Managing your job and diabetes
Nearly all of us have to get a job to survive. Some lucky people are born into obscene wealth and others either make it or win it and no longer need to run the rat race.
The majority of us don’t particularly like our jobs though, and find ourselves running around in circles paying the bills and putting (low carb) food on the table. Considering we have just one life, it’s a bonkers thing to think about. What are we actually doing with our lives?
But we’re not here to talk about the meaning of life or how to change our societal norms. This is about having 2 jobs. Your 9 to 5 and diabetes.
Navigating the complex world of business
Let‘s be absolutely honest here, office politics is horrific. I’ve had better bouts of diarrhoea than walking into an office on a Monday morning.
Unfortunately, it’s also inevitable for many of us. We are forced to conduct hours of small talk with people we barely know and have little interest in trying. If you don’t agree, then perhaps you’re the person that people are trying to avoid.
Only joking, you’re lovely.
Then we have the dreaded word that most people need ‘auto-correct’ to help us spell, bureaucracy.
How can such a small room full of people harvest such pen-pushing red tape? Because we’re all different and despite us supposedly working toward the same goal, we tend to view the journey very differently.
You can’t help but feel, as we move toward more flexible working arrangements and hours, productivity and efficiency will rise as we’re not dragged around by our co-workers, feeding the gossip and rumour mill.
Now let’s add the ever-so-exciting chronic disease diabetes. This is arguably a full time job with no perks by itself, so how do we balance the two?
Should I stay or should I go?
Many newly diagnosed diabetics (of working age) will ask themselves this very question. It’s important to assess the pros and cons of your current job and whether it will help you manage your disease or hinder it. If it’s the latter, there will be no winner.
For example: If you have brittle diabetes and you’re a flame thrower - train to be a plumber.
The vast majority of us aren’t flame throwers though and will work in predictably safe and mundane environments, whereby diabetes doesn’t cause too much of an impediment.
Remember, stress is just as dangerous as fire and if you try and juggle a very stressful job on top of diabetes, be prepared to reap the not-so-great rewards (just ask previous UK Prime Minister Theresa May).
We all manage diabetes slightly differently, but when it comes to managing your colleagues at work we need to be clear. Let them know.
Yes, it’s none of their business and yes, they might ask ridiculous questions but the alternative is them not knowing, and one day, you might just need their help. You probably won’t. You‘ll probably want to stab them with your insulin pen, but there’s still a possibility.
Plus, it’s an opportunity to educate your fellow human on the complexities of diabetes and spread the good word.
If you’re the boss and your staff don’t know about your disease then you risk the same as mentioned above. If you’re concerned your staff might look at you differently, perhaps even with less authority, then you haven’t earn‘t respect properly. Show your staff the respect they deserve as we all have a duty of care.
If you have a manager, then again, let them know. Of course, it’s no-ones business but having leadership on-board with you and your condition fosters a more open and honest relationship. If they have irrational beliefs that diabetes stops you from doing your job properly, then let them (and HR) know.
At no point in your life do you have to put up with a small minded manager. There’s a common saying (always floating around LinkedIn) - “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers” - this has a lot of truth to it.
Don’t play the victim and certainly don’t play the aggressor if you need to address a manager who isn’t supportive. Take the proper channels and explain that you don’t know why someone would have that opinion as diabetes doesn’t affect your capacity to do your job in the slightest. If anything, you’re better for it as you’re now a professional multitasker.
There is a caveat to this, and that‘s if you’re experiencing frequent episodes of hypo or hyperglycemia and this is impacting your role. This means the management of your condition needs to be improved. It’s not easy but your job isn’t to blame in this instance, so take it on the chin and get back to your best.
No-one expects you to be a gold medalist Olympian specialising in diabetes all of the time. Sometimes, it’s out of your control, but be honest with yourself and your employer.
The concept of balance is subjective. What one person considers a balanced diet might look very different to another - and that’s ok. But when looking at your job, we need to make sure our health is the priority. This can knock what we once considered balanced out of line.
Being ambitious and career hungry doesn’t have to be thrown out. Having motivation to build a strong and sustainable career is more than possible with diabetes, but we must look at the costs vs the benefits. If your job is highly stressful, involves long hours leading to lack of sleep, or encourages a toxic working environment then you can argue it’s not worth it. Your blood sugars are impacted by a lot of things and if your job isn’t contributing to balancing your bloods, then perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere.
Office Parties and Peer Pressure
Just mentioning the words ‘office party’ sparks fears of dread and embarrassment. It takes the forced relationships from the office into an alcohol fuelled - high carb environment. They’re even trickier to navigate than the office as the booze lowers your inhibitions and you’re more likely to either tell your boss what you really think of them or end up in bed with them.
There’s no point in lingering on this subject for too long as it’s not really that different for a diabetic. Yes, we’ve more to think about. Arguably, having a severe hypo due to excess champagne and ending up on the floor doesn’t look good. At no point do we need to give any work colleague or manager reason to think we can’t manage our disease. It‘s the same principle in work and life - we‘re professionals at our job and diabetes.
Most office parties do not take into consideration dietary requirements or preferences. Yes, we can eat what we want, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for us. If you are like me and eat a low carb diet, be clear why, and don’t give in to peer pressure to just have that slice of pizza. What happens if you over-estimate your bolus? A hypo isn’t nice at any time but stood in the middle of a disco dressed as a panda rubs salt into the wound.
A person with diabetes can do almost any job that a non-diabetic can do, give or take a few slightly more dangerous professions (probably a good thing).
Be honest about what job you want or have and don’t place too much pressure on yourself. Try and have passion in what you do and pursue because your job is where you spend most of you time.
It’s easy to be idealistic and say that no job is worth your ability to manage this disease and of course, this is true. But at the time, it’s the last thing on our mind.
We’re all different and if you’re the best flame thrower on the planet then keep doing what your doing, despite your brittle diabetes.
Believe the hypo