Fighting with Perfection

Note: I originally wrote this many years ago for another site. It is not available anymore, so I am republishing it.

Abstract image of oil paint

Diabetes is a thing surrounded by numbers. Everything is a number or is used in a calculation. We have blood sugars, units of insulin, and grams of carbohydrates. Then we take those numbers and stick them into more numbers. There is the insulin-to-carb ratio, the duration of insulin action, our correction factor, and more.

With all those numbers, it is easy to expect the math to always “net out.” If I do the math, using all of those numbers, I expect my blood sugar to come out close to my target blood sugar. 

I think that all of us realize there are many areas of inaccuracy in all of those numbers, especially with the glucose meters and food label information we use. There are so many more areas around these numbers that don’t fit nicely into our calculations. Did you know that the size of your bolus affects how long that bolus lasts (duration of insulin action)? That’s some ugly math. None of our current devices deal with ugly math very well.

To be fair, this math does a pretty good job most of the time. I cling to it sometimes because it helps me make some sense of manually mimicking a pancreas, even if it doesn’t always work perfectly.

I’m no scientist, doctor, or even a very educated person. But it’s clear that the human body does not always fit into mathematical equations. There are “things” happening inside us that can’t be strapped to a quantifiable number—stress, emotions, sickness, infections, sports. There are more of these things (un-quantifiable factors) than the ones we CAN put some numbers to.

But, again, with all of those numbers, we expect the math to work everything through and come back with a target blood sugar. We start looking for why when we don’t get that target blood sugar. In many cases, I will even jump to the conclusion that I did something wrong instead of considering some of the things that might have played a role in that result.

I am not a perfectionist. I could not be, with diabetes. My head would have popped a long time ago. Can you imagine the insanity being a perfectionist with diabetes would cause? By the end of a couple of days, diabetes would be the least of my worries. A psychiatric care team at the local state hospital would professionally mismanage it. Do you think needles and syringes might be problematic with the straightjacket and padded walls?

We all try very hard to do our best with our diabetes. We also try very hard to maintain some sanity. It is hard to do both when diabetes management invades so much of our lives and when we are so scared of what happens when we don’t manage it well.

But perfectionism with diabetes is a trap. Perfectionism with diabetes will burn you out faster than I can burn a grilled cheese sandwich. Trust me. It happens quickly.

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Scott K. Johnson

Patient voice, speaker, writer, advocate, and Senior Community Manager at Blue Circle Health. Living life with diabetes and telling my story. All opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent my employer’s position. Read more…

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