a new friend? Have you treated your body to healthier food? Is your family spending more time together or eating better?
  8. Seek professional help: It is my belief even therapists need therapists. If you are wanting some extra help, short- or long-term, don’t be afraid to seek it.

Reference:

American Diabetes Association. (n.d.). Type 1 Diabetes. Retrieved from http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/type-1/

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Kristin Avicolli, LCSW, therapist in Walnut Creek, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Shirley

    March 10th, 2017 at 1:31 PM

    I have’t ever thought about this. I guess I have just always known that for me it is a life and death situation so I know the things that I have to do to take care of myself.

  • Kristin Avicolli

    March 11th, 2017 at 12:05 PM

    Yes, please take care of yourself. This is meant to acknowledge that type 1 diabetes is a tough condition to cope with and there are emotional struggles that go along with caring for any chronic condition.

  • teller

    March 11th, 2017 at 6:46 AM

    This is not a disease that you can play around with. This is a huge killer of many people every single year, and I know that it can be tiresome to always have to watch what you eat and check your sugar level and take insulin shots, but for the longevity and quality of your life to likely be what you would naturally want it to be, these are just the sacrifices that have to be made. You can’t give up just because you don’t feel like doing it anymore. This is literally your life that we are talking about here.

  • Ian

    March 13th, 2017 at 7:18 AM

    My sister actually wears an insulin pump now and that has been a real help for her.

  • Micah

    March 14th, 2017 at 7:35 AM

    Finally after years of struggling with this myself I have joined a support group for young people with Type 1 and this has been amazing for me. I have learned that I am not all alone even when I feel that I am. I have learned so many new things about my body and the things that I can do, and don’t have to be limited by.’It has given me a sense of self that I did not have previously.

  • Kristin Avicolli

    March 15th, 2017 at 6:20 PM

    That is wonderful Micah! Support groups can be really beneficial. You also recognize ways in which diabetes has improved your appreciation for your body. It appears that you are in a good place in your relationship to type 1.

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