Tag Archives: diabetes and stress

Hypertension

High blood pressure made its debut 7 years ago when I was pregnant with my twins and developing preeclampsia. A day before they were born via necessary c-section I laid in bed thinking that I felt like the life was being sucked out of me. With my enormous belly I rolled myself out of bed and hobbled over to the computer as my husband slept. I researched my symptoms and realized I was experiencing high blood pressure.

After having my kids my blood pressure took a few months to stabilize. Then, each time I visited a doctor’s office they would check it and find it sometimes in normal range and sometimes in prehypertensive range.

During the last year I felt a terrible range of symptoms anytime stress was present (and if you are me, that is quite often). I could hardly explain my symptoms except to say that I felt once again that my life was draining from me. I’m known for my dramatic interpretations of things but at times I’d really clutch my chest and wonder why I felt like my heart was stressed, literally.

Recently, I’ve been going to bed later and sometimes finding myself dehydrated. It’s easy to neglect self-care if it comes on gradually. So although my decline in health appeared sudden, in wasn’t. I should probably expect the recovery to take equal time.

I came home from a cross country trip in a panic a few weeks ago. For months I’d been struggling with an irrational but growing fear of type 1 diabetes in my son and before I boarded my last plane home, my husband informed me that our son spent the last few hours vomiting. I had a panic attack on the plane. When the plane landed my husband let me know that my type 1 diabetic sister, Ana checked our son’s blood sugar and he was 96. I felt relieved in my mind but my body was still in panic mode.

When I got home there was an ambulance in my driveway. I felt a squeeze in my chest. My pulse was off the charts. I ran into the house to find out my son was fine.  My husband had felt worried and unsure about how our son was doing and since I wasn’t there he called paramedics to help him. No sign of dehydration. Perhaps a stomach virus or food poisoning. We were to keep him hydrated.

I stayed up with my son that night and went to sleep at 5am. I knew I was abusing my body but I couldn’t figure out how to be a good mom and a person who could take care of herself at that moment. I had to defer to the next evening when my husband got home from work and I got myself to a clinic to get checked out since I also had symptoms of a possible blood clot from my flight. My electrolytes and kidneys were tested and in fine condition. My pulse was about 120 and my blood pressure 188/105. The doctor couldn’t understand why at 33, I’d have such high blood pressure. My BMI is 23% and I exercise nearly each day. I eat very well. My A1c stays between 5.4 and 6.1.

I did lose my grandfather when I was very young to a stroke and my aunt has had high blood pressure since her 20s. On the other side my grandmother has had high blood pressure for a long time. So I suppose I am predisposed. I have lived with type 1 diabetes for 21 years which is an undeniable stress when not managed well.

Fast forward a few weeks. I’m on blood pressure medication. My dad turns 60 the same month I turned 33 and I have asked myself several times, “Am I going to make it to 60?” I know I probably will but my concern is the state of health I will be in at that point. I am the most stubborn person you will meet. I want to be relatively healthy or not be at all. Yes, I just said that. I think it is a comment completely and utterly based on fear and past experience. I’ve already had a hard time and things will probably get worse? How do I mentally manage that possibility? Are these feelings normal? Do I have some kind of diabetes burnout?

My plan is to sleep well, take deep breathes, practice more gratitude, keep exercising, keep eating well, entirely avoid coffee and alcohol, and try to accept that I need blood pressure meds and that maybe I have done an ok job and things just happen. I see a doctor soon to talk about my anxiety and blood pressure.

Do any of you deal with similar issues?

 

 

Five Ways to De-Stress this Holiday Weekend

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You may not need to de-stress.  You may have a perfectly merry and serene weekend.  These tips are for those of you who have to face stressful people, loads of tempting foods, blood sugars outside of their restricted range (to bad we can’t arrest them) and screaming children (perhaps my little screamers!).  I’ve really thought these through, and researched them, and tried them out in spurts and I swear they work.

Five Ways to De-stress this Holiday Weekend

5.  Breathe.

The simplest, most obvious, yet most often neglected way to stay calm and happy- take deep breathes.  If you must wear a tight outfit that doesn’t permit much deep breathing because you’re focusing on sucking in your stomach (been there, done that) then wear that outfit for the minimum amount of time necessary and for goodness sakes do yourself a favor and change into something you can breathe in!

4.  Let go of expectations and go with the flow.

Part of what is so stressful and agonizing for many people during the Holidays is the pressure to meet our high expectations.  Step into this time of year with one goal in mind:  to just be.  Be you, be helpful, be a good listener, be kind, see how you can help out, take care of your health, don’t judge anyone, and just…be.  You’ll find that it’s pretty easy to be yourself and a lot more fun than trying to control things to go how you imagine they should.  Remember that beautiful things happen in the midst of chaos and spontaneity.

3.  Focus on what you can bring to the table.

I don’t literally mean food although that may be the case you talented chef you.  I mean focus on how you can help here and there, who needs your attention, what could use you and your marvelous gift, specifically.  You’ll be surprised how effortless this will feel once you try it.

2.  Be a little deaf and a little blind.

If you hear “Oh…what did you do with your hair?” in that tone or your family is arguing over how to properly cut the turkey, just do all the previous steps and be a little deaf.  Be a little blind and pay no mind to the agitating quirks of people you may be spending some time with.  Instead, choose to only see the things you like about them and focus on that.  A little ignorance is blissful.

1.  Be grateful.

You knew this one was coming.  It’s hard sometimes because maybe your health could be better or your bank account has been swept into a black hole, or there is some kind of family crisis happening.  However, some have worse health than you, others don’t have homes, and some don’t even have any family or friends.  So of course, the obligatory “be grateful” was included but only because it’s true.

I’m thankful for all of you!

xoxo

100 Year Old Marathon Runner Renews My Perspective

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I just read about Fauja Singh, 100 years old, who just completed a full marathon.  By the time I lifted my jaw off the floor I had read all I could on the man.  He’s a vegetarian, eats a low fat diet, won’t consume rice or caffeine, and runs 10 miles a day in training.  He strives to be positive, doesn’t get offended or angry, focuses on charity work, and advises that to be happy and live long we must do what we love, give back, live stress free, and eat to live, rather than live to eat.

It occurred to me this man is an example of someone who eats what fuels him properly and doesn’t eat what doesn’t fuel him properly.  I think we all need a different diet and discovering what that diet consists of is no easy feat but it sounds like he’s done it.  It’s clear he also knows how to live a stress free life, something I have always seen as impossible.  Yet, here is someone who has endured stress.  He lost his wife a long time ago.  His son died prematurely.  He used running as a way to get busy and focus on something, as a way to cope.  He doesn’t have much education, was a farmer in India before he came to live in England, but he seems to know all the secrets to happiness and health and actually practices them.

For some reason his story provides me with a lightening bolt of a paradigm shift.  I feel renewed energy to eat only when I’m hungry, not paying attention to people who say one should eat often in order to avoid feeling hungry and then binging.  Hunger doesn’t make me want to binge, it makes my food taste better.  I’ve heard people say that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to the Kenyans who run amazing races or people who stay active into their 90’s like this man.  Yet, why not?  We’re human just like them and what these people do with their bodies is inspiring.  I know that I am at my current level of fitness in part because I grew up thinking that a mile was a long distance on foot.  Whereas people who grow up walking several miles to and from work or school each day don’t see a mile as a long way at all.  Their knowledge of a mile is so different and as a result, what they see as possible is very different from what I see as possible.

This man’s story provides me with a renewed perspective in how I think about our bodies and what is possible.  Surely I can run more if a 100 year old man can complete a full marathon.  Perception is key.  If I believe a 10 mile run is doable, does that make it more doable?  I once thought that keeping my blood sugar below 250 most of the time was impossible.  Then I looked at it different.  I believed keeping it around 100 was doable.  It’s not easy, and like running each day, it takes discipline and preparation, but I did it.  When I stopped the discipline surrounding what I ate and when I did or didn’t do something, that level of glucose management fell away.  However, I know it’s within my reach again.  All I have to do is firmly know it’s possible and act on that belief, ignoring all others.

Wednesday Revisit: When Glucose Management Hits Rock Bottom

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Here are a few tips I wrote up 2 years ago about how to deal with diabetes management burn out or bottoming out.  They work pretty well for me so I thought I’d share.

Originally posted:

November 12, 2009

When Your Glucose Management Hits Rock Bottom

Happy Wednesday!

Dreaming of a Magical Nanny

 

 

Parents de-stress with scenes like these

Parents de-stress with scenes like these

 

Odd title right?  It’s just that what does one dream of when they’re sleepy?  A pillow or their bed, no?  Well, I’m dreaming of a nanny.  One that helps me with my twins.  She carries a magical wand and sings like Mary Poppins.  Every time my son wants to turn into the Tazmanian Devil she shakes the wand at him and voila, Taz is happy.  Every time my daughter wants to jump off of a high place, Magical Nanny is there to quickly catch her in midair and float her down to the ground gently.  Sounds wonderful.

Don’t worry, I’m not losing it.

It’s just I’ve been having so much fun lately.  My twins are 22 months old and currently transitioning into toddler beds (their cribs convert).  My husband and I were not eager for this move, in fact we’ve been dreading it for a while.  However, we don’t want anyone to fall splat on their head.  Last weekend we walked into the kid’s bedroom to greet them in the morning and what started as a “good morninggg!!”  suddenly turned into a “whooaa!” as my husband quickly grabbed our daughter who was trying to leap off of the top of her crib.  I knew she’d be the first to do it.

We can’t lower the cribs further as they are as low as they go so toddler beds it is.  Only, trying to get two little playmates asleep when they can leave their beds is simply…sigh.  Let’s just say it’s only been a few days and I already don’t know how we’re going to make it.  They normally nap 1.5 to 3 hours around noon every day but lately?  No nap.  Instead, they get pretty cranky around 2pm and stay that way for several hours.  By the time dad gets home he’s wondering what happened to his little angels. 

At night, the room is really dark and I guess they’re not tempted to play.  However, during the day, despite me shoving all the toys in the closet, they still got each other and apparently that’s more than enough. 

Yesterday, I kept laying them in their beds and asking them to stay.  Five seconds later I’d hear a noise and go back in.  They had climbed the changing table, were both standing on top with their tiny arms in the air as if they had just successfully climbed Mt. Everest.  They probably wondered why I didn’t cheer them on.  Instead, I’m like, “Oh wow this is so dangerous!”   At this point I notice that the painting above the changing table is on the floor.  “So that’s what they were after”, I thought.  The painting goes away into another room.  It’s their beloved painting made by dad of a tiger chasing another tiger with a green and black checkered tile background (Hey, you should see the blue tree I painted for them).  The kids scream. 

And I let them while I have some juice to fix my blood sugar which is lowering because of all the baby lifting.  My back is starting to hurt because it’s been an hour of repeat attempts at getting them to stay in their beds.  Forget the kettle bell workout later, this is it.

Then, we try again.  I go out onto the balcony and watch them from the window.  They’re back on the changing table.  “You guys!  What if you fall down?!”  Out goes baby Everest.  They really aren’t happy, now.  I’ve made their room boring.  And the changing table has made my living room look wrong.

I try the whole process of asking them to stay in their beds, putting them back in their beds, over and over and over.  Before I know it three hours have passed and like any normal person, I give up. 

I haven’t had lunch.  My back is really sore.  The kids are cranky and laying on pillows on the floor.  I give them something to drink and offer them a snack.  I try to engage them in some play time or story time but they are sleepy and easily irritated by the slightest touch or interference from the other.  And yet they can’t stay apart.  “Henri, please don’t roll over your sister, she doesn’t appreciate it.”

I test and find that I’m again in need of sugar.  I have some chocolate almond milk and some broccoli and some licorice.  It’s all I’ve ate all day and lately, it’s how I’ve been eating.  Quick and on the go.

My blood test results come through the door along with my husband that evening.  My A1c is 5.7 and everything else looks good.  Although my Vitamin D is low-which I suspected because I tend to need a good bit.  I’ve been supplementing but the doctor says I need to take more.  So I need it to stop raining while I supplement in the meantime.  I knew my A1c would be higher than last time.  I’ve let my sugars run higher than normal because life with twin toddlers is always pushing my blood sugar down.  You really should feel my abs.  Like, Chevy Trucks, they’re like a rock.  Too bad they don’t look that way…

Anyway, you always hear stories of how lovely twin toddlers are because they play together.  Well of course they’re lovely but staying home with them all day is an exhausting full time job.  Then the house is a part time job.  My writing is a part time job.  My diabetes is a full time job.  Ha!  No wonder the house is a mess.  A diabetes cure would be ideal because I want to keep my kids, I don’t think magical nanny exists, and because I like to write.  The diabetes can go away, though.

Diabetes and Parenting, Anxiety in the Making

 

We know what can make a person anxious.  An unfamiliar social setting, an upcoming doctor visit, a college graduation resulting in a fear of the unknown, being the first to say the words, “I love you”.  Anxiety is a normal thing in life.  What’s not normal is feeling too much anxiety.

Having diabetes may mean fighting a constant thread of anxiety 100% of the time.  Having children, I’ve learned, produces more anxiety than I could have ever imagined.  Many of us find it can be worrisome to spend all day alone as a diabetic.  Never mind spending all day alone with diabetes and two little ones to look after. 

My mother stopped by the other day around lunchtime and worried when I didn’t answer the incessant door knocking and phone rings.  She finally got management to open up my apartment door.  Turns out the kids and I were sound asleep at nap time (I don’t normally nap).  It made me realize however, the anxiety for her as a parent, doesn’t go away just because I’m 27.

When you combine diabetes and children, such as in the case of my parents, who raised two kids with type 1 diabetes (plus three others), or in my case, a type 1 diabetic raising two children, you get…ANXIETY!  Before my day has hardly begun, I’m already feeling a little wigged out.

For example, when I wake up in the morning there is this feeling of urgency to get out the meter and (fingers crossed!) hope for a good number.  If I’m low, I “run, run, run” to the kitchen for some juice because “I’m alone with the kids and they depend on me”.  If I’m high, “oh no, how am I gonna deal with this and the kids this morning?” is what goes through my head.  Let’s say my blood sugar is good and I know that in 10 minutes I’m going to make breakfast for everyone.  I give insulin and wash up.  Next, I change the kid’s diapers (a major challenge nowadays), their clothes (yet, another struggle), give them a bottle, clean up the couch (they like to pour milk on it), and make their breakfast.  I think, “When did I give insulin? Ah yes, 10 minutes ago.  Ok, so in about 5 minutes I have to be eating something”.  I put the kids in their high chairs and give them their meal.  I’m about to take a bite when, “No! Please don’t take your brother’s food!  And please sit down! Thank you!”  I’m about to try that bite again but, “No throwing food on the floor guys!  Eat your food, please.”  I walk over to pick up the food on the floor and get the kids to sit properly.  Then, “Uh oh, I think I’m getting low”.  I guzzle some juice, forgetting about breakfast, entirely.  My heart races.  Back to the kids, “No no, don’t run your dirty fingers through your hair, please!”  I pick up the kids, take them to the sink to get their hands and faces washed up.  Man they’re heavy when I’m a little low.  I struggle to get them out of the bathroom because they love to flush the toilet and always try to lean into the tub.  I stumble back to the kitchen and finish my juice only to see the kids jumping on the couch.  I run over to prevent the little monkeys from falling.  They don’t want down.  I say, “Ok, let’s read some books!”  We read “Goodnight Moon” 20 times.  “Uh oh, I feel low again.  Run back to the kitchen and grab some juice.  Mental note: “Sysy, just don’t give insulin tomorrow morning, just don’t eat, it’s easier”.  <SIGHHH>  (Now you all see why I’m better off eating lower carbs= less insulin!)

This is just my first hour of the day.  The 10 hours that follow are very similar.  If the mix of parenting and diabetes doesn’t cause a person anxiety, I don’t know what does. 

God Bless you if you live with some combination of diabetes and parenting. :)

Being Overwhelmed by Diabetes

 

About two weeks ago I was saying to my almost 1 and a 1/2 year old twins, “No more biting, please be nice to each other!”  You should have seen the looks on their faces.  The boy looked like he might roll his eyes at me and the girl wiggled her shoulders almost as if mocking me.  “Sigh…”, I thought.  I said it again and then watched in disbelief as they gave each other a kiss and a hug and then Henri offered Aurora his snack. 

I was flabbergasted!  I ran to my husband and said, “Alex! Oh my gosh!  They can understand what I’m saying!”  He gave me a funny look and said, “I knew that, of course they can understand us.”  I dropped my arms that had been wailing about in excitement and thought, “Hmm…what have I been missing?”

After this I paid close attention to how they reacted after I said something.  To my bewilderment and surprise I began noticing about 20 different words coming out of their mouths that I hadn’t noticed before.  Before, this all sounded like gibberish to me.  I realized I have been wrapped up in feeling overwhelmed by the fact that like diabetes, being a parent is a never ending job without vacations and to quote my husband, “24/7 on call duties”.  Being a parent to two of the same age feels more like crowd control and less like parenting.  It’s tricky reading a book when two little people want to be in the center of your lap.  Cleaning up 6 meal messes a day seems pointless.  Mediating between two children who have an attention span of 5 seconds feels impossible.  Brushing teeth while one kid is trying to get into the toilet and the other is about to fall into the tub makes me want to pull my hair out-mostly because it happens every day.  The same part that is so hard about diabetes is the hardest part about raising twins.  If it’s not one, it’s the other.  In other words, it’s a nonstop type of hectic.  You may not have twins, but you know this well.

It’s not a good rut to fall into, feeling overwhelmed.  It usually means one reacts to situations with more impatience, emotions, and thoughtlessness.  And it means one can miss important or meaningful moments throughout the day. 

I thought about how this can be applied to our diabetes management.  I remember a time,  years ago, when I was nonstop overwhelmed by my diabetes.  Every minute of every day I was caught up in just surviving.  Just like one might if they were thrown out into the jungle.  Only instead of worrying about tigers or snakes, I would worry about passing out from a low blood sugar, or having my legs cut off one day, or going blind, or not being able to have kids, or not passing the biology exam because of all these worries not letting me concentrate!  When my blood sugar was low I’d overeat sugar and when high I’d give too much insulin or not even figure out how much I needed, I would just give a random amount in a rage of fury.  If I didn’t like the number on my meter when I tested I would mentally throw my hands up in the air in despair.  The way I do sometimes when my twins are pushing my sanity to the brink. 

Eventually I stopped feeling so overwhelmed by every little thing having to do with my diabetes.  I was calm enough to think more clearly.  I would notice trends in my blood sugars and insulin usage.  I came to realize that not being overwhelmed increased my focus.  This really helped my overall diabetes management.

I suspect paying more attention to this will also help my overall parenting skills, too.  Just today, instead of assuming the kids wouldn’t help me with cleaning the house (because ya know, they’re so little) I tried to see if they’d get into something. 

I was amazed again when they got into picking up their toys and cleaning the windows with me.  Obviously they can’t clean windows too efficiently but, the thing is, they were entertained and an hour of the day went by smoothly.  And just like with diabetes, few hours go by that way.  So it was a big deal :)

When you hit bottom there is no where to go but up

 

Something I’ve been thinking about lately has been fueled by reading what fellow diabetes writers/bloggers have been saying.  So many of us feel like we’re living life on the edge and in fact, I would say that living with type 1 diabetes IS the epitome of living life on the edge.  It would be more fun to do by choice like these brave/foolish people but instead we are literally forced to make life/death decisions all day long.  And yes, we could say that we all make those decisions-like when we drive (shall I stop at this red light or continue?) but, the truth is that we’re walking on a tight rope for a living.  It’s a breeding ground for those moments movies like to dramatize the most.  Those moments when we are at our limit.  I think this is when we are our weakest and our strongest.

Sometimes we are spiraling down…down…until something happens and finally stops the spiraling.  Why?  Because we’ve hit rock bottom.  I refer to rock bottom as a way of saying someone has hit a wall, emotionally or mentally.  For example, denial often ends when one finally gets forced to snap out of it and although they’ve now reached a low point, it’s also a turning point and the beginning of healthy and necessary change. 

When our diabetes management routine isn’t working for us we will often go days, weeks, or months plagued by it.  We’ll complain that our numbers are not where we want them to be and we’ll do our best to chase our high and low blood sugars, but we’re not necessarily focused on troubleshooting.  We’re too busy living.  Besides, we’re getting by alright.  But eventually we hit a wall and are finally so intensely frustrated or upset that we break down and have the chance to look at our problem from a new perspective and with a sense of despair and urgency.  This sounds awful but it’s really not.

The idea to write what you read on this website came to me about six years ago after I spent 48 hours being closed up in my room.  I had finally had enough of my high blood sugars and my general state of health and felt so frustrated I cried for oh I don’t know, maybe 4 hours straight.  Funny thing happened afterwards…all my frustration was gone (due to exhaustion) and a sense of calm came over me and I thought to myself “When you hit bottom there is no where to go but up”.  I laid on the floor of my messy room-messy because I threw everything all over the place in a fit of emotional fury and that is when I came up with the idea for a book I would one day want to write.  Thus, the idea for The Girl’s Guide to Diabetes was born. 

There have been many of what I call “healthy breakdowns” and they have all led to some substantial improvement in my life.  I think it’s natural for humans although it’s probably a more frequent occurrence for us diabetics than for the rest of the population.  The key, I think is to realize that when you feel your lowest you are standing on the edge of something big.  You are facing an opportunity to face your mistakes logically (instead of emotionally), to forgive yourself, and to choose a different plan of action. 

Many great things in this world have been accomplished by those who have been pushed to their limits and forced to make important decisions.  So as diabetics, maybe we should think of ourselves as people with huge potential…

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