‘I’ve been compliant,’ I said to my ophthalmologist with great pride. ‘Compliant’, I said again and smiled at him and waited for a pat on the back. It didn’t come. So I tried again, emphasising my point. ‘Four times a day; both drops in my eye.  Just like you said. Didn’t miss a single drop. I was com-pli-ant.’

If there is a word that is evokes rage in me it is compliant. When used in terms of diabetes management, it makes me see red and start imagining the painful things I’ll do to the person using the word. Actually, it’s usually used with the prefix ‘non’ to give the word noncompliant which is even worse.

At the World Diabetes Congress last year, Twitter nearly broke thanks to a group of DOC renegades sitting in a lecture given by a doctor who insisted on using the term ‘noncompliant diabetics’ to illustrate the point that some of his patients were having difficulties following their diabetes treatment plans. There we were, non-compliant diabetics because we couldn’t keep our BGLs perfect and follow the rules and do the things we ‘should’ do and, you know, do it all with a smile. Bad, bad, BAD diabetics. This photo shows how happy I was:

pissed off

So with this hatred of the word, why was I bandying it about in front of my ophthalmologist like there was no tomorrow? And saying it so proudly? And frequently?

The answer is quite simple. Following the treatment plan I’d been given after my cataract surgeries was easy. Two different eye drops; four times a day; for 4 weeks. Then it was over. It was something that, for me, was manageable. There was a point where it would stop and then I wouldn’t have to think about it again.

The complete opposite of living with diabetes where there is no end point and no time where a box can be ticked and it will all go away. It was so lovely to be able to do something that was predictable, easy, knowing that there would be a time when it didn’t have to happen again.

Understanding the relentlessness of diabetes management is difficult to communicate. I don’t really expect people to truly appreciate what it is that is so frustrating and annoying and challenging. But I do expect a little respect and a little acceptance when things are not going to plan. I also think that using judgemental words that suggest that there is a deliberate attempt to ‘break the rules’ is unfair and lacks any sort of comprehension about a condition that never goes away.

Perhaps my delight in announcing so loudly and proudly to my ophthalmologist about how clever and bright and shiny I’d been with my eye drops was because for once I felt like I was actually doing something right when it comes to my healthcare. Perhaps I needed recognition (probably more from myself than anyone else) that I could follow directions and get the desired results. Perhaps I just needed to believe that I was doing something that would result in predictability and a satisfactory outcome. Diabetes doesn’t ever provide any of those things. No matter how compliant you are.

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