Tag Archives: life with type 1 diabetes

Diabetes, the Great Provocateur Can Make You Better

One of the reasons I look at a diabetes diagnosis as tragic is that it’s going to immediately prod at and expose all your weaknesses. You’ll suffer more than another person who lacks as much discipline as you, who also doesn’t have supportive family or friends, and you’ll particularly suffer if you are short on agency (and many of us raised in the last 30 years are, in my opinion). This is precisely the same reason diabetes can make you better at all you do because by knowing your weaknesses and having very clear motivations, you can actually improve yourself considerably.

A diabetes diagnosis is a great opportunity which is hoisted upon you forcefully and not meeting it head-on spells out a certain kind of doom. It’s undoubtedly harsh.

If you’re not organized, your diabetes management skills will constantly be undermined by your lack of preparedness and routine structure involving your supplies, medications, and activities.

If you don’t have peaceful relationships, you’ll be distracted from a big priority you have–your immediate and longterm wellbeing via blood sugar management.

If you lack financial resources, you’re going to be extremely challenged by a diabetes diagnosis and will have even greater financial strain. You’ll feel resentful towards your diagnosis because instead of affording x you now have to use that money for diabetes a-z.

If you lack agency, you will struggle to take responsibility for your life and may feel like a victim of diabetes and in many cases avoid doing all within your power to stay very healthy and manage diabetes successfully.

If you lack supportive people in your life, you’re going to feel lonelier than ever by living with a condition that makes you do unnatural things like give injections, draw blood with a lancing device, or save your own life with a substance you otherwise try to avoid or limit and/or carefully cover with insulin.

If you can’t defer gratification and have some self-discipline, your blood sugars are most likely going to be all over the place. Then you’ll feel bad, suffer at work and in your relationships, acquire anxiety and depression, and start a spiraling descent. Others will have the same character flaws as you but won’t be plummeting and you’ll be very tempted to blame everything on your diabetes.

If you are already depressed or anxious, a diabetes diagnosis is going to put a bucket of salt on your wound and make it that much harder to get out of bed in the morning.

I could go on but you understand. That’s because none of us is perfect and we all have something we’d like to improve about ourselves. And we all know how that something hurts our diabetes management. If we have too many of these challenges, then diabetes becomes unbearable to deal with. Your challenges were steep before? Now try surmounting them with this severe agitator compounding each and every struggle.

No, it’s not fair.

But it’s the reality and you’ve not got time to dwell on how unfair it is. We get nowhere unless we face reality and so I think that if you can manage to embrace a diabetes diagnosis and look at it as the beginning arc of your hero’s journey, you stand a very good chance of using diabetes as a trigger to finally tend to some bad habits or things you’ve been neglecting about yourself. Rise up to meet the new reality. Is it time to actually lose the weight? Use diabetes as one of your motivators. Have you lacked self-responsibility and maturity? Now you’re going to grow up. Diabetes can serve as a catalyst. It’s so bad that you’re going to act and propel yourself forward and up, up, up.

Even if you were diagnosed 20 years ago, you can still decide to one day make diabetes be ruled by you instead of the other way around. You’re going to use discipline, you’re not going to make any more excuses, you’re going to be in control of your actions and thoughts, you’re going to work hard, you’re going to be determined, you’re going to dig deep and show yourself what you’re made of. Diabetes may provoke your weaknesses, but that means you get the chance to face and conquer them. You stand to lose if you don’t but don’t focus on that–you stand to gain so much! Jot down exposed weaknesses and tackle them one by one.

One day you’ll look back and see that what you can do actually surpasses the actions of those who haven’t been challenged by one of the most silently gruesome and exhausting chronic illnesses out there.

To be successful with this condition, those weaknesses must be addressed and dealt with. You’ve been chosen to stop at a fork in the road and either fall into some guaranteed level of misery or live really healthy and be amazing in terms of what you can get yourself to accomplish. Not a lot of grey area may exist for you or me but great things lie ahead if we let type 1 diabetes change us for the better.

Three Weeks Eating a Carnivore Diet as a Type 1 Diabetic

I have been eating a “carnivore diet” for three weeks now. Today starts week four.

The cravings hit pretty hard during week two where I prowled, ironically, like a lion on the hunt. Except I was hunting for anything but meat.

I learned something interesting recently. I don’t like the taste of meat. I love the taste of sauces, salt, spices, and herbs. I’ve always seasoned my meat and ate it with other foods like vegetables or tomatoes. Not doing this makes it very dull.

I also learned that apparently, I derive quite a bit of joy from food. So when going a few weeks only eating meat with salt (and mostly beef for that matter), I have had to confront all that I have otherwise used food to cope with.

Anxious? Sad? Worried? Enjoy a tasty meal or snack! Not doing so meant sitting down on the couch utterly dumbfounded, trying to figure out how to deal with my feelings in another way. I thought I had resolved food issues by eating primarily meat and veggies for a while and feeling good and happy about that, but I guess there was, even more, I didn’t know about.

Week three went more smoothly. I only ate hamburger patties–two to four per day. That and coffee with a little cream. I have not been hungry. I have not had any gastrointestinal upset. I have had way more time than usual thanks to meals being super easy to prepare.

I haven’t been checking my blood pressure enough to note changes so I’ll be doing that this next week.

Finally Losing Weight Without Hunger

Something I’ve been pleasantly surprised with is that despite eating the same number of calories as before, I’m now losing weight after I had come to a standstill. Earlier this year I had lost weight by eating low fat and low carb for a few weeks. This was very difficult. I lost 5 pounds and couldn’t continue being hungry and tired.

In three weeks I’ve lost 5 pounds without ever being hungry and while getting adequate protein just the same. Super weird! I wonder if it will continue to work that way and if I can finally get past my lifelong plateau? We’ll see.

The fat I’ve lost is definitely in the right place. My clothes all fit the same except at the waist.

Other Notable Changes

I’ve been warmer than usual, maybe due to burning a bunch of calories. I don’t have to sleep with socks anymore which is nice. My feet are just warmer.

I’ve finally stopped all the crazy sweating. Maybe that was part of the adaption process?

I tried walking 3 miles pretty quickly and found I had high energy for it.

My blood sugar levels have been crazy good. I got emotional a few times in the past few weeks because I would go all day with my blood sugar staying between 80-90 mg/dl–even during exercise, and it made me remember what it was like not to have diabetes. This part is heaven.

If you’re burnout by type 1 diabetes, I can’t advise you to do anything, but I will say that in the future, I will personally be doing this diet to cope with burnout while keeping great control of blood sugars. Please note that insulin needs may change dramatically and you’ll want to know how to manage those before attempting.

I also have noticed that I’m less congested in the morning. I used to always have post-nasal drip in the mornings due to a plethora of allergies but not now. My voice and my eyes have been clearer upon waking. I no longer sound like Marge Simpson in the morning.

Geez, I wonder what food was doing that to me?

Side Observations

Ancient Stoicism teaches that if you feel you can’t live without something, you’re a slave to it and should thus practice living without that something so that you can rise above the fixation or addiction or whatever it is.

Let’s not go the path of wondering if it means that we should live without a spouse or child or basic needs.

I’ve been wondering if I have been relying too much on food to serve as an emotional crutch.

Forced instead, to properly deal with feelings has been useful in identifying things that need my attention. I think it’s pretty common for us to feel overwhelmed, eat food we enjoy, and never really pinpoint just what is upsetting us, which then means we aren’t able to act on it.

Things that are upsetting us are very often lying behind something else–which is more of a trigger.

For example, I would say that pet peeves that make some people go bonkers are mere triggers for something entirely different that is seriously bothering a person. Like, really, you can’t handle how your partner loads the dishwasher? I think you’re anxious or upset about something else.

In Stoicism, the challenge you’re facing is your path. Are you having a hard time managing your diabetes and is that the center of your issues? Well, then your focus should be figuring out how to manage your diabetes. Are you continually failing at trying to avoid overeating sugar? You may want to live entirely without it.

People cite eating disorders with this line of thinking. I don’t know enough about eating disorders, even though I used to have very disordered eating before I learned to manage my diabetes, but according to the definition of eating disorders, society, overall, is not doing too well with food. So many have a constant unwelcome preoccupation with food and overeat it. Is that disordered eating?

I love food like a gourmet foodie nerd but is there a reason I seek that kind of flavor stimulation? Is that reason positive or negative or is this an overcomplication of the fact that people enjoy life? What happens when we enjoy it to the point of becoming miserable because of the consequences?

If dietary sugar generally has a negative function in the body, and research seems to show this, I don’t see how a radical avoidance of it can be wrong for those who struggle with cravings or overconsumption of sweet foods or merely want optimal health. You can’t have too much health or happiness (or even loyalty from your partner) because those are good things. And you can’t actually have too much of a good thing–an objectively good thing, that is. You can’t say sleep is good, but we can overdo it. The right amount of quality sleep for an individual is what’s good.

My health challenges are a mystery, so I’m playing Sherlock Holmes and trying to go about deducing a better outcome. So far I’ve had positive results from this diet, even though I don’t love what I’m eating. It does satisfy, and I enjoy not feeling hungry, so in that sense, it’s effortless to continue.

I will update you again, soon.

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.)

Monday 2015 Diabetes Blog Week Post I CAN

Click for the I Can – Monday 5/11 Link List.
In the UK, there was a diabetes blog theme of “I can…”  that participants found wonderfully empowering.  So lets kick things off this year by looking at the positive side of our lives with diabetes.  What have you or your loved one accomplished, despite having diabetes, that you weren’t sure you could?  Or what have you done that you’ve been particularly proud of?  Or what good thing has diabetes brought into your life?  (Thank you to the anonymous person who submitted this topic suggestion.)

 

Happy to be back after two years…

 

When I was 10 years old, I felt a very strong sensation bubbling up inside of me that I can now identify as drive and motivation.  For what?  I wasn’t sure.  I just felt a seriously strong longing to do something important, something that would help people.  This intensified when my sister was diagnosed with type 1 that year.  The most memorable dream of my entire life was right after her diagnosis.  I wrote it down.  Basically I was in the Amazon rain forest, just south of where I was born, looking for a cure for cancer (interesting that cancer be the disease I was curing in my dream-I think this had to do with all the talk of curing cancer from some unknown plant in the jungle at that time).  Anyway, my memory of this dream is freakishly long and detailed.  When I woke up I thought it was a sign I was going to at least work in some way or other to help others.

Then I was diagnosed with type 1 (the same year).  I felt ok for the first 6 months.  I was driven to succeed.  Then reality set it.  Diabetes was a bitch.  And I was stuck with it until someone lived my dream (in my child’s mind) and cured it?  Oh no no no this was not ok.  I got negative about it pretty quickly.  I felt my personality changing.  With every passing year I was further and further from myself.  I couldn’t help anyone-I couldn’t help me.

In my early 20’s, after depressing times due to friends dying and other losses and major fear over my physical and mental health, I began to turn around.  I tried to come back to myself.  That really was the way I thought of it.  I would remember how I was a positive kid, with a ton of spirit and wonder, and with a yearning to act on the compassion I felt for others.

So to wrap this up what I’m saying is that I can be ME despite my diabetes and because my journey has been as I described, that feels rather victorious.  I know diabetes can pull us away from all the good parts of ourselves with constant stress and suffering.  This is something I will constantly continue to struggle with.  But, I feel very much myself these days and for that I’m quite grateful.

Diabetes isn’t a Drama Queen

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The other night, I realized my kids had ate my glucose tablets so I reached under my bed for the emergency bag of gummy candies I have stashed there.  I frantically tore the bag open and started stuffing my mouth in frustration.  Alex studied me for a moment and said, “Are you ok?”

Through a mouthful of sticky, fruit shaped, red 40 dyed High Fructose Corn Syrup poison I muttered, “I hate these lows, the ones that shoot down quickly.”  Then as beads of sweat came down my forehead and my heart raced I said, “It literally feels like death is coming to get me.”

Alex looked at me sympathetically and said frankly, “Well, that’s pretty much what’s happening, isn’t it?”

I’m usually a tad dramatic but this time and many other times, diabetes rises to the occasion.

Diabetes isn’t a drama queen.  And we’re not drama queens or kings for living with it.

This stuff is for real.

My Reason

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I take care of myself for my husband and children.  For my parents, brothers, sisters, and friends.  For my extended family and friends composed of the DOC.  Last but not least I take care of myself for me.

Have a fabulous Friday everyone!

Remember, love and respect yourself and the rest will follow.

XOXO