Prioritising Emotional Wellbeing in Diabetes Care

How many healthcare professionals ask you “how are you going” during an appointment?

Not how are your numbers going.

Or how your diet is going.

Or, how are the number of hypos you are having each week going.

When I say ‘how are you going,’ I mean ‘how are YOU going?’

I must admit that I was surprised in hearing psychologist Lisa Robbins express confidence in the abilities of diabetes healthcare professionals to identify burnout triggers, during our live webcast at DX2Melbourne. It’s my view that the right healthcare professional would be able to identify those triggers.

In my humble experience, I often felt a lack of emotional support from my endocrinologist and my doctor in my early days of type 1. I never felt that they had the time for me on a busy clinic day, and I didn’t really feel too important when there were younger children and families around who understandably required more attention.

It was often hard to open up and be honest with them for fear of judgement. My very first endocrinologist told me that I had very poor control, just weeks after my diagnosis. Meanwhile, my general practitioner often told me that “my sugar levels are too high” without actually offering anything more substantial or helpful.

For the record, I certainly don’t expect that an endocrinologist or general practitioner should have to fill the role of a counsellor. They are qualified professionals in high demand. No doubt they have far better things to do with their time than listen to me blubber on about my diabetes.

However, I do expect that health care professionals will listen to me. I do expect that health care professionals will make me feel comfortable to open up to them. I do expect that health care professionals will look beyond what’s written on the charts and talk to me about what’s going on. I expect that health care professionals will show some empathy during consultations. And I expect that healthcare professionals will offer support and encouragement.

This is not a big ask. This can be done. Even on a busy clinic day. Even when time is limited. Even if you’re meeting me for the first time. Even if you are a general practitioner who is not a diabetes expert. Nobody has to be qualified to be supportive and empathetic, in my opinion. Above all, prioritising emotional wellbeing will assist diabetes healthcare professionals to better address the need for any further psychological support.

Emotional wellbeing helps me to see value in my diabetes healthcare team. It encourages me to continue to manage my diabetes to the best of my ability. A good experience motivates me to keep in touch with my diabetes healthcare professionals and to ensure I have my regular checkups. Above all, emotional well being has helped me to prioritise my health. It’s the difference between walking out of the doc’s office holding back tears, or with the biggest grin that I can’t wipe off my face.

Obviously, my endocrinologist and general practitioner are only individual pieces of the “emotional” support puzzle in my diabetes care. I have my wonderful diabetes educator, who has my undivided attention during every 60 minute session I have with her. I have my family at home, whom I have learned to lean on a little. There’s the wonderful Oz Diabetes Online Community, who I can hang out with on Twitter every Tuesday night. I have my soapbox right here at Type 1 Writes, where I can vent about any topic of my choosing. I also have some amazing d-peeps who I am lucky enough to call friends.

Three years ago, I certainly felt very alone with my diabetes.

Finding emotional wellbeing has helped me to embrace it.

The Real Deal

 

As many of the people around me will attest to, I don’t have a very broad depth of cuisines. I can’t stand recipes that have long ingredient lists, none of which I can ever find in my cupboards and fridges at home. Ingredients which I will have to buy for the one recipe, and have no use for ever again. Over the years, I’ve been well trained to adapt.

Which brings me to the above. I’ve pulled together this baked Cookies and Cream Cheesecake a number of times this year. It contains a few simple ingredients, is super easy to make, and takes no more than an hour to get into the baking pan. The four carb centric ingredients are easy enough to add together and divide by the number of slices I’ve cut up. Of course, a guess or a glance at Calorie King works just as well…

This Cheesecake has proven to be a winner every time. Even if I am getting accused of becoming a repeat offender, or robbing my Sister of her signature dessert.

I must admit that I felt a little hesitant about making this for a group of people with diabetes this week. However at the end of the day, this was me.

I simply can’t get my head around artificially sweetened, sugar free or low carb alternatives. People in my type 1 circles rave about some of those options, but I feel they pale in comparison.

When it comes to dessert and diabetes, I have one motto.

I want the real deal.

Count carbs. Give insulin. Enjoy every mouthful. Don’t feel guilty for it.

If I’m going to do it, I’m sure as hell going to do it right.

A Smaller World

When I started this blog two and a half years ago, I had no connection to diabetes in my own life. I didn’t think that there was anything out there on the interwebs about diabetes, besides from the medical jargon. Quite honestly, I was a completely different person.

I started this blog as more of a creative outlet, rather than a diabetes one. I had always liked the idea of a blog. A fresh post, with the date stamped right underneath the title. That little archive on the sidebar, with posts categorised by years and months to look back on. Words, sentences, paragraphs and comments felt so much more meaningful than some of the stuff being shared on social media. I loved the idea of checking in regularly to this digital diary, of sorts. One thing I really despised was seeing blogs that had been abandoned after a handful of posts.

When I first began writing here, I couldn’t really tell you why. I didn’t know the answer to that question myself. I didn’t really imagine that I would be talking to other people with diabetes, or even to myself. Or that I might be using this as my own soapbox. 

Blogging, along with social media, was my very first glimpse into the lives of other people with diabetes. It was a way for me to connect to others who were going through the same thing that I was. I was very heavily invested in the beginning, and blogging was probably a way of filling that missing peer support in my own life.

Today, I am better supported. I feel more empowered to ensure that my diabetes healthcare professionals are working for me and meeting my needs. I’ve been an invited guest at various diabetes conferences, where I’ve been lucky enough to put faces to other diabetes bloggers. There’s also the YAC legends, who are a great bunch of young adults who put together events for the diabetes community here in Perth.

Diabetes has crept into most of my online life. While I genuinely do cherish my d-community, during times of burnout it’s hard not to feel like it’s always there. I can’t leave it at work when I go home. When I go to sleep at night, there’s people on the other side of the world who are just getting their day started. I do feel twinges of guilt when I haven’t checked in here as often as I’d like. It’s taken time for me to learn to set boundaries around emails and social media notifications, and to put myself first.

Despite those downsides, there’s something that keeps pulling me back towards blogging and this amazing community.

Connection. There’s been a resounding theme of connection throughout this amazing journey. I’ve met so many amazing people, both online and in person, some of whom I am lucky enough to call friends.

The outcome of these connections is a happier Frank, who is more confident to live with and manage his diabetes to the best of his ability.

I guess that’s my reason why I continue to blog today. As crappy as this condition is, I am extremely passionate about the topic of diabetes. I genuinely do enjoy writing here. I’ve documented so much of my journey here, and I’m incredibly proud of this little corner of the internet. I still feel that I have a unique story to tell.

In 2015, I never imagined a life where connection to other people with diabetes would contribute to my physical and mental wellbeing.

Diabetes blogging has made my world a lot smaller today, and for that I am extremely grateful.