Skip to content

Let’s talk about diabetes exhaustion

Every month, Sweet Life co-founder Bridget McNulty talks about something personal to do with diabetes. This month, it’s all about diabetes exhaustion…

Diabetes is exhausting

Friends, diabetes is exhausting. I thought it was just me feeling this way, but when we asked our community of South Africans with Diabetes to describe diabetes in one word, exhausting came up tops. So did frustrating, overwhelming, ill-disciplined, manageable (yay!) and depressing…

I’ve been thinking about why it’s so exhausting, and I have a few ideas – I’d love to hear yours… Feel free to comment on this column, or share your thoughts on Facebook or Instagram. I find it really helps to understand where other people with diabetes are coming from – what they’re thinking about, grappling with, and any solutions they’ve found to handle the hard stuff (anyone? Yes? No?)

Diabetes exhaustion is so personal

I think one of the reasons diabetes exhaustion is so hard is that it’s deeply personal. My flavour of exhaustion might be different to yours – even if we’re both living with diabetes, even if it’s the same kind. It’s hard to put into words exactly what it is that’s so tiring (and ‘tiring’ is certainly not a big enough word for it!) It’s not diabetes burnout – or at least not yet diabetes burnout – but it’s a deep fatigue with all the daily admin of diabetes.

Diabetes admin is so exhausting

Let’s talk about the daily admin. I often say, in talks to healthcare providers and people without diabetes, that you never get a holiday from a chronic condition. And everyone nods their head as if they understand… But they don’t. They can’t.

We. Never. Get. A. Day. Off. From. Diabetes.

And – worse yet – we will never get a day off. That totally sucks. Sure, we can ‘take’ a day off – not check blood sugar, eat whatever we want, pretend we don’t have diabetes – but the price we pay for that (high or low blood sugar, more exhaustion, feeling crappy) is a very high one.

Having to be ‘on top’ of things all the time – never leaving the house without sugar, checking blood sugar as soon as you wake up, every single day, making the right food choices – is really a lot to ask. Every day. Forever.

Making good food choices is so tiring

I’ve said before that I eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch, because I’ve found the magical combo that is both delicious and good for my blood sugar. For dinner, I eat the same food as my family, but with fewer carbs. I resist treats when I can (except for homemade ice-cream, which I can almost never resist!) and I have generally found the foods that work for me, my lifestyle and my blood sugar.

But sometimes I am so tired of making the right decisions! Sometimes I want to eat two white Easter eggs in a row for pudding, even though I know there will be consequences. I want a plate full of pasta, because it is delicious. When I go out, I want to be able to snack on the starters at a dinner party without having to carefully carb count and inject for them. Or eat seconds of potato bake, even though I know I’ve had enough.

And I do – because I know it’s good for my mental health to give myself a break from good decisions sometimes. And because although there’s a price to pay, it’s only for a few hours. But sometimes I imagine what it would be like to just eat whatever I wanted to, all day long… with no consequences. Wouldn’t that be magical?!

It’s hard for your family to understand

Unless you’re living with another person with diabetes in your household (which brings its own set of challenges), odds are your family doesn’t really understand what living with diabetes is like. I remember asking on our Facebook page once if people got a lot of extra sympathy and attention for their diabetes, thinking I was the only one who didn’t. And almost everyone said: No! Not at all! Never!

And it’s not that I want sympathy, I’m not sick. But I wouldn’t mind a bit of commiseration now and again… Especially if I’m correcting a low before I go to sleep, and have to get out of my cosy bed to eat a snack that I don’t want, after I’ve brushed my teeth. Or if I’m on the diabetes rollercoaster and can’t get off, no matter how hard I try.

Of course, if you don’t have diabetes, it’s hard to understand because you don’t have diabetes. I get it. But it’s exhausting.

At least we have each other

Which brings me to my final point – thank goodness we’re not actually doing it alone! What a joy to be able to reach out – on Facebook, or Instagram, or WhatsApp, or here – and find others who understand what I’m saying.

Thank you for being here! Thank heavens for us.

What to read next?

10 ways to offer diabetes support: Being a supportive partner can be both a gratifying and a challenging role – especially when living with a person with diabetes. Diabetes affects the whole family, not just the one taking medicine.

4 ways to stay positive if you’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes: If you have been newly diagnosed with diabetes, you may be struggling to cope with the news of your diagnosis. This is absolutely understandable, as diabetes is a life-altering condition.

Join this mental health support group for young adults living with diabetes: SADAG recently launched a new support group for young adults living with diabetes. We had a chat with one of their co-facilitators, Courtney Sandham, to find out more.

What to read next
Join South Africans with Diabetes on Facebook

Join our diabetes community

Be First to Comment

What do you think?

Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.