Back in 1985, my hair was long and my thoughts were short (to paraphrase Kid Rock). And that’s when I was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes. As an ambitious, science-focused 18-year-old, I had a hard time coping. My dad, a chemical engineer and graduate of the “Mr. Spock School of Logic,” put it in terms that I could relate to. He said, “Gary, you know all those compulsive detail-oriented habits you have that drive everyone crazy? Well, now they’re going to come in handy.”
And they did… and still do. Paying attention to details can make a tremendous difference when it comes to managing one’s diabetes. But diabetes is far from a perfect science. Expecting perfection in a very imperfect world can cause some major problems: Mental fatigue/burnout, stress hormones that drive glucose levels up, and avoidance of normal, enjoyable activities because they might lead to highs or lows. Over-perfectionism can also be a “gateway” condition that leads to other mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
Consider the latest recommendations from medical experts regarding glucose management. Spending 70% of one’s time within a reasonable target range (typically 70-180 mg/dl, or 4-10 mmol/l) with no more than 3% of time in hypoglycemia is considered desirable for most people. It is sufficient for minimizing the risk of long-term diabetes complications and feeling/performing well on a day-to-day basis. But look at the empty part of the glass: that means you can spend 25-30% of the day, or 6-7 hours, outside of your target range and still be doing reasonably well.
I guess the key, as it is with most things, is to find a balance between aiming for the “ideal” and accepting what is realistically achievable. There is a price to pay for being overly perfectionistic, just as there is a price to pay for being overly lax.
One of the first and most important things we do with each of our clients at IDS is to negotiate a set of desirable, realistic and individualized goals. Having these in place forms the basis for our work together. Without these goals, it is easy for anybody to fall victim to extreme perfectionism and become overly critical of their own efforts.
If you would like to discuss your personal diabetes management goals and develop strategies for reaching them, please reach out. This is a judgement-free zone, so whatever you would like to work on would be, how shall I put it… PERFECT.
Hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Diabetes Bites! Your feedback is always welcome and appreciated.
50 Secrets of the Longest Living People with Diabetes
Written by Sheri E. Colberg, Ph.D., and Steven V. Edelman, MD, this book shares results of interviews with over fifty people who have thrived and lived great lives with diabetes, some for as many as 84 years!