Category Archives: for type 1 and 2 diabetics

Diabetes, the Great Provocateur Can Make You Better

One of the reasons I look at a diabetes diagnosis as tragic is that it’s going to immediately prod at and expose all your weaknesses. You’ll suffer more than another person who lacks as much discipline as you, who also doesn’t have supportive family or friends, and you’ll particularly suffer if you are short on agency (and many of us raised in the last 30 years are, in my opinion). This is precisely the same reason diabetes can make you better at all you do because by knowing your weaknesses and having very clear motivations, you can actually improve yourself considerably.

A diabetes diagnosis is a great opportunity which is hoisted upon you forcefully and not meeting it head-on spells out a certain kind of doom. It’s undoubtedly harsh.

If you’re not organized, your diabetes management skills will constantly be undermined by your lack of preparedness and routine structure involving your supplies, medications, and activities.

If you don’t have peaceful relationships, you’ll be distracted from a big priority you have–your immediate and longterm wellbeing via blood sugar management.

If you lack financial resources, you’re going to be extremely challenged by a diabetes diagnosis and will have even greater financial strain. You’ll feel resentful towards your diagnosis because instead of affording x you now have to use that money for diabetes a-z.

If you lack agency, you will struggle to take responsibility for your life and may feel like a victim of diabetes and in many cases avoid doing all within your power to stay very healthy and manage diabetes successfully.

If you lack supportive people in your life, you’re going to feel lonelier than ever by living with a condition that makes you do unnatural things like give injections, draw blood with a lancing device, or save your own life with a substance you otherwise try to avoid or limit and/or carefully cover with insulin.

If you can’t defer gratification and have some self-discipline, your blood sugars are most likely going to be all over the place. Then you’ll feel bad, suffer at work and in your relationships, acquire anxiety and depression, and start a spiraling descent. Others will have the same character flaws as you but won’t be plummeting and you’ll be very tempted to blame everything on your diabetes.

If you are already depressed or anxious, a diabetes diagnosis is going to put a bucket of salt on your wound and make it that much harder to get out of bed in the morning.

I could go on but you understand. That’s because none of us is perfect and we all have something we’d like to improve about ourselves. And we all know how that something hurts our diabetes management. If we have too many of these challenges, then diabetes becomes unbearable to deal with. Your challenges were steep before? Now try surmounting them with this severe agitator compounding each and every struggle.

No, it’s not fair.

But it’s the reality and you’ve not got time to dwell on how unfair it is. We get nowhere unless we face reality and so I think that if you can manage to embrace a diabetes diagnosis and look at it as the beginning arc of your hero’s journey, you stand a very good chance of using diabetes as a trigger to finally tend to some bad habits or things you’ve been neglecting about yourself. Rise up to meet the new reality. Is it time to actually lose the weight? Use diabetes as one of your motivators. Have you lacked self-responsibility and maturity? Now you’re going to grow up. Diabetes can serve as a catalyst. It’s so bad that you’re going to act and propel yourself forward and up, up, up.

Even if you were diagnosed 20 years ago, you can still decide to one day make diabetes be ruled by you instead of the other way around. You’re going to use discipline, you’re not going to make any more excuses, you’re going to be in control of your actions and thoughts, you’re going to work hard, you’re going to be determined, you’re going to dig deep and show yourself what you’re made of. Diabetes may provoke your weaknesses, but that means you get the chance to face and conquer them. You stand to lose if you don’t but don’t focus on that–you stand to gain so much! Jot down exposed weaknesses and tackle them one by one.

One day you’ll look back and see that what you can do actually surpasses the actions of those who haven’t been challenged by one of the most silently gruesome and exhausting chronic illnesses out there.

To be successful with this condition, those weaknesses must be addressed and dealt with. You’ve been chosen to stop at a fork in the road and either fall into some guaranteed level of misery or live really healthy and be amazing in terms of what you can get yourself to accomplish. Not a lot of grey area may exist for you or me but great things lie ahead if we let type 1 diabetes change us for the better.

How to Stop Fearing Discomfort

To stop fearing discomfort we can arrange for it and face it head-on. This is easier than being thrown into the deep end against your will and will result in a better grasp of what we’re made of.

To put this in context and why I write about it on a diabetes blog, let me give an example:

Many people recognize that lowering their carbohydrate intake is beneficial to their diabetes management and overall health. However, they are caught by the fear of discomfort that will arise from giving up favorite foods, spending energy on reworking recipes and grocery lists, and sticking out like a sore thumb in social scenarios involving food.

As someone who has gone through all the above and come out happier and objectively better off, as a result, I can confidently say that the thought of doing something uncomfortable is actually more uncomfortable and challenging than it is in practice. Why? Because our fear of discomfort is very real. We, humans, are hardwired to avoid inconvenience, deviation from social norms, and hard work, even as we discover that confronting all these can be immensely rewarding. We’re funny creatures like that. Some of these characteristics are at the root of all discoveries and inventions that have come about but other aspects of our nature are dangerous in terms of hindering potential growth. So we need to constantly seek to create the right balance.

Marcus Aurelius, one of the great stoics, would sleep on the floor to remind himself that the fear of discomfort is greater than the actual experience of it.

You could try it. Or you could try something similar.

Choose something uncomfortable such as:

  • skipping TV for a few days
  • turning off your phone for a few hours every day
  • getting up at 4 am for a week
  • saying “hi” to everyone you meet
  • eating two simple meals a day for a week
  • sleeping on the floor or couch for two nights a week

Why do we derive value from activities like camping and fitness challenges? These activities are largely uncomfortable, yet many are called back to them year after year. Do they help connect us with our inner strength and give us confidence about our ability to do without certain comforts? There is a peace in knowing that one can “do without” and that we can survive pain and extreme fatigue and inconvenience.

Women who have never given birth are generally more afraid of the pain of birth than women who have been there before. The latter have survived the experience and are comforted by that fact.

It’s uniquely trying to be a person with diabetes who relies on insulin. We cannot stop taking it without dire consequences and should never attempt to. And I believe that for many, this reality leads to a destructive kind of vulnerability. I find that too many people with insulin-dependent diabetes often feel quite helpless, overly reliant on others, and almost in a state of panic over their permanent situation.

As a result, I think we could really benefit from the practice of stoicism. Combatting feelings of vulnerability can fuel our strength and resolve for our challenging way of life. Instead of mere victims of a disease, we can face up to the realities by being creative about ways to protect ourselves in certain scenarios, turn our energy to joining or supporting those trying to figure out how to survive tricky circumstances or cope with potential challenges, and we can accept our reality and let it make us better. Adversity can be a great teacher if we embrace the lesson. I’m all for not learning the hard way, except if you look all around us, it seems that too many aren’t learning the easy or hard way and maybe a more self-directed and intentional route to wisdom would help.

Recently, I carried out a carnivore diet experiment for 3 months. I realized I could be happy despite giving up so many pleasurable foods. I learned that I could have the discipline that I previously thought I could not have. I found that indeed, less could be more. And when I stopped the food experiment with the diagnosis of my daughter’s type 1 diabetes, I found that those 3 months helped to prepare me for the great emotional, financial, physical, and mental challenges ahead.

I wake up every night at 2:30 am to check my daughter’s blood sugar. I spend most of my free time cooking so that my entire family eats nutritionally rich and delicious homemade food for every meal. My family spends way over $10,000 on medical costs per year. There are no vacations. Clothes and shoes are bought used. But let me tell you what: I am happy and I don’t fear discomfort like I used to. Most days, I fear things worth fearing, which feels healthier and motivates me in the right direction. Then acting in the right direction actually leads to improvements and fuels more happiness so I know it’s a better way of functioning for me.

I strongly believe it can help people with diabetes to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Do it for a while and you’ll notice that when the lights go out and everyone is in an ugly state of despair, you’re ok, in fact, you’re lighting a candle and having a great time.

2 Reasons Why I Split My Basal Insulin Dose

2 Reasons Why I Split My Basal Insulin Dose

More Even Coverage

The first reason is obvious and common–it helps provide better “coverage”. However, I take Tresiba and most providers do not encourage splitting the dose of that insulin due to its approximate 42-hour action profile. When I took one dose, I had an extreme drop in blood sugar at one point of the day and didn’t like that.

So, I was splitting it like this at first: 6-8 units in the morning and 3-5 at night. I check at random times, often at night and things seemed to be working very well. Then I discovered through trial use of two different CGM systems that I was dropping in the early morning hours while I was sleeping. Sometimes I would stay around 30 for an hour before waking up. Other times the graph simply indicated that I dropped to the 30s or 40s and then rose on my own (thanks lifesaving liver!) to about 60 or 70 by the time I got up.

Is this why I’ve been waking up really tired and groggy and with a headache for such a long time? Sheesh. Maybe I should just be grateful I’m alive…

Anyway, after that, I tried flipping the dose around giving the larger one at night and the smaller in the morning. This makes the drop happen around dinner for me–and it’s also a more moderate drop, I guess I need a bit more insulin in the afternoon as opposed to the middle of the night. It’s certainly safer than a blood sugar dip while I’m asleep and not plugged up to a CGM of any kind.

Not surprisingly, I’m much more chipper in the morning since I figured this out.

I share this extra bit in case anyone out there splits their dose and isn’t aware of nighttime lows–beware and check at different times during the night to make sure there are no consistent lows happening without your knowledge!

For Safety

As for the second reason I split my dose, it has to do with safety. Before I took Tresiba I took Lantus and I before I split the dose, I didn’t, and you know what happened to me, twice? I accidentally gave about 20 units of Humalog in place of Lantus. Both of these instances were awful and involved a ridiculous amount of grape juice. I can’t even smell grape juice today without gagging. The fear though, that was the worst part.

After that, when I started splitting Lantus, if I were to ever draw up Humalog to the dose of Lantus, I would be giving half that amount and I’d manage the emergency where I was instead of finding myself being rushed to the I’m-going-to-bankrupt-you-ER.

Tresiba requires less in terms of daily units of insulin for equal strength so if I ever goof up with Humalog again (I don’t plan to) then I will be giving at most, out of habit, about 6-8 units of Humalog or R insulin and I can handle either of those doses with glucose tablets that I always carry on me.

 

Feeling a Disturbance in the Force

“A disturbance in the force” is how I like to approach the topic of feeling lows. I think that for me, it accurately describes subtle symptoms of lows that are not immediately obvious.

For example, most of my lows start out with certain symptoms and then those symptoms evolve with increasing severity. But sometimes symptoms of lows are masked by a number of possible factors including but not limited to:

  • exhaustion
  • major stress
  • excitability
  • nervousness
  • being in a hurry
  • being under the influence

I’ve found over the years that I do a better job than ever before when it comes to sensing low blood sugar. And the way I do it involves asking myself if I sense a disturbance in the force. This means I tune in to my body for a moment. I mindfully scan myself real quick and I check for:

  • increased/uncomfortable heart rate
  • sweating
  • slight hunger
  • sense of urgency (hence the famous lows that occur while cleaning)
  • weak core muscles
  • poor attention and slow thinking

If I’m feeling confused and irritable, I usually pop a glucose tablet in my mouth because for me, those are symptoms of being very low and I don’t mess around when that’s a possibility.

Checking for my heart rate is, for me, the most reliable because as I get lower, my heart races faster. Eventually, it starts to beat out of my chest. However, that’s how I feel when I’m giving a presentation or doing high-intensity exercise so a blood glucose meter is needed to confirm in certain situations.

I treat lows differently based on circumstances. If I’m driving, I don’t check, I get a glucose tablet and pull over, first. If I’m alone with the kids or in another vulnerable situation, I quickly get glucose before fumbling with a meter. What if I only have time to ingest the glucose? I’ve never gone unconscious from a low in the almost 25 years with type 1 but maybe that’s partly due to the precautions I’ve learned to take.

The overwhelming majority of my lows these days are gentle ones in the 60s. For those, I confirm by checking and giving a small measured amount of glucose so that I only bump myself back up to the 80s.

It’s tough being mindful about our bodies at times but trusting ourselves when we have a split second thought about a “sense” we’re getting might be a valuable early warning we can act on to help keep us safe. Getting in the habit of “scanning” our body for symptoms is one I highly recommend.

Is a 6.5% A1c Good Enough for You?

The premise that a 6.5% A1c is great for a type 1 diabetic is based on the widespread belief that we simply cannot expect better results than that and still maintain safety from low blood sugars. The truth is that a 6.5% A1c in a non-type 1 diabetic is medically diagnostic criteria for type 2 diabetes. It is well established that type 2 diabetes is detrimental to one’s health, especially in the long term, though probably also in the short-term, though that is more difficult to quantify due to comorbidities.

It’s possible that a type 1 with a 6.5% A1c is different from a type 2 with a 6.5% A1c because the type 1 might be having more blood sugar variability, which the body doesn’t like. The type 2 in many cases has additional metabolic distress in the form of insulin resistance, obesity, high blood pressure, and fatty liver disease which would also make a difference when comparing their 6.5% A1c to that same A1c in type 1. Therefore, there are factors making this a nuanced issue.

However, if you look at cardiovascular outcomes of people with A1c averaging in the lower normal A1c range and compare them with those whose A1c averages in the upper normal range, you’ll find that the former does much better than the latter. Many people with type 2 diabetes experience complications and most likely their diabetes started after they became adults. So imagine what may happen to the type 1 child who experiences an additional two or more decades of harmful blood sugar by the time they’re 50? If you’re thinking that’s not fair, I agree.

If you have type 1 diabetes and have a healthy weight (which is increasingly less common) and you have low blood sugar variability and you feel good and all other vitals are in optimal normal range and you’re not making visits to the emergency room, then you may be completely content with your management. Or you simply may not be willing to make certain changes for what you may deem a very minor improvement in the quality of your life. Or maybe you were diagnosed much later in life so you have a long and protective history of excellent blood sugar. Or perhaps you aren’t willing or ready to aim higher right now. We all have this freedom to choose what is right for us and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

As for children, ethics would dictate that our choices must reflect much higher standards on their behalf.

For those who want better than diabetic blood sugars and are willing to do what it takes, there is a way to manage diabetes so that you can achieve normal or near-normal blood sugars and see less severe hypoglycemia. I don’t know of another way to do this than to eat a diet that is comprised of very low carb, high protein, and fat to the degree you require. There is more to it than that, though. You may be tired of hearing this but if you read Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, you’ll learn what you need to know to get on the road to optimally healthy blood sugar management.

Ultimately, I want you to know that if you want it, it’s possible. Regardless, I wish all diabetics the very best of health.

Why Dr. Bernstein is an American Hero and Why Doctors Should Be Curious About Him

My colleague at Diabetes Daily, Maria Muccioli, Ph.D., wrote an excellent and in-depth coverage of a remarkable study on very low-carb diets for treating type 1 diabetes in children.

The study found that a group of type 1 diabetic children following a very low-carb diet à la Dr. Bernstein style were not only experiencing normal blood glucose levels (this is nearly unheard of in type 1 diabetes) but also growing well (a top concern as macronutrient intake of carbs is widely believed to be essential for growth in children).

The researchers of the study looked at children from a Facebook group called Type1Grit. This group consists of adults with type 1 diabetes and parents of children with type 1 diabetes who all follow Dr. Bernstein’s regimen. This regimen includes very low-carbohydrate intake but so much more–put just any type 1 diabetic on a very low-carb eating plan, and I promise you’ll likely not get the results you are hoping for–though if you pay close attention to blood sugars you may notice some interesting things regarding the statistical range of error after giving smaller amounts of insulin. It’s about more than low-carb eating. Low-carb is essential to the plan but to do well, there are more things to do and understand. One must understand how to use and adjust insulin properly, understand how different physical activity impacts blood sugars, and so on. The Type1Grit group does so well because they utilize Dr. Bernstein’s decades’ long expertise to guide them (which is all in his book) and like any good support group, they help each other stay focused, informed, and motivated.

Some people on social media have voiced strong opinions against the group due to some of their outspoken members. It is my hope that we focus on content over delivery when it comes to important matters. After all, if fellow thinkers had rejected Issac Newton’s findings simply because he was a jerk (and according to the book I’m reading my kids about him he was) wouldn’t that be a shame? Personally, I strive to be gentle with others because I am quite sensitive. However, I also try not to put my feelings above critical thinking, and I think that serves me well. I also hope that the communication of a few doesn’t cause some to dismiss the whole group or worse–a promising idea. That said, I have not personally observed anyone from that group being rude to others, though some have been quite open and blunt with their opinions and I have observed a very strong response to that, in general. I do not consider an opinion shared in a straightforward manner to be rude.

My Personal Story Following Dr. Bernstein’s Advice

I have followed a loose version of Dr. Bernstein’s protocol for about a decade, further lowering carbs and adding in more of his advice gradually over the years (I now follow his advice very closely). His logic struck me like lightning when I read his book, Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution. In particular, I was deeply moved by a line that said something about how people with type 1 diabetes “deserve normal blood sugars”. Dr. Bernstein’s protocol includes the use of Regular insulin to cover high protein meals versus faster analog insulin such as Humalog or Novolog. In fact, after using a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) for the first time recently, I quickly saw how my Humalog was a bit too quick and potent at mealtime and then a bit too short hours afterward, so I bought Novolin R at Walmart for $24 and have improved my blood sugar levels. This is to stress how following Dr. Bernstein’s protocol is about more than just reducing carbohydrate intake.

Many years ago, I found immense value in attempting just a little bit of Dr. Bernstein’s advice. Small changes like lowering my carbohydrates and understanding how to use my insulin better led my A1c to drop from 8-9% down to 6%. Before this, just covering high amounts of carbohydrates with insulin had mostly succeeded in making me fat, tired, depressed, and anxious (oh and with protein spilling into my urine as an 18-year-old in her “prime” of life). You have to understand how terrible this was for me–I was a bright-eyed kid who was intelligent, hopeful, hardworking, patient, and super determined. In a few short years, diabetes messed with my potential–I didn’t recognize myself anymore. It’s particularly sad to spend years recovering as a young adult when you’re supposed to be at peak performance and potential due to your youth and energy.

Dr. Bernstein, who many dare call a “quack” or “nutjob” saved my life just as he saved his own. My A1c hasn’t touched 6% in many years. I have a wonderful husband. We have twins who are about to turn 9. I’m still trying to reverse some of the consequences of very high blood sugars from my first 10-12 years with diabetes. What if I didn’t have to?

What Actually Does More Harm?

People tell me that eating low-carb will hurt my cognitive abilities. Do they know that studies indicate that typically managed type 1 diabetes may do that, anyway? Type 1 diabetes (with the average management of 8.2% A1c in the U.S.) has been shown to possibly lower intelligence and negatively affect memory and speed. Low-carb in the long-term may hurt my cognitive abilities (I haven’t seen anything to indicate this possibility though) but what if it just takes the place of what high blood sugars would have done to my cognition? And what if low-carb additionally helps protect my cardiovascular health and my kidneys and my eyes–oh and allow me to have healthy children! Do you know how fortunate I am that I turned things around when I did? I have children because of the information that turned my health around just in the nick-of-time. I can’t begin to describe the level of rage I might have had I never had children yet discovered that Dr. Bernstein has been trying to tell the world about his successful method for decades.

Where is Our Curiosity?

If you find Dr. Bernstein followers as angry or overly-passionate, this may help explain why: Unnecessary suffering is a tragedy. We’re in a country whose founders had been curious and open to acknowledging ideas that are worthy, pushing those ideas to the top where they can be put to the test and then accepted as the best ideas because they can create the best outcomes. This is the great thing about Western Civilization. The embracing of objective principles which allow the best ideas to rise because even if they come from someone we can’t stand, we know that ideas, critical thinking, and truth reign over all else and push us towards progress. Dr. Bernstein’s protocol isn’t an expensive training center and it’s not just for the elite of the world. He thrives using a cheap insulin in the same country where people die because they don’t know they can change their dietary habits and purchase cheap over-the-counter insulin in most states and survive.

From an economic and financial viewpoint, Bernstein’s protocol is also a stunning success. I don’t use an insulin pump or a CGM (I only got to test one out) and yet I can achieve my glycemic targets. I don’t need any apps, certified diabetes educators, or expensive technology. I don’t anxiously await a closed-loop hybrid insulin pump system because I don’t need it. I put all my energy into my simple but effective daily lifestyle. Providers who want to see healthier patients, please read Bernstein’s book. Your lower income patients may not want to follow the regimen in part or entirely but those who are willing deserve to know how to thrive with diabetes despite being poor or lower middle class, like me. I give myself excellent care for cheap–doesn’t that peak your interest?

People are justifiably angry over insulin prices but what about the medical community’s unwillingness to be curious about one doctor’s personal plan to keep himself at peak health and fitness well into his 80s? Without curiosity, what on earth then drives a doctor to investigate the issues in each patient as well as find the proper and least harmful solution? I tell my doctor how I managed a huge drop in A1c for the first time in my life and he has no questions regarding how I did it? I read doctor responses to research that shows a teeny tiny improvement in A1c and now they think “this shows wonderful promise and we should look into it further!”? I basically told my doctor I might have just saved my own life and drastically improved my quality of life, and he’s like “meh”. I told another how I did it and he said, “good for you.” Yes, good for me, but what about some of your patients who are as I was, struggling to get a halfway decent hold on their blood sugar and suffering? What about them? Don’t you have an obligation to check this out? This gives my doctor less work, by the way! For a decade now my doctor does nothing to manage my diabetes–he just orders labs. Aren’t doctors wanting more patients that can manage their blood sugars and don’t need them so desperately at all hours?

It Takes “Too Much Discipline” or “Restraint”

Nothing terrible ever happened by being disciplined. Think of all the amazing people out there and from history–what could they have accomplished without discipline? Probably nothing but a few moments of greatness. Discipline encompasses you within a realm of potential greatness. And if you create a system, discipline isn’t a show of willpower as much as you just loyally following your regular routine.

Much research backs up the potential of the ability to defer gratification. Who is more likely to become successful? The person who can restrict themselves from their impulses and short-lived desires, right? Let me put it this way: who would you rather marry? Someone who can keep their impulses in check or someone who can’t? Or who would you rather be? Someone who doesn’t overeat or someone who regularly does? I remember having hearts in my eyes when my husband told me “I never overeat”. I have long struggled with overeating, and when he said this, I was impressed by him and thought, “wow, I want to be like that.” I believe this is the empowered response. I could have given the common humorous response of “ugh, you make me sick” but where would that have gotten me? Instead, I tried to learn from my husband and improve myself.

I also think the healthy response is to admire someone like Dr. Bernstein for what he has accomplished against great odds. Dr. Bernstein is respected by so many because he created a well-functioning system to get himself thriving and generously shared his findings with others. In fact, as an engineer, he became an endocrinologist so that he could help others after he figured out how to save himself. He should be regarded as an American hero, whether you want to do what he recommends or not.

I believe in freedom and personal rights. I’m an immigrant who is incredibly happy to live in the U.S. Growing up when I found something challenging and I didn’t want to face it, my dad would say “Are you an American or an American’t?” I would often roll my eyes but, yes, I’m an American and believe I have the power to set my mind to improve myself if I want and I’m grateful for those who have set their minds to things and laid out paths before me. Thank you, Dr. Bernstein. I may never reach your astounding level of discipline but what I have been able to achieve with your advice has been most valuable to me and my family and I am forever grateful.

En fin, I’m certainly not saying you should do what he does or what I do. And I can respect wherever you are on your journey. I’m saying that Dr. Bernstein’s method has shown undeniably incredible potential and results and the general lack of curiosity and investigation on behalf of the global medical community makes absolutely no sense to me. There are now thousands of people doing it and doing it well.

Newton supposedly struggled with his ego and an inability to face criticism or questioning during his lifetime. Let’s have his overwhelming curiosity without the pride, his determination to dig and experiment properly without his emotionally unstable and anti-social ways.

I will leave you with one more thought:

Just a little bit less damage sustained is a great deal to the person enduring it, especially when they still have many decades ahead of them.

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.

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.

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