Numbers

This week, the numbers crowded in.

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When you live with type 1, numbers take up a lot of your bandwidth. My life is one of constant calculations – insulin to carbohydrate ratios, correction factors, carbohydrate counting, glycaemic index, glycaemic loads, exercise minutes, exercise intensity, fat grams, protein grams, dose timing, insulin time/action profiles. There is not a lot of room for error, because an error can leave my sugar level dangerously high or low.

Adding a significant swim training load to my already hectic schedule took a toll this week. I have started to recognise old, unhealthy thinking patterns that I thought I had left behind years ago. I tot up numbers all day, clocking sugar levels, carbohydrate grams, insulin doses, kilometres; each night shifting the goalposts to a new place – more tomorrow, I must do more and better tomorrow.

I hate this feeling … it’s like I’m always a few steps behind, needing to catch up, like today wasn’t good enough, like I need to cancel everything that brings me joy to make room for training, or planning, or simply just to turn the numbers over in my head again and again.

What got to me this week:

  • I had to weigh food and fill out a food, glucose level and insulin diary for a research study. Writing down all the numbers was super stressful. I gave myself weird arbitrary insulin and carbohydrate targets as each new day dawned. And if I blew them, I beat myself up.
  • Having heaps of non-training commitments in the evenings and at the weekend, missing a couple of sessions, and not hitting my goal kilometres.
  • A few clanger high levels, probably due to the anxiety build up and lack of sleep. Normally I would acknowledge and accept and move on, but this week I just went into a death spiral of guilt over them.
  • Being out of routine with food, activity and insulin, which is leading me to snack. To manage my diabetes I need to be in control of portions, of meal timing, of food types. Snacks mean stacking insulin doses. Stacked doses combined with exercise are a nightmare – two stacked doses led to a drawn out, recurring hypo on the bike last night, for example – which left me feeling frustrated and defeated.

Perfectionism is something I have to manage. I know this. In some ways, it is good – it makes me intensely focused, driven, and single-minded about achieving goals. It motivates me to manage my diabetes really well. In other ways it is destructive: if I don’t manage the thinking style, nothing is ever good enough. I can be intense, anxious, difficult to be around if I’m not feeling in control. It can suck the joy out of everything.

I went for my monthly full moon ride last night, and me and my riding buddy rode past a pop-up bar and food truck market on the foreshore. We stopped because he was hungry and wanted a bite to eat. I had been battling low blood glucose the whole way around the river and I was hungry too, but I just couldn’t bring myself to buy something I didn’t know the carb count for, to throw a wild-ass guess into my already sketchy evening and make it even more shambolic. So instead I told him I’d eaten, and secretly ate a couple more sugar tablets, clinging to the strange comfort of knowing they contained precisely four grams of carbohydrates.

I felt like such a loser.

The view of the city was perfect, the moon was big and bright, the evening was warm. But all I could feel was intense jealousy – I was jealous that he could just decide without thinking to jump on a bike and exercise without having to plan for it from mid-afternoon, just decide to stop and eat when a food truck happened to land in our path, and then just hop back on his bike and ride home. I don’t normally feel jealous of Muggles, but last night I felt so acutely aware of his ability to be spontaneous, of how sweet and simple and peaceful it must be not to constantly listen to the thunderous buzz of joyless numbers, that I wanted to scream.

The numbers nearly broke me this week. My consolation is this: living with diabetes has taught me real resilience. I can pick myself up, dust myself off, and carry on no matter what. And even though I’ve been a trainwreck this week, I needed the reminder of my old thinking patterns and where they can lead. Next time I will recognise the triggers earlier. My promise to myself is that next time I will be more gentle, more forgiving, more kind.

Thank you for reading – I know this hasn’t been the most uplifting post. Ha! The first thing I wrote after that was I’ll do better next time. No, perfectionist. You will just do whatever it is that you do. And that is enough.

Kilometres this week: 16.5

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