Struggling to stay focused: Frustrations of a type 1 diabetic

minute read
September 4, 2023
A type 1 diabetic struggling to maintain her energy levels and focus.
Note: Image for illustration only. It does not show the author of this story. Photo credit - F1 Digitals

Living with type 1 diabetes presents a unique set of challenges for me – Challenges that extend far beyond the physical aspects of the condition.

A big problem for me is maintaining focus and falling behind others at work. It’s an ongoing struggle.

I have to deal with the daily realities of managing diabetes and when attempting to balance health and productivity, there are often frustrations and setbacks. There’s a complex relationship between type 1 diabetes and the mental hurdles it presents, particularly when it comes to maintaining focus and productivity.

How does my diabetes affect my work life?

One of the primary factors that impact my ability to focus is the constant need to monitor my blood sugar level. Throughout the day, I have to frequently check my blood glucose level, take insulin injections, and adjust my diet.

These routine interruptions, and the mental strain of managing blood sugar fluctuations, are mentally exhausting. It makes it difficult to stay on track with work tasks and deadlines.

Worse, blood sugar fluctuations also have a significant impact on my cognitive functions. When my blood sugar level is high, it makes me tired, blurs my thoughts, and makes it hard to concentrate. And when my blood sugar level is too low, I feel dizzy, shaky and confused – Balancing these extremes becomes a constant battle, and I often get sick of it, leading to periods of procrastination as my focus and productivity are totally gone.

Tackling the extremes

When my blood sugar level drops dangerously low, it can lead to a sudden loss of focus, blurred vision, and impaired cognitive abilities. This requires immediate attention, and I need to eat a quick source of glucose or get medical assistance. It doesn’t matter if I’m meeting with my firm’s CEO when this happens, I have to do it. They might think I’m clumsy, but that’s just how it is.

When my blood sugar spikes very high, I get really thirsty, need to urinate more frequently, and am mentally sluggish. Imagine trying to take an important exam and needing to use the restroom twice. Or going for a job interview and needing to ask for multiple glasses of water. They’ll think I’m nervous or unconfident when in reality, I’m just hyperglycemic – This is very frustrating.

Final thoughts

I’ll be honest, trying to balance my blood sugar level and productivity is difficult and can get mentally sickening.

Living with a chronic illness like type 1 diabetes can take a toll on your emotional and mental well-being. The stress, anxiety and worry that come from managing the condition can sometimes be overwhelming and make it even harder to focus. Constantly needing to prioritise my health and self-care is frustrating, and it’s common to feel like I’m falling behind others who don’t have these additional challenges to contend with.

To battle this, I think it’s important for people with type 1 diabetes to communicate their needs in the workplace. Talk to your employers, colleagues, and loved ones, and let them know what you’re struggling with and how they can help.

Because the more we all do this, fostering greater understanding between people, the more inclusive a work environment we can create – And then everyone can thrive.

Profile photo of Hira Tayyab, a type 1 diabetic.
Hira Tayyab

Hira Tayyab is a 29 year old type 1 diabetic who works full-time in an American firm. She manages her work and personal life along with her diabetes but sometimes, when her physical condition is troubling her, feels like she’s falling behind her peers.

Editor's note: The opinions and experiences reflected in stories from the diabetic community belong to the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of InDiabetes.

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