Welcome to a special edition of our weekly diabetes advice column, Ask D'Mine, hosted by veteran type 1 and diabetes author Wil Dubois in New Mexico. Today, Wil is waxing poetic on Groundhog Day with diabetes.

{Got questions about navigating life with diabetes? Email us at AskDMine@diabetesmine.com}

 

D'Mine on Groundhog Day

The alarm is insistent, penetrating the layers of foggy sleep in my mind. I slip one arm out from under the covers and fumble for my iPhone, stabbing randomly at the touch screen with my index finger until a lucky strike reaches the snooze button. Then I open one eye. The world outside my window is pearly grey. Pre-twilight. The stars have retreated, but the sun still hides under his covers like me.

Seriously, God, is it really morning?

The sleep slowly drains from my mind and body like brackish water in a backed-up sink freed by Drano. I stretch, rub my eyes, and slowly sit up. Then I reach for the phone, cancel the snooze alarm, and open the Dexcom app to check my blood sugar.

Another day with diabetes. 

Just like yesterday, and just like the day before that. And it will be just the same tomorrow. And just the same the day after that. Yes. I’m living Groundhog Day. The Bill Murray movie, that is, in which broadcaster Phil Connors seems eternally trapped in the same day, reliving it again and again. Not the Pennsylvania-sponsored quasi-national holiday starring a sleepy rodent yanked from his burrow for the weather prognosticating entertainment of the public.

And looking at the calendar this morning, I see that today actually is Groundhog Day, the holiday. So this seems like a good day to talk about how our disease is like Groundhog Day, the movie.

In the movie Connors relives the same day—Groundhog Day the holiday—again and again, and again, and again. No matter what he does (including kidnapping famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil and committing suicide) he wakes up at the same time, in the same hotel room, at the start of the same day. All over again.

Sound familiar? If you have diabetes, it should.

Because to some degree we’re all trapped in the same day, day after day, required to carry out the same tasks. And not just any tasks. Diabetes is replete with endless, mind-numbing repetitive tasks; and if we do them all eternally right, the best we can hope for from our efforts is, to quote my friend Dr. Bill Polonsky, that “nothing bad happens.”

Testing blood sugar many times per day. Calculating carbs of every morsel that passes our lips. Taking dose after dose after dose of insulin, day and night, turning our bodies into human pin cushions. Tracking a host of other meds. Responding to a symphony of alarms—real and false—from devices sold to help us stay healthy. It’s never-ending, and while we’re not trapped in one place like the star of the film, we’re still trapped in this one life.

Every morning when we wake up, no matter where that may be, it’s Diabetes Groundhog Day.

What to do? Actually, I think that Groundhog Day the movie can give us some guidance here. After going through a period of increasingly wild behavior and finding no escape, the hero of the film accepts his entrapment and finds ways to use each identical day to grow as a human being. 

How would that work out in the real D-world?

Well, let’s start with acceptance. I see a lot of people with diabetes who rebel against their genetic fate and circumstance. Can I just say: What a frickin’ waste of energy? Sure, the Big D sucks. No way around that. But hating every single second of it just increases that suckage. To survive long term with this bitch (and the alternative is not surviving) you need to adopt something like a Far Eastern metaphysical attitude to it. Folks in that part of the world seem more culturally predisposed to accept what they cannot do anything about. They seem to be better able to shrug off what they call karma or kismet and move on. We Westerners, on the other hand, seem more predisposed to try to fight what we call destiny.

To change it.

But given the limited time and energy we all have, and the odds of successfully changing our D-destiny, I have to say that acceptance seems to me a better use of our mental, physical, and spiritual resources. If you can accept that this is what your life is, if you can release your mind of guilt and your soul of anger, you will shed yourself of a heavy weight.

In the same vein, I hate to see people living for a future cure, grasping on to any straw, no matter how fragile, spending enormous energy in hoping that some outside source will change their destiny for them. Which isn’t to say that you should live without hope. There very well may be a cure someday, but it’s been a promise long unfilled. I’ll be delighted to throw my meter and syringes into the bonfire with the rest of you when that day comes to pass, if it comes to pass in my lifetime, but I’m not wasting any mental bandwidth on it in the meantime. I think our energy is better spent in finding ways to live better in the here and now. In the never-ending Diabetes Groundhog Day.

Which brings us to growth. How do we go beyond beyond accepting our D-karma, and go on to the next level? Like in the movie: One day at a time. One task at a time. 

Stealing another page from the East, I can’t help but think about the Japanese tea ceremony. It’s a simple task that’s evolved into a high artform with an emphasis on perfection. Why not challenge yourself to treat blood sugar monitoring the same way? Instead of viewing it as a chore, a burden, a duty, a tribulation—why not view it as a challenge to be perfected? Become a master of the BG check. A martial artist of the lance and strip. 

Crazy? Perhaps. But if you can shift your mind to turn an aggravating chore into a challenge, an art to master, why not? Wouldn’t this be growing as a person? As a person with diabetes? Likewise, why not treat a shot as an elegant dance? A carb calculation as an interesting puzzle to solve? Tracking meds as a memory-building exercise? Alarms as a language to learn?

Yes, we’re trapped in this ongoing Groundhog Day, but what we do with the time spent here—for what may be a personal eternity—is up to each of us.

 

This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. But we are not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are only a small part of your total prescription. You still need the professional advice, treatment, and care of a licensed medical professional.