Burnout. It’s absolutely on my mind at the moment. I am burnt out with diabetes; I’m burnt out with advocacy. And I am burnt out with coronavirus – especially the bit where everything I see and read keeps mentioning that it’s all really just mild…except for elderly people and those with chronic health conditions.

Oh yeah – that’s me. The chronic health condition bit, although I am feeling old – so old – at the moment, too.

(I’m also burnt out at my husband breaking into song every time he hears the words ‘COVID-19’, and if I never hear the song Come On Eileen again it will be too soon. But I digress…)

I’m not afraid of coronavirus. I’m taking the precautions that have been recommended. I’ve not panicked or stockpiled anything, and I’m still going into work. Probably the way I have been most impacted is that I will be in Melbourne next week instead of Berlin, and again at the beginning of April when I was meant to be in Copenhagen. As with most people, I’ve been grounded and probably won’t be seeing the inside of an airport for a few months. It’s a small price to pay to stop the virus’ spread. (Alas, reaching Qantas Platinum One status will remain elusive for another year.)

All in all, I’m pretty calm and rational about what I need to do personally and understand how our own personal actions can and will contribute to the wellbeing of others. At least, I have been feeling calm and rational…

In the last couple of days, I’ve noticed that I am starting to tense up whenever coronavirus is mentioned, and I know that I have moved from just taking any information in, to feeling increasing levels of concern. I get that my anxiety has been heightened lately – due to completely unrelated reasons – and that is now being reflected in how I am responding to coronavirus. I am tangibly feeling upset when I hear stories of people with chronic health conditions being diagnosed with it, and the other day, I found that I was fighting back tears as, yet again, some politician somewhere promised that people who were diagnosed with the virus would most likely be okay – as long as they were not old or chronically ill.

I don’t like diabetes making me feel defenceless, and yet, here I am, feeling highly exposed and vulnerable.

Thankfully, reporting has seemed to be a little more sensitive in recent days and I’m feeling less disposable, or perhaps I was just getting better at avoiding anything that was making me seem that way. At least, that was the case until I started reading accounts out of Italy about how overwhelmed their health system has become. I can’t even begin to imagine the distress HCPs must be feeling at needing to determine who gets treatment and who doesn’t – in many cases deciding who lives and dies. If the situation in Italy was to happen here, would I be one of those left to die because of my diabetes?

These thoughts are starting to keep me awake at night.

So today, I’m thinking about my mental health and how I can better look after it in light of the way I am starting to feel. The last thing I want is to become completely overwhelmed. I need to keep being rational and calm and sensible – not panicky and unable to think straight.

I’m being very selective about what I am reading. I don’t watch or read tabloid news ever, and I’ve actually blocked accounts on my socials so that I don’t accidentally see their scaremongering on my feeds. The balance between informing and alarming people seems to be a fine line that many don’t seem to understand.

Instead, I’m looking at the sensible and smart advice, where evidence is king, and content is based on fact. Diabetes Australia (disclosure: I work there) has been providing regular updates for Aussies with diabetes, including information from the Department of Health which reassuringly confirmed that there are no shortages or supply issues with insulin, diabetes drugs or NDSS supplies. (If you’re elsewhere, check local diabetes org sites and if there is nothing there, reach out and ask them to get onto it!)

Children with Diabetes, Diatribe and Beyond Type 1 have been doing a stellar job providing smart information and avoided any panic and alarm. I am so grateful that when I see a post from one of them on my feed because they calm, rather than distress. I also love how they are acknowledging that this is tough for those of us with diabetes and that feeling overwhelmed is understandable. I’m holding on to that.

I’m also doing a lot of risk assessment. We’re not in lockdown here in Australia, so I am still going into work for the main part. Perhaps if I didn’t drive in or have my own office once I get there, I’d reconsider working from home for the next couple of weeks, but honestly, being around people is therapeutic sometimes and keeps those dark thoughts at bay.

As ever, trying to find a balance is essential and I think about that whenever I am about to walk out the door. Minimising contact with the outside world is hard and as social isolation is one of the things being recommended, I think about friends and family living alone. Online communities work to reduce isolation, and I hope that people who need to connect with others are able to do so.

These are difficult times and finding a way through will be different for everyone. As much as I don’t understand people stockpiling loo paper (really, I’m confused), I don’t want to blame or judge anyone who is doing whatever they can to try to feel some control over a situation with so much that is unknown.

Living with diabetes means we do have extra things to think about and they can make us feel overcome: this is perfectly normal and okay (as is feeling completely relaxed about everything, by the way!). I seem to be muttering to myself ‘This too shall pass’ a lot. Because it will.

But in the meantime, to my friends and peers with diabetes, be kind and gentle to yourself and each other. That always goes a long way to helping with emotional wellbeing.