Category Archives: Diabetes Stories

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.

Traveling with Diabetes

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I’ve travelled several times each month this year and it’s given me some lessons:

I’ve learned that I get motion sickness on planes and cannot travel without taking Dramamine.  I tried to forego it once and that one time we just so happened to have a bumpy ride.  It is not fun to worry about dropping blood sugars while throwing up and being jostled about in the tiny plane lavatory. 

Taking all the airport stairs and skipping the moving sidewalks (is that what they’re called?) is a good way to combat all the sitting involved in travel.

Staff on planes are always happy.  I still haven’t met one that isn’t, which is freaky, but if I’m feeling low, so far they are quick to grab juice if I need it and want to conserve my glucose tablet stash for later.

The food situation when in an airport is mighty tricky.  Temptation abounds and yet the easiest way I’ve found to travel is to keep it real low carb because if things get hectic, and lately in airports, they always seem to, low carb often saves me amidst skipped blood sugar checks.

Given how close one’s next seat neighbor is in coach, I find it remarkable how injecting insulin in front of that neighbor has never been an awkward experience.  In fact, it’s a great conversation starter and I’ve literally written down each starting line for your own amusement:

“Wow, those needles are tiny, I’m so glad for you.”

“So you have diabetes, huh?”

“OMG, do you need sugar?”

“Ok, what do I do if you pass out on this flight?”

“Wow, in and out, just like that, eh?  It takes me longer to sneeze.”

“How long have you had it?”

And my personal favorite:  “Does it hurt? I’m sorry, of course it hurts, what was I thinking? That was such a stupid thing to say, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to say that, I just figured that it hurts but maybe it doesn’t or maybe you’re used to it, is that it, are you used to it? Wait…I take that back, I get migraines and I seriously doubt I’ll ever get used to them.  Just forget I said that, ok?”  5 seconds later:  “So, where ya headed?”

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Zoloft Killed that Loving Feeling

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I’m weaning myself off Zoloft.

I’ve been on it for about a year and a half now.  It has one major side effect for women-a sharp decrease in libido.  Others say it completely wipes it out.  I guess it depends on the person and how much they are taking.  Zoloft is an extremely popular drug in the US for anxiety and depression.  I started taking it for anxiety and a PMS disorder that I have and have been getting myself off because that one side effect is just too much.  I mean, I didn’t marry my husband so that we could just be best buds who partner up to raise children together, ya know?

But, getting off Zoloft takes time because withdrawal symptoms are harsh.  The times I’ve missed a dose or two I’ve felt like a squirrel on crack (I dunno, just picture what that must be like) and had major nausea on top of that.  A friend of mine recently pointed out the brilliance of this drug’s natural marketing ability.  Stopping it causes anxiety and depression which is what it treats in the first place.  There doesn’t seem to be any major health risks associated with taking it so it’s easier in the short term to just keep taking it.  Except if you’re a female, of course, and not a nun.

I can’t tell you how embarrassing it is to write publicly about this.  I do so because I think it’s possible that this drug has been responsible for some divorces or major relationship woes out there.  Because if you’re not aware of this side effect, you really might think you no longer love the person you’re with.  I mean, this is what separates us from our friends!  Seriously, without the awareness of Zoloft’s side effects your physical symptoms which manifest as “don’t touch me” might tell your logic (and that of your partner’s) that “I’ve lost that loving feeling, time to move on”.  I’ve always been one to research whatever medication I take to be aware of side effects so luckily for me it was more a matter of working around the issue with a patient and understanding husband.

Honestly, the way I’m working around the issue now is getting off this darn pill.  I’m down to 35mg and while I do this, I am finding it harder to cook, clean, and get out of bed in the morning (in other words, doing things I dislike).  I also worry about my anxiety raising my blood pressure, which has been high in the past and therefore a problem I realistically foresee having “any day now”.  But, I feel more like myself (I’m a naturally moody person, perhaps I should embrace that fact and just go with it) and I’m finding that exercising to the point of dripping with sweat is the best remedy for my negative tendencies.  Exhaustion from working out is calming so, it works as long as I just do it.

I’m all for a holistic lifestyle but also getting help when it’s needed.  Right now I need off this and if shoving my behind out the door every other day for a 5k run is going to help, then I will just have to suck it up.  So far so good!

One more thing, do I regret taking Zoloft in the first place?  Um, not really.  I was having panic attacks and not parenting my young children as well as I could because I was paranoid of what might happen to them.  Taking this for a while helped me not feel so afraid and live life without so much hesitation.  My whole family benefited from this.  But I think I’m ready to live without it.

Anyone else have experience with this?

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!

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

Diabetes in the Morning

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I am in the middle of a fantastic dream.  I’m a few years younger (!!!) and so is my husband (!!!) and we aren’t married or with children yet (!!!)  We are at his parent’s house after a date night, just relaxing and talking.  Only his parents are different people entirely (!!!) and the only other difference is their house has an enormous library (!!!)  Alex and I are singing along to an Elton John tune (geez, I can’t even dream the dorkiness out of us) when suddenly, from some very tiny corner of my consciousness, a little voice screams “wake up, you’re low! LOW!”

My dream must have been one of those lucid ones because in the dream I suddenly tell Alex I need to go home.  Then my dream vanishes and I find myself shaky and in bed.  Aw man, I didn’t get to check out any of those books…  I start nudging Alex next to me, “Hey, I’m low…Alex…Alex…I’m low!”  He doesn’t wake up.  I now tap forcefully when I hear a grumble that definitely doesn’t belong to Alex.  I open my eyes.  Alex has gone to work and my daughter is in bed with me.  Her eyes are closed but she wags an authoritative pointer finger in the air and says (in third person, no less)  “No, no Henri!  Aurora sleeping…”  and then she drifts off completely again.  “I’m so sorry sweetie pie!” I whisper, and bring myself to get out of bed and search for my glucose tablets, which apparently, I’ve hidden from my kids as well as myself.

I finally find them and drop back into bed.  I wake up 10 minutes later to a little boy chewing on some glucose tablets on the edge of my bed.  “No, no Henri!”  says Aurora, wagging her finger at her brother.

Free eBook Shares Diabetes Diagnosis Stories

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The online diabetes magazine A Sweet Life has put together two great eBooks you can download for free.  They are each a compilation of inspirational diabetes diagnosis stories but one shares stories from people with type 1 diabetes and the other, type 2 diabetes.

My story is one of the stories in the type 1 diabetes eBook.

It was an honor to share it and I thank A Sweet Life for doing this and offering it to the DOC for free.

If you haven’t checked out A Sweet Life, do so today-it’s full of seriously handy information and a source for excellent opinion articles by a number of people with diabetes.  In fact, I’d say the site is one of the DOC’s best kept secrets.  Check it out and have a great one!

XOXO

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