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Paying Attention To Our Bodies

By Cherie Burbach

Posted On: February 3, 2005
Last Modified On: February 4, 2005

Before I became diabetic, I was a self-confessed workaholic. I was single and quite honestly, didn’t have much else going on in my life. I was always an eager worker and I was always trying to prove myself and move ahead. I often worked long hours, and as a result didn’t eat right or exercise all the time.

Cherie Burbach

Cherie Burbach

Now, I’ve been diabetic for nearly 15 years, since my early 20s. When I first got the disease, I was determined not to let it change my life. In fact, I’d work twice as hard to prove that I didn’t need extra attention or rest.

Then suddenly I was coming home from work one night and fell on a patch of ice by my house. I heard my ankle snap and immediately knew it was broken. As I looked down at my foot I saw it was literally facing the wrong way. I was in excruciating pain and also worried that I would lose my foot. Thankfully, I had emergency surgery and with some pins and many months on crutches, I was able to walk again.

Instead of using this time to take it a bit easier, I worked twice as hard. I went back to work the next week and hobbled and hopped up flights of stairs (since I worked in an office without an elevator!) and came home exhausted. My blood sugars fluctuated and I often felt sick.

Perhaps due to my overzealousness at getting back to work, a pin in my ankle (which is supposed to stay put a lifetime) started to come loose. I had to have another surgery just six months after the first one. Of course, I remained exhausted but went right back to work, often 60-plus hours a week.

About a year later I finally started to get a personal life. I got a new job and instead of working a zillion hours a week I worked a more reasonable schedule. But then I started going to school full time as well as working full time. I was often tired and my blood sugars started to fall out of control, but I chalked it up to just having a lot on my plate. I figured that when things slowed down a bit my blood sugars would come back in control too.

I was sick often. I’d developed strep throat, had colds, the flu, and walking pneumonia. In the next six months I also had two more surgeries. First, to remove a gallbladder and then for a cyst on my ovary. In both cases I had aches and pains that I ignored because I didn't want to appear weak or whiney. The cyst on my ovary was due to endometriosis, and for further treatment I went through a forced menopause for nine months.

Suddenly, my body started arguing with me. My typical mind over matter approach to life suddenly didn’t work. I was exhausted. Part of it could be explained with my blood sugars, and after I went to an endocrinologist we developed a new diabetes régime that worked out well. Still, I felt awful most of the time and tried to “tough it out.” This time, however, my body would have none of it.

After many months of feeling as if I could collapse each and every day, I had to face facts that this was something I couldn’t just throw off. My doctor felt that my body was just in need of some rest, that the stress it had endured was wreaking havoc and I needed to lighten the load. I went part-time at work, coming home to rest in the afternoons. Eventually, even this was not enough and I needed to take some time off. I used the time to get back on track with rest, diet, and exercise.

The most frustrating part in all of this was simply admitting that I could not “do it all.” With all the time I devoted to work or school I rarely devoted time to taking care of myself. Admitting I couldn’t work a zillion hours a week anymore made me feel defeated.

Thankfully, my husband, family, and friends were very supportive. They helped me realize that there is no shame in having to re-examine priorities and if need be, focus on yourself. We can’t just push ourselves and ignore the signs of overwork when our bodies rebel. I’ve discovered that I never did have to prove anything by trying to work until I dropped.

In the end, I’ve realized that all of us sometimes, regardless if we have diabetes or not, need to cut back and pay attention to our bodies. 


About the Author

Cherie Burbach is the author of poetry books The Difference Now and A New Dish. She has also written the humorous At the Coffee Shop, chronicling her experience in meeting her husband through the world of Internet dating. For more information, please visit her website at www.thedifferencenow.com


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