Este Haim On Burnout + Bolusing For Pizza
Editor’s Note: Este Haim is the bassist of the pop group Haim, which she formed with her sisters Alana and Danielle in 2007. Este has also been living with type 1 diabetes for nearly 20 years. Last week, Haim announced the release of their new track “Hallelujah,” stating the song is for “anyone struggling with chronic illness.” Beyond Type 1 caught up with Este to ask about the genesis of the track, her life on the road with type 1 diabetes (T1D), and how she faces diabetes burnout with the help of her support system.
A rough transition
Freshman year of high school is perhaps the biggest transition in any teenager’s life. For Este Haim, that transition was made all the more difficult by her diagnosis with type 1 diabetes at age 14. Este recalls how difficult it was to fit in given all that she was going through.
“Yeah, it wasn’t a great way to start my first week of high school… I was basically a social pariah for a very long time. You know, I was just the kid with diabetes in school that passes out and no one knows why and the girl with diabetes that smelled like orange juice all the time.”
Although some of her classmates made life difficult in high school, there are two people Este has always been able to depend on—her sisters Alana and Danielle.
“Not only are they my sisters, I’m also in business with them, so we spend so much time together. We’re on the road together 24 hours a day for weeks on end. So they’ve seen every version of me. They’ve seen me in a good place with diabetes, and in a sh*tty place with diabetes,” Este says.
“I’m lucky that I have Danielle and Alana to be my support and when I am having a bad day, a bad week, a bad month, they’re always the first people to be like, ‘Dude we got you. Whatever you need. We’re going to get through this. Let’s get you a healthy meal. Let’s not have pizza after the show tonight. Let’s go get you something good so that you don’t wake up and your blood sugar is 350.’”
“Pizza is such a blessing but it’s also such a curse”—Este’s description of pizza is all too real for anyone who has lived with diabetes.
“After a show I get so hungry and the only thing that’s available to me is pizza. And we all know that pizza does weird sh*t to blood sugar. It’s this unexplained thing—bread I can bolus for, tomato sauce I can bolus for, cheese I can bolus for, but for some reason when they’re all together it’s this magical thing that I can never get right. It’s insane, what is that? It’s like my favorite food. And of course, it’s the one thing that I really can never get right. It’s hard being on the road and craving food and realizing the only things that are open late are either diners that don’t really have a lot of like salad-y options, or pizza.”
Este’s sisters fully grasp the exhaustion that comes with living with diabetes and have become an amazing support system for her. Their holistic view serves to remind Este that she is more than her diagnosis.
“My sisters have this incredible attitude of, ‘If you’re going to have a bad day, have a bad day, and just live your goddamn life. Tomorrow’s a new day, you get back on the wagon, get back on taking better care of yourself, let’s make some healthier choices. Let’s take a walk around the venue for a little bit, let’s get some exercise.’ And that also takes energy on their part. So I’m thankful that I have them on the road and it’s definitely an integral part of diabetes, is having that support. I’m really lucky.”
Life on the road
Keeping track of blood sugars on a consistent schedule is extremely difficult, and the ups and downs of life on the road can wreak havoc on the ability to maintain glycemic control, of which Este is all too aware.
“It’s being in a different time zone and not being able to sleep and then the stress of that and the cortisol in my blood making my blood sugar rise for no reason. Often, I won’t even know that I’m stressed out, and then I’ll see on my Dexcom that the arrow just goes straight up.”
Having a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) has been a game-changer for Este, not just because it allows her sisters to follow her blood glucose levels remotely, but also because of what it means to others living with T1D.
“I think awareness is so important and that’s why I wear my Dexcom on my arm now because I have a way of showing people that I am a person with type 1 diabetes… before I didn’t really have that.”
Este doesn’t mince words when it comes to the importance of mental health awareness for people living with type 1 diabetes. She is candid about the very real struggles that anyone living with a chronic illness endures over the course of their life.
“I think something that I struggled with, something a lot of people with diabetes struggles with, is perfection. We were taught to look at high blood sugars as a failure. I think that leads to diabetes burnout because you’re constantly trying to be perfect. Mentally, there’s only so much of that you can take without feeling like a failure… And I think that’s been the majority of the reason that I burn out. I’m just like ‘F*ck it, fine, whatever.’”
Haim recently released a new song titled ‘Hallelujah’ and Este posted that her verse in the song was inspired by her struggles living with T1D, specifically calling out the phenomenon of diabetes burnout in her post.
“It’s a lot easier sometimes to just ignore it and not deal with it, but we all know it always catches up with you… I feel like I’ve gone through diabetes burnout—for long periods of time—at least 10 different times in the past 20 years of having a diabetes, and like it’s tough, man. It’s tough to maintain that as a type 1 with chronic illness because there isn’t necessarily a promise that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and I said it in my post, it’s like a 24-hour job you can’t clock out of, that you don’t get paid for. Maintaining that mental toughness I think is exhausting for a lot of people.”
Looking to the future
At the end of the day, it all comes back to the support we receive from the people around us. As our discussion wrapped, Este told Beyond Type 1 how important it is to remind those that support us just how appreciated they are.
“The thing that I want to impart to people is to tell our loved ones that support us—that we do appreciate them—and to thank them for being supportive, because I don’t know what I would do without my sisters, my parents, my best friends and my boyfriend for that matter… I think it’s really important to find the people that truly love and support you. I know it sounds trite and cliché, but all we can do is look to the future and try and live our best lives and have fun doing it. Enjoy every day as much as you possibly can, and don’t let diabetes get in the way of you doing and achieving everything that you want to do. Truly, that’s all we really can do.”
Struggling with diabetes burnout, depression, anxiety, or any other mental health-related issues? Check out Beyond Type 1’s mental health resources here.