DISCLAIMER: Please note that author is an employee of Ascensia Diabetes Care. The opinions expressed here are solely the experience of the author and may not reflect the opinions/experience of all Eversense users, patients with diabetes or Ascensia Diabetes Care.
I am not a superhuman. Throughout my history with diabetes I always said that I would never let diabetes hold me back. That sentiment has been very important to my outlook on life. I would try and push through, find ways to ensure that I did what I needed, so that I could do what I wanted. When I was first diagnosed that outlook combined with my competitive (and at times combative) nature and the support from my family and friends, are what drove me to complete my first 100 mile bike ride with JDRF. Without the additional support that I received, I could not have accomplished what I did as an athlete and a growing teenager.
During my teenage years, my mom put up with borderline abuse from me while I was experiencing overnight lows. I wasn’t even awake enough to be cognizant that I was lashing out over not wanting to drink a juice box. On nights when I did wake up, she allowed me to sleep through the first period of school so that I could have a productive day after those lows. My parents kept me well-fed at home; preparing healthy meals and cleaning up after dinner so that I had time to either finish my studies or take a few moments to relax. As an athlete, I was given encouragement by coaches, friends and family to keep pushing myself, while they watched over me in the event that I didn’t feel the moment when my glucose levels were headed out of range. The support I received as a child made me believe that anything was possible. The privilege of having a support system to share the burden of my diabetes allowed me to grow in so many ways.
Training for this JDRF Ride as an adult has somewhat changed my perspective on this. I live 6 hours away from any family that truly understands what it means to live with diabetes. I live alone (aside from my wonderful dog Fergie) and aside from a few friends (who I know I can count on in extreme emergencies), it is up to me to correct any fluctuations or diabetes related complications. While work is extremely understanding and accommodating, I am no longer 13. Missing work means finding additional time to complete tasks throughout the day or week. While my goals and objectives haven’t changed (at least in relation to diabetes), diabetes management has gotten more complex, and at times taxing. It’s not like when I was younger. There is no one to step in and make my meals, ensure I get enough sleep, order and pick up my prescriptions, or even just assure me that it is ok to take a day to feel like myself before I try to carry on. Only now do I fully realize how lucky I was to have a support system that silently took away some of the burden that diabetes created in my life.
Life and diabetes are both centered around balancing priorities. During my freshmen year of college, I had a rude awakening. I didn’t understand why I could no longer do everything I wanted to; why I didn’t feel as though I could keep going at the rate I was in middle school/high school. It resulted in me going through a long phase of diabetes burnout. I simply stopped taking care of myself because I couldn’t keep up.
I’ve recently found myself fighting off the early stages of that type of burnout again. I surpassed 150 miles in a week for my current training rides, but it came at a great cost to my glucose levels. I would watch my readings on my Eversense CGM go straight down, and I would lose sleep and energy over the next few days as I pushed myself to continue to train. I could feel myself get discouraged, and so I decided to take a break. I got back to taking the time to make fresh meals at home rather than ordering takeout. I started trying to keep a cleaner apartment and paid more attention to some other aspects of life. This is the balance diabetes requires.
I am not superhuman. In refocusing my priorities, I’ve found that my glucose is not keeping me awake an extra few hours every night. I feel better, more upbeat, and less focused on what felt like the failure of not being able to manage my glucose, work, training, cooking and all the other responsibilities that come with being an adult. By continuing to remember that, much like the ride I am training for, diabetes management is a marathon, not a sprint, I hope that to slowly build back up to more spread out, longer training rides.
At the end of the day, the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes is about just that, -- diabetes. It’s about raising money and awareness of diabetes. That is the singular goal. For me, I would love to finish 100 miles on October 15, but I refuse to sacrifice my physical and mental health to do so. I guess that is part of growing up. We’ve all heard someone say, “Someday you’ll realize you’re not invincible.” Well, here we are. I am not invincible. I am not a superhuman. But, I am healthy, happy and determined to give my best, which is good enough for me. I have tools to help me find and push my own limits. This year, I passed 40 miles in a single ride, which is a lot further than I have managed in years past. Many of my friends and acquaintances are still impressed that I can manage to do that! So while I may not be completely where I want to be in terms of training, I am a lot closer than I was back in late June.
With a month and a half left before ride day, I’ll keep going to see how far I’ll make it. But my greatest accomplishment of training thus far has been an unexpected one. It has nothing to do with how far I go, but rather what I have learned about balancing my priorities and how to utilize all of the diabetes management tools I have to stay happy and healthy while working towards my goals.