Patricia’s Story: Becoming a Diabetes Coach
I was a 26-year-old ER nurse and thought I must have contracted chronic fatigue syndrome from one of the many patients. Constantly exhausted was a great description of my condition. Working nights and struggling to stay awake, I stopped to go to the bathroom all the time and I had dropped a few pounds. Being a nurse for 6 years, I treated patients on med/surgical units with diabetes, in ICU with diabetes and DKA, and countless in the ER who were new onset, in the midst of a hypoglycemic episode that caused injuries, or just dealing with some of the many complications that diabetes may inflict. Never in a million years did I think it was happening to me! Yet, this is my story.
As a result, I exercised and starved myself to make the numbers on my meter tell the story I wanted to hear. I worked side by side with a dear friend who was Type I. She shared her story and tried to help me along, but I wasn’t having any of it! I was just fine with my little pills and I would NOT be crossing the line to needles. No way. No how. I was a nurse! An ER nurse at that! We are the ones who take care of poor diabetics. We are on the other side of the triage desk. We are there to provide empathy to those poor souls who have this affliction. I am not, cannot be, one of “them”. They call this stage denial – I did it perfectly! I didn’t want anyone to worry about me. I wanted to be “normal”.
Needles and injections were fairly easy to adapt to – I just had to get used to the patient being me, but I had the skills. Hypoglycemia, however (low blood sugar) was an aspect of the disease I wasn’t prepared for – but it is part of the gig. It happens. Sometimes your food intake, activity, and medication don’t match up and your blood sugar plummets. This has to be one of the WORST feelings in the world. I still can’t stand it and it scares me.
The first time it hit, I was home alone and became dizzy and diaphoretic (sweaty) like no patient I had seen before. Fluids were literally pouring out of my skin and puddling on the floor as my body attempted to correct my blood sugar levels by concentrating my blood. I had a hunger like I had never known. I only knew I had to eat. And eat I did – much more than the 15 grams of carbohydrates that is recommended but there was no way you could have stopped me. A cup of orange juice, are you kidding? I am dying here! I need food! And lots of it! In a few minutes, the fog cleared and my blood sugar came back up (most likely a little too much).
So I swung the pendulum to the other direction. I stayed in, weighed, and measured everything I ate, exercised diligently, changed my work schedule, and just “did” diabetes. Textbook. To my disappointment, I still had numbers that weren’t perfect. Every finger stick became a judgment of my character and my worth. “Bad” blood sugars equaled “bad” Patricia. I wasn’t doing it good enough. My type A personality and perfectionist tendencies did not serve me well. I was really hard on myself as I “failed” daily to control this thing that had killed off my pancreas. I wanted off this crazy ride! I couldn’t do it perfectly. It was too much and it had beaten me down. Life was not fun. Diabetes was not fun. I was frustrated and couldn’t see a way out of the dark place that consumed me.
What I came to learn about myself was that diabetes wasn’t my problem. It was how I handled problems. I was an avoider and a pleaser. My pattern was to power through uncomfortable situations, get busy, stuff my emotions, act like everything was ok, avoid conflict, try to live up to what people expected of me, please people, and put other’s needs above my own, all so I wouldn’t have to deal with my own “stuff”. We, nurses, love to fix others so we don’t have to fix ourselves. For many aspects of my life, it worked, but diabetes couldn’t be ignored or pleased or avoided. Sort of like a two-year-old, it demanded attention.
Because I tackle issues head on, I did a lot of soul work, inner exploration, and crying. My counselor was the first person who said, “It is really awful that this happened to you” and when she did the flood of tears poured forth. No one else had acknowledged my tragedy or could sit with my tears. My friends and family just wanted to cheer me up. No one wanted to be negative. Tears are uncomfortable. She helped me to see the truth. I wasn’t OK. I wasn’t dealing with it. I wasn’t strong. A strong person has to face the situation and deal with it. Not hide, ignore, and act like nothing happened.
Her compassion and insistence on the truth helped me to accept my situation. I had diabetes and my life would never be the same. I had to grieve my non-diabetic life so I could accept this new one. I was in the throes of most of the stages of grief: anger, denial, bargaining, and depression. She helped me with the most important stage: acceptance. I had to face that I couldn’t run from this situation, but I could turn and embrace it. I saw that my life would never be without diabetes as a part of it, but it didn’t have to define me and it didn’t have to be a bad life. As I changed my viewpoint, my life got better and I became happier. I learned that my blood sugar readings were just bits of information to help me better understand my insulin needs, not something to be done perfectly, or a reflection of my worth as a human. I came to appreciate that you cannot control diabetes, but you can care for it every day.
Are your struggling?
I understand. There is so much more to diabetes than diet, medication and lots of sticks! My medical training never prepared me for the mental struggles people with diabetes endure. No wonder people have such a hard time. The good news is that YOU can learn some new skills that will help dramatically! Contact me on the form below or schedule a free 30 minute consultation. CLICK HERE!