Diabetes: The Thinking Person’s Disease

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By: Riva Greenberg

Diabetes is sometimes called "the thinking person's disease," andit's not hard to understand why. One consequence of living withdiabetes is a constant undertow of diabetes-related thought.

We'reforever collecting data, experimenting, judging the results of ourexperiments, calculating, and making decisions.

Take, for example,this morning, when I woke up with a blood sugar of 127. Immediately, the mental machinations began: "Hmmm, a reading of 127means that my blood sugar is on the rise. If I don't stop it now,it'll be 145 within the hour. Darn, I knew I should have taken thatextra half unit of Humalog before going to sleep. But when I didthat three days ago, my morning blood sugar was 55!

Let me see…I think I'll take just a smidge more insulinthan usual. But, gee, it looks really nice outside – maybe I'll take awalk around the park this morning. Okay, now I have to increase mydose for the rising blood sugar and decrease my dose for the walk.Hey, anyone got a calculator? I'm still a little sleepy here."

Are we thinkers first, or do we become better thinkers becauseliving with diabetes has forced it on us? I don't know that answer,but we all know that the thinking never ends. There's the countingcarbs for every single meal (a mental burden that's especiallyunwelcome during supposedly relaxing social events).

There's the remembering to take our medicine and meter when weleave the house. There's the ordering of refills before they run outso that we don't have to call the doctor, and then the rememberingto call the doctor after we forget to order the refills. And on, andon, today, tomorrow, and forever.

Here's one more thought. Maybe we could use our buffed-up braincells to think about bigger things than the everyday mechanics ofmanaging diabetes. In focusing so intensely on the minutia, we losesight of the big picture and forget why we're doing all this work.

Isn't it so that we can live a long and healthy life? To enjoy ourfriends and our family? To discover a second career, watch thegrandkids grow up, perhaps create the best vegetable garden on theblock? It's so easy to lose sight of why we're working so hard toachieve good blood sugar numbers every day. We need to remember thatit's to enjoy this life, to find our mission, to contribute ourgifts, and to feel connected, loved, and present in the world. Weneed to find a way to keep that thought ever present.

To that end, I think that every diabetes healthcare provider – whetherit's our endocrinologist, physician, diabetes educator, podiatrist,ophthalmologist, social worker, dentist, or reiki healer – should askus at every appointment: "What do you love to do?" "Who in your lifegives you pleasure?" and "What's your dream?" And their response toour reply should be "Okay, now let's create a treatment plan thatincludes those answers. I'm prescribing you to do five things thatyou love this week, along with getting more lancets and teststrips."

True health is not just about controlling our blood sugar. Whilethat's important, so is creating a full and happy life and finding away to integrate diabetes into it. Yes, there is life outside ofdiabetes.

Why else are we bothering? Somewhere in the midst of allthe work and responsibility is a road we need to carve, a life paththat we're fully engaged with and that we're happy to wake up to. That, I think, is where to aim when looking at our diabetesmanagement. Such a goal is truly worthy of all this non-stopthinking.

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