Tag Archives: diabetes and work

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?”

Smile

Ask Yourself this Question Each Day

 

What is my motivation today?  The answer to this question is what carries me from day to day with type 1 diabetes.  The days I don’t do well with this disease are often the days I forget to pinpoint for myself, just what I’m doing all this work for.  I know I’m doing it for big health reasons, but those reasons are not immediate enough.  I need a motivator that is close by and one I can reap rewards from really quickly. 

For example:  My husband and children had a cold last week.  I’ve never not caught a cold from them but after a few days noticed the three of them had passed the cold around and I was (gasp!) still feeling fine.  So for those couple of days my motivation each day for keeping my blood sugars in line was to not get sick.  If my blood sugar was high, my immune system would be weaker and perhaps I’d catch the cold.  So all day long I focused on keeping good blood sugar levels.  A week has gone by and I’m out of the clear! 

Another example:  On some days, my husband and I take our kids out after he gets home from work.  My motivation then is to have controlled blood sugars so that I can feel good enough to take our kids for an outing.  They’re 20 months old and mighty difficult to manage these days so when my sugars are off, I worry I won’t have the energy it requires to take care of them and so we don’t go anywhere.  The kids love going out and I’d hate to be the reason they didn’t go somewhere, so I make sure my blood sugars are where they need to be.  When we do have to cancel a trip because of me, I know it’s not often and therefore I feel ok with it.

When I was working outside of the home, my motivation each day was to be on top of my game at work.  I didn’t want to look weak by dealing with too many lows or highs and I wanted to maintain the quantity and quality of my work load. 

Obviously, there will be days where nothing seems motivating enough to deal with diabetes.  On these days you just have to forgive yourself and take things one step at a time.  There will be days where diabetes will just deal too tricky a card and numbers will be out of whack.  Don’t worry about those days.  Just do what you have to do to get back in range. 

But on all the other days, ask yourself what you want, what your motivation for having good blood sugars is.  Then use this energy to make it happen.  The snowball effect happens when you do this and more health and more opportunities come rolling your way!

Fear of How We’re Perceived

 

I once worked for the “call before you dig” company in my state of Virginia.  I was one of two or three people that would answer calls in Spanish and write up a “ticket” for those who needed to dig somewhere, be it for gardening or a new commercial building.  We realized over time that the laws about digging safely in Virginia were not being effectively communicated to the Spanish speaking community.  This was noted as a major problem because of the large number of construction/landscaping work that is done by Spanish speakers in Virginia.  Employers would risk going out of business as of a result of large fines and people would get hurt as a result of unsafe excavation.  So I was invited by the State Corporate Commission to travel to Northern Virginia and give an educational talk to about 100 Spanish speaking contractors.  We hoped these men would get the info they needed and spread the knowledge to their employees. 

At first, my big worry was my stage fright and the fact that I have never spoken much Spanish.  It’s generally embarrassing to have been born in South America and not have a solid grasp of my first language.  Anyway, once I translated the power point presentation, It suddenly hit me.  I’d have to manage my diabetes in a room full of Hispanic men while dealing with major nerves!  Honestly, it was quite intimidating.  I love speaking in front of a crowd but I get terribly nervous.  Sick to my stomach and dizzy and sweating nervous.  This always affects my blood sugars, too. 

I prepared the best I could and luckily, wasn’t going alone.  A friend and coworker whom I had been teaching Spanish to, managed to pick up a lot very quickly and would be going with me to help out.  The night before the presentation however, my boss and my coworker friend and I went out for ice cream.  Conveniently so, my insulin pump, which I was on at the time, decided to start beeping and reported back: “no delivery”.  I wasn’t getting any insulin and had already ate half of my enormous ice cream.  We headed back to the hotel and I ran up to my room to change my site and give insulin.  My blood sugar rose over the next 3 hours.  Eventually, I gave an insulin shot and took out my infusion site once again.  The second bent cannula of the night.  Great.  My blood sugar was around 400 and I worried I wouldn’t be good to go in the morning.  I had also just used my last infusion set so there was that worry.  Luckily, around midnight my blood sugar started stabilizing and I was able to go to sleep by 1:30am. 

The next morning my blood sugar was fine but I felt dehydrated and tired from the night before.  I had only slept five hours.  I was moody.  All I could think of was, “As if it wasn’t bad enough that I’m nervous talking in front of others and lack ease in using technical excavation terms in Spanish, I have to worry about my blood sugars, too!”  I took a few deep breathes and decided to have breakfast.  I was already shaky from being nervous, I didn’t want to be trembling from hunger, as well.  I didn’t eat much but what I did eat was carbohydrate loaded.  Right before the presentation was to start, I stood in a room full of contractors, many of whom were looking at their watches.  They wanted it over with, they had work to get to.  And what was I doing?  Going over what I was going to say?  No, I was sipping a juice box to fix a low.  Why did this bother me?  Because ever since I was 6 years old, when the teacher asked for a strong young man to help her carry books, I raised my hand really high in defiance because “Girls are strong, too!”.  I don’t know why but I’ve spent my whole life making it a point to prove that women are as capable as men.  So I just didn’t want to come off as precious or vulnerable, drinking juice from a juice box, speaking Spanish in an English accent to a crowd that intimidated me.  I wanted them to take what I had to say seriously, because it was serious.  I had just got done translating for some contractors who got in trouble (meaning they paid HUGE fines) for not abiding excavation laws and they made “little women” jokes in front of me.  While I was translating for them.  I suppose that experience kind of traumatized me and I was not going to have that happen again.

So I finished my juice, threw it in the trash, got out my meter and tested in front of everyone.  I wasn’t planning to but, I needed to tell myself to be confident and this was a way to force that upon myself.  By one simple and blatant act.  One man saw me and said to the man next to him, (and I’m translating) “Whoa, did you see that?  She pricked her finger and then licked the blood!”  I put my meter away and waited for the introduction.  Then, instead of my polite and gentle script, I veered off a little.  I mentioned that obviously, I didn’t have a clue how hard they’re jobs were.  I wasn’t aware of the challenges they faced day in and day out.  All I knew was some of them had been losing jobs, losing companies, losing money, and an unfortunate few had lost their lives.  So I asked they listen to what we had to say to them, bear with our Spanish, and just know that in the end, we weren’t giving them the information for our benefit, it was all about them.  A couple men got kind of wide eyed and nodded, respectfully.  The presentation went well. 

Luckily, a lot of men had questions-a great sign they were paying attention.  Some expressed gratitude for us presenting them with the information in Spanish.  One man said, “I was nervous today!  I felt like my business wasn’t going to last because I couldn’t understand the legal stuff and I’ve been feeling so left out.” 

I thought about how a big part of my nervousness that day had to do with dealing with my diabetes and how it made me feel different in a public, exposed way and how It was going to possibly cause my work not to go well.  I realized the people I was presenting to were feeling much the same way.  I wish I had known that before biting all my nails the night before.

Either way I now know confidence, true or faked, is very useful.  Sometimes, one of the biggest barriers between us and our health is how we fear we may be publicly perceived.  It’s happened to me quite a lot, especially when I was a teenager. 

To the non-diabetic bystander, testing blood sugar in front of a crowd doesn’t seem like a big deal.  Yet, you know what I’m talking about.  We’ve all been there.  Maybe during a first date, you didn’t feel comfortable whipping out your meter on the table with food or perhaps you prefer to deal with your diabetes related issues in the restroom at work so no one sees what you’re doing and think you’re not capable of your job.  The thing is, as valid as our feelings are, our health isn’t subjective.  It’s going to respond to what we do, when we do it.  So hopefully we are able to do whatever we must for our health.  It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it-we’re worth it. 

And just as I realized the day of the presentation, my fears of being the different one, the one left out, were not just my own.

The Power of Thoughts Part 1

 

We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails

~Author Unknown

When a fellow diabetic asks me for my biggest piece of advice for improving diabetes management, I say, “Monitor your thoughts”.  Our thoughts dictate how we feel about things and guide our actions.  Why else does an overly negative person say they “always have bad luck” and then actually always have bad luck?  The stars are not aligning against them.  God is not punishing them.  It’s just that their thoughts are subtly guiding all of their decisions, great and small, and since these thoughts are negative, a lot of their decisions are not the right ones.

Surely we can all come up with examples of how our thoughts or our attitude towards something blocked the positive outcome we might have been hoping for, no?  Or we have examples about how our positive thoughts produced a wonderful outcome, right?

Well, here is a personal example that I have a hard time forgetting.  It taught me a lot about how much power I actually have when I use my thoughts for good. 

Not too long ago I was going on 5 years at a job I truly hated.  It made me physically ill because it emotionally distraught me.  Why?  Just like anyone else I have a personality type which suits me well for certain tasks and not so well for others.  So it just so happens I was working at a job that completely left my weaknesses vulnerable and didn’t use my strengths at all.  So naturally, it felt like abuse.  And my self esteem took a good beating.  Ideally we all do a job we’re good at right?  To the outsider, it didn’t make sense why I’d have such a problem working answering phone calls all day, but for me, a phone ring made me shudder and almost go into a panic attack.

I felt that I couldn’t leave the job because I needed insurance and would have a hard time finding another job.  One day I felt I’d had enough and thought to myself, “I deserve a better job and I am going to find it!”.  I updated my resume and sent it out to several places.  A few days later I got a call for an interview for a sales job.  If you knew me well you’d know I would be the world’s WORST sales person.  I feel that working a sales job is like bothering people.  And yet when someone is selling to me they aren’t bothering me at all.  Strange huh?  Anyway, I just wanted to jump out of the job that had me stuck for 5 years.  So I decided to go to the interview and present the character of a sales person.  Before walking into the office I thought to myself, “I’m going to make them hire me, in fact, I’ve already got this job”. 

I immediately radiated confidence.  I made sure to answer questions with assurance in my voice, speaking articulately, loud, and clear.  I made eye contact and then told a story.  In other words, I was going to prove right then and there to the supervisor interviewing me, that I could sell.  I pulled out of my memory the fact that my grandfather once made a very big and expensive sell of a product that didn’t exist-yet.  His confidence and negotiating skills made him a successful business man in his day.  So I told this particular successful sale story.  And I told the supervisor who was clearly enthralled, “I inherited his genes”.  I finished my story, told him I wouldn’t let the company down, and then shook his hand.  He left the room for a moment and came back and said, “We’ve decided to hire you on the spot!”  <Sigh> I did it.  And now I genuinely didn’t want to let them down.

Doing something like that once gives you a boost.  I still wasn’t out of the clear though you know?  I knew I couldn’t really sell.  I mean, I was very good at selling, and the pay was good, but it didn’t come natural.  This means it made me tired, stressed, anxious, and plain unhappy.  I told myself I was going to quickly get another job, one that suited me a bit more and would at least give me more perks ( you know to make up for the fact that it wasn’t my dream job).  Just a month later I heard about a job opening from an acquaintance.  Her workplace was looking for a bilingual candidate for a human resources position in a manufacturing plant.  I sent in my application and went to interview.  I didn’t realize I’d have to interview in Spanish.  My Spanish is pretty decent but, the facility I have with it is in regards to language used at home.  So I can talk about food and household items all day but, terms in a workplace setting?  No way, Jose.  I also have an English accent when I speak Spanish.  So my nerves hit me.  I was told I’d have three interviews in a row.  I told myself, “You’re Spanish is fine, just let them know how hardworking and positive you are.”  The first interview was easy.  We talked about our love for our families a lot.  The second a bit more intimidating because it was via video conference due to the fact that my interviewer had just lost his father.  I didn’t feel right talking to this man about my working abilities knowing he was in great pain and had just buried his father the day before.  I let him do most of the talking.

The third was with the CEO of the company.  This man was intimidating!  He questioned me rather persistently about why I didn’t graduate college yet.  He said this was a sign I wasn’t very focused or ambitious enough.  I asked him if this was his greatest worry with me.  He explained that I had none of the technical skills or education they were looking for.  I realized I wanted to “win” this job because it would give me a unique corporate office experience and a good salary and paid college tuition and great health insurance.  Oh, and I’d get to practice my Spanish and travel abroad.  So once again I put my thoughts in line with my goal, “Sysy, you are going to make this man think that if he doesn’t hire you he’s made a big mistake.” 

So that is what I did.  I sat forward in my seat and told the CEO about my type 1 diabetes.  I didn’t tell any lies, I just took a chance on giving more personal info than one normally would on an interview.  I told him how difficult diabetes made life and how regardless of this I had made good grades at school, stayed a hopeful person, and been very active in several different sports.  I explained that my college experience coincided with the deaths of 3 friends and my diabetes management being out of control.  I wanted to finish college.  I told him I didn’t want pity and that my diabetes management was much better.  I just wanted a chance to prove that even though my experience with diabetes had taken me off of the path I wanted to follow, I was willing to work THAT much harder at whatever it is I did in life.  I didn’t monitor my voice.  I let it sound off passionately because I knew that an employer wants to hire someone who cares, who wants to work hard, who wants to earn trust, and one who is willing to learn.  It would have been wrong had I been lying but the truth is, I wanted the chance to work hard and learn everything I should already know for the job and then go above and beyond.  He said that the personality test I took showed them I wasn’t quite right for being a training specialist.  I told him he was right but that I needed the job and he needed someone who would give 110% and speak Spanish.  He had asked if I wanted to do the interview in English and I said, “No that’s ok, you probably want to be reassured of my Spanish”.  He smiled and nodded.

I was hired and later on learned he had been very impressed with my admittance of having diabetes.  He said most people would have been too worried to admit to a medical condition which might make them appear weak to an ignorant employer.  I don’t know how much good my words did that day, I think more than anything the attitude portrayed was what got me a job I was definitely not qualified for. 

To my surprise the job wasn’t rocket science.  No college degree needed, except on paper, of course.  The really hard part was…you know, that it wasn’t suitable for me.  So I wasn’t completely happy.  I struggled with office politics and felt a calling to get away from the sometimes petty nature of a corporate office and do something I loved for once.  Like this website.  Without expecting to I got pregnant and because I just so happened to have twins, I stayed home and left that company for good.  A lot less money, but money isn’t everything. 

Attitude and positive thoughts, are.  They help get us where we need to be for as long as we need to be there.  My pregnancy went well in part because I was a salary worker who could take a lot of time in the bathroom when nauseated and was given a lot of flexibility with work hours.  The truth is, had I stayed at that job answering phones and been pregnant while working there…the stress and the sheer inflexibility of an hourly job would have hurt my health. 

If there is something in your life you want to change, monitor your thoughts so they’re positive and empowered and let them lead the way.

Diabetes catch 22: Working just for insurance

      Having diabetes can often be the same as being pushed into a corner with no good way out. 

It can be harder for a diabetic to work because of health complications and challenges and yet if you don’t work, you don’t have insurance.

I cried and cried over this years ago because the reality of it caught me off guard.  I graduated high school and in a sickly state, began college.  As a result I didn’t do well during my first 2 years at college and next thing I knew I was dropped from my parents insurance policy.  All I knew to do was find a job in order to have insurance.  After a year I found I couldn’t work full time and do school (still sick at this point) so my college opportunity was postponed. 

Next thing I knew I couldn’t follow my dream career path because I was busy working a job that made me even more sick (because I hated it) and therefore was unable to leave it since I relied on it’s insurance for safety. 

This cycle is extremely frustrating.  Currently I’m under my husband’s insurance and I work from home (while taking care of twin babies).  Now that my health has been regained, I am busy writing a book to keep me out of the danger zone.  What if my husband were to lose his job? 

So the message here is don’t settle or waste time in despair.  Work on your health and work on your passions.  You need your health and you need to not sit on your laurels just wishing life would be easier for us, diabetics.  Make your situation better for yourself. 

Begin today.  And if its tomorrow and you didn’t begin yesterday, begin today!

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