Impulse Control

I am a type 1 or juvenile diabetic and have had many bouts with hypoglycemic rage. We all get grumpy around meal time. But for diabetics, this phenomenom can be particularly severe. When someone’s blood sugar gets low, it can affect them multiple ways. Sometimes it’s extreme fatigue. Sometimes it’s depression. And sometimes, it’s irrational anger that doesn’t fit a person’s normal temperament. I haven’t had near the struggle with hypoglycemic anger since getting an insulin pump, but in my first few years as a diabetic, I had a number of incidences that caused me alot of embarrassment after the fact. My blood sugar would get low around meal time, and all restraints simultaneously dropped away from my mouth. Nothing had changed in my circumstances, but suddenly I was just ANGRY about anything and everything. If you were close by, watch out!

Before we had kids, my husband and I worked and ate lunches together most days. MANY days we would have our worst arguments on the way to whatever drive thru we were heading. I was not nice. And diabetes was my excuse afterwards. “My blood sugar was low.” After one of many episodes, my husband finally confronted me. “I understand your blood sugar is low, but you don’t HAVE to act on those urges.” That shut me up and made me start thinking. I know I wanted to scream at him for not ordering ketchup at the drive thru, but did I HAVE TO follow through on that urge? Was I a victim of my low blood sugar destined to sin against my husband at every meal? Did he need to just accept my sin? Was he out of line in light of my medical condition to call me on it?

This was one of the practical experiences in my life that taught me why theology matters. At this crossroads brought to light by my husband’s confrontation, theology (the study of God and His revelation of Himself through Scripture) made all the difference. When I looked at Scripture–in particular at what it taught about all Christ has accomplished for me on the cross–sure enough, I realized that I DON’T have to sin. I may have a tremendous urge to sin, but that’s not the same as being forced to sin. My struggle against anger may be much harder than the average person, but in Christ, I am no longer a slave to diabetic rage.

Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Once I got it in my head that I didn’t have to sin, I began to notice that there really is a line between the intense urge to anger that I felt and actually acting out on my anger. Prior to my husband’s confrontation, they had just been one big blur — I feel anger, I act out angrily — with no differentiation between the two. It was a radically freeing thing for me to realize I was not doomed to offend and sin against others for the rest of my life even though diabetes and low blood sugar will be a life-long struggle for me. I have talked with friends struggling through other physical issues that affect mental function (such as bi-polar disorder). Physical issues–hormones, chemicals, blood sugar–certainly affect us mentally. I praise God for His common grace that led to inventions like the insulin pump that radically reduced my bouts with low blood sugar and the subsequent urge to rage. Similarly, I am thankful for medicines that regulate hormones and chemicals in the brain and would never counsel someone diagnosed with a condition against taking prescribed medicine.

HOWEVER, I would always strongly counsel someone from seeing the medicine as the solution to their sin. My condition didn’t excuse my sin. It still cost me relationships and wounded loved ones. And praise God that I didn’t buy long term into Satan’s lie that I had no options but medicine. I am not a slave to diabetes. It doesn’t dictate that I wound my loved ones. In Christ, I am supernaturally equipped to obey even in the midst of the struggle. For me, Christ’s simple gift to me is the power to shut my mouth until I can get something to eat. Sometimes, it means leaving the room or just removing myself from a situation. He also is gifting me to see the downward mental spiral as it approaches. With both depression and anger, if I look at my life circumstances and realize that nothing happened in the last 10 minutes to cause me to have this big of a shift in my mental outlook, then I know to eat something.

If you battle medical conditions that affect you mentally, I encourage you that God’s revelation of Himself to you through Scripture is still relevant to you. You are not out of His line of vision, and His revelation on sin and sanctification matters greatly to how you view your options when you are in the intense battle for your mind. Others who haven’t struggled with such conditions won’t understand. And that’s OK. What matters is that God does understand how our bodies and minds function both when healthy and when ill. And in Christ, He has made a way for us to deal with that intense temptation to sin that accompanies hormonal peaks and valleys. I recommend studying Romans 6-8 and Ephesians 1-2 to get a baseline for all Christ has accomplished for you on the cross and how that equips us to do battle with sin. Then cast yourself on Him as you see the urges coming. He WILL meet you in your need and conform you to Himself despite your diagnosis.

8 Responses to Impulse Control

  1. Kristi_runwatch January 3, 2010 at 2:56 am #

    Thank you for this excellent, excellent post. Just recently found your blog through Sandra Peoples (sandrapeoples.blogspot.com) and really enjoy your wise input!

  2. Mommy, M.D. January 3, 2010 at 3:23 am #

    Great post! So very true. I think it applies to “hormones” as well. I'm 8 months pregnant, and find myself wanting to use that excuse way too much. (and i have gestational diabetes and a newfound respect for real diabetics!)

    Also, do you read conversion diary? she has written a lot about food from a spiritual perspective. this post in particular came to mind. i like the notion of arranging my self-care to protect myself from my greatest temptations.

    on the flip side, it's interesting to think of fasting as intentionally giving yourself that vulnerability. if i'm suddenly irritable when i'm fasting, that exposes a sin pattern that i may not have realized was lurking right below the surface. sometimes the only reason i'm not raging around in more flagrant sin is that i'm perfectly comfortable, rested, healthy, and well-fed! not exactly the most spiritually mature, huh?

  3. Brooke McGlothlin January 3, 2010 at 3:29 am #

    I enjoyed your post. I've been reminding myself for years that I don't have to act on my emotions. The heart is deceitful above all else. Sometimes our mental or physical difficulties that make us more vulnerable serve to expose what's already in our hearts. Just an example of the abundance of the heart coming out the mouth.

  4. kellycowan January 4, 2010 at 4:17 am #

    encourging. a word i needed since i struggle with anger seemingly continually.

  5. Wendy January 4, 2010 at 4:39 am #

    Thanks all for your words of insight and encouragement.

  6. Amy, a redeemed sheep January 6, 2010 at 2:40 am #

    Boy….I really needed to read this. You have given me much to think about and to pray about. Thank you for shairng your heart….

  7. Freddae' January 6, 2010 at 4:39 pm #

    New to your blog. I enjoyed this post. Happy Wednesday to you!

    Freddae'
    http://coffeegodandme.blogspot.com

  8. petrenkov February 10, 2010 at 2:29 pm #

    Rather cool place you've got here. Thanks for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to them. I would like to read more on that blog soon.

    Best wishes
    Darek Wish