What is Diabetes Burnout?
Diabetes burnout. Some might know what it means, some might have never heard of the term before yet have lived through it. For others, they might know what the words mean individually. Simply put, diabetes burnout is when someone with a diabetes diagnosis has grown tired of the daily challenges and tasks that come with being a diabetic. Diabetes burnout is real and it happens to everyone who is diagnosed with diabetes. It looks different on everyone just like stress, happiness, or any other emotion that the human body is capable of having. As a diabetic myself, I have gone through diabetes burnout more times than I can count. For me, it manifests in different ways such as when I start to decrease the amount of times I check my blood sugars, when I get frustrated everytime I look at my meter and it reads a number I wasn’t expecting or wanting, when I lie to my family about what I ate or how my sugars have been, when I don’t pre-bolus, when I start to eat junk food and get the “I don’t care” mentality and think “well I already had one donut, might as well have two more, then get pizza for lunch and then maybe a hamburger and fries for dinner since my sugar levels are already going to be out of range.” For you, diabetes burnout might look exactly the same or vastly different.
Why Does Diabetes Burnout Happen?
If you are a diabetic or take care of someone who has diabetes, you know everything that goes into managing a chronic illness as it needs your attention 24/7. For those who are not, let me give you a little glimpse of what it entails. There are many different types of diabetes but for this article, I will focus on Type 1 diabetes. As a Type 1 diabetic who uses an insulin pump, I have to check my blood sugars at least 4x a day, I have to learn and know how many carbs are in each food item I eat so that I can then pre-bolus (give yourself insulin prior to eating), and then in order to avoid spikes in my blood sugars, I have to try and wait 15-30 minutes before eating (depending on how many carbs I will be consuming). I also need to make sure I check my feet at least 1x/week for any infections or cuts, I have to change my infusion set every 3 days (which means using a device that has a needle in it so that a catheter gets inserted into my skin so that the pump can deliver insulin), and then change my continuous glucose monitor once a week (which also means using a device that has a needle in it).
Can you see why someone would get tired of having diabetes? As diabetics, we also have to deal with unexpected changes in our blood sugars that can be caused by lack of sleep, stress, anger, exercise, breathing, and just being a human. This, in turn, can cause frustration and thoughts of no longer wanting to deal with it all which is exactly what diabetes burnout is. Having diabetes requires 24/7 attention. We are not allowed to take a break from our diabetes, we can’t shut it off, we can’t get away from it or it’ll get worse, we can’t put it on pause, and we can’t decide that today we don’t have diabetes. Because of this constant attention that diabetes is needed, we get tired. Imagine having to work your job 24/7 and never being able to take a vacation or even a small break? You’d want to quit!
For some, diabetes burnout will last days, for others it can last weeks, and for some months or even years. You might have gone through diabetes burnout but did not know the term for it. Know that you are not alone. We are human and we have emotions and we are allowed to have them. Your frustrations and anger is valid. But being in a constant state of diabetes burnout is not healthy physically, mentally, spiritually or emotionally.
So How Is Diabetes Burnout Dealt With?
The main thing you have to remind yourself as a diabetic is that managing your diabetes is not a straight line, it’s not 1+2=3, and it’s far beyond perfect.
With that being said, the next important thing is being aware of the signs that lead to diabetes burnout. This will take practice and trial and error. Maybe you start to notice that you are eating a bit more ruthlessly, maybe you are starting to care less about your diabetes regimen, maybe you notice yourself isolating from your family and friends, maybe you notice that you are starting to lash out at your loved ones, etc. Once you start to notice these changes and are aware of them, you can do certain tasks to help decrease diabetes burnout. Some of these techniques are as followed:
- Reaching out to a diabuddy, a close friend, a family member, an online support group, a therapist
- Going to the beach
- Going for a walk at the park or walking your dog(s)
- Taking a bath or shower
- Doing some yoga or breathing exercises
- Creating small goals to help you get back on track or reminding yourself of your long-term goals.
Remember that diabetes burnout is not something that will just go away and is not something that you will get over in one day. Be gentle with yourself because diabetes is already hard as it is, there’s no use with us being hard on ourselves as well.
When all else fails, look at yourself in the mirror and say out loud “I am a diabadass and I will not let diabetes run me, I will run it!”
I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and have been in the field for almost 5 years. Currently, I am a Supervisor for an adult outpatient program at a mental health clinic and on the weekends I work as a per diem medical social worker at a hospital. I love watching movies and spending time with my family and two dogs. I love watching sports. Go Dodgers!