As the plane taxied down the runway at 1:00 a.m. on the first day of my vacation a few weeks ago, I reached into my bag for my dark pink UltraMini. My husband, with a look of concern, asked why I was testing my blood glucose. I felt fine. I just wanted to know my body’s reaction to the stress of flight and time zone changes. My husband quietly asked me what I hoped to gain from that particular piece of information.
Before anyone says anything, my husband is supportive of how I control my diabetes but he’s not a fan of excessive testing or mindless testing.
In response to his question, I repeated his favorite mantra “Knowledge is power”. He asked what I intended to do if my BG were higher than I anticipated. I couldn’t get up to walk off the excess glucose while the plane was taking off and the seat belt sign turned on. While I could have later paced the aisle, how many times would I have had to do it until my BG fell, assuming I didn’t go bonkers first? I’d also have had to make way for the attendants serving drinks and meals, and for other passengers heading to the toilet. In short, there wasn’t much I could have done if my BG were high and I’d only be stressed, as had happened at previous BG testings on previous flights.
At that moment, I decided to go on a break from diabetes. That break, to me, meant not testing my blood glucose while I was away on holiday. No, I am not obsessive-compulsive about BG testing but testing is a major part of my diabetes control and is a constant and consistent reminder that I am a Type 2 diabetic.
I cannot stop being a diabetic. I cannot stop taking metformin. I cannot stop being careful about food. Going on a break does not mean being irresponsible. But I can take a break from BG testing if only for a few days. That I did.
For the first two days, I kept reaching for my UltraMini and had to remind myself that a few days of not testing would not suddenly give me complications or turn me into an uncontrolled diabetic. On the third day, I stopped fidgeting.
I needed the break as a reminder that BG readings are there for useful information, and are not just a stack of numbers or proofs of my guilt or behavior. While BG testing ends any delusion that I can eat pasta with impunity, I don’t need constant testing to be reminded of that fact. If I decide to eat pasta, say on my last day in Malta while enjoying the view of the Mediterranean Sea, I don’t need to prick myself to know that my BG will be high. I know enough from previous testings. So, if I were to indulge that once, I should just savor the taste instead of ruining my enjoyment by seeing my high BG number. I also know from experience that a stressful flight will raise my BG but not dangerously so, especially since I generally have good control.
That said, the break reinforced the importance of testing. By not testing, even for just a few days, when in a foreign place, doing new activities and eating uncommon food, I have no idea about my body’s reactions. It’s good in the sense that it made me feel like a person without a faulty metabolic system, but it’s not good to do this long-term, or on a permanent or frequent basis, because I will be completely clueless about my own body’s condition.
More importantly, this break re-energized me to face diabetes once again. Taking a much needed mental break from the reality of having a chronic condition, with no cure in sight and with possible nasty complications, makes it somewhat easier to deal with Type 2 diabetes.
We all take a break from regular work or from someone we are constantly with or deal with frequently. If not, we will suffer from some form of burnout. This idea applies to dealing with chronic diseases like diabetes, whether we are the patient, or a family member, friend or caregiver. We need to step away from it to see it, understand it, accept it and fight it.