Thursday, October 4, 2012

Preach It

They say doctors make the worst patients, and it’s often true. Sometimes it’s because we think we know it all, and other times it’s because we may know a lot but fail to utilize it in our own lives.

A large reason why I was able to a 180 with my own diabetes was because I didn’t want to be “that doctor” that asked so much of her patients without doing it herself.  Now that I’ve been seeing and treating patients with diabetes for a few months now, I’m appreciating that there is so much power in being the example. In these last three months, I have had several heart-to-heart conversations with wayward Type 1 teenagers. The ones that I used to be, the ones barely keeping their heads above a hyperglycemic sea of hopelessness and self-doubt.

I hate that I took such horrible care of myself for so long, but I love that I can now look them straight in the eye and say, “Hey, I get what’s going through your head right now. I know you stressed all day (or longer) about this appointment. I know you’re dreading what your A1C is going to be and what your parent’s reaction to it will mean. I know that you don’t do readings because you don’t want to face the fact that it’s going to be a sky-high number.  I know you snack and don’t bolus because it’s incredibly annoying. I get that this diabetes thing absolutely SUCKS and that paying less attention to it is just EASIER.”

But then I get to follow it up with my little revelation: Even though treating it is more work and such an amazing pain in the ass, the freedom and pride and weightlessness that comes with giving it attention is SO MUCH BETTER than the carrying the guilt of ignoring it.
And when these teens give me the side-eye of doubt, I can re-assure them that I’m living proof of this. And then, if they’re interested, I can share the little ways and steps and changes that I tried, which ones failed and which ones helped. And how it might not work for them but we’ll figure it out together. And that it won’t be a great big success story all at once, but that little changes add up to big changes over time.

These conversations are sometimes successful in motivating these patients, but they’re always successful in motivating me. For every one thing I teach a patient, I learn 10 more.  So I’ll continue to open up to the ones that are ready to hear me admit my failures, so they can hopefully share in my successes.

Practicing what you preach is an art form, and one that I’ll be perfecting for years and years. I just have to keep reminding myself that there’s a fine line between preaching and being preachy :)