Diabetes, Holidays and the Guilt

The holidays are supposed to be a time of celebrating and rejoicing. Why does there have to be added guilt during this time of year? Most of us know there is the possibility of a few added pounds during this season of indulgence. Did I mention the guilt that comes with it? As a diabetic, the guilt of uncontrolled blood glucose (BG) levels seems to always be lurking in the shadows. It seems guilt follows most diabetics through the routine days and especially during the holidays.

So what is the big deal with overeating and the holidays? Diabetics must be conscious of the total carbohydrate count that is consumed daily, especially as the holidays approach. The carbohydrates have to be counted. It doesn’t matter if it is in planning a meal or grabbing a handful of chocolates as you walk by the basket on the counter (hey, does it really count? Yes, it does.) If I don’t calculate correctly or if I over indulge, my BG tells all. It’s hard when something can prove how you have been, regardless of how you present yourself. That at times, can induce some serious guilt. It might not be serious guilt, but regular guilt. I sometimes think the regular recurring guilt is more wearing than the big guilt.

Not only am I talking about eating a few more cookies during this time of year, but how that compounds on the daily guilt we as diabetics sometimes feel. I feel this guilt at times. My clients feel this guilt at times. Simply living with diabetes at any time of the year seems to induce some guilt. I can be taking the best care of myself possible and I still feel the need to justify unbalanced BG levels.

It is not completely my fault. I have been conditioned to feel this way. I have been instructed to respect the medical professionals on my team. For decades I have had to report what my fasting BG was and then scrutinize the results of my quarterly A1c blood work. Anyone giving me this information or writing this information down in my chart gives a judgment. They don’t always mean to do so. Nurses, physicians, physician assistants and interns all give a reaction. Most of the time I receive a good reaction from my team. However, there have been the critical looks and the pursing of lips. You know that look, the one that a non-diabetic might give someone upon discovery of poorly controlled BG. They can’t possibly understand how delicate this balance is and how hard it is to regulate.

These reactions influence us. I spend most of my time helping my clients get past this feeling of judgment. Why at times do I still fall victim also? It is one of the reasons my services are needed. It is ever present and hard to handle. The judgment and the guilt. How do we take it serious enough to keep ourselves healthy, but light enough to let us feel like regular people?

Recently, one of my clients was struggling with utilizing their continuous glucose meter (CGM) to its fullest potential. I was helping by wearing their same CGM and seeing if I could help regulate my diabetes control under similar circumstances. I scheduled a meeting with the CGM rep. that happens to be my friend. She was going to download my information and show me results in one of the numerous charts available. Hopefully, I could then relay some tips to my client and understand from where some of their frustration was coming.

I suddenly started to panic. The guilt came rushing in! My numbers had not been very good recently. I started to desperately try to explain before she saw the downloaded information. I stopped myself mid-sentence and just shook my head at my behavior! There was a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. I am recovering from a slight accident. I have some badly injured ribs. This has made it painful to breathe deeply. Therefore I have been unable to move any congestion around in my lungs and it has developed into bronchitis. To be honest, with several injured ribs, I barely noticed the bronchitis. I only knew that even simple actions seemed to hurt.

I had an infection and some cracked ribs for goodness sake! High BG levels are to be expected. Why did I immediately begin to try and justify why I hadn’t been in perfect control? Was it so she would think I knew what I was doing? I didn’t want to have her judge me. Afterwards, I felt silly about it. Of course I know what I am doing! I couldn’t believe that I could let another person’s opinion affect me so greatly.

The reality is that living with diabetes is a day in and day out chore. It is hard to share with those closest to you how you are handling a continually changing body. Somehow, we have to let the guilt go. We have to know that diabetes is not perfect. We aren’t either. We have to actually begin to allow ourselves to believe this. Of course, we should all be trying our best each and every day to maintain tight control over our malfunctioning pancreases. I am certainly not giving the green light to over indulge every day of the holiday season. I just know that many of us live with an unhealthy sense of guilt on a daily basis due to our BG results.

Most of the world is dealing with a bit of guilt after the holidays. New Year’s resolutions are being created daily. If you live with diabetes, try to let go of the regular recurring guilt of BG control. Enjoy your holidays. Take charge of your health, but somehow find a way to let some of the guilt slip away. There are times to justify your numbers, but usually you just need to be alright with what they happen to be and keep working on


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