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[IP] Horrible Diabetes & Stress
You asked, "what do you do to manage high levels from
stress?" Sorry its a long answer - its not an easy
Sometimes the stress of diabetes can be as frustrating as
the diabetes itself. As with many of the people on this
group I have lots to stress over too - There are lots of
reasons why I "could" think life sucks and diabetes is
horrible - but I don't. But I'll be the last one to
criticize someone who thinks that DM is horrible or that
10 years ago I was told that I had less than 5 years to live
(due to condition unrelated to diabetes and long before I
became diabetic). I was devastated - my son was 4 years
old, I was just beginning a very successful career and I had
it all - at least I thought I did. But my wife and son and
I picked up the pieces and decided we could either live in
anger or we could find ways to have a full and happy life -
regardless of how long our time is meant to be. Knowing
that life could be drained from me in an instant, forced me
during those first few years of dealing with the
life-threatening condition, to decide what was important in
Then, as I've posted before, last year I had pancreatitis
(which is how I became diabetic), liver trouble, gout,
complete kidney failure, several heart attacks, neuropathy
in hands and feet and a few things I won't mention. My
eyesight is so bad its nearly uncorrectable. Last December,
I was given about 8 hours to live. Again, the important
things in life came back into perspective.
Some have posted comments on this thread along the lines of
"tell me how good DM is when you have [name your
complication]" Ok, I've been there - but I'm not going to
let anger take control of me - just as I won't let diabetes
take control of me. No one posted any messages DM is
wonderful; none of us would choose to have DM; but DM also
doesn't have to be horrible.
Stress affects each of us differently. For some, being
angry at DM is a great way to relieve stress (just look at
all the great stress relieving postings on this thread!).
For some, volunteering at ADA/JDF or other groups helps not
only to diffuse our own stress, but to help others with
their stress too. Just venting is a great stress reliever.
When I'm under stress (for what ever reason) I test more
because the high and low bg's triggered by the stress
compound to make it worse. To help keep my stress in
balance I use lots of self actualization techniques - all
pretty common and the techniques really just depend on the
nature of the stress. Some might think its dorky, but
sometimes simple approaches are good.
First, I try to accept things that I don't have control
over. It's not easy to accept it, but I keep trying. I
cannot control the fact that I have DM - I don't have to
like it to be able to find some peace in my co-existence
with it. DM doesn't define me, even though its part of who
Second, I take comfort in the ability to control some
things - I can eat to bring my bg's up. I can bolus to
bring them down. I know that they will never be perfect, but
most of the time I can keep the bg's in a range that will
minimize the risk of later complications. The pump was a
great stress reliever because it gave me more control.
Third, I try not to feel guilty. I'm convinced that stress
and guilt are first cousins. If I eat more than I should or
do something that I shouldn't, guilt leads to stress which
continues to circle. I'm not perfect, my bg's will never be
perfect and I can accept this. I try to learn from my
decisions, but not feel guilty because of them.
Fourth, I make time for me. Whether you are a parent of a
diabetic or a diabetic yourself - although it sounds corny -
having time to yourself away from family, work, and things
that trigger stress helps me to learn more about myself.
That doesn't mean that I isolate myself or am in denial -
diabetes knows no vacation and its nearly impossible for a
T1 to deny it. Time for me just helps me to keep priorities
clear. I have a room at home that I retreat to when I need
to be alone. I have favorite parks and beaches that I go to
when I don't want to be home but when I need to feel secure.
I have favorite churches (several denominations) that I stop
by to meditate in.
Fifth, I accept help from others. I always learn more when I
listen than when I talk. I ask lots of questions.
Sixth, I get involved in causes. My wife and I volunteer
for ADA and JDF and other good causes; we volunteer for
public television - When I help others, it helps reduce my
Seventh, I take deep breaths. I take long walks. I watch
the waves roll in on the beach. I smell flowers and I watch
butterflies. I read books and an occasional MAD Magazine.
Dorky? Certainly. But it helps me accept life and its
Eighth, I laugh a lot - humor is a great way to relieve
Ninth, I cry a lot - crying is a great way to cope (even for
us "manly men").
Please don't interpret my comments as complacency with DM.
Far from it! - I've been a diabetes activist long before I
became T1. I fund raise for ADA and JDF; I talk about DM
all the time; I keep my pump very visible; I teach people at
work what to do if I have a reaction; I take shots and test
blood in public; I just started speaking for ADA; When I was
Chairman of ADA-Hawaii and a member of the National ADA
Finance Committee 12 years ago, I stirred a near national
ADA uprising when I began doing joint ADA/JDF activities
such as fund raising, community events, public speaking and
support groups. If you've ever been involved with the ADA
National Office politics you can appreciate what feathers I
ruffled when I recommended in a National board meeting that
ADA and JDF do more work together! They couldn't get me out
of Alexandria fast enough!
I'd like nothing more than seeing a cure for diabetes and a
cure for my renal failure and a cure for my heart condition
and a cure for pancreas failure and a cure for liver
diseases and a cure for neuropathy... Well today ever a cure
for one of them would be nice.
When I volunteered at ADA camp and woke up in the morning
with a little 6 year old Polynesian boy jostling my arm and
looking at me with big brown eyes saying "Mister, would you
give me a shot?" It was all I could do to hold back the
tears. Is diabetes horrible? Its different for each of us.
For the little boy with the big eyes at camp, he doesn't
know enough yet for diabetes to be horrible. For his mom and
dad - seeing their little one having to grow up with the
challenges of diabetes - Yes, its probably one of the most
horrible things a parent could face. For me, surviving
several near-death experiences - No, diabetes is not so bad.
But we can probably all agree that it is a very complicated
condition - both emotionally and physically.
Tom "Pump Daddy" Wellman
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