People, especially "friend" people, have the best intentions. They want to support and to help. They want to listen and empathize. They want to make sure that you are heard and held when you need to be. But, they don't really understand just as I don't really understand their struggles. We do our best for those we love but truthfully you must be walking the same path to understand. It's important to get a friend or two who walks the same or similar path to yours for sharing the highs with but also for when you are weak and tired and overwhelmed and struggling and you just don't know how much more you can do, take, handle.
I'm tired this week. My job is emotionally demanding. The students I work with have significant needs and multiple disabilities. To provide them with a free and appropriate education I work with and manage five staff members directly (my team) and coordinate programs with six general education teachers and four specialists. I have to put my teaching on luke-warm some days. I'm not sleeping much. I'm worn down from the lack of sleep and the fact that I'm no spring chicken. I've let my team know that I appreciate their grace right now and acceptance that some days I am doing just enough at work but not nearly as much as is typical for me. They are carrying the weight and I'm just steering the ship some days.
The wonderful friends in my life ask how I am and I tell them "just tired" or "a little worn out". I never want to burden others. I can handle things. When I tell them about it they don't really get it anyway. They think to themselves waking up at 3 a.m. would be hard but they don't feel how it feels to do this night after night. I don't want to be the person who can only talk about the chronic health needs of my family. I want to ask them about their families and how their weekend was but I can't hardly listen to their answers because some days my mind is so fuzzy. This too shall pass. I know a year from now I will barely remember the struggles of now. I will be with all new struggles and these ones will have faded away.
People who aren't close with me, "work friends", or casual friends, they mean well. They ask how you are and they wouldn't object to you telling them you aren't holding it all together but they are equally happy to accept the "I'm fine" even when you say it through clenched teeth or with eyes too bright as you fight not to cry. When you don't remind them, they forget that you are doing this T1D thing every day, every hour, every minute. They don't realize that you now have a set of responsibilities that manifests at a rate similar to caring for a newborn. They tell you about their hiking trip and ask if you did anything fun this weekend.
Hmmm well I checked blood sugar and managed to pull my son back from some shockingly low numbers into a range that is safe for him. I stood outside his bedroom and watched to make sure he was just sleeping and not struggling to survive only to read on his monitor that his blood sugar was too low to sustain life much longer. I watched episodes of cartoons at 1 a.m. with him as he ate gummy bears and drank juice boxes because the episodes are fifteen minutes long and would cue us both when we could check that glucose level again and see if we'd finally made it back into range and were safe to fall back to sleep. Um ...
"My weekend was great, thanks for asking".
I'm fortunate that my team at work has been through this before. Our co-worker's daughter was diagnosed almost two years ago and I was the one trying to fathom her exhaustion and frustration. Her difficulty with insurance companies and the number of appointments she had to add to her months and year. I was there when she would arrive at work with tears in her eyes or when her phone would ring and she would see it was her daughter's school calling. I was there when she'd grab her keys and say "i'm sorry" as I would respond "take care of your family, we've got this". But I couldn't really help and I didn't really understand. I'm the fortunate one. I have her and she does understand and she's been there before. She can probably listen to me talk about health incessantly forever. When I tell her about a crazy high or an unexpected low, she has stories to tell back and we can be together. When I get a text message from the medical supply company that they have received our information for a glucose monitor she understands why I'm crying. I have her and all our other team members who supported her and we're just all doing it again, same dance new partner. I'm fortunate in this. But sometimes it doesn't even matter. You can only push yourself so much and some days you want to throw the blanket over your head and sleep but you only get 3 hours at a time.
Find yourself a person or people who have walked the similar path. They can carry you for a short distance once in a while. Just far enough that you don't break or quit; you can't even if you want to so find some support. They all mean well but find someone who understands. And buy them coffee once in a while to show your appreciation😏