Diabetes and guilt are a package deal. If the number on the meter isn’t “good,” then we feel guilty. Got the bolus wrong on an obvious food? Guilty. A1c too high? Running low too often? Signs of retinopathy? Guilty, guilty guilty. With all its measuring and checking, and nothing but numbers to define you, it’s easy to see how having diabetes can be one long guilt trip.
There’s a special kind of guilt that I might call “experience guilt,” and I’m all over that brand right now on this trip. This is the diabetes guilt you have when you do something that’s not in the best interest of your diabetes because you don’t want to miss out on the special moments in life. It’s having two slices of your own birthday cake, because it’s only once a year, damnit. It’s the nasty low you get the next morning after deciding to go to happy hour with all of your friends and have a glass of wine or two. It’s shoveling GU packs down your throat because you wanted to go on the hike to see the highest point in Thailand. And then there’s this:
The guilt that comes with being on a once in a lifetime trip and wanting to experience all the local food made with pasta and rice and sweet coconut milk. It’s the guilt that comes with knowing you will probably never be in Luang Prabang again and don’t I deserve to try the local curry just like everyone else is? The thing is, they won’t have to face a 300mg/dL after their meal, and you will.
This “experience guilt” is constant for us folks with diabetes. We don’t want this disease to hold us back from doing everything a person with a functioning pancreas would do, but the fact is that some of these experiences just aren’t going to be easy with diabetes. That’s tough to face, and it’s been amplified because I’m on a trip where everything is exotic and unique and interesting…for three months. I love experiencing a new culture, and I especially like diving in with the locals. Here, that includes a lot of rice and noodles. With every post-prandial spike I see though, I get that twinge of guilt.
All I can do is remind myself that I am, in the big picture, doing incredibly well. I have a low A1c (um..well..I did at the beginning of this trip…), I’ve taken excellent care of myself for the past 12 years with lots of exercise and healthy eating, and I have minimal complications even after 20 years with this disease. And after all, unlike birthday cake, I can truly justify mango sticky rice from a street cart at an open-air market in Laos as being a once-in-a-lifetime experience.