Feeling knackered: how do I go on?

Guest Post from Dave Barnes – an extreme athlete with type 1 diabetes. He was on a driving holiday in the NT when he wrote this piece and at the time was a wonderful volunteer for our former charity. The post has been updated to reflect the change of focus of this website. For Dave, that means he  followed his usual extreme training regime, running before dawn because of heat, swimming when water was available, driving, camping, touring with his children and wife, and also managing Type 1 Diabetes 24/7. On this day, he was feeling somewhat weary. Understandably.
Helen Wilde, Moderator, Diabetes Can’t Stop Me.

Sometimes I feel, knackered. I mean so tired it is hard to find the energy to stand up. I believe it’s not from keeping a busy lifestyle, it’s also from managing my diabetes within a busy household and workplace.

I have always worked to be, normal. Never one to shy away from what people were doing, be it as a kid swimming away a hot summers afternoon, or as an adult, being a shuttle for kids and enabling them to experience lots of different activity.

It does come back to floor me once in a while, the diabetes I mean. Sure, I can be as normal as any bloke, you know, drink beers, play a sport, eat carb loaded fat meals, and do this with gusto, but the diabetes always comes back to say, “How ya doing fella?” it never leaves me.

Sometimes I just want to chill. I want to jump into a pool or the surf without having do the drill; test, find a safe place for my insulin pump, take it out, store it, and check regularly to make sure the BSL is staying sane.

the beautiful running venue for the weekend

jump into the surf without planning & thinking

Sometimes I just want to go to a pub and order steak and chips, nice cold beers and laze away an afternoon watching footy. Unfortunately, It will be that I go hi and feel crappy, tired and clammy. Then I have to work through the repercussions of that bit of freedom. I will then need to undo the chains the bad food and drink has put on my diabetes, where it has messed with my insulin doses and sent me to that thirsty, unhappy place. It’s just not worth bothering.

I was sitting at a pool not long ago, it was a hot day, not good for my diabetes (heat and good BSLs are not a happy couple with me). Anyway, sitting at the pool there were a group of guys, good blokes sinking some beers, playing with their kids, laughing. Me, I was sitting in a corner, managing high BSLs from a hot arvo, not drinking beers of course just more water, and feeling sorry for myself. I felt I was out of place not a place to engage in banter and fun. I was not going to tell them this though.

Another simple example is when mates have a wrestle, or my kids want to jump on me. I am reluctant to wrestle as it could knock my pump cannula out, and I am reluctant to do so with my kids as I could do the same and take the frustration out on them.

These feelings are connected to diabetes. Feel the negative ones too often and you will fall into that ‘black cloud country’ of diabetic depression. I hate that place.

Depression comes when you are trying to stay square with your control, be normal, achieve all the stuff that grown ups must achieve each day. It comes from the load of being responsible, accountable, well. The weight of it all gets too great at times and those negative feelings come back.


In my 40’s now I have worked on attacking my diabetes control. My goal has been staying fit, being active, eating right, sleeping right. I am physically very fit but no more than the average Joe. But the average Joe does not have to work out all this diabetic stuff as he gets amongst it.

Diabetes control, the energy it takes, it’s hard work, it’s 24/7. Another grind is the night. I do not do night well. If my sugars go walk about it’s at night. Sometimes I am up 4-7 times testing, checking, going to the toilet, sleep is disrupted. Having that happen more than once a week when things are not well, is well, a nightmare. I get grumpy, I am out of sorts, I get forgetful, it drives my wife nuts.

When diabetes is toying with your emotions and because you don’t have as much control of them as when your BSLs are level, you can find yourself withdrawing from groups, from conversations, from people. This is diabetic depression’s feeding ground and you are giving it lots to feast on.

So the remedy. Talk about it, find a diabetic mate to swap war stories with, share with your partner instead of taking it out on them. In the past, I used an online service, Diabetes Counselling Online team (DCO). I found chatting with people online a great friend, particularly when I wanted to remove myself from others.

Chatting online almost always steadies me with good advice, inspiration and also with some tongue in cheek laughter with my peers. Knowing I am not alone with this stuff is gold.

Regardless, I am who I am. I do lots of good stuff too and am successful in keeping complications from my diabetes relatively low whilst maintaining a highly functioning life (with a heap of help from a loving, patient family and Diabetes Team).

In conclusion, diabetes has its ups and downs, but wisdom also teaches us that, “This too will pass.” So when you feel that rut coming on, step outside of yourself, seek some help, find some perspective. You are walking a more difficult path than many, but anyone who has had a difficult journey will also share the character it builds within you and the learnings that it brings.


Go lightly friends, and try not to be too hard on yourselves. Diabetes is a marathon and not a sprint so just keep a pace you can sustain and scream out loud here at Diabetes Can’t Stop Me, as we all know what’s going on, we are listening, and we think you’re awesome, regardless of how you’re feeling.

Dave Barnes