The Highs and Lows of Type 1 Diabetes: Having a Diabetes Burnout and How I Got Over It

Thursday, February 13, 2014







A reader recently asked me if I have ever experienced a "burnout," and if so how I got back on the right track.  I loved this question and thought it was really important to address.

The answer is yes.  I have most definitely experienced a diabetes burnout.  It was when I was 18.  I am sure everyones definition of what exactly a burnout means to them is slightly different but my definition of a diabetes burnout means you are just over it, and for a little moment in time you neglect your diabetes.

I moved out with my friend the week after I graduated high school.  We got a little apartment in Huntington Beach where we were both going to school.  Living on my own was exciting.  I made a ton of new friends and started getting my self into a little trouble. Most of my friends were over 21 so I started drinking, staying out super late, eating horrible, testing my blood less frequently and "guessing" when it came to my insulin shots.  I was a mess for a little bit there.  I just wanted diabetes to go away and I was not dealing with it very well.  I remember I would drink a few beers with my friends and then we would order a giant pizza and I would eat it just like I was a regular non diabetic girl.  It started to become normal for me to go really high and then crash late at night.  There was even a few times where I would get low in my apartment and realize I did not have any juice and had to get really creative with weird things in my cupboard or fridge.  I just was not caring about my self like I should have.

My burnout lasted almost a whole year.  I remember feeling tired and depressed because no one really knew what I was going through.  I was over feeling sick and knew I needed to change and start caring about myself again.

My husband has a lot to do with me coming out of my burnout phase.  I have known Ian since I was in elementary school and we had even dated for a brief time in high school but after I moved away we lost contact.  I had come home to visit my family for a few days and randomly ran into him... well not totally randomly but that's for a different post :)  He was HOT (like really really hot) and I was single haha.  He got my number and that night we went out to a movie.  We started spending more and more time together and  soon after we made it official.  He truly cared about me.  He would always ask me how my blood sugars were and would always make sure I had juice with me and in my apartment.  I loved him and the way he loved me made me want to change, so I did.  We became healthy together and it was the best feeling.

Since then whenever I start to have a day or week where I feel overwhelmed or frustrated with my diabetes I remind myself that it's normal and I do not need to feel guilty for having a disease that sometimes does it own thing no matter how hard I try.  For me personally the best way to avoid long burnouts is by making my health a priority.  I do need to exercise and I do need to eat healthy on a daily basis.  I also remind myself that it is okay if I decide to take a few days off from the gym or I want to enjoy a not so healthy meal every now and then.  It is all about balance and when the balance gets thrown off completely that is when I notice I struggle.

If you are type 1 diabetic and have ever experienced a burnout, I would love to hear your story and how you dealt with it.

See all the posts of this series here

13 comments:

Elaine - Visual Meringue said...

Great article! I just sent this to my coworker who was diagnosed about a year ago. I think it helps to see that you 'aren't alone' if one ever finds themselves in this situation. Thanks for sharing Lindsay! :)

colleen said...

really loving this series (and am not diabetic). even though it's much more harmful for you, i can relate to burnouts (of when i'm tired of being healthy). but it makes such a difference in attitude and emotions, but balance is key. it's ok to skip the gym or have a scoop of ice cream (as a non-diabetic), otherwise you'll drive yourself crazy. thanks for sharing so much with us!

sherri lynn said...

Thanks for sharing this Lindsay! I love that you are so open and willing to share through this series; I'm sure so many people with diabetes find your posts encouraging and helpful! Now I am really wanting to know more about the story of how you and Ian got together ... ;)

Alexa said...

Hey Lindsay. I can imagine that you experienced a burnout with Diabetes and then it took that special person (Ian) to come into your life and help you back from the brink (well not the brink, but you know). I'm glad you guys found each other. He obviously loves you so much! :)

Taylor @ Taylor Made It Paleo said...

Love, love, and LOVE this. It's definitely necessary to throw yourself a diabetes pity party once in awhile ;) Lord knows I do it! Thanks for sharing this!

Stasia S. said...

Yup! Same kinda time frame for my burnout...Went off to college and finally away from my "nagging" mom. I thought yes! I can do WHATEVER I WANT! Testing became less and less frequent and insulin shots were rare. My roommates knew I was diabetic but not a single one of them had ever seen me test my blood sugar or take a shot (if that gives you an idea.) Unfortunately my burnout lasted a little longer than a year...it was probably more like 2 years where I started out by just getting lax with my control and spiraled into complete disaster.

Eventually I did go into DKA. Probably one of the scariest moments of my life. Before being hospitalized I was already feeling crappy (you know the feeling) like almost every day. I was getting sick of feeling sick. I was in the ICU for 8 days and left on an insulin pump. I went from having regular a1cs in the 12s (sometimes higher) to in the 7s and guess what!? It wasn't super difficult!

But I knew I could do better. It was when I met my now husband, after college, that my control became even better. All for the same reasons you mentioned about your husband. He cared so much about me and put so much effort into making sure I was taken care of. Juice was always around and carb info was handy when we ate out. It honestly blew my mind. I didn't understand how he was putting more effort into my care than maybe I was at the time, it melted my heart. I knew I wanted to be with him forever and I didn't want my health to drag us down. Since being married and having a more eternal perspective, my a1c has dropped another 2 points and I'm there regularly! I think it's not only the best thing you can do for yourself, but the best thing you can do for your spouse and children. A healthy Mama is invaluable.

Love your posts! And thanks for letting me share :)

Single Stone Studios said...

I am the mom of a T1D and recently started leading a small group at church. A young girl (21) is coming to the group but she is not part of our church. She mentioned on facebook she was Celiac so I made sure she had some cookies at group that she could eat. Then when I mentioned my daughter was T1D she told me she was too and that she is struggling with it right now. Her 16th anniversary of diagnosis is coming up and she just isn't dealing wit it well. I tried my best to encourage her. It was so sweet and honest of her to open up the way she did and she didn't even know me. I just keep praying for her and encouraging her any time the door is open. it's a big thing for a young adult to carry around when the pressures of real life start setting in.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lindsay, I have been reading your blog for several weeks now and it really does give me moments of solidarity and happiness during this time in my life. I am 26 and a type 1 for about 17 years now and I am dealing with some issues and trying to feel happy and get on track while living with diabetes. It's been really difficult because I definitely have experienced the burnout that your are describing for years. It has gotten to the point that I cannot ignore it because the years of not wanting to deal have taken their toll on me physically, and therefore emotionally. I am really trying to do my best now to get back on track but having hope and being positive has been really hard because I fear the years of neglect may have already done permanent damage. I hope not, but my fear of the worse always seems to override my hope. Anyway, thank you for making posts like this. It really does make me feel less alone and open to the possibility that things could get better. :-) Thank you! Elizabeth

Lindsey said...

Hi Lindsay, and thank you so much for this post! I am 29 and was just diagnosed with Type 1 four months ago (and just commented on another post). Its nice to know that other people experience burnouts too--to not feel alone in that. Although I haven't been diagnosed long I still have had days where I throw myself pity parties and just want to forget I'm diabetic. Thankfully my husband and my God have not given up on me the days that I do! My husband definitely helps encourage me to keep going and keep eating healthy. I am just about to finish up a 21 day sugar detox which has been super encouraging because my numbers have really come down and been more consistent! We are now waiting to get the go ahead to start trying for pregnancy, so when I want to stop caring I remember that for motivation to keep going. Again, thanks so much for sharing!

Tonia Larson said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with diabetes. It is so helpful and very uplifting. You are a wonderful, healthy woman with a beautiful family and you show that life can be fantastic even with difficulties.

Lonnie said...

Great post! It's very inspiring and light to read. I haven't had the worst diabetes burnout experience yet since I just got diagnosed with Type 2 last 2011 (although I already have Diabetes long before that. I only knew when the nurse told me after having an episode, LOL). I know it would not be easy but I think if and when that time comes, one of the things I would do is read this post. Thank you. I'll be sharing this link in my next blog post :)

Jamie said...

Hi! I just came across your Facebook page and then started reading your Type 1 stories. My daughter is Type 1 and just turned 5, she was diagnosed shortly after turning 2. I love hearing what adults have to say about their disease because it is so hard guessing or trying to read a child's mind and emotions with diabetes. I can tell you as a mom I have burn-outs though and I feel guilty because I am not even the one with the disease! A few weeks ago I was trying to hold down my daughter (some days she has had it and doesn't want to stay still for her pump site change) but she turned away from me and I stuck myself with the needle through my nail. I had to go into my closet and shut the door and I started kicking a box, very grown-up! :/ Some days I have had it, but there are more good days then bad, I just got to keep on keeping her healthy :)

Anonymous said...

I really, really loved this article. My step-daughter was diagnosed with TD1 five years ago when she was 8 years-old. No one else I know is TD1, so I am doing what I can to join support groups and learn about the condition. She will be approaching college-age in a matter of years, and I think this is a crucial period in a TD1’s life-the stage of independence. I hear more of the medical maintenance behind the condition, but not the emotional and life-phases that accompany it. Thank you for sharing. I will continue to read your posts, as they are both positive and enlightening. ☺

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