Category Archives: Diabetes and your mind

Calling Things by Their Proper Name and Why High Blood Sugars Always Make You Feel Bad

Dr. Stephen Ponder, an endocrinologist living with type 1 diabetes, has been posting thought-provoking questions on Facebook. One of the latest questions was: “How often do you say “good” or “bad” when talking about blood sugar (or an A1C)? If not, then how do you describe them? Should kids use “good” and “bad” when talking about their sugar levels?”

I thought I’d answer in the form of a blog post since this sparked a whole long train of thought for me.

Confucious supposedly said, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” If something causes you harm–for example, as high blood sugar does, then I hesitate NOT to call it a “bad” blood sugar because it simply is, whether we acknowledge it or not. I believe it would be bad for my health if I didn’t identify, accept, and name the truth on a regular basis. It’s hard to swallow but my reality needs to be very much imposed on me if I am to act in my best interest.

Houston: We Have a Problem

People email me all the time asking what the secret is to my pretty good diabetes management and how I have the discipline for it. Honestly, any good I derive from my actions begins with calling things by their proper name. That means that I admit that eating what I want and covering it with insulin doesn’t work well enough (for me). I openly say that low carb for type 1 diabetes is the only way I know of, to get close to achieving normal blood sugar levels, a healthy weight, and safety from severe hypoglycemia. And I say that not having normal blood sugar levels is physiologically harmful because we know it is. If it weren’t, no one would be diagnosed with pre-diabetes with a 6% A1c level but, they are every minute of every day. It is on that basis that I call a 6.5% harmful and deem it not good enough for me.

If I don’t acknowledge that something is “bad” or “not good” then I don’t follow with the appropriate response or actions which have to do with changing those blood sugars or anything else. We need to apply judgment in our daily lives. It’s necessary. I have to be able to admit to myself when I’ve mistreated a loved one or I’ll certainly continue to do it. I have to be able to admit when I’m overeating, or I’ll keep gaining weight. And I have to be able to say “no, that’s not good for me” or I will suffer various potentially unlimited consequences. What is it they say to those with an addiction? “You must first admit there is a problem.”

High Blood Sugars Make You Feel Bad Even if You’re Told Not to Feel Bad

I understand parents of children with diabetes don’t want to use “good” and “bad” in relation to blood sugars or diabetes management in part because the child didn’t have anything to do with getting such a brutal condition and we don’t want them to feel bad about themselves due to diabetes. And I do support the effort many parents put into saying things like, “It’s not that you did anything bad, it’s that this isn’t working and we need to figure out what will work better.” There is still an acknowledgment that something isn’t working and the troubleshooting can begin and the child can feel better, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I’ve recently put quite a bit of thought into why I struggle to do what I needed to as a kid with diabetes. There are several reasons but I think the main one is that doing what my parents and I were told to do didn’t ensure my success, at all, and made me feel sick and anxious anyhow and thus I acted out of hopelessness, by lying about my blood sugars, not always doing my blood sugar testing, and sneaking sugary foods to self-medicate my feelings of despair. I knew what my high blood sugars meant for my future, and in the immediate moment, my self-esteem took a hit. High blood sugars (especially really high blood sugars) make you extremely sluggish, make your saliva thick and foamy, your thinking slow, and make you not look and feel generally healthy (albeit subtly, at first).

Let’s face it, anything that is a detriment to health is a detriment to outwardly attractiveness, if not now, then later. I remember thinking as a teen that I was totally ok with my ears sticking out–there was nothing I could do, and they functioned properly, but I wasn’t ok with the weight gain I was experiencing from the way my diabetes was being managed. I wasn’t ok with becoming less attractive due to diabetes nor slower as I played sports which requires you to compete using your energy and speed. I couldn’t prove to myself or anyone else how just how good I could be as I couldn’t fully apply myself to anything. Within my capabilities, I tried SO hard, though. Not getting results for your efforts because of diabetes makes a person crazy. And successful diabetes management relies on the most effective efforts, not the most industrious ones so I lost out.

For those without diabetes, think of how you feel about yourself when you’ve been injured or come down with a bad cold–you’re knocked down a few pegs, right? Even if people are kind to you and don’t make you feel bad about any of it. Admit it, you feel less attractive, less productive, and you may feel motivated to do whatever it takes to get yourself back to feeling good, even doing things that you were not willing to do before that experience.

I believe many people with diabetes, including children, are in an impossibly precarious situation when their blood sugar management is less than ideal. This is particularly true once they learn what elevated blood sugars can do to them over time or once the negative effects stack up over the years. No, it’s not fair, or whatever, but all I know is my “good” diabetes management began when I admitted to myself that my diabetes management was “bad” and that if I were willing to make some sacrifices in the name of tight blood sugar management, I may have a ticket to health and happiness. It’s been more than worth it, which is why I keep annoyingly banging this tired drum.

Is it Possible to Do Better?

I am partial to diabetes management for adults and children which makes it easier for them to be successful with their diabetes because the alternative leads to misery. No matter how much you tell a person they are “good,” if their blood sugar levels are often high, they are going to be feeling poorly much of the time, and that is going to make them feel “bad,” regardless. It’s very hard for us to separate how we feel, physically, from how we feel, mentally. One follows the other. Feeling unhealthy does not lend itself to feeling good and it never will.

Do some people who don’t feel healthy manage to feel good and happy? Yes, but this is a feat not accomplished by most, and while children amaze us with their resilience alas, they do grow up, and many will suffer the weight of high blood sugars and blood sugar variability and fear of hypoglycemia as evidenced by personal social media accounts and all the studies pointing out rates of anxiety and depression in adults with type 1 diabetes.

This is why I encourage the attempt at a low carb diet for anyone with type 1 diabetes. Thanks to those who do very low carb diets, we’ve learned that it is possible to do better with glycemic control. Did you know that for a long time no one did better than a 4-minute mile and experts said it was impossible and once Sir Roger Bannister did, many others followed suit soon after? That’s because we can only accomplish what we believe is possible. I’m telling you that I’m not special, I don’t have more discipline than you, and that it is possible to achieve very tight and safe, blood sugar control.

The repercussions of this are incredible. In my experience, it leads to better moods, better relationships, improved ability to work, less fear of highs and lows, less anxiety, less depression, better sleep, and on and on. The positive effects are hard to quantify but they are exponential and eventually make going back to another way of managing diabetes something I won’t consider.

You can’t easily feel good about yourself if you don’t feel good physically and you likely can’t feel your best physically if you don’t have blood sugars as close to normal as possible. For more: check out the Sir Roger Bannister of the type 1 diabetes world: Dr. Richard K. Bernstein.

To conclude, I don’t worry about good/bad and any similar terminology when I think to myself, I worry mostly about my outcomes and my actual experience. It’s surprising how happy I can be while honestly telling myself that something is “bad”. That’s because I then put my energy into finding what makes it “good” and focus on that, instead. What you focus on matters and makes all the difference.

(If you manage your blood sugars well without low carb and you’re happy and healthy, I’m not directing this to you, at all.)

Do These 3 Unexpected Things to Manage Your Diabetes Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

The People You Surround Yourself With

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

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

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

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

The Places You Live and Work

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

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

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

The Things You Own, Which Own You

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Think This Because I Live It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XOXO

The Time I Realized Diabetes Occupies Too Much Head Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diabetes and Clinical Language Problem: We Have the Power

Recently and over the years, there have been very intelligent and thoughtful written reactions to the way that people with diabetes are clinically labeled as uncontrolled, non compliant and non adherent.

I wanted to share my thoughts today.

First, I think we need to define what “control” means in regards to diabetes and blood sugars.
Clinically speaking, my doctor would label me “in control” or “compliant”. Does this mean I always manage my blood sugars, can always predict them or often have swings that are outside of my ability to manage? No, but it means that my daily readings and A1c are generally considered the best possible for someone without the ability to make their own insulin.
 
Whenever an additional factor is present like gastroparesis, poverty or depression then we ourselves should keep those in mind so that if we do somehow come across the label “non compliant” we remind ourselves that we have our own legitimate reasons for blood sugar instability. While it is nice if others support us, especially for those without the self-confidence to prop themselves up emotionally, I think we should strive to be responsible for our own feelings of guilt. I understand this is difficult depending on who you are, what you have been through, how you were raised to think and so on.
I no longer feel guilty about my blood sugar management when it is poor. I know diabetes is hard and I work to improve it while patting myself on the back for attempting the impossible. This helps me tremendously because instead of sinking at the sound and judgment of a word, I focus more on the meaning of it and what I need to do. I’m not always very good at this but I try to focus on solutions instead of my feelings. I get that this can be very hard. I for one, always initially react emotionally to something and those feelings often overwhelm me when trying to think clearly. Still, I find that it helps to stay rational and try to keep emotions out of the troubleshooting process. 
Better results regarding my diabetes are going to help me feel better so they are my lighthouse.
I can certainly empathize with wanting clinical terms to go away. I’ve always advocated that doctors keep their technical in-house terms to themselves because they do not translate to people and their feelings. The truth is that outcomes are negatively influenced when people are emotionally upset. Doctors should recognize that there are many good reasons why someone isn’t managing their blood sugars as well as they’d like and help a person make improvements wherever possible without using a phrase that doesn’t take their serious effort into account. In-house, fine, I’m “controlled” or “uncontrolled”, whatever. Sitting with my doctor in an office, I’m “doing my best” and then we proceed to improve what needs improving.
 
If a healthcare provider or institution doesn’t want to change their ways of describing me on paper, I’m not going under for it, not going to cry, be hurt, feel inadequate. Not in the least bit. And I hope you don’t either. You are doing the job of an organ! If you are alive you already have my genuine congratulations. Maybe in this context we can all think of control as a clinical term to describe best outcome treatment goals being met? After all, our doctors and clinicians need a way to describe us for data compilation and such.
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In the meantime I suggest not tying any of your value, self worth or personal efforts to language. We have the power to start solving this problem for ourselves and our children by not being victims of words if we don’t want to be. 

 

Taking Control of Your Health

Too often, I have worried about my health, let questions swim around my head and neglected going to the doctor to deal with my concerns. I know why I’ve hesitated. It has to do with two simple things: fear and money.

Fear is so powerful a motivator but it isn’t a positive one. To neglect one’s health due to fear is generally to encourage a more negative outcome based on putting off something important. For example, the person with diabetes avoiding their annual eye exam may create a more frightening scenario when they finally go and find out they would have been better off knowing about a treatable eye issue while it was easier to treat and while their vision wasn’t yet compromised. I did this the year before last and when I went to the doctor a few months ago, basically shook in my boots over what she was going to find in my eyes. I was lucky–this time.

Money is not just a huge motivator, it’s a stubborn deterrent. If I can’t afford something, I can’t afford it, right? Thanks to credit cards, more of us are managing to get our insulin, strips, and doctor visits in but we are psychologically crumbling at the rising debt caused by affording what we need, knowing that we are further in the hole. I posted a while back about how much I spend on healthcare outside of my premium each year on my diabetes. That was just a few years ago and the number has not doubled or tripled, it has quadrupled since then. My family income hasn’t quadrupled so good luck to us. I’m not the only one trying to choose healthier versions of food, better insulin, adequate strips, and regular doctor appointments. I know many of you are struggling with the same and it is frustrating. We have to make some hard choices don’t we?

So how does one cope with these realities and still feel like we are in control of our health?

I don’t really know but I can tell you what I do to feel as close to that as possible.

First thing I do is make a list of my concerns and questions. I try to get as many of those as possible met at doctor visits. I ask my husband to help me make sure I go to the doctor. I think of my children and how they need me to be well and I push through and make sure I don’t neglect getting my questions answered and concerns dealt with. I go to the doctor with a list of things so that I don’t forget anything. Pushing through fear ends up feeling better than cowering at it.

Then I create a list of things to do each day that support my goals. Eating healthy, exercising each day, getting enough sleep and water, checking my blood sugars and taking my insulin–these are all non-negotiable. I have to be that person who loves spontaneity but who puts her foot down and tells people, “Sorry, I am not available at that time of the morning because that is when I work out.” Or “No, I can’t get a drink, I have to get to bed, maybe tomorrow at an earlier time?”

When it comes to finances, I also have to put diabetes and health first. So I budget diabetes and health items in like a car payment or the mortgage and try to have the mentality that these things are more important than even a mortgage. Wine and entertainment may seem like necessities but aren’t really. Those things get pushed back if needed. No it’s not fun… yes it is worth it.

The thing with discipline is that even though it seems really boring and restrictive, it doesn’t have to be. It can be the most empowering and noble thing in the world because of what we can accomplish through this discipline (and how we are the recipient of all the earnings). And you don’t have to suffer if you don’t choose to. Suffering due to our own choices can be very minimal or even non-existant because we are in control and no one is the boss of us and we aren’t blowing aimlessly in the wind like my blood sugars after a pizza and dessert.

Sure I mess up and throw off my health from time to time with poor choices. However, each time this happens I’m only more convinced that my disciplined routine is wonderful because it is what gives me the feeling I imagine healthy non-diabetics have: to feel decent most of the time. How marvelous it is to feel decent most of the time. With diabetes and without discipline, feeling decent most of the time isn’t possible (unless you are special and not like me). Think of how much you can do when you feel fine most days and can carry on with work, family, friends, and fun?

I’ve spent about half of my whole life feeling crappy and that is why I’m so enthusiastic about taking control of my health, despite the challenges. I deserve to feel really good and so do you!

 

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.

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