Author Archives: Sysy

4 Things I Learned During My 2 Weeks on Crutches

It’s been a little over two weeks, actually.

The quadriceps tendon basically attaches your knee to your thigh muscle. I badly hurt mine stretching one morning. You might agree with the urgent care doctor who told me I “need a better story.”

In thinking about how stupidly easy I hurt myself and how it resulted in severe inconvenience, I realized there were many lessons I was getting out of this experience if I so choose to embrace them.

4 Things I Learned During My 2 Weeks on Crutches

1. “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you” doesn’t go far enough in my opinion. I would change that to “Be sweet and patient towards the hand that feeds you” even though it’s not as catchy.

My husband, Alex, helped me out of bed in the morning. He made my food. He did the laundry. He took over things with the kids. He washed the dishes. He took the time to make my “second coffee” because the first is for me to wake up and the other to enjoy slowly. He even visited with me so that I wouldn’t feel lonely in between all his work, which included building an entire fenced-in garden.

At first, Alex was overwhelmed. Why wouldn’t he be? He has an entirely different routine every day of the week. Stepping into someone else’s busy day without having their habits and experience is harder than it sounds. I’ll admit I was secretly a little pleased that he saw how hard I work, even though he doesn’t make me feel like I don’t work hard.

I initially insisted that things be done a certain way or asked him to do more and realized this was counterproductive. The first two days were rough with him trying to adjust to some rhythm, and I worked hard to bite my tongue and really sweetly say nothing other than “thank you”. My gratitude for all he was doing and patience for his learning curve paid off. I saw my efforts rewarded with a superman I’ve never seen before. Alex was like a young Alfred Pennyworth. For various brief moments, I considered never walking again.

Be sweet and patient with those helping you out. 

2. It’s a real act of courage to be vulnerable. Now, normally I’m all about doing whatever we all can to avoid being pitiful. I try to take care of myself, handle my problems on my own whenever possible, and I don’t let myself be a pushover.

Sometimes, we simply are vulnerable. Not only could I not walk, my tendon was causing me a lot of pain so even if I was sitting still, I was grimacing or tearing up. For the first week, I tried doing everything myself and hopped around so much my good leg started feeling sore. I didn’t want my husband to help me or see me having a hard time because I didn’t want him to pity me. I told him this, and he reassured me that he didn’t pity me in an “ugh” way but in an “I love you, and I’m sorry you’re hurt” kind of way.

So, I tried to let go and be what I was–someone who couldn’t even put pants on. After all, if I was going to heal, I needed just to accept help and be ok with someone looking at me like “awww…”

I cried a bit over the helplessness I felt at everyone doing everything for me. But maybe I also cried because of how lovely it was to be taken care of in all those ways.

Accept help when you need it and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. 

3. Sometimes life makes us stop and smell the flowers because we’re too busy to remember they’re even there. I found myself looking out the window at the lovely trees and wishing I could take a stroll around the block. I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t taken the time out to enjoy Spring! How silly of me!

I’ve made a list of things I want to do, like plant some stuff in the garden, as soon as I am able. It’s funny how we don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone.

In the meantime, I’ve embraced what I can do now, so I’ve been watching movies that Alex enjoys (he deserves it) and reading books and sleeping more. I cleaned out my closet while on crutches by throwing clothes I don’t wear on the bed to fold once I was sitting and then putting them in a bag for donation. I’ve also been able to catch up with my parents and brother and sister who have come over to help me.

Do what you can, today, because tomorrow you may not be able to.

4. I’ve also surprised myself by missing chores like cleaning the floor, cooking, and washing dishes. Not because I particularly enjoy these tasks, but because doing these things keeps the house nice and tidy and they are acts of love for oneself and one’s family.

I watched my family doing these things, and I felt the love. And so I thought, “Is this what Alex and the kids feel when they see me doing all these things?” This felt like an epiphany, and I vowed to never complain about cleaning and cooking again but be glad I have the privilege to do it and the loved ones for whom to do it.

Work isn’t a drag, it’s an honor.

I try to go through hard times gracefully, and I think I manage ok, but always only after a rough start. The first week of my injury I woke up every single morning from a nightmare. I cried every single day. It seems silly now that my leg finally feels like it’s beginning to heal. I’ve been nervous because the earliest a specialist could see me was weeks away! What if I wasn’t doing the right things for my leg to heal properly?

But I think it’s going to be ok, and I believe I’m going to be better off because of this experience and what I’ve learned from it.

5 Ways My Husband Supports Me and My Diabetes

  1. I eat low-carb because coupled with proper use of insulin it’s an undeniable way to get out of the blood sugar roller coaster (aside from those days when I forget I have diabetes–it happens). My husband eats whatever low-carb food I prepare with zero objections because while I try to make great tasting food, the fact is that he understands I do better if I’m not alone in the way I eat at home.
  2. He jumps up to get glucose tablets when I need them. When someone does something for you with a controlled sense of urgency, don’t you feel loved? I mean, I’m not going to die from a 50 mg/dL blood sugar level if he doesn’t swiftly get my glucose for me but I like that he moves quickly to get what I need. Nothing says “I love you” like showing someone you want to shorten their discomfort by a few seconds if you can, by acting quickly.
  3. He lets me have a pity party but he does not participate in it. I really appreciate that on the days I am wallowing over my diabetes, my husband respects that and is a shoulder to cry on. I also appreciate that he doesn’t join me, though. I like that when I see things through considerably foggy lens for a time, he is still seeing clearly. He doesn’t get all sad and pitiful with me because he sees that in objective terms, I’m alright and will continue to be once I have my good cry or time to vent.
  4. He doesn’t lie to me. This is one of the most important ways he helps me with my diabetes–and everything else. If i’m fat, I don’t dare ask my hubby if I’m fat because he’s going to look at me like, “why are you asking me a question you know the answer to?” To his credit he’ll say “you’re beautiful and I love you” (cuz that is what I was fishing for all along!) but to tell me i’m not fat, if I am? Nope, he does not support me having any delusions. He also wouldn’t pretend a 200 mg/dL blood sugar level is fine for me to have all the time and he also wouldn’t let me believe that me having ice cream each evening isn’t a problem involving a lack of self-control when it fundamentally is (speaking for myself here). As a result, I have a partner who wants the best for me and that is something we all deserve.
  5. My husband takes care of himself. In doing so he inspires and leads me to do the same. When someone who respects themselves loves you, you can’t help but want to respect yourself, too. Then when they’re having a weak moment, you can help lift them up as they’ve done for you. I hope I do that for him sometimes.

When Diabetes News Overwhelms You

I write about 6 articles a week for Diabetes Daily.

Most of what I do is share information regarding diabetes news and a great deal of that is comprised of studies that effectively help us learn more about the effects of diabetes on our bodies.

If it depresses or overwhelms you to read this types of news, believe me, I completely understand. I felt sick for the first few months of doing this kind of writing because every piece of what seemed like bad news gave me a strong negative physical reaction. I quickly realized I needed to do two things: compartmentalize and use actions to attack my fears.

What many of these studies iterated to me was that I needed to find a way to avoid as many high blood sugars as I could. One of the reasons I feel so strongly about this is that I’ve already dealt with the negative effects of prolonged high blood sugars and if I had been diagnosed last year, I’d likely feel a little less motivated to employ some serious interventions. Yet, maybe not, who knows.

Time and too many high blood sugars has taken it’s toll and I must fight to win back as much health as is humanly possible. I’m stubborn, as I’ve said before many times, and I want not just so-so health, but I want to be as healthy as a healthy person without diabetes. Will I achieve that? Probably not to the degree I’d like but I believe in striving for the best possible outcome, so that when I fall a little short, I’ll still be in a great place and proud of my efforts.

So how did I compartmentalize? Well, I started to read these harrowing news stories almost as if I was outside of my body and I didn’t personalize anything of the data for myself. For example, if I was looking at how many people with type 1 diabetes suffer kidney damage after a certain number of years with type 1, I did not allow myself to apply that to my many years with type 1. I basically pretended I didn’t have diabetes while I read and wrote about this. It sounds robotic, and it certainly kind of is, but my sanity is crucial to my overall health so I needed to get through the information, log it into my brain, and keep it there as pieces of useful data available to guide or influence my future decisions.

Now for the real important bit–attacking fears with action. The best way I know of to feel more in control and more motivated about a situation is to act on it. Action needs to be fueled by knowledge and caution, of course, but action is THE catalyst for any positive outcome we might enjoy. No one ever lost weight by thinking about it or wishing for it.

Here’s the dialogue that plays out in my brain:

What is my fear? That i’ll develop any number of complications.

What causes diabetes complications? If I’m going to generalize and I am, it’s high blood sugars both acute and prolonged over time.

So what should I do to manage my fear? Avoid high blood sugars.

How do I avoid high blood sugars? For about 8.5 years i’ve written about Dr. Bernstein and his low carb recommendations for people with type 1 diabetes. I’ve lowered my carbs gradually over the last 13 years and seen much fewer highs as a result. I’ve continued my efforts to the point of following a very low carb diet in a more consistent manner and i’ve seen even fewer episodes of high blood sugar and fewer episodes of low blood sugar, too. Also, the catastrophic highs and lows are nearly non-existent.

Fewer highs and lows have literally been the remedy to my fears. Now, I still have fears about certain aspects of this condition and I get tired of living with diabetes, but just like any human, I can’t expect to live without fear, I can only hope to manage it in a way that lets me accomplish what I want and be happy with my life.

Each time I read or write about diabetes, I keep it impersonal but I save the information away to use when I need motivation or information with which to make a decision.

I hope that you, too can consider new information carefully versus letting it alienate you from something that might help. Don’t be afraid to talk to a healthcare professional about what you read, too. Some studies are not as reliable as they seem. Others are funded by the very companies that stand to make a profit.

Remain skeptical but don’t turn away from information–it might be just what you need.

Review: Diabetes: The Real Cause and the Real Cure

I wrote about a new book about type 2 diabetes which raises some good questions about the current acknowledged theory of insulin resistance.

I really recommend checking it out.

You can read what I wrote about it here at Diabetes Daily.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Do These 3 Unexpected Things to Manage Your Diabetes Better

Month after month and year after year you struggle with checking your blood sugar, taking your medication properly, eating the right foods, exercising enough, and staying away from actions that undo all your two steps forward.

You’re a perfectly smart individual, completely capable of doing what needs to be done. You read about how people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes do amazing things and quickly realize that some of your excuses fall a little short. You can’t figure out why you aren’t able to manage your diabetes well even though you have the tools and resources you need with which to do it.

Besides, diabetes is just one of a bunch of other problems you have. You too are dealing with relationships and work and finances.

But some people with diabetes are doing well and you wonder if you could be one of them. Deep down you know you could. You just need…something…

Now I don’t know you so I’m only going to ask you to consider the possibility that perhaps, mostly what  needs to change are your surroundings,

Your surroundings would include any people, places, or things in your proximity.

The People You Surround Yourself With

Let’s start with people. If you’re an adult you probably have a choice regarding who you spend your time with. Are these quality people? Do they treat you well or poorly? Are they negative? Do they manage to bring you down with their words or actions? Do they abuse themselves and do things you don’t respect?

You might first try telling the people in your life how you feel and what you would prefer from them. If they can’t do any different and are only helping to pull you down, you’ve got to let them go. Your diabetes will eventually destroy your health if you don’t manage it and it won’t help blaming anyone in the end. Not when you get to decide who to spend your time with.

Where I come from there is a saying that says, “Better no company, than bad company”.

Try being a person who is just, honest, hardworking, and virtuous. You’ll alienate the wrong people and attract the right ones. Those qualities will also be major boosts to your arsenal for managing diabetes.

The Places You Live and Work

Now for places. Do you hate where you live or work? If so, are you working on a plan that will slowly get you out of there? It may take 5 years (as it did for me to leave a job I hated) but you’ve got to at least lay out your plan and take steps toward it. We spend a lot of time where we live and work so, again, if that is what brings you down then work towards getting that obstacle out of your way.

Don’t despair if things seem impossible. They always do–especially when we are feeling overwhelmed. Just start writing down what you want and the steps you think you should take to get there. Try to be calm, daydream a bit, get creative, and figure out your escape.

Talk to a loved one about what you are trying to do. Maybe you can get some support. Perhaps someone you trust could also help give you feedback about what you want and why. Go to a rational thinker, not someone who will give you emotional advise, which is great for some things but terrible for your life’s practical maneuvers which require you to be wise.

The Things You Own, Which Own You

There is much value in cleaning up our possessions in a way that will minimize anxiety and stress and maximize efficiency and value. Have you heard of Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying guru? Her book may not be for everyone but I dare say she is on to something. She recommends owning only what we all need and love.

You know how most people love going to hotels? Well, I spent the last few years staying in dozens of them–three and four star hotels. And what I discovered was that they are all pretty much terrible. No, really. They are dusty, mildewy, smelly, and the only thing actually going for them is that they are minimalist and tidy.

So when you and I first step in we go into “spa brain” where we get a sense of peace and relaxation even though we are walking on a carpet that contains blood, semen, and urine. Again, no, seriously. A friend contracted MRSA from walking barefoot in a very nice New York City hotel and spent many weeks in a hospital.

Now what if we could come home and feel “spa brain” every day? Don’t you think that would help you stay focused and more relaxed on what you need to do to maintain your healthy habits?

The key is to strip your belongings of things you don’t love, as Kondo recommends and to only keep something if you truly can’t live without it. I got rid of so much stuff recently that I was able to put my diabetes supplies in a pretty box that was previously used for something else. I have been better about changing my syringes and lancets ever since and I also stay on top of what needs to be reordered because everything is so nicely organized.

Check out Kondo’s book from the library or purchase it on Amazon and start making some darn space for a life in which you manage your diabetes and health (let’s face it, those take up enough space on their own).

I Think This Because I Live It

I have done these three things I’m suggesting, not perfectly of course, as we’re all a work in progress. But, I have experienced major changes that have been well worth all the little steps it took to get here. I once felt hopeless and worried that diabetes would kill me at age 40. I thought diabetes was too hard to manage even for just 24 hours. I felt depressed and anxious and didn’t know how to alleviate my symptoms.

I’ve found that for me, it has truly helped to keep quality company, mold my life so I spend my days where I want, doing what I want, and chucking items that are only going to stand in my way, mentally and physically.

In a way, it’s all about removing what isn’t going to support what we want or need. When you remove what isn’t wanted or needed you are left with everything you want and need. It’s quite perfect.

The bit I wrote about how we have to be virtuous and all that…that part is instrumental. Deep down we all recognize quality. When we think and act like quality people we are self-motivated to hold our heads up high and finally treat ourselves with self-respect. The best anti-depressant I’ve ever experienced has been working to be a self-respecting and useful person.

It isn’t self-respect to live amongst clutter, surrender to a dead-end job, or to maintain a toxic relationship. These aspects are huge in our lives and we either surround ourselves to an environment that promotes and supports our success, or we don’t.

I don’t have it all figured out and I have a long way to go still but, I get emails from people who want to know what advise I have on how to manage diabetes well and some who ask about relationship and parenting and other topics. So what i’ve shared is what I rely on to help me maintain an A1c between 5-6 %, a healthy marriage, happy kids that I unschool, and work I enjoy.

I’ve noticed that people who manage their diabetes really well do these things, also. You can learn to do them, too if you want. Just pick one and begin.

XOXO

My Experience With Intermittent Fasting for Type 1 Diabetes

In a nutshell, intermittent fasting means closing the window of time during which you eat.

If you have breakfast at 7am and finish dinner at 7pm, you’d be eating during a 12 hour window and fasting for the other 12. Many of us don’t do that, though.

Nighttime snacking is likely an epidemic and from what I hear/read, it is wise to give your body at least 12 hours of fasting time.

Have you ever skipped a meal and felt lighter, recharged, and not hungry? I have often felt this way. I understand about a third of you will probably be about the opposite but such is my experience.

Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss

I was interested in intermittent fasting years ago when I read what Tim Ferris had to say about it. He has access to exceptional people, is wildly curious, and respects science to as much as a degree as I can tell so I tend to consider what he has to say.

I started trying it a year and a half ago in the hopes it would help me lose some stubborn weight. If I didn’t have type 1 I might have type 2 diabetes. In other words, I become resistant pretty easily and quickly to insulin. If I eat my disciplined way and exercise my basal insulin is about 11 units every 24 hours. If I eat the standard american diet and don’t exercise it goes up to about 30 units every 24 hours. Big difference.

Anyway, I began by just not eating breakfast and having my first meal of the day at lunch (noon) and then having dinner at about 6pm and finishing up at 7pm for the night. I continued my walking most days, trying to walk at least 3 miles a day.

This was easy for me because I have always regretted breakfast. Seriously, I eat it and feel too full for lunch and if I skip lunch I get hungry so it just complicates things and zaps my precious energy. For so long though, the commonly heard “never skip breakfast” has prevented me from doing what felt right.

I lost 10 pounds in about 8 months. I’ve since lost another 5-6 pounds by having lunch not at noon, but at 3pm each day. I’m never hungry before 3pm each day so it seems I have adjusted to this way of eating, which is cool.

Intermittent Fasting for Better Blood Sugar

The other reason I’ve enjoyed intermittent fasting is because instead of figuring out insulin for three meals or more a day, I’ve cut it down to two, giving me one less variable to mess up my blood sugar levels with.

Skipping breakfast helps with the dawn phenomenon and morning exercise, too I think.

For example, when I get up, I first test. I adjust with insulin if needed, usually giving the tiny bit extra for the dawn phenomenon and then get on the treadmill. Exercising in the morning before food has proven to help burn more calories AND it has been proven to keep exercise happening in the first place. If we put it off for later in a busy day, it may just not happen at all.

During and after my walk on the treadmill I will drink coffee, which is my personal way of incentivizing my walk.

When Will I Stop Losing Weight?

I’m very curious about this question because if eating well, consistently walking, and fasting keeps reducing my weight, what does that mean?

Does it mean that intermittent fasting is helping to boost my metabolism? I swear I eat as much food as I used to, if not more. My last blood tests from 2 months ago show my thyroid working much better than it did 2 years ago when it was at the very lowest end of normal, so that is encouraging.

I’m not done losing weight so I will just continue on the path i’m on. I estimate that for my 5’4 height and very small frame I should weigh less, still. Belly fat is my main concern and as my kids lovingly tell me, my stomach is a “cozy and squishy pillow” to lay on.

I’ll be very interested to see if my blood pressure changes in a positive direction with any additional weight loss (fingers crossed). You’ll be the first to hear about it if it does.

Why I Understand Low-Carb Proponents for Type 1 Diabetes

Some people are very strong supporters of a low-carb diet for people with type 1 diabetes (or any diabetes). Historically, this group of people has not been well-received by many with type 1 diabetes or those who have children with type 1 diabetes because of the way that insulin can be utilized to not deny a person certain foods and the joy they bring.

I can sympathize greatly with the idea that we all deserve a treat from time to time and I can understand why some want to eat what they want and just learn to manage with their insulin timing and dose. I can certainly see why raising a child with type 1 diabetes and having them never eat sugar or many carbs can seem like a daunting and almost cruel route.

I’ve long made the case for reducing carbohydrates on a personalized level. For example, I do believe that some people cannot feel well or thrive on an extremely low carb or ketogenic diet (I can’t) so it makes sense to take symptoms in consideration. I do think that facts indicate how reducing carbs increases the chances for more stable blood sugar levels but, there are different degrees one can take when it comes to carb intake. I’m not extremely low carb but I have a low enough carb intake that my blood sugar management is pretty good, my triglycerides are very low, and I avoid extreme highs and lows on a consistent basis.

The “I can eat that” movement of the past decade has seemingly fizzled out. Or maybe I’m not reading as many diabetes blogs as I used to. Either way, I can’t help but wonder if people have endured experiences like the ones I have which bring me to the conclusion that “yes, I can eat that, but I will likely suffer the consequences of doing so, so in a way, no I can’t eat that”.

Early on, during the first decade or so with type 1 diabetes, these consequences seem acceptable to many of us. The future is far away. As someone who has now lived with type 1 diabetes for over 22 years, I see things differently.

After 20 years with type 1 diabetes, there is a much higher likelihood for a great number of horrible complications. These are ominous when you aren’t experiencing them but when you are…well let’s just say that it is an entirely different story. There is a pain on top of the pain of those complications and it involves the question “What if?” “What if I could have avoided this?” “What if I had just managed to have better blood sugar management during those first 10 years?” “What if I had just ate fewer carbs?” Those questions are brutal. I endure them on a regular basis. I sometimes wish I could relive my childhood and rip all those carbs out of my hands.

So because of those questions and the pain associated with them, I feel that it is a good idea to share with others what I wish I could have done differently so that they may be better armed to avoid the complications I’m getting a taste of now. Everyone should do what they think is right for them, of course but, I didn’t even have a chance growing up because no one said “low carb eating can help you avoid dramatic blood sugar swings” and my healthcare team encouraged eating pasta, oatmeal, and cereals-all the things I avoid like the plague nowadays. (The other negative side effect is I’m now working really hard to learn to trust doctors again.)

I respect any diet a person chooses if it works for them. I totally understand not having the level of willpower required to deny pizza or ice cream on occasion (I haven’t got it). Most people with type 1 have an A1c that is too high, though. I’ve had an A1c between 5- 6% for the last 11 years and stuff is starting to happen. And some of this can’t be alleviated much or fixed with any medication or treatment. I’m only 33 years old. Not everyone is as sensitive as me but we don’t find out until it is too late.

That said, I’m generally doing very well. Life is good and I am healthy enough to do the things I want to do every day. I’m just choosing to recognize that some unfortunate things are starting and I still have many decades to go–and that is terrifying. I’m picky. I want to be AS freaking healthy as a non-diabetic. I don’t deserve less than that…but I know I have to work for it.

Some Dr. Bernstein supporters are kind of known as bullies in the online diabetes community. I hear comments about them where people express annoyance at how passionate they are about pressing others to consider a very low carb diet for type 1 diabetes. While I want people to engage myself and others in a respectful way and most of these low carb supporters have been very respectful to me personally, I have never been able to deny that even when someone is rude, they have a point. An A1c that is at or near normal levels is probably the best defense when it comes to complications.

Yet, at the same time, I acknowledge that I can’t eat as disciplined as I’d like. Well, not that I can’t, but apparently, I won’t, although I do better than I used to which gives me hope about the future. Kudos to those of you who do. You have my bewildered awe and respect and to those of you who struggle like I do, don’t stop trying and please stay open-minded about what you are capable of. Many years ago I saw no way of getting my 9% A1c down until I learned about low carb eating and I slowly began to implement it.

That said, we are all on a different part of our own journey and I support you where you are at. I share what has helped me because I wish I’d known some of these things sooner. Time has a way of flying by and I find it telling that I am not traumatized by a childhood full of insulin shots and finger sticks and being different and having sugar-free jello for my birthday. No…it was those crazy blood sugars.

Why Do We Demand People Understand Diabetes?

Photo Credit: Ana Morales

Photo Credit: moreartplease.com

“Why are you eating that?”

“Why do you have to check your blood sugar in public?”

“Why are you so picky about your food?”

“How come your blood sugar is so often high or low?”

We hear these things sometimes, right?

Even though it can be tiring, over time I’ve learned to welcome any question on the above list and others like it. I appreciate the opportunity to answer these questions and the curiosity behind them. I will quickly admit that in some cases, people aren’t being curious but instead using a question as a way to provoke–in those cases I respond appropriately.

However, curious individuals asking me a genuine question do not cause me to be offended. How can I be offended by someone’s ignorance when I am just as ignorant on other subjects?

I think we should consider NOT demanding people learn what to ask us so that we can have open conversations and get real communication flowing.

Have you felt unsure about asking someone a question for fear of offending them? Isn’t it unfortunate? And doesn’t it lead to you to most likely stay ignorant? Has anyone ever asked you a bold, ignorant question, leading you to an opportunity to clear it up and feel truly heard?

When someone asks you a question, which below example would be the most productive response?

a) “I demand you inform yourself on the right questions to ask me.”

b) “When you ask me about this, please only do so if you genuinely want to know and intend on hearing my answer.”

The answer is B, right?

I’m a wife to my husband of 8 years. I kindly express the ways in which he can support me and share feedback about how something he does or says makes me feel. I don’t demand he do anything because I don’t want to insinuate that if he had the choice, he wouldn’t do it. If that were the case I wouldn’t have married him in the first place.

In other words, If we communicate in the same way we’d like others to communicate with us, I think we will all be better off.

So go ahead, ask me why I’m eating that. I may smile and say, “why are you eating that?” which may lead you to either feel what I’m feeling or you may say “because I love eating this” and then I’ll say “same here”.

The above example leads me to another point. I think we should encourage each other to actually say what we mean. Perhaps what you really want to know is, “why are you eating that cookie, I thought people with diabetes needed to stay away from sugar?” Now that is a question I can answer well for you because I understand exactly what you want to know and why!

“People with diabetes can eat sugar and for different reasons some eat more and some less than others. I am eating a cookie because I want to and am able to cover that cookie with fast-acting insulin. If you want to know why another person with diabetes is eating a cookie you’d have to ask them.”

I could also say, “I’m sorry, it is none of your business.” And you know what, that would be ok, too. I’m very much a proponent for your freedom and mine. You can ask a question and I don’t have to answer and vice versa.

But I am much more likely to answer with the former. I’m enthusiastic about helping others understand diabetes better. I think it helps society’s general understanding of diabetes. Just like I think encouraging questions instead of limiting them with rules and shaming helps society’s understanding of diabetes.

When people say something like, “At least you don’t have cancer” and it gets you upset, resist the temptation to be passive aggressive and just tell them the truth: “That is upsetting because it feels like you are minimizing my situation.” A compassionate and worthy individual would want to hear you out on this and would probably apologize for inadvertently belittling your illness by comparing it to another.

I totally understand the inclination to educate people on what is important to us. However, do you realize how hypocritical it is to tell people they must “get diabetes right”?  Does this mean we should spend all our free time educating ourselves on what is important to everybody else? I have had diabetes for over two decades, write and talk about it for a living, and even I can’t get diabetes right all of the time!

What if we all just drop demands and talk kindly and openly with each other as we go along?

You don’t have to agree with me, of course, but those are my reasons for suggesting we not demand people understand diabetes before they, um…understand diabetes.

It Took Me 20 Years of Diabetes to be OK with Finger Sticks

When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 11, I would brace myself before every finger stick when checking my blood sugar. Sometimes I hesitated for only a moment and other times it took me about 3 minutes to hit the trigger. I was told by many well-meaning people that I would soon adjust and the fear and hesitation would subside.

Several years later I remember taking a long while to muster the nerve to intentionally cause myself pain and a school friend remarked, “You’d think you would be used to it by now.” She was right, I mean, I certainly did ask myself that. After all these pricks, why do I still feel the way I did when I was diagnosed? I would countdown in my head, lose my courage, and start all over again. When I finally did it, it was usually painful. My heart would race, I would sweat, and I’d find myself gasping for breath since I had just held it for too long. I wonder if this made it harder for me to test as often as needed. Maybe.

Then after more years of diabetes I one day stopped before pricking and thought, “Wow, I’m still scared of this little needle.”  Then I thought about how since I was 11 I had always uncovered my meter screen from right to left, anxious about the first number on the screen. Would it be a 1, 2, 3, or please-not a 4? I was anxious about the pain and the number result.

Soon after I read that anxiety can make us more sensitive to pain and I also read somewhere that we can help reduce the pain of our finger sticks if we calm ourselves before doing it. I found that taking a few really deep couple of breathes and doing the finger stick in the middle of an exhale helped. It was also helpful to accept that this was my reality and I could, in a way, embrace it by thinking “just do it” and not overthinking it. I even tried humming a theme song in my head during the blood sugar checking process. Aside from these techniques I worked on viewing my blood sugar results as merely helpful data and not a personal attack on my abilities to live with diabetes.

I’ve now had diabetes almost 22 years. A few days ago I checked my blood sugar and as I zipped up my meter case I realized that I didn’t hesitate before using the lancing device anymore. I thought, “Wait, when did this happen?” I can’t say exactly. It kind of snuck up on me–probably due to being distracted by two children. I am thrilled, though. Finally, after all these years I can comfortably check my blood sugar? It may sound like a small thing but it’s a big deal to me.

If you experience this hesitation and feeling of dread before inflicting necessary pain on yourself, I recommend three things:

  1. Don’t be hard on yourself. Not when it comes to finger sticks and not when it comes on your blood sugar levels.
  2. Try deep breathes and focus on the info you are about to get–versus focusing on the finger stick itself.
  3. Practice acceptance. Acceptance of whatever you are about to see on your meter before you see it. Remember that you need this information to keep yourself feeling good and well-informed. Accept that these finger sticks are painful. You aren’t weak or crazy for thinking so.

Be patient with yourself as you figure out what works. And if you have any tips that help you please share in the comments.

The Time I Realized Diabetes Occupies Too Much Head Space

Years ago I suffered from a 9 millimeter kidney stone that had to be laser zapped into pieces. The procedure was deemed “successful” but left me with a torrential avalanche of small kidney stone pieces that sent me right back to the hospital in extreme pain later that same day. It was the type of pain that makes you lose the will to live because in the moment, you need anything to come between you and that pain.

Luckily, after a few hellish hours, my nightmare was over. I was sent home with strong pain medicine to take over the next few weeks while more kidney stone fragments made their way down my ureter.

I kept feeling twinges of pain so each day I took one of my pain pills. I knew that if the pain got too bad before I took medication, that the medication would be almost useless at that point and since I was traumatized from the pain I took my precautions against it.

I took the daily doses for about two weeks before I decided to chuck the remainder of the pills in the garbage.

I did this because those two weeks were among the best of my entire life. Let me explain.

During this time, I was coming out of a period of poor diabetes management so I was healing from some diabetic nerve damage in my feet, healing my depression and was also in the process of working on improving my issues with anxiety surrounding my diabetes.

The strong pain medication didn’t allow me to feel my foot nerve pain and it seemed to completely remove my anxiety about my diabetes. I lived temporarily as someone who, about half of the time, forgot she had diabetes in the first place.

This was wonderful to experience (though I don’t and can’t recommend it to anyone, of course). I became the opposite of my uptight self who was always paying attention to symptoms and was worried about blood sugars. I dare say I was the most pleasant version of myself I’ve ever witnessed. This isn’t to say that people with diabetes are uptight–but some of us are because it is the only way we have come to cope with trying to manage our condition. I truly admire those who can take good care of themselves without becoming a little neurotic. It is true too, that I may have been feeling so great partially due to not being in pain after being in tons of pain and the stark contrast left me in a type of momentary heaven.

My mind felt free to interact fully with those around me because I wasn’t stuck in my internal dialogue regarding my worries about insulin, blood sugar, complications and carb counts.

So how did I manage my diabetes during those two weeks? Really well, actually, because I was in the habit of checking my blood sugar levels and so that still continued like clock-work. I kept giving insulin like before and I kept eating low carb foods as usual. I was aware that I may not feel highs and lows on a strong pain medication so I threw in more blood sugar checks and even these were easier because I didn’t feel apprehension about the results. I am pretty sure I also did less anxiety eating and made better food choices, too.

I realized that my feeling so wonderful about life had everything to do with an illusion however, so I knew that before I became addicted to the pills, I needed to get rid of them for good. It hurt but I threw them in the trash, felt an impulse to rescue them and then threw the trash out in the garbage can.

It was a major bummer but my lesson here was that my goal would be to continue doing what I needed to do to manage my diabetes while somehow managing to turn off the perfectionistic and unhelpful demands and worries I was living with. Those two weeks proved that I didn’t need all that to manage my diabetes well.

It has been 11 years and I don’t think I’ve had a happier consecutive two weeks since. I’m still working on toning down my bouts of negativity and anxiety. I may not have achieved what I would have liked to but I’m hanging in there and am regularly picking myself off the ground and I suppose that counts for something.

I can live with myself as long as I keep trying.

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