Preventing diabetes burnout with a bucket of happiness

Leading an active life requires mental and physical resources. Managing school, work, family, hobbies, volunteering and a chronic disease can be really taxing. But I have an idea that can help you make more room for the important stuff.

Type 1 diabetes is like one of those super annoying softwares you have installed in your computer. It always starts automatically when you turn on your computer and for some reason, you just can’t turn it off. When I wake up, I have to measure my BG levels and start thinking about breakfast and its carb amount and insulin required. The software, or malware, called type 1 diabetes is always on, taking up your mental resources. And when your resources run out, diabetes management can often be the first thing to stall. On a good day, I measure BG level maybe a dozen times and really count my carb intake, insulin amount needed and adjust according to other circumstances. On a bad day, I measure blood glucose three times and just go on autopilot for meals. A bad day usually means my bg levels are way higher than normally.

A bucket with holes can help you manage your resources

I once heard an interesting analogy about how to manage resources to combat diabetes burnout. The idea is about a bucket with water flowing to it. The flowing water means resources and energy. You can increase the water flow by doing things you enjoy or just by resting. You can turn the water faucet on by meeting friends, exercising, watching Netflix or by just having enough sleep. But the bucket has holes at the bottom of it, and the resources are spent when water flows through the holes. The holes represent things that effect negatively to your resources or motivation. Too taxing work may become a hole, and so can problems in your relationships, having no money, suffering from diabetes-related stress or anything else.

Allow water to build up in the bucket

When you have a greater flow of water coming in than draining out, you are managing life just fine. But if the holes in the bottom are too large and many, your water won’t have time to fill the bucket and you become spent and exhausted.

So what can you do to maintain enough water in the bucket? You can either increase the flow of water or plug some holes in the bucket. Doing more stuff that fills you with energy and makes you feel good is about increasing the water flow. The holes can sometimes be a bit more tricky to plug. Often the passage of time helps or you can try seeking outside help, if the problems are too big to handle alone. Sometimes it is enough to make a hole a little bit smaller.

Me at 3 am in the morning, struggling with a large diabetes-related hole in the bucket.

Plugging the hole called “diabetes stress” can be one of the most difficult things. I have been able to do it by creating value to my life from diabetes. I’d like nothing more than to be rid of this condition, but that’s not going to happen any time soon, if ever. So in the meanwhile, I’ll enjoy the company of my diabetic friends I have met in peer meetings, chat in the diabetes-related community groups on Facebook, or think about how regular diabetes check ups have made me a lot more health conscious. According to some studies, negative attitude in life may shorten a person’s life by 3-5 years. If diabetes takes away 10 years, I’m not going to hurt myself any more by remaining negative.

It’s easy to say “stay positive!”, but the truth is we are all different and we can’t change who we are. Not everyone can stay positive under the overwhelming stress of diabetes. But what we can do, is to try and think up ways to plug some holes in the bucket.

– Miika

The writer is one of the diabetics at Dottli.