Category Archives: Diabetes and your mind

Tuesday 2015 Diabetes Blog Week What I Keep Private

Click for the Keep it to Yourself – Tuesday 5/12 Link List.
Many of us share lots of aspects of our diabetes lives online for the world to see.  What are some of the aspects of diabetes that you choose to keep private from the internet?  Or from your family and friends?  Why is it important to keep it to yourself?  (This is not an attempt to get you out of your comfort zone.  There is no need to elaborate or tell personal stories related to these aspects.  Simply let us know what kinds of stories we will never hear you tell, and why you won’t tell them.) (Thank you Scott E of Rolling in the D for this topic.)

 

What do I keep private from the internet?  If you have known me a while you will know I don’t do private.  I try to not filter myself in order to appear “better”.  Oftentimes some of my posts are controversial.  But there are some things I will not share.  Not because I don’t want to but because I am extremely sensitive and I fear a simplistic understanding of what I write (not from most just a few)

I typically choose all my words carefully and deliberately.  But I’ve allowed myself to be shoved off my blog more than once because of criticism, hate mail, and heady assumptions.  I admit that any broad misunderstandings are my fault.  In those cases I didn’t write clearly enough.  Every so often though, I think I’m being clear, I test my blog out to a few people and ask them to tell me what I’m saying, the feedback says I’m clear,  I will publish officially, and then I will get a few responses that crush me.  When that happens, it seems like some readers are looking at things in a black and white fashion, skipping over some very important words I include, and instead of seeking clarification, they go off the rails at me.

Recently, I spoke to someone who I would regard as a nuanced thinker.  I shared what I haven’t shared before.  That will come out later for me to talk about but in the meantime I’d say that I feel sharing is highly influential and important in our community.  What some of you have shared in the past has been very freeing for me.  Being able to relate, to know I’m not alone, to feel I’m not a freak, etc.  One way we can encourage more of this honesty and openness is to read with the same honesty and openness and respond in kind.  We want to support and seek clarification, not jump to conclusions and crucify.  I’ve seen a lot of bloggers get tackled over a thought they had, a reasonable human thought.  And that doesn’t help us.  So keep sharing friends.  I will keep reading with my heart on my sleeve, understanding that you and I are no different and that you have every right to entertain certain thoughts and feelings. I try to remember too, that you are at liberty to change your mind anytime, just like me.

When a Five Year Old Says “I Hate Diabetes”

“I hate diabetes” escaped the lips of my five year old son who doesn’t have that kind of language habit, yet, and who doesn’t really know the meaning of the word “hate”.  Hearing him say those three words set off a chain reaction of memories that started almost 21 years ago to the day when my youngest sister was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age three.  I remember having trouble going to sleep that night after my dad wearily explained that she had in incurable illness that would involve needles and bleeding (and so much more).  Before I fell asleep I remember whispering out loud, “I hate diabetes.”  Later that same year I wrote in my diary those very words with so much pressure from my pen the words permanently embedded into the next few pages.  Never one to pass up an opportunity for clarity, I dotted my exclamation points with my own 11 year old blood.

Since that year I have probably uttered “I hate diabetes” more than a million times-an estimate I don’t think is exaggerated.  I haven’t said or thought it much in the last few years because I want my mind filled with positive thoughts and my children to start life with a mental blank slate.  I want them to figure out how they feel about things versus feeling what I feel and thus carrying around a detrimental amount of my baggage.  It has served me well to remove those three words from my vocabulary.  I am much more equipped, emotionally speaking, to take care of myself.  And I do take care of myself.

Today, I was informing my children that tomorrow I will go to the eye doctor for a short visit.  My daughter said, “Ok, mom” while my son, seemingly alarmed, said, “Why? What’s wrong?”  I sat down and looked him in the eyes, which were staring at me intensely, “Well, nothing is wrong, but because I have diabetes I should go to the doctor each year to have a check-up”.

“But why does your diabetes mean you need a check up?” he continued.

“Because diabetes can hurt the body’s cells over time and our eyes are particularly sensitive.” I calmly explained.

My daughter jumped in saying, “So diabetes can hurt your eyes and other parts of your body because our whole body is a bunch of cells, right?”

“Yes.  And I’ve had diabetes for 20 years so it’s a good idea for me to be extra careful and see doctors every year to make sure my body is working like it should.”

My daughter smiled, gave me a thumbs up, and said confidently, “Sounds good, mom!”

My admittedly skeptical son looked down and said, “Well I hate it.”  He looked up at me with his brown eyes and in the most deliberate manor said, “I hate diabetes.”

I was stunned.

For a second I thought about saying something soothing and typical of a parent.  But all that came out was, “I do, too.”

And that was it.  He went back to eating his dinner.  I began my memory roller coaster and wondered how my child could know enough to say he hated something that he has always seen me have. Did I appear weak or sick to him?  Did I give him cause for worry? What gave it away?  Was he just putting the logic of my explanation together?

So many questions flooded me until I was tired of thinking.  All I’m sure of is I will do whatever it takes to make sure my diabetes doesn’t affect them more than it has to.  When it slows me down, makes me feel incompetent and a complete fool for having had children, I need to make sure I kick those thoughts to the curb.  So that my kids don’t catch those thoughts.  So that I don’t become those thoughts.  Because when a five year old says “I hate diabetes” one sits up and pays attention.  I don’t want my children tethered to my worries.  Or can this legitimately be their worry, too?  I’d rather it not be.  Especially not at five.  And not while I’m alright and it’s technically jumping the gun.

That’s what I will tell him tonight before he and his sister go to sleep.  That I’m alright and there is no need to worry.  I will make it a point to hear my own words.

 

Marijuana For Diabetes

I’m probably being naïve to think this topic isn’t too controversial to post.  But, I don’t shy from ideas and discussions and information so…  I’ve been learning about our “failed drug war” and also about how some people use medical marijuana and the benefits they say they experience.  I’m not someone looking for any type of drug at the moment but I’ll be honest, I sometimes think about what the future with diabetes has to bring and I wonder if I will desperately want that option at some point.

This worry may not make sense to some but personally, I’ve had type 1 diabetes for 20 years.  I’m 31 and know I likely have many more years of diabetes ahead of me.  I know that every year brings the possibility of diabetes complications closer to reality and so I ask myself, “how will I cope?”  One of the most common complications of diabetes is nerve damage, which may bring nerve pain among a plethora of other possibilities.  I’ve dealt with random pains most of my life (not going to list them for you) and am already acutely aware of the way chronic pain works it’s way into every facet of life, from the obvious to the mundane and least expected.

To suffer more pain and not have many options for managing it sounds daunting.  I’m on this topic of thought tonight because two weeks ago I had a cavity filled.  The dentist said, “You have a huge cavity! So this is going to hurt and if it hurts after a few days you will probably need a root canal.”  Well, I’ve been in some decent pain since that day and today I broke down in tears because the constant, between a level 1-10 I’d say 4 pain I’m having is wearing me out.  Life doesn’t stop when someone is in pain.  I mean if most of us have an accident or a temporary illness we get to rest and then move on as strong as ever.  But when pain lasts and lasts, when people can no longer carry you or cook for you or take care of the kids for you, how do you do all that yourself?  I’m only at a pain level of about 4 and I’m wishing someone would give me a sleeping pill so I can have a break.  To be honest, some magnets for pain are taking the edge off for me.  And I’m super grateful and obviously open to solutions like that.

I call this pain a 4 because I think I know a 10.  I once spent a few hours screaming non stop from kidney stone pain (after a laser blasting of a large stone which caused many small stones to parade down my urethra) which was so bad I would have nearly taken a gun to my head had that option been available.  I know, I know, “Sysy, how can you say such things?!”  Pain can take over.

You must be asking yourself, “Ugh, why haven’t you gone in for that root canal?”  Well, because I can’t afford it.  But since I have health insurance I can’t go to the local free clinics, either.  I have private dental insurance and it costs an arm and a leg.  My son is going to the dentist tomorrow and it will cost $500.  He comes before me so I will bargain and strategize until I can manage to go in and hand over the dough.  Don’t worry about me, Friday is nigh!

Back to diabetes.  You can see what has taken me down this trail of thought.  Previous life experience, current pain that is making my jaw, ear, and neck hurt and my vision blurry in one eye.  (Gosh, I hope that’s normal)  If diabetes causes me some kind of chronic pain in the future…will I be able to handle it?  I’m very sensitive to pain.  I once went to a salon to get a Brazilian wax and passed out like a fool.  I may not want prescription medications with dangerous side effects and astronomical costs.  In fact, I know I don’t want that option.  My organs need to be protected.  They’ve been stressed out since I was 11.  Is there anything else?  I hear there is.  I think I hope it may be available if I need support one day.  And this doesn’t even begin to address all the people who could use some help RIGHT NOW.  Do they, do you, want this option?  I’m all about healthy lifestyle choices to manage conditions but what if I need more?

Growing up, the boy I was in love with, joked with me often saying, “Marriage-you-wanna?” (Get it? “Marij-uana?”)  And like a good girl I always said “no”.  I’d like to revise my answer to:  “maybe one day?”

 

Diabetes In the Wintertime

Winter is a particularly challenging time for many people.  That would include people like myself, who might also have diabetes to perpetually deal with.  So while I may gain the obligatory 5 holiday pounds, take Vitamin D supplements, and read a lot of books (like many do during this time) it also means my diabetes management is strained.  My workouts have continued-I do kettle bell swinging and yoga instead of going outside for walks or runs.  I have been sipping a lot of herbal tea and soups to keep warm and hydrated.  But little things like checking my blood sugar feel like more of an inconvenience.  I’m cold, in cuddle mode with this blanket, and have to squeeze my finger extra hard to get a decent drop of blood out.

I’ve been doing alright, I think.  My routine psychologically matches my home-a cozy 900 sq ft cabin surrounded by cool, peaceful, swaying pines and grey branches.  I get up, do some yoga stretches, make coffee or tea, and make the kids and I breakfast.  Then we read, play, experiment, play some more, and whenever they are occupied without me, I read what I want.  It feels very cozy and small and slow.  I have to trick myself not to feel unimportant.  Though I know the goal isn’t to feel important, either.  So I just try to be.  Be ok with the weather, be ok with me. I’s easier said than done.  We’ve been trained to be as productive as possible.  It’s definitely busier in the Spring.  I get on an efficient diabetes management routine and am carried through the day by the light, warmth, and growth all around me.

Right now I take it easy.  I think about what habits I have and decide which I’d like to change.  And as a friend recently reminded me, I can use the Wintertime as a space for reflection and pause, knowing it will soon lead to those sunny, life affirming days that happen to be more my style.  Not to pick on any of you crazy winter lovers…but, you’re a little nuts.  ;)

Note to Self: Try New Things

We moved recently and bought a small house on a small triangular shaped property with dozens of trees on it.  Most of the trees are pines and other evergreens, which are my favorite.  The unique shape of the property captivated us and we’ve been dreaming up cool garden ideas.  Even before we moved we saw a lot of work in the yard.  There are several different types of vines growing wild, choking off trees, and beginning to threaten others.  While envisioning the future, I imagined myself making Alex a sandwich while he worked hard to clear the vines and clean up the yard. 

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That’s part of the back yard, a wild and wonderful mess.

Once we moved in I realized that Alex was at work from sun-up to sun-down and the clearing of the property needed to be done and waiting until warm weather would mean watching out for snakes and dealing with pests (and I’m not confident in my ability to do either).  I thought to myself, “I’m going to absolutely hate this, I’m not the gardening type”.  But I went out there and starting pulling up vines, some half an inch thick, others thin and twirled around tree limbs and branches.  They have formed a massive thicket and run up and down many of our trees.  I used to think this look was desperately charming but I started to look up the vines to identify them.  One in particular is a terrible invasive type which takes down trees (oh no, the house!) and covers up plants (how rude!).  It grows really fast and we just so happen to have it all over the property.  I worked for 4 hours one day only to clear about a puny three ft radius of land.  Then I went inside, washed my dirt covered hands and that’s when it hit me.  This was the most fun I’d had in a really long time.  I felt so healthy!  My allergies weren’t acting up because it was late fall.  I felt peaceful and energetic.  All from pulling up vines, uncovering trees and plants, and finding artifacts left behind in the ground such as Twizzler wrappers and lots of old socks (I have questions for the man that used to live here). 

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Doesn’t look like much, but these mounds are massive in person and reflect only a tiny amount of cleared land.

Since then I’ve spent several more afternoons doing the same, enjoying myself so much I only stop when it’s too dark to see and my kids remind me it’s time to do my motherly job and feed them (think of all I’ll be able to accomplish when they can feed themselves!)  Each time I feel a sense of euphoria.  I did recently pull or rip a pelvic floor muscle doing this which makes sense considering I jumped into a new physical activity without any caution and without working myself up to the task.  But, I’m healing and learning not to over strain.  And I’m still loving it.  And I’ve become a nerd to my husband who just shakes his head back and forth as I call myself the “tree whisperer”.  I struggle a lot of with anxiety and depression, something I’ve blogged much about, and this activity is like strong medication for me.  I don’t quite know what it is.  Maybe it’s being out in this time of year with the smell of pine,  the crisp fresh air, birds, squirrels, and deer all around, and no pollen to make me sneeze.  All I know is I’m just going to keep it up.  It’s built in exercise, too so my blood sugars love it.

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See how much there is?  I can’t even find my husband when he’s out there.

I was so sure I would hate doing something I turned out to totally love doing!  So, this is a serious note to self: try new things!  Who knows where it will lead.  And if you have any tips for dealing with invasive vines, I’m all ears.

Minimalism in Diabetes and Life

Thank you for all the emails of concern over my blogging break this summer and fall.  It was very nice to be missed.  I’m happy to be back.

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Over 6 years ago, when I ended my 7 year run with a Minimed insulin pump and switched to “the poor man’s” vial and syringes, I discovered something interesting about myself.  I functioned better when I practiced minimalism.  Not having so many balls in the air at once just feels easier.  I don’t even replace my syringes or lancets but once every week and several months, respectively.  I’ve never had an infection or any other problem as a result-at least not one I’m aware of.  And this makes me feel a bit more streamlined in my diabetes management.  I’m not saying I recommend being lazy about changing needles but practicing overall minimalism in my diabetes management works for me at the present time. 

In the past, all my constant logging, pumping, and the checks and balances that goes along with that overwhelmed me into not doing anything well.  Whereas now, I do the few essential things as well as possible, with A1c results I’m happy about.  It may be my personality type or my lifelong struggle with anxiety but either way it’s true for me and we all need to work with what is true for each of us.

I’ve been travelling a lot lately and I’ve been amazed at how I can go days with just a small carry on bag and my purse and not even need all that I packed.  And that includes carrying all my back up diabetes supplies which take up a good bit of room. The experience has taken away this fear I’ve always had where I ask my anxiety ridden self, “but what if I need it?!”  Now I just think of how much nicer it is to get around the airport with a small bag and how quick and easy packing is.  I’m less likely to forget something crucial, as well.

True and lasting change takes time and my moving towards minimalism has been a slow and deep process.  For the first time I’m truly aware of how ridiculous our consumer culture is.  I hate what we’re doing to the environment and ourselves.  I notice my sense of calm when I go somewhere that is totally uncluttered.  I can think and focus better in that environment.  I also have learned that more stuff does in no way translate to more happiness.  Though I can admit that being above the poverty level and therefore having sufficient safety and health affirming opportunities is important and absolutely impacts happiness levels.  But if we only refer to extras, I just spent the summer in a huge house at a lake paying zero in rent and I felt depressed the whole time. 

My favorite thing since childhood has been the computer.  I don’t know how many kids had a computer at home in 1993 but I did.  I saw the potential of this great mysterious box and as they took off better and better every minute, I became only more grateful that I had been born at a time when the world was at our fingertips.  Not to mention accessing information that was more real time than a book was super exciting.  Like most people, I love learning and the age of the internet has been my greatest ally, especially as a drop out college student married to a drop out college student.  We haven’t been hindered by our drop out status in terms of knowledge (unless you beg to differ) and that’s a righteous equalizing factor.  (Though in job searching we all know a degree still outweighs so many other valuable assets and qualities but that is a discussion for another day).

Part of what being globally connected has done for me is give me a very real view of how others think and live.  And it’s been impossible for me to ignore the fact that we have enough resources for all humans to have all they need.  We just don’t have enough for all of our wants.  Suddenly I feel greedy and I welcome that feeling because I don’t want to be talked about by my great grandchildren as the stubborn old woman that was gratuitously a part of a careless, destructive, insensitive, and idiotic generation that put greed before humanity.  I want them to know I was doing my tiny part to mitigate damage in my own home, community, and country.  I want them to know that I didn’t carry the attitude of a victim, of someone who says, “well, what do ya do” or “if you can’t beat em’, join em’”.  Bull.  Bull!  I want my grandchildren and great grandchildren to know that I felt guilty about how I was living and motivated and inspired by others to act and make any change I could to make something, anything, better. 

And that leads me to where I feel I’m now more quickly headed.  The movement of minimalism is becoming more popular.  Now there are those who criticize minimalists for being trendy.  But I’m glad it’s catching on and truthfully, it’s being criticized because every time someone talks about it we are basically causing others to self reflect and to feel that we are rejecting much of society.  It’s not like my life’s goal was to reject much of society.  It’s actually in my nature to agree with you as much as possible.  But self reflection and awareness has put me here.

Anyway, what’s great is that there is no right way to practice minimalism  The key is to be aware, to be conscious of how we live and to make changes where we can.  To reject it is fine.  But there are consequences.  That’s just a fact.  I no longer feel comfortable living the way most do in the US.  That doesn’t mean I judge you for not feeling the same way.  It just means that we should all be discussing this and supporting each other.  In other words, I tell you about my minimalism journey and stop right there and you tell me about all your shopping trips and stop right there.  I don’t tell you you’re doing something wrong and you certainly don’t tell me I’m nuts for trying to live with a lot less.  This has been a very recent change for me and even now I still waste paper towels like nobody’s business so I don’t have room to judge.  I do like talking about it because that’s how I got introduced-by others talking about it with me or writing about their experiences with it.  I am so thankful for their time and willingness to share how and why they do what they do.

So what is my family doing now?

Well, first of all, I’ve been getting rid of a lot of material goods this year.  It stung for a second and then I forgot I ever owned any of it. 

I also grabbed a few items by the dumpster and refurbished them with my husband.  He fixed them up and I painted them-which turned out to be some of the best meaningful fun I’ve had all year. 

Our cheap dining room table set broke years ago and we couldn’t afford to replace it so Alex (my husband) made a farmhouse style table with simple benches and together we stained it teak and Caribbean blue.  The entire project cost less than $100 and we are so proud of our table.  Our children loved witnessing planks of wood turn into something so useful. 

I’ve been scanning and backing up documents in order to free ourselves of paper weight. 

We sold our second car super cheap in an act of charity and just go everywhere together.  This works well for us because Alex drives a company truck to and from work.

My brother in law gave us his TV but we still don’t pay for cable TV, instead we use Netflix or Hulu to watch TV using the WII my husband received as a gift.  It’s cheaper and we spend a lot less time in front of the TV.

We just bought a 900 square ft house with no basement or functional attic.  My son and daughter will share a bedroom, which is going against the norm unless you go to other parts of the world where entire families eat, sleep, and entertain in one room.  We hope to have a smaller footprint that way and to be forced into not buying so much stuff because, “where on earth would we be able to put it?” 

Alex and I have never had credit cards. And when there is extra money, we’ve paid off tuition, medical debt, whatever we can, instead of taking a vacation. We haven’t had a vacation since our honeymoon 5 years ago but there is definitely less stress in paying things off when possible.  When people say “you can afford that” we say, “no we can’t”  And it’s a dignified, “no, really, we can’t and don’t want to be burdened with debt, be irresponsible with money, or give in to the seductive pleasure of mindless shopping and imaginary needs.”  And I am just like anyone else.  I get cheered up by buying things.  I love clothes.  I love books.  I love STUFF.  I have fooled myself into believing I can heal my anxiety with a shopping trip.  But, what I’ve learned is it’s a temporary fix.  And then I’m back to where I started, only, with less money.

We try to eat very simple whole foods with few ingredients just to make preparation and clean up that much easier.  We are slowly getting rid of kitchen supplies.  It’s a little scary but eventually we want to just have a bowl, spoon, fork, and mug for each of us and just wash after every use.  No more piles of dishes!  I know that sounds crazy but if you come over I will have delectable finger foods for you, great wine that we’ll drink out of, I dunno, something, and fun conversation-all to distract you from our primitive approach.  I’m trying to make my new mantra, “people, not things”.

We plan on growing some of our own food.  There will be a major learning curve but, we are committed to giving it a good shot. 

We plan on homeschooling the kids which will help us with having a more pleasant schedule and less hectic times throughout the day.  Less stress is always a plus.  Additionally, it has been brought to my attention that right now, the greatest indicator of a child’s outcome in school is their family income and not their performance or work ethic or testing ability.  I’m not playing that game.  If we can manage and meet everyone’s needs then we’ll do it, if not, then we’ll try something else.

I have been slowly getting rid of clothes.  I noticed a while back that my husband is always better dressed than me and I think it’s because he sticks with a simple routine:  button up shirt or polo, khakis or jeans, leather shoes-and done.  He gets colors that he likes and he gets high quality so he can use his clothes for years.  So I’m trying to simplify my dressing by getting rid of everything that isn’t awesome on me (because, really, why do I want to wear anything that looks less than awesome on me?)  As a result, I’ve gotten rid of 75% of my closet!  But, it feels great and laundry is sooo much easier!  I’ve heard of people who own two pairs of pants and two t-shirts and that’s all they wear and it sounds amazing but I’m definitely not there,  yet. 

I’ve discovered the magic of Goodwill.  It’s hit and miss and I’ve learned you have to be picky, but people have been amazed by what I get from there which cost next to nothing.  The key is to make sure it serves a strong purpose and doesn’t add to clutter, something I should write on my hand before my trips there. 

Well that’s it, I think.  Again, these aren’t things anyone else should do, this is just what we feel we can do and we have a long way to go but it’s a process.  We’re just going to do what feels right. 

A part of me does feel like I’m making a statement with my minimalist diabetes management approach.  I want to be an example to those with limited resources and say, “you can do it with the basics, and do it well.”  A lack of money absolutely harms health but just enough money is another story.  I have just enough money for the basics which does include sufficient test strips for each day-excellent blood sugar control is not up for discussion.  I don’t need a pump or continuous glucose monitor, though it’s relative isn’t it?  If I die tomorrow of a middle of the night low blood sugar everyone will say I did need it.  But, if I die tomorrow in a car accident, you could say that I needed perhaps a different car or that I needed to have taken a better route or skipped a dumb errand.  If I die from a stroke, you could say I needed to have changed some part of my lifestyle or taken some type of medication.  The point is with so many variables each day affecting our well being it’s just not cut and dry.  I feel that my very simple approach forces me to maintain an important discipline that extends into all parts of my life.  That discipline is ultimately responsible for my diabetes management and how well it goes.  And that’s what I really wanted to share today Smile

Do you practice any kind of minimalism?  If so, I’m interested in learning more, please share in comments.

A Day in the Life of a Type 2 Diabetic

I wrote a post a while back called Which Diabetes is Worse?  I had a thoughtful response from a type 2 diabetic, Christine, who felt strongly about how both type 1 and type 2 diabetics have it rough.  I don’t know what it’s like to have type 2 diabetes so I asked her to write from her perspective.  I really appreciate Christine doing this because it’s always important to be reminded how all of us are dealing with challenges unique to our own journey in life.  Here’s what it’s like for this type 2:

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Christine and her family

A while ago, Sysy invited me to do a guess post on the “The Day in the Life of a Type 2 Diabetic.”  I don’t know what it is like to be T1, so I can’t really say what is different, except for maybe dreams and goals.  From everything I have heard, when you are a Type 1, you became such at a pretty young age, Pre-teen even.  I could be wrong, but this is before a person has full expectations of their life and what it would be like.  When I was a teen-ager, I may have known what I wanted to be, but I was still planning and letting my life unfold.

I became diabetic at 25.  I already had a life and thought I knew how it was going to be.  I was living that life.  I was married and had a toddler.  I was finishing my degree and knew where I was going.  I had a solid plan and saw no turns in the road.  I wanted 6 children.  I was going to be an active stay-at-home mom, who did all kinds of fun projects.  I was a contributing member of society and actively participated at my church.  I was a “yes” girl.  I thought I could do anything if I put my mind to it.  As a person I had fully developed my habits and tendencies.  I was a creative person who didn’t plan well and lived in the moment.  I did what I wanted, when I wanted, to.

So, when my life changed at diagnosis, I had to do more then develop new habits and routines, I had to change who I was, who I had become over those special years.  It wasn’t even until today in fact that I realized, that I had to rewrite an entirely new life for my self.  All my dreams and goals, had to be revised.  Everything I expected and planned for had to change.

It is hard to change who you are when you are already done with the preparatory years. It’s scary.  Who am I now?  What can I do?  How will my life be? Some answers are clean cut.  The dream of 6 children is not going to work out.  But can I still be that mother I worked so hard to become?  Some days I am so tired, it feels impossible.  I am 29 now and I am still trying to figure myself out, with this new life.  I have to change me, I have to become consistent in my routine.  This feels boring and against my nature.  I feel like I am still on the turn in the road, unable to see the road ahead of me, hoping the road continues.  It is exhausting and I feel deflated and defeated a lot of the time.

That is what it is like to be Type 2, at-least when you are a young T2.  I feel physically and emotionally tired and anxious all the time and I can remember what it is like to be healthy, which almost seems like a curse instead of a blessing.  In some ways it’s like being a teen-ager with an adult life, because I have to find myself all over again. On the other hand, I did have that time where I got to live my life without this weight over me and that is a blessing.  I had a typically teenage experience and didn’t receive my trials until I was older.  So, that I can be thankful for.

What is the same?  I don’t think anything is the same for anyone?  We all have struggles.  One might be great at maintaining their blood sugars where another is not.  While one might be afraid of needles and the other had no problem with it.  Some might be good at keeping a routine and some might be good at keeping an optimistic point of view.  We all have out own personal trials with this disease.  No one has it worse or better, it is just different for each of us.  It may feel lonely and isolating at times, because people don’t see “the sweetness within,” and how it can affect a person, but we T1 or T2 diabetics, we know and we can support each other.

Thanks for opening up with us Christine!  Comments and discussion encouraged everyone!

Emotional Eating with Diabetes Book Review

LIP-EEWD

Emotional Eating with Diabetes is Ginger Vieira’s 2nd book.  It tackles a subject all too familiar to people with diabetes and perhaps, not acknowledged enough by everybody else.

I’ve blogged about my struggles with food but not in great detail.  So I want to share my emotional eating story.

I’m a really emotional person and someone who has lived with type 1 for over 18 years (and through childhood and teenage years) so put that together and add in some 1st world body issues and you have someone who can review this book from a very personal place of experience.

And while I think I’ve got a good grip on my emotional eating issues (they don’t resurface often), I’m like an alcoholic in the sense that I need consistent reminders to stay on the right path and out of the dark side.  I really benefited from reading this book.  And I think I’ll read it every single year from now on for support.

It started when I was 12 and had only been living with type 1 for a year.  I would beg my mom for gum at the grocery store and then sell each piece at school for 10 cents, which I’d then pool together to buy an alternate lunch at school each day-a Little Debbie oatmeal cookie or fudge round.  I hated diabetes and the rules that came from my doctors so much that I was going to spite them any way I could.  So I ate what I wasn’t supposed to for lunch.

Then I started sneaking in candy bars and granola bars when no one was looking just to eat what diabetes wouldn’t let me eat.  (Do remember, this was before fast acting and 20-some hour insulin so back then we did have to abide by some rules that we don’t have any longer.)

I would binge and then feel like the worst person in the world.  And I developed a cycle of rebellion mixed with self-hate and a neglect for self-respect (ironically something I was all for in other manifestations).  People didn’t know I had a problem because I hid it.  And that was probably the first sign of a problem for me.

My health suffered, my weight went up, I had a hard time keeping up with such a destructive way of living.

Eventually (after years of hard work), I began to enjoy eating healthy and learned how to treat myself in a respectful way when it came to food.  And because food matters so much in diabetes, my health improved dramatically-no, my life improved dramatically.

If this sounds at all like you or you want to stop feeling obsessive about food, get this book.  It’s written in a straight forward but friendly way that will acknowledge all your fears and anxieties and help you through them.  This book will give you a guided path to where you want to be and show you how to be kind to yourself along the way.

I agree that the “can’t eat that” mentality is harmful. Ginger stresses that we make our own decisions and instead of telling ourselves we can’t have something, we either choose to or choose not to. And that’s how I do now with bread, rice, and pasta and other heavy carbs. I choose not to have them but I know that if I want them, I can have them. There is a difference between enjoying chicken and veggies  and eating that same dish while staring longingly at the rice side that is “forbidden”. Our minds are very susceptible to this kind of pressure and they are bound to crack.

Every now and then I eat my favorite food-ice cream, and I eat it really slowly, savoring every bite.  And I remember how I used to eat it so fast my tongue would burn and I would ask myself “What are you doing, you’re not even enjoying this?!”  That’s when I realize I’ve come a long way.  And yes, it took baby steps, the way Ginger describes in her book, but eventually we can get where we’re meant to be.  And the journey is so worthwhile.  This book is succinct, kind, and best of all I believe it’s effective.

I strongly recommend it.

Buy it here Smile

If it Works for Oprah…

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“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
~ Epicurus

Not everyone likes Oprah but most of us agree that she has worked herself to where she is versus being handed everything.  My mom saved an article for me where she talks about gratitude.  I was amazed to read what Oprah considers the most life changing thing she has done.  For many years she has kept a journal and each morning she has written down 5 things she is grateful for.  It forces a person into a habit of looking at what they do have versus what they don’t.  She goes on to talk about gratitude and the unique power it can have on our lives.

I’ve read in many places that gratitude is the single most transformative thing we can use in life.  It begs positivity, streamlines focus away from feelings of inadequacy, and brings with it a healthy rush of feelings to the body that support positive decisions.

I believe that those of us with diabetes who practice gratitude on a consistent basis really benefit.  Not only does having a chronic illness usually cause us to be more aware and sensitive towards the plights of others but couple that with gratitude and you have an amazing potential for a life filled with meaning and depth beyond many people’s reach.

So while I’m not grateful for having diabetes, I am grateful for what I’ve learned and who I am because of it.  And when my blood sugar is 102 and I feel perfectly healthy, I feel like I’m in heaven while others don’t even recognize the beauty and freedom of feeling great.  I could feel jealous of non diabetics but I choose to feel grateful for the advantage of my perspective.  It makes life better.  But it is a choice and a habit.  I think writing down things we’re grateful for is an excellent idea.  Thanks, Oprah.

A Diabetes Art Showing

My sister and fellow type 1 diabetic, Ana, had her first art showing recently on campus of her school, James Madison University.

The theme she chose was diabetes so I really wanted to share pictures of it with you all.

One of Ana’s professors expressed worry that this theme of diabetes somehow limited Ana’s potential to perhaps show her range. I would like to respectfully disagree. Diabetes is a 24/7 condition that affects every single cell in our bodies, has no cure, and has mental, social, emotional repercussions. Diabetes has no limits and neither does art.  Art is expressed in many forms and has the potential to teach, inspire, and move us deeply.  I have diabetes and know my sister but was still very surprised and moved from this collection and I know that many people without diabetes were really impacted and informed by this art work.

Ana was extraordinarily brave to open herself up in this way and allow us a chance to learn from and relate to her as a person living with diabetes. What is it they say?  That in showing our vulnerabilities we reveal our strength and courage?  Well, I agree and I’m really proud to call her my sister.

Enjoy :)

 

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Her showing starts with a setting for visitors including her business cards and a jar of strips which gives a visual for just how many of these things we go through and how many finger pricks we endure.

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This one is called “ketoacidosis”. Ana has only visited the hospital once in almost 19 years with type 1 diabetes and it was for ketoacidosis as a teenager. It came up fast and seemingly out of nowhere and scared the heck out of us. She recalls that she didn’t really know what ketoacidosis was nor did she realize how dangerous it could be.

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Here, Ana says this represents the time between her hospital visit for ketoacidosis and the time she began these paintings.  So activities and events are shown below and collectively demonstrate what is her very “Normal Life”, as the painting is called.

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This one stumped me until Ana explained it.  It’s the third in this series of four paintings and is called “Attack”.  During the time of Ana’s “normal life” she read up on ketoacidosis to understand it better.  She read about how serious it was and then went days waking up in the middle of the night with what sounds like anxiety attacks.  She says she felt her heart beating strongly (which is why it’s enlarged in the painting) and felt she was being choked and sick to her stomach with fear at the realization of what diabetes could cause to happen.

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Ana ends with a piece called “Thank You” which represents the support and love from family and friends.

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“Insulin is Not a Cure”

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This one is called “I Can See It Happening” and represents Ana’s fear of diabetes complications, namely, blindness.  This is a strong fear for her because of how she loves to paint and make art and is a generally visually oriented person.  But the squeezing out tears is also indicative of the many frustrations from living with diabetes.

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I don’t remember this but days after Ana’s type 1 diabetes diagnosis at age 3, she caught the flu!  Here are two framed sheets of notebook paper where our dad charted out Ana’s blood sugars trying to understand  type 1 diabetes and help take care of a young daughter with the flu all at the same time.  She was still in the honeymoon period at this point.

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A wall of thoughts and feelings about diabetes…

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Ana asked people with and without diabetes a few questions and framed the questions and the responses she received.  Here are a few:

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Ana’s answers to those questions:

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Our friend Jennifer Brannock’s response:

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Our mom’s response:

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Our Dad’s:

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Our 12 year old brother:

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From Ana’s boyfriend (ironically, also my husband’s youngest brother):

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Here is one girl’s heartbreaking response (let’s leave her some encouraging comments!)

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From Patty Keller:

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More people from the DOC responded:

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Don’t we know about ketones and strips…

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The beta cell is quite lovely:

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and in color:

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I remember taking this picture one summer. Ana and our other sister Sara were in the basement roller blading to music. Our mom called down the stairs, “Ana! Check!” Ana dutifully shoved off her skates and ran upstairs to check. I thought about how our reality was so strange, yet so normal and I took a picture of her while checking her blood sugar. I didn’t tell her to “say cheese”, she did that all on her own. After this photo she went back to roller blading and I was secretly inspired by her ability to carry diabetes so gracefully.  Even though the hardship of diabetes is present, I think this picture reflects the potential we all have as people with or without diabetes.

In other words, we do what we need to do, smile…and carry on with life.

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Thank you so much for viewing/reading this post.  It’s the next best thing to having had you all over to the art show in person.

We’re eager to hear what you think in the comments :)

 

XOXO, Sysy and Ana Morales

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