Giving a damn again when you’ve given up

Like lots of people who live with chronic illness, I fluctuate between dogged determination to be as well as I can be and a sense of detachment from my health issues.

Sometimes (usually after a consultant appointment) I feel charged up, ready to make the right decisions to keep myself healthy. I fill my fruit bowl and play close attention to what my body needs.

But there are points when I just can’t be bothered anymore. Sometimes I throw a strop because I feel like nothing I do makes a difference anyway. I go to bed early and I’m still tired. I eat low carb and my blood sugars still do crazy things. I’m super-strict about eating gluten-free then get wheated at a restaurant. And at other times, I’m just worn out. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting to be constantly thinking about results and symptoms.

At these times I can be tempted to give myself a ‘holiday’, throwing caution to the wind and not thinking through the consequences of my choices. In the moment, I don’t consider the impact of an extra glass of wine, staying up until the end of the film or eating a whole party-sized bag of crisps (don’t raise your eyebrows, I know I’m not the only one!)

The result is that I usually make my symptoms worse and feel guilty that I haven’t been taking care of myself. So how do I crawl out of this hole? I’m still learning, but here are some things I do about it:

  1. Get some perspective. A bad day or even a bad week can feel awful. I sometimes look at my blood sugar results and panic, thinking about what I am doing to my body in the long-term. But set in the context of the bigger picture, they might not look so terrible. Which leads me to…
  2. Celebrate the victories. This morning I had a perfect blood sugar level. The whole family did a little victory dance with me. It might seem like a tiny thing, but that little act of celebration cements it in my head as a solid win. Remembering those times I got it right helps me through the times I get it wrong.
  3. Make yourself accountable. When you don’t have the self-motivation to make a positive choice, it’s time to get yourself a cheerleader. I’m terrible at going to bed early as it feels like a waste of time to me (I’m aware that’s ridiculous!) Sometimes I will say to my husband, “I plan to be in bed by 9.30, can you remind me?” Often I don’t need the actual reminder – the act of saying my intention out loud makes it easier to stick to.
  4. Shop smart. If you have type 1 diabetes, you might relate to the cupboard crawl, a desperate search for something you might actually enjoy eating that won’t cause blood-sugar issues. When I shop with this in mind I can remove some of the temptation by providing myself with other options – posh nuts and cheeses are my go to evening snack. (By the way, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a carby snack if you have diabetes, I just know that for me, they are unhelpful at certain times of day.) It might be something else for you – if you need to eat more greens, buy some new and interesting fruit and veg.
  5. Make a repair plan. Last week I went out three nights in a row! What a wild child! It wiped me out for a day or two, but I knew it would. So I made a plan and decided to keep all three dates but plan nothing for the next two days so I could rest. It worked! I realised it’s OK to say ‘yes’ to things that don’t seem sensible sometimes as long as you make a plan to compensate for the energy loss (and give yourself permission to bail out if you need to.)
  6. Remember it’s not your fault. Yes, I sometimes make bad decisions. But I am also pretty unlucky to have these conditions. I didn’t cause them, and they are a bit crappy.

I’d love to hear your suggestions on how you refocus on your health when you’ve let things slide.

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