Diabetes burnout, you're not welcome here.


It’s ironic that on 7 April 2016, World Health Day I find myself parked up in bed, absolutely shattered. The world health organisation’s goal this year was to call for global action to halt the rise in and improve care for people with diabetes. Unfortunately two weeks of night time hypos had come to a head. I can hear ‘diabetes burnout’ tapping on my bedroom window and want to scream “get off my property, you’re not welcome here. I’m doing the best I can.” Sadly eliminating hypos isn’t as simple as raising my voice (if only it was).

I reduced my basal rate during the night. It worked, once. The hypos continued. I reduced the basal rate again and still my blood sugars went low. Luckily I woke to the low blood sugars and was able to quickly consume whatever I can get my hands on and begin the near impossible task of getting back to sleep with glucose flowing through my body. Hours later my body finally gives in to sleep, only to do it all again the following night. I’d tried to eliminate the hypos myself, with no luck.

I upload my insulin pump data and call in the experts (the awesome team at the Lower Hutt hospital). Within moments they recommend I adjust my insulin sensitivity factor (this is how much one unit of insulin will lower my blood sugar levels by) and my carbohydrate ratio in the afternoon and evening (this is how many grams of carbs, one unit of insulin will combat). I made the adjustment and slept through the night. No hypos and even woke to a good blood sugar result in the morning! I must always remember ‘no individual can win a game by himself’. To truly master diabetes I will need to call on the experts (my team) throughout my journey.

After a good night's sleep, everything seemed manageable, I was back on track. However I knew why my blood sugars were dropping and there was a very good chance it would happen again (I’ll explain this in my next blog). I needed a solution that would ensure I could juggle work, a business and being a mum, all while keeping diabetes burnout at arm’s length.

Perhaps I needed to investigate dropping my hours at work or somehow eliminate the 2.5 hour daily commute. I went straight to my boss. I was adamant I didn’t want any special treatment because of my diabetes (in fact that’s how I started our conversation), but on the other hand I knew that having diabetes made my situation a little different from my colleagues.

Type 1 diabetics are a pretty stoic bunch. We get on with it, we don’t complain (too much), we balance, we correct and we survive! But there’s no denying that having type 1 diabetes can certainly make many tasks seem like an uphill battle. We all want to live a ‘normal life’, but perhaps a key step to achieving this is to acknowledge that sometimes we may need to let our guard down, listen to our body and do things a little differently from the rest.

Going forward I’m going to work a few more days from home. Removing the daily commute will mean I can sleep in if my blood sugars have dropped during the night and still complete a full day’s work. This is great for my colleagues and most importantly great for my health and my little family. Xx

Ruby 1. Diabetes 0.