About six months ago, I had to break up with a very comfortable relationship I had with my blood sugar. I knew I deserved more, and my grandfather taught me never to settle, so I walked. Though I knew I’d be better off, leaving such a loose-goosey commitment was a far harder thing to get over than I expected. I was in a “don’t ask, don’t tell,” “out of sight, out of mind” situation. It was easy. And I traded it in for a nosy, live-in, stage-five clinger that claims he “only wants the best for me” and believes in aggressive PDA. All cheesy relationship analogies aside, when I said “yes” to the highly regarded continuous glucose monitor, I was stoked to finally commit to something that would help me grab my blood sugar by the balls, and lower my A1c for good.
But what I hadn’t anticipated, was the emotional impact the word “continuous” would have.
A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is an incredible thing. It’s a small, fairly non-invasive little doodad that, like everything else in my diabetes entourage, is inserted into my skin to essentially babysit my blood sugars. Every three minutes it tests me, and keeps a running graph on my iPhone on a very sleek, simple app. Pretty dope, right? Sure! But there’s a catch…
“Continuous” is INTENSE. It is non-stop, in-your-face, around the clock, poking and prodding, while alarming and push notification-ing you to say, “Guess what?! YOU HAVE DIABETES AND YOU HAVE IT RIGHT NOW. AND NOW. AND STILL NOW. WHY AREN’T YOU PAYING ATTENTION TO ME!?” Every little dot on the graph becomes an obsession. It’s … quite a lot to get used to at first.
And as frustrating as it is, my innocent little Dexcom is exposing a reality that I’ve been only about 60 percent privy to for the last decade. With the CGM, there are no more secrets, there is no more cheating. I can run from this thing … but I certainly can’t hide.
After a small, heated meltdown on a recent vacation, I realized I was taking every blood sugar spike very personally, and was feeling like a complete failure. As if the 11 years of experience I had with this disease was all for not. True to form, I cried, swore a lot, ripped my infusion set out of my back, threw an entire reservoir of insulin into a public trashcan and stomped off. I had completely lost my cool, and I needed to reel it in.
It’s all too easy to lose yourself when you have a piece of technology or a number staring you in the face constantly, mocking and making you question every decision you make. Just once I wish it would say, “I know you’re trying, I’m sorry for being so hard on you all the time, I promise to give you a break tomorrow.”
But here’s the thing. It’s never going to do that. It’s a piece of plastic and a cellphone application. It’s intended to make my life easier and safer. Not to torture and humiliate me. On my blog I preach a non-stop gospel that I am me first and a person with diabetes second. And with the adjustment to constant contact with my new robot, I admittedly lost a little bit of that. I became a little too obsessed with catering to this thing’s graphs and data and charts to maintain my own self-awareness and happiness. Food was stressful. Working out was stressful. I would check it every night at 3 a.m. It was making me miserable. So I drew a line in the sand, and decided to give myself a break.
I told myself: I will not … I REPEAT, WILL NOT, not let this thing take over my life. I will not let it ruin food for me. I will not let it become the topic of every conversation at home and in my relationship. I will not let it make me feel like I’m doing a bad job. But what I WILL do, is let it help me. Guide me. Empower me to make smarter choices, and to understand how my body works.
I am me first. And a person with diabetes second. And that goes for each and every one of us who are working our asses off every hour of every day to figure out where in our busy lives this disease fits in. So find a photo or a memory of yourself where you felt completely free from all of this madness. A photo where the fear that your insides are at war with themselves isn’t worn anywhere on your facial expression or in your mannerisms. And there’s no sign that you have a real disease with a real impact on your day-to-day experiences. Post it on Instagram. Throw the hashtag #MeFirst in the caption. And show the world that you are still, and always will be your own boss. Not your diabetes.
Read more of Libby’s work on her blog The Sugars and her story Freaky Friday—A Day Without Type 1.
Read more on CGMs by Marci Thiessen: Switching to a Pump and CGM—A T1D’s Feedback