The Paradox of Control

Apr 01, 2022

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I see the words ‘control’ and ‘diabetes’ in the same sentence. It bugs me, even more, when I hear people talk about ‘controlling’ the emotional burden of T1D. Expecting you can control your emotions just sets you up for failure.

People with T1D like control. We don’t like it when we can’t control our blood sugars or our emotions. The thing is, with T1D, control isn’t always possible. Trying to control the things about diabetes that you have no control over makes things worse. Sometimes, control is not the solution but part of the problem.

You probably do lots of things to try to control your life with T1D.

Imagine you are going through diabetes burnout. You are exhausted by diabetes, and you desperately need a break, so you try to ignore diabetes. Maybe you stop checking your blood sugar, or you don’t bolus for every meal. You just want to control your burnout and make it go away. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to prevent feeling burned out. Ignoring diabetes just makes things worse. Your blood sugars get high, you feel awful, and diabetes becomes an even bigger burden.

Sometimes, control isn’t the answer.

Pick Your Battles

There are things you have control over with T1D, and others you don’t. The key is knowing the difference so that you can pick your battles. Focus on what you can control with T1D and recognize what you want to control but can’t. Knowing the difference is critical for your emotional well-being.

Things about T1D you CAN control:

  • When you check your blood sugar
  • How much insulin you take
  • What you eat
  • What tools you use to manage diabetes (e.g., pump, MDI, CGM, etc.)
  • If and how you ask for support from others
  • The direction of your blood sugar (usually)

Things about T1D you CANNOT (always) control:

  • Your exact blood sugar
  • Emotions you experience with diabetes
  • Your thoughts about diabetes
  • How you feel physically
  • Other people’s reactions to your diabetes

But I want control!

Trust me, so does everyone with T1D!  But I also want you to set yourself up for success. The reality is, with T1D, there are things you don’t have control over. Giving up your attempt at control may not feel comfortable, but accepting your lack of control is better than the alternative.

Being ok giving up the illusion of control takes hard work and patience. The good news is, that by giving up your attempt to control things you can’t, you’ll gain control over what really matters. That’s the paradox of control.

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