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Connecting the Dots on Diabetes: Self-Reflection and Keeping Track of Diabetes Medications

Living Well

August 02, 2022

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Marc Tran/Stocksy United

Marc Tran/Stocksy United

by Sydney Williams

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Fact Checked by:

Maria Gifford

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by Sydney Williams

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Fact Checked by:

Maria Gifford

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Welcome to Connecting the Dots on Diabetes, a series by Sydney Williams of Hiking My Feelings, chronicling the organization’s mission to hike 1 million miles for diabetes awareness.

Throughout the series, Sydney, who received a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in 2017, will dig into questions like: Is there a relationship between trauma and diabetes? If so, if we treat the trauma, can we more effectively treat diabetes? And how can self-reflection help make sense of a diabetes diagnosis and lead to better outcomes?

“It’s time to take your medicine,” my husband said in a sing-song voice.

I reached for my phone and sang with my alarm for a few moments. I chose “Give Thanks” by Iya Terra to be the song that plays when it’s time to take my medication. This helps create a moment of self-reflection and gratitude for having access to healthcare and lifesaving medications, receiving a diagnosis, and having the resources to manage my health.

Then, I took my medications with some water and confirmed that my alarm was ready to go for my next dose. One more round of thanks for having access to clean water, a partner who loves me, and a body that tells me what it needs, and I’m on with my day.

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Create a ritual

When I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2017, my doctor gave me a solid foundation on which to build a diabetes management protocol that worked for me, my body, and my circumstances. She pointed me in the direction of some diabetes education classes at the hospital and shared her recommendations for a nutrition and movement plan.

She also gave me a really simple tip: “Set an alarm on your phone and take your medications at the same time, every single day.”

So I did. I set one alarm for 8 a.m. and one for 8 p.m., and then, in true Sydney form, I was a little extra and turned it into a whole ritual.

I chose a time that followed when I usually eat breakfast and dinner so I was taking the medication with food as recommended. I spaced it exactly 12 hours apart. I made sure I had my medications easily accessible at home. If I was on the road, I made sure to pack my diabetes kit in my bag, which included my glucometer and test strips, a pill container broken out with each day’s doses, and some other items.

Doing something like this for yourself is a great start to developing a self-reflection practice around the medications you take to manage diabetes.

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Check in with yourself

When I was younger and took medications for seasonal allergies, birth control pills, or other prescriptions, I was kind of lackadaisical about it. I took it when I remembered, and that was if I remembered.

As I grew older, I got better about it, but it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with diabetes that I turned it into a ritual and a quick moment to check in with myself.

Whether you’re newly diagnosed or have been part of the diabetes community for years, you know that shame and stigma around this disease and the medications we take is real. One of the ways we can develop a more meaningful relationship with ourselves and a more intentional relationship with the medications we’ve been prescribed is to check in with ourselves through self-reflection.

Slowing down to think about how you can make taking medications a celebration and opportunity to practice gratitude is living intentionally.

When I was first diagnosed and prescribed medication to manage my type 2 diabetes, my first thought was that I didn’t want to be on medication for the rest of my life. I was 32 at the time, and I was committed to making any changes that were necessary for me to turn this ship around. And I did.

After 6 months on the medication, we slowly decreased my dosage until I was able to wean off of it, my A1C levels reached a healthy level, and, as my doctor said, “If I didn’t know you and saw this chart, I wouldn’t know you had diabetes.”

Power of positive thinking

How did I get there? Instead of shaming myself for my diagnosis and judging myself for requiring medication to manage my condition, I welcomed my new prescription to my care team.

After I got home from the pharmacy with the first fill of my prescription, I sat down, held the bottle in my hands, and visualized having a conversation with the medicine: “Thank you for being here, and welcome to the team. I am looking forward to experiencing the benefits you bring to the table. And as much as I’m glad you’re here, I will be thrilled when we don’t need you here anymore, and I will thank you for your service on your departure. Let’s get to work!”

If that feels silly to you, you’re not alone — I could barely take myself seriously. But there is power in prayer, manifesting, and positive thinking. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. So I committed to showing up every day and welcoming the medication to work, with a thank you and a little dance.

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The benefits of mindfulness

One of the contributing factors to high blood sugar levels in the body is stress, and one of the simplest ways to alleviate stress is mindfulness. By taking the time to think about what kind of ritual you might build around taking your medications, you’re already being mindful.

Slowing down to think about how you can make taking medications a celebration and opportunity to practice gratitude is living intentionally. Plus, you get the benefits of the medications performing as intended when you take them as prescribed and on time each day.

How to start a self-reflection practice

Try using a self-reflection practice to keep track of diabetes medications. Here are some questions and prompts I’ve asked myself along the way:

  • Mindset. Instead of fearing the listed side effects of your medication, focus on the benefits. Remember the vision of this medication being part of your care team. Every dose is another step closer toward your health goals.
    • Prompt: What would be possible if this medication did exactly what it’s supposed to do? What if you don’t experience any of the negative side effects?
  • New medications. When you’re prescribed a new medication, take time to do a full body scan periodically throughout the day and make note of any changes.
    • Prompt: What am I feeling today? Where am I feeling it in my body? Is this different from yesterday? If so, how?
  • Burnout. For folks who are tired of taking medications every day and don’t feel like they’re making any progress, it can be exhausting to add on this layer. When that happens, I find free writing to be most helpful. I recommend starting with the prompt below not to focus on the negative, but to give space for the frustrating reality that is living with diabetes. More often than not, simply getting out frustrations on paper or with a trusted friend can make everything feel a lot lighter.
    • Prompt: What is most frustrating about living with diabetes right now?

Fact checked on August 02, 2022

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About the author

Sydney Williams

Sydney Williams is an adventure athlete and author based in San Diego, California. Her work explores how trauma manifests in our minds and bodies, and how the outdoors can help us heal. Sydney is the founder of Hiking My Feelings, a nonprofit organization on a mission to improve community health by creating opportunities for people to experience the healing power of nature. Join the Hiking My Feelings Family, and follow along on YouTube and Instagram.

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