On Keeping a Diabetes Journal

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I’m looking through the green, spiral-bound notebook in which I journal and keep track of most things diabetes. For the first few months after my late-March 2007 diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes, I kept diligent track of the time of day and my blood glucose readings—highlighted in blue—in the left-hand margins. I also wrote a paragraph or two about what I’d eaten (if I had eaten), its carb content, as well as what activities I was up to, how I felt, and any thoughts, questions, or fears about my diabetes.

Back in college, I found out that writing was my way of understanding the world, a process that I often began in one frame of mind and ended anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours later with a completely different way of seeing. I went outside and leaves on the trees were clearer, sharper; colors were more vibrant; odors in the neighborhood were richer, more robust; and the sounds of the world more distinct.

Of course, the world hadn’t changed. I had altered my perception of it during the time I spent writing. I had become more in tune with my world.

And that’s what I’ve discovered through writing about my diabetes. Put your pen on the page, or open up a Word document, and take some notes. Maybe you’ve even thought about blogging. However you do it, just do it. It doesn’t have to be formal. You don’t need to be a published author or a journalist or a great essayist. To paraphrase the poet Richard Hugo about writing, “Look over your shoulder. No one’s there.” No one has to read what you’re saying about diabetes. You can be honest with yourself. You can lash out at the world, at your doctor, at the insurance industry, or maybe even at your family. You can celebrate the support you have, the small victories in self-management, or even reveal your innermost diabetes desires.

It doesn’t matter. The act of the writing is what counts.

My intention when I started my diabetes journal was to not only monitor blood glucose and carbohydrate intake, but also to slow down the rather vicious windstorm of information overload and inner voices that were competing with the actual method of treatment I needed to focus on. I knew it was going to be tough.

As I become more acclimated to living with diabetes, I see how it’s possible to take for granted the diligence necessary to maintain tight control. Life simply gets in the way. Over the past month, my blood glucose and food entries have tapered off. I don’t obsess anymore over writing down my meals or blood glucose numbers. I don’t worry that I’m not following every suggestion I read in books and magazines, and I don’t question every aspect of my own management when I hear about different ways other people with Type 1 are successfully living with their diabetes. Even though there are many millions of us with diabetes, it is also an individual path each of us takes.

As with anything new—and especially with a life-altering diagnosis such as this—the learning curve is steep and can be overwhelming. The journal is there when I need it. It doesn’t have to be something I go to daily. It doesn’t need me to write in it for a certain amount of time when I pick it up. The more I do it, however, the better I find I feel.

If you’re journaling about your diabetes, let me know how it’s helped you. If you’re not writing about your diabetes, how do you deal with it? Give a diabetes journal a shot for a few months. See what happens. Looking back through your experience with a chronic condition can be helpful in planning how you’ll deal with the future.

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