Wednesday, 1 November 2017

A smashed glass

Have you ever smashed a glass whilst putting the dishes away?  I expect you reacted in the same way I did - a modicum of cursing under your breath, thinking you could've had a tighter grip on it, and that you'd watched the whole thing play out in slow motion from the moment it slipped out of your hand.

Now have you done that same thing at a friend's house?  Whilst you probably reacted in the same way - the social embarrassment making it worse if anything - think about how your friend reacted.  Hopefully with some sense of concern ("are you OK?"), context ("it's only a glass") and compassion ("don't worry, it's not a big deal - I did the same last month").

So what does that mean?

The last blood glucose reading I was unhappy with was about four hours ago.  I was frustrated and angry with myself.  I'd started the day in double digits for the first time in over two weeks and I'd had to guess at carbs because I'd not brought weighing scales on holiday with me.  Much like the glass slipping out of my hand, I watched this unfold in slow motion.

The combination of waking up around 12mmol, simply putting my feet on the floor, and eating cereal where I was, at best making an educated guess about the carb content set off an all too familiar chain reaction.  Nothing overly catastrophic happened (I stayed in the 11-13 range for about 4 hours) but in the context of the previous fortnight of near-perfect levels, it felt rough.

I played it over in my mind, trying to work out what I should have done differently ("should" not "could" feels like a subtle but important semantic argument I think many of us are familiar with).

I should have waited until I'd dropped into single figures before breakfast because I know eating when I'm in double digits only perpetuates the problem.

I should hhatave been a bit more generous in my carb counting estimate because I know I have to force my levels down when I'm high first thing.  The chances of a hypo were remote.

But I didn't do any of that.  And so I silently berated and chastised myself all morning.  I kept checking my levels for any sign of a change in fortunes and had that feeling of being withdrawn from things more than usual.

And when the shoe's on the other foot?

Now I think about the last time I talked to a friend who had a similar experience with high blood glucose.  I didn't berate them, I didn't tell them to skip a meal and I didn't make them run through a mental list of things they should've done.

I was empathetic.  I know how crap it feels when you're struggling with this kind of thing.  I know how it feels trying to manage 'difficult' food and come out relatively unscathed a few hours after your meal.  I know how tough and unrelenting managing diabetes is.  I told them how I hoped they were feeling better soon, that I know how hard it can be and that however confident you feel, sometimes food will kick you when you least expect it.

What does this all mean?

So back to the glass and it's place as a metaphor for diabetes management (however clumsy it may be...).

It's easy to be overly critical, set higher standards and demand more from ourselves than we'd reasonably expect from others.  Whether that's related to doing the dishes, our working lives, or managing a chronic condition.   If we find it so easy to show empathy and be compassionate to others when they're having the kind of bad day we're all so familiar with, why is that self-compassion so hard?

Things are hard sometimes, and if we can acknowledge that for others, we should be able to do that for ourselves.  That self reflection is harder, and I think that's because we believe that knowing all the factors in play means we should have total control over them all the time.

That's all certainly true for me.  That's not to say it's easy to flick that switch and be fair and compassionate towards myself.  If it was something I could consciously turn on, I'd have done it ages ago.  That self-reflection takes time and practice but does make a difference.  Being objective and rational when looking at our own actions definitely isn't easy - our emotions always run high and make it harder, but the more we try, the easier I think we find it to get through our tougher days.

This was inspired by a short post I read on the idea of diabetes and self-compassion by Leann Harris which you can read on Diabetes Daily if you follow the link.  I'm also thankful to my colleague Odette for encouraging me to write again after about six months out of the game.

No comments:

Post a Comment