August 30, 2016

Flirting with Burnout

I’m sitting here in France after a whirlwind tour of Europe. We come here every year and it’s always a bit of a challenge to juggle suitcases, meals, train and plane travel with my daily diabetes management requirements. But besides a bit of grumbling, I take it in my stride.

This year though it’s been a bit more challenging. If you’ve ever been to Italy you’ll most likely agree that the food is incredible, the people deeply heartfelt and the scenery – BREATHTAKING! But try and get something practical done with a government organization? Forget about it! Last year I had a diabetes test strip debacle when my friend sent me test strips to an address in Italy. It took oodles of red tape to wrestle the test strips from customs, only to have them arrive after I had left Italy.

It was hard not to ruminate on this kind of madness when I tried to get a seat on a train from Milan to Cannes

Imagine, I’m ready for lunch, my blood sugar is a nice 6.0 mmol. I ask my beloved to wait with the suitcases on the platform while I pop down to the reservation center to get us a seat.

Oh my god! The reservation center was filled with at least 500 gesticulating Italians. I found a line which led to a guy who was passing out numbers. I told him I wanted a seat on the 3.10 train to Cannes, which apparently was impossible. I freaked out! My blood sugar was dropping, I didn’t have anything with me and I couldn’t get in touch with my partner to bring me my food.

What to do?

I hightailed it out of there and decided to sit in whatever seats we could find. We dragged our bags onto an overcrowded train and were of course sitting in someone else’s seats. Eventually we sorted everything out and landed in Cannes. But the trip took its toll.

Higher blood sugars, physical exhaustion, and feeling frustrated were the initial symptoms. But days later I am dealing with insulin resistance and the feeling that I just don’t want to have anything to do with diabetes!

For 8 years I have managed this disease with diligence and care. I’ve cried a ton, been angry, practiced yoga every single day, surrendered, you name it. But right now as I balance between something that feels like depression and anxiety, apathy and distress I think I must be experiencing my first bout of diabetes burnout.

It’s mild and in the background but it’s there.

I can’t ever imagine not checking my blood sugar, or ignoring my daily insulin injection. But I can feel some other form of rebellion brewing. And strangely it’s taking the form of inactivity. I am not signing up for the next webinar, not updating in facebook groups, not planning our next event. Not spending all my time on twitter, Instagram etc. I’m actually reading a book, sitting in the sun, baking flaxseed muffins, taking naps and staying in my P.J’s for most of the day.

And as my burnout morphs into relaxation, I’m wondering; is burnout actually the crisis we need to take a step back and make important changes in the way we manage our diabetes?

I know for myself that being so diligent can work against me. I try too hard to get perfect numbers. My whole life has been about doing my best.

When I take a step back and accept that some things are out of my hands it can almost feel like I’m flying blind. It’s a scary and fragile feeling. And reminds me of how it feels to ride on the back of a motorbike in the wind. Holding tight to the driver’s waist I close my eyes and trust that I’ll get where I’m going in one piece.

I know that living with diabetes isn’t quite like that, I mean you can’t just ignore it. But you can trust that sometimes the way you think about your diabetes contributes as much to unstable levels as the diabetes itself.

Talking with other people who live with diabetes is, in my opinion, one of the best coping strategies. Last month I met up with fellow Lyfebulb Ambassador Hanna Boethius whose lived with diabetes for 30 years. We started discussing the process of upping our basal insulin when morning levels get higher. She shared that even though we tell ourselves it’s something else, like stress or food or whatever, taking that little bit more insulin will bring the levels down. We don’t want to believe it because we want to take as little as possible, but sometimes you just have to suck it up, inject and trust that you’ll be okay.

Something that my partner has taught me through his own assimilation of the deeper aspects of yoga is that we forget that the body is bound by time. The physical practices keep the body as healthy and fit as possible for as long as possible. Yoga also teaches us that the body is a vehicle. We’re in the driver’s seat. The parts may wear out but the driver remains. Getting to know the driver is the richest aspect of yoga. We think that getting to know the driver is all about our likes and dislikes, who we are as individuals. But the purest teachings take it one step further and pose the question; who is it that is seeing, touching tasting feeling and driving this vehicle?

Whenever I really get stuck I go back to my mat and the feelings of “I’ve had enough” give over to pondering “whose feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and burnout?”

It’s amazing how that one simple question can unravel the knots, bring me back to what matters and reset my day. It’s not that I have all the answers but I do know what I’m not.

I’m not my burnout, nor am I my disease. I’m simply a person who lives with what ever comes along, doing my very best every single day.