I’ve been playing Candy Crush Saga for eight or nine months. It was fun at first as I sped through the easy levels. Now I’m not even sure that I like it anymore. I tend to get stuck on hard levels for weeks at a time. I refuse to invest money in the game and never purchase boosters and special candies that might speed up my journey to victory lane. I play quests for three days to unlock new levels rather than pay $.99. I don’t beg my Facebook friends for extra lives because I’m usually relieved when I run out of lives and don’t have to play anymore.
I’m currently on Level 149 and am not convinced that I will ever make it to Level 150. There might be some element of skill that I’m lacking, but I suspect that only a burst of pure luck will propel me past this roadblock. I know that I have gained some Candy Crush mojo because whenever I play the beginning levels for fun, I find them to be much easier than they were the first time around. But in general my experience has been that when I finally conquer a difficult level, it’s primarily the result of luck with lots of candies and explosions rather than any convergence of skill and strategy. I always feel relieved to move to a new level, but rarely do I revel in a feeling of accomplishment because I never know why I finally won.
Most of us find Type 1 diabetes to be a cruel taskmaster. It’s hard to keep our blood sugars in range even when we make good decisions and follow the rules. Blood glucose meters and CGMs give us daily feedback, some which is positive and some which is negative. Quarterly or semiannual A1c’s are our report card. Yeah, they’re just numbers, but somehow they burrow their judgements into our souls.
Now just imagine if diabetes treated us like Candy Crush. If you fail to win a game in Candy Crush, you are given the message: “Level failed! You did not reach the goal! Try again.” If that isn’t enough, the next screen rubs salt in your wounds by saying “You failed! You did not finish all the orders. Retry.”
In a Candy Crush diabetes world, our blood glucose meters would provide comments along with our numbers. In response to an elevated number like 281, you’d get a scolding along the lines of “You failed! You are out of range! Try again tomorrow.” These accusatory rantings would of course be accompanied by a little dancing girl with a big frown. A worse scenario might be a crying candy heart which gives you the message that you have “no more lives” and it will be 23 minutes 17 seconds until you get a new life. In this world there is no reward for trying hard and no respite from the repercussions of failure.
Fortunately diabetes is somewhat kinder than Candy Crush. Most of us who participate in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) work hard to support each other and remind ourselves that we are not defined by the numbers on our diabetes scorecards. We celebrate our victories and retweet congratulatory messages of “Wonderful. Level completed!” If I were to label someone or even myself as a failure, I would quickly become the victim of universal condemnation by my fellow D-peeps.
In many ways my diabetes is a saga that is not that different from Candy Crush. Every win is hard fought and has elements of luck and skill. Failures are rampant with the only recourse being to try again. The game is seemingly endless with each victory just sending me to another challenge with a slightly different scenario. Chocolate is an epidemic roadblock to success in Candy Crush and there is no doubt that chocolate has more than once undermined my attempts to tame the carbohydrate-craving monster that lives within me. Rumor is that there is a conclusion to Candy Crush, but it is not in sight for me. I wonder if that finish line is similar to the ubiquitous promise of a diabetes cure in five years….
I suppose that there is one huge difference between Candy Crush and diabetes. Although it might be difficult to do, I can choose to stop playing Candy Crush and turn my back on striped candies, color bombs, and jelly fish. But with Type 1, there is no deleting the app on my iPad. I can only keep playing the game while accepting my successes and failures and doing my best to keep moving forward. I think I’m on Level 1,856,913 of diabetes. What’s the prize? I’m not quite sure, but I think the prize is getting to play again tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.