The first thing most people seem to assume when they hear the phrase “diabetes burnout” is that it means someone who is experiencing it has completely given up on themselves and their diabetes.
Sometimes that assumption is followed by, “Oh, I would never do that,” as though feeling burnout is both automatically a choice and an action of deliberate and severe neglect. (FYI: diabetes burnout is not a choice. You have the right to feel frustrated, tired, and totally sick of the daily grind of diabetes management!)
But that extreme form is really only one form of burnout. And while it certainly is an understandable place to find oneself in a disease that is constant and is perhaps needier than a two-year old who just learned how to say “I want _____”…I’m not so sure that the totally-giving-up form of burnout is really the most common form.
Instead, diabetes burnout can be so subtle. Sneaky. Quiet. Just a little buzz in the back of your mind that’s saying, “Ugh. You again? This is so much work. Every day.”
Diabetes burnout can simply be a feeling. An overwhelming feeling—sure—but it doesn’t necessarily have to lead to devastating actions and crazy high blood sugars. Diabetes burnout can simply be a feeling. A phase in which you do practically everything you might usually do for your diabetes…only there’s this gnawing drain, tedious itch, and subtle lack of stamina for facing the daily grind we all know too well as good ol’ diabetes management.
Diabetes burnout can be whatever it means to you. It can mean your fingers hurt from constant finger pricks. It could mean you’re tired of dealing with the scar tissue of insulin pump infusion sites. It could mean you’re feeling incredibly stressed out every time you have to contemplate the carbohydrate counts in your lunch or feeling painfully guilty every time you eat something a “diabetic shouldn’t eat” but feel too frustrated to choose differently. (Or hey, maybe you don’t want to choose differently at this time in your life!)
The point is diabetes burnout is your own experience. You have every right to feel it. You have every right to show it in your actions (but if you feel that your burnt-out actions are threatening to your immediate well-being, definitely seek help, or tell a friend you need help asking for help!). You have every right to say you’re totally burnout even if your A1C is better than it’s ever been and you feel like you’re doing everything “perfectly” because that is hard work! No matter how “perfect” our numbers may look, diabetes is always hard work, and you deserve to feel totally burnt out.
The experience of diabetes burnout is your own experience, and your path working through that burnout is your own experience.
Author of Dealing with Diabetes Burnout, Emotional Eating with Diabetes, and Your Diabetes Science Experiment, Ginger Vieira has lived with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease since 1999, and fibromyalgia since 2014. Ginger is the editorial director at DiabetesDaily, with a background in cognitive coaching, video blogging, record-setting competitive powerlifting, personal training, Ashtanga yoga, and motivational speaking.