In many ways, diabetes is a numbers game.
How many grams of carbohydrates to eat, how many times to take your pills or injections per day, how many minutes you clock on your exercise bicycle or treadmill. What your numbers look like first thing in the morning on your glucose monitor and how they read last thing before you go to bed at night.
Not to forget the bi-yearly A1C readings to check your averages, the test to measure the percentage of protein in your urine, and the figures on good and bad cholesterols.
It’s enough to make this type 2 go mad.
But lately, I’ve been thinking more about the “game” aspect of the disease and less about the numbers themselves. I’ve been thinking about how taking care of a chronic disease like diabetes can be an absolute chore, a burden and a drag OR it can be – brace yourself — kind of fun.
Like a game.
How do I mean? Well, for the longest time, I both feared and resented my type 2 diabetes. When I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes with both my pregnancies, I worried that a high sugar reading was going to harm my unborn children. Then, in my 30’s and 40’s, I resented watching friends down slice after slice of pepperoni pizza with beer, while I was limited to a taste of crust washed down with a diet coke.
I fought with my diabetes as though we were on opposing teams. I continually made bargains with the disease — today I would have a chocolate ice cream cone, but tomorrow I would swear off carbs; I wouldn’t exercise today but would promise to jump to it tomorrow.
You know how that song goes.
But everyone also knows deep in his or her hearts that you can only bargain so far with a chronic disease. Soon enough complications can set in. And who are you really fooling? If you choose to ignore it, diabetes will always triumph.
But then, around age 50, I started thinking about diabetes differently. Rather than view it as the opposition, I began to see it as part of me. Not a particularly welcome part, but a part. And soon after this realization, I stopped bargaining and began to play. How low could I go on carb intake on a given day? How many minutes could I stack up in the weight room? How many days could I go without forgetting to swallow my meds?
Once I started to play with my diabetes, my fear and most of my anger dissipated. We weren’t friends, exactly, but we were no longer enemies. We became teammates, playing for the same team. With my improvement in attitude came an improvement in my A1C’s.
Chronic diseases are no fun and diabetes is no exception. Vigilance is everything. Burnout is always a possibility. But without a change in attitude – and maybe a touch of playfulness – you can add to the stress of having diabetes in the first place.
Which is why I started looking at it as a game that, with some luck and lots of self-care, I just might win.
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