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The power of effort

Every morning I tell myself, it’s a new beginning when it comes to my life with diabetes. No matter the circumstances at bedtime, waking up is always a fresh start. But I didn’t always see things like that. There was a time not so long ago that I dragged the past onto the present and my mornings were spent in the gloom of dreadful numbers, too many lows or other diabetes related disasters. It’s taken effort and diligence to see things differently along with the help of health care providers with an open mindset.

I’ve talked before about the indoctrination that happens in the Diabetes Online Community. How finding what seems to be the right support group on Facebook or Twitter can turn into a place where one can feel shamed and hopeless. This happened to me.

After being told to read low carb books, to avoid this or that, to make sure my time in range was between such and such and comparing myself to others and their perfect flat lines and A1c’s, I started to feel like everything I did was doomed to fail. What made matters worse was when my diabetes educator confirmed that my plan to stick to avocados, eggs and five green vegetables was a good idea because my numbers were so good.

I didn’t realise I could ‘fire’ my CDE, leave the Facebook group and STOP reading those books. I didn’t know that there were other answers because I wanted what I was doing so desperately to work. Things weren’t as desperate as they felt. I was so busy telling myself a story about my diabetes management and what it meant to live with diabetes that I couldn’t be honest with myself.

There is the reality of living with diabetes, and the story I was telling myself. In fact, my relationship with diabetes seemed completely incongruent with how I approach the rest of my life.

I see life as whole and complete. That there is no separation or conflict other than the one I create. The sense of I, the idea I have of myself, creates the problem. Not the external world. Being alive with this knowledge and actualising it in relationship to the very real challenges of living with diabetes has been my effort, called tapas in Sanskrit.

Luckily life is not static and being someone who has always been willing to try and try again even when it feels challenging things have shifted.

But not without tapas.

Before I’d fully decided to put in any conscious effort to see things differently I found myself being drawn to a post on Instagram or a tweet that made sense.  I’d read about someone trying a different way of eating or tweaking their bolus or basal rates. Or that they’d found a new HCP or tried out telehealth with a new diabetes clinic out of state. Then someone recommended a book that had helped them or an enlightening podcast.

Instead of watching everyone else try new approaches I took the plunge. I hired a new health care team, I tried a diet much more conducive to my mindset, one that aligned with my core values. I reached out to a diabetes specific psychologist to manage the accumulated daily stress and after making those changes I started to put in the effort to implement their suggestions.

That meant, weeks of trial and error to get my insulin to carb ratio right for a variety of foods. Being willing to experiment with more adventurous exercise. Daring to go low or high even when it felt terrifying. Reframing what I told myself about my A1c and my time in range and quitting Facebook groups that weren’t aligned with my expanded view.

The effort has slowly but surely brought rewards. I’ve been able to eat a wide variety of foods again including my favourite, sourdough toast with avocado. I’ve been on some adventurous walks in wild Africa. I’ve felt more relaxed about the lows and highs and even with a few setbacks have bounced back more quickly. Most importantly I’ve developed strategies that feel sustainable and I keep reaching out for support when I get stuck.

I may be juggling cats while riding a unicycle on a leaky boat in a stormy ocean but OMG I got this!

With great respect

Rachel

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The balm that frees the world

Everywhere out there I feel trauma. Standing in the chasm is terrifying and it hurts. How can we let these insane things happen? How can we be in the midst of what looks like another world war? What can I as just one of 8 billion people do?

Practically I’ve been donating to various charities like this one spare a rose, and offering my services to raise money for flood recovery here. And I’ve been sharing as many of the stories of real people going through these harrowing times to raise awareness on social media. On an inner level I have been practicing this meditation daily. Being and beaming light to those in need.

As good as it feels to help and be part of a larger community willing and wanting to serve others in crisis I keep thinking about the broader and bigger picture. How can we truly ‘be the change’ we wish to see?

My Vedanta master in his talks on the nature of conflict puts it simply. “Countries don’t fight, countrymen fight. Beliefs don’t fight, believers fight. Idea’s don’t fight, the ones having the ideas fight. Countries, beliefs, ideas are all innocent.”

The one wielding the sword makes the scar. And where is the battlefield? In our own heads. A war begins with one thought, which becomes an idea, and an ideology. If my idea takes a hold of me, it can take a hold of others and become a shared idea. Shared ideas of community, growth, and service or shared ideas of conquest, suppression and slavery. It’s all up to us.

The problem isn’t even our ideas. The problem is we haven’t a clue who the ideas belong to. We don’t know who we are. We don’t even know what we’re doing here. We’re walking around on the most beautiful planet, in a creation where absolutely everything is given to us, with the ability to enquire into the inner workings of any aspect of creation I.e. the composition of a banana. Yet we never enquire into the nature of ourselves, the enquirer.

The conflict begins when I take everything that I have to be who I am. Starting with an idea that I’ve created of myself. “The sense of I”. I am so and so, and I have these beliefs and I like these things and I do this stuff.

There’s only one thing causing the problem. Ignorance. I haven’t a clue who I am. I know who I ‘think’ I am but who I actually am, eludes me.

I am innocently ignorant.

As my teacher shares all that’s needed is education. Knowledge.  Knowledge is the balm that frees the world.

with great respect…
Rachel

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A meditation for Peace

Peace, such a simple word with huge ramifications.  Asked to describe peace what would you say? Being still? Feeling content? As sense of safety and security? Unending happiness, bliss and trust?

Whatever words describe peace, peace is something we know intrinsically. Why? Because we experience it every night in deep sleep. Peace is the very nature of who we are. Which is why we look for it in the world. We can’t bear situations that are not peaceful.

You can’t ever reach for something you don’t know. It’s impossible.  Like striving to climb Mt. Everest when you’ve never heard of the mountain and have no knowledge of climbing is pointless. First, you are taught how to climb, then you hear about Mt. Everest. Then you set your goal.

It’s the same with peace. The word peace describes a feeling, an inherently familiar state of being. But, before you learn about peace, you already are the living, breathing peace itself. Everyone and everything in the creation is peace. Just like everything is love, stillness and happiness.

The confusion sets in when I see peace as something separate to me. Something to gain or fight for. And certainly, as events are unfolding right now on the planet we are in shock to discover how tenuous peace is.

When one person can affect the stability and peace of millions in an instant. That’s insane! The question I am asking right now is where does peace go in war? Does the peace disappear? Do we need to reclaim peace, or can we remember that peace isn’t outside of us nor inside of us? It is the very nature of humanity.

A few years back John and I were in an unexpected earthquake. One minute we were sunbathing on the beach, the next the ground was shaking. I freaked and ran for the car yelling at John to drop everything because a tidal wave was coming.

John, way calmer, grabbed essentials like computers and clothes while telling me to relax. As much as he knew we needed to drive off the coast he reminded me that creation was just fine. Looking around at the birds, the bees and trees, nothing had changed. The ground shook for a minute, but I was the one shaking and going crazy and freaking out. The peace had never left me or creation. I had left the peace.

In this very stressful time, with ongoing challenges and uncertainty. The crisis may not be on your personal doorstep, i.e. you might not be in a war zone, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t challenged and affected by the suffering of others. Asking what I can do right now for others and getting practical might be one way to be part of the solution, but also simply remembering yourself in a few quiet moments, being still, being peace is a potent tool.

The meditation below is something I shared as part of our intention setting practice on Sundaram Online Ashram. It’s a group heart meditation. A gentle and positive way to align yourself with all those praying and sharing themselves as the remembrance of peace right now.

with great respect…

Rachel

P.S we are still in the middle of our Sundaram Online Ashram intake, the perfect way to study with me in a deeper format. If you’d like to join us for the next few months on the Ashram, but not sure if its right for you or have any questions lets chat! I am happy to jump on a zoom call and take you inside the ashram for a guided tour.

For those of us on the Ashram these teachings are transformational and supportive in navigating what’s happening in the world right now.

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Dear Diabetes

You came so unexpectedly. You freaked me out, exhausted me and made me confused. You forced me to look for answers, but for a long time I looked in all the wrong places. Endless doctors, naturopaths, homeopaths, people without a clue as to what was going on. You hid like a rat, slowly gnawing away at me until it was almost too late.

Touching was uncomfortable, walking exhausting, weight fell off me and still I refused to face you. Then the finality of it all. I am diabetic. I need insulin. Without it a death sentence.

I did what I was told. But I cried and cried. I cried every day for a week until I took that first shot. The lady who helped me telling me, “This isn’t your fault.” Even though I still felt like it was. I found it hard to love my body, to accept you, to welcome you. Even if everyone told me I could live a normal life.

You made me restrict food, you upset my stomach, I lived a rigid life because of you. Every time I wanted to open up, you asked me to shut down. Fear fear fear. Fear of lows. Fear of highs. Fear of complications. Fear of life.

I tried to meet you. To accept you, to master you. Every day trying to get it right. And for many years by boxing myself in I succeeded. Everyone saw my struggle, no one able to help. Me feeling my education was incomplete. Did I mourn my old life? I didn’t even have time.

Now things are different, 13 years is a long time to hold on. No longer a fight I have softened and am willing to learn from you. Maybe this isn’t about my ideas about how to master you. But yours. What can you share. What can you show me?

Days of trust, quiet listening, taking risks, doing it scared, bringing in solutions out of the box. Rather than relying on external forces I take you into my heart and whisper.

Diabetes what do you need?

You whisper back, “Care, love, acceptance, trust, rest, whole nurturing food. Movement wild and free. There is nothing I don’t need. I need you to be you in spite of me.”

I wrote this as part of a behavioural challenge on the Diabetes Psychologist Membership program

With great respect,

Rachel

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180 Decisions a day

It was in a coffee shop after consuming a giant banana muffin that I made the first big decision of my adult life. Picking up the coin operated payphone wasn’t easy, but I had to do it. It was time to call it quits on college. “Are you sure?” My father asked. I had no doubt; it felt good to be an adult and make my own decisions.

The decision to irrevocably change my life was easy. In fact, every major life decision after that just fell into place. Now, it’s the micro decision making thrust upon me since my diabetes diagnosis that drives me crazy.

I mean seriously? 180 decisions a day?

Like waking up with an unusual low on Thursday, what to do? Did I take too much long acting last night?  If that’s the case, how much long acting should I take for my morning dose? Was it a fluke? And how much sugar do I need to correct the low? And what about the Dawn Phenomenon that’s going to kick in? And when I rebound high and it’s time for breakfast, how much do I need to correct? ½ unit or a whole unit? OMG just one tiny unexpected event means every decision after that is like walking on a knife edge.

I’m seriously pep talking myself through every decision right now.

Why was it easy to quit my job and move to another country, but impossible to decide how much insulin to take for a sweet potato, corn fritter?

In the past when I had to make big decisions in life, especially hard ones I’d imagine myself in the future after I’d made the decision. How would I feel, what would my life look like?

Trying to apply that to a correction for a high or a low doesn’t cut it. Diabetes decisions are a combination of logic and guesswork. Who cares how I’m going to feel.

And the worst part? No one can make the decision for me. I’m the one guestimating the amount, dialling up the dose, and trying my best. Like my dietician recently said. In the end you just have to give it your best shot.

So, the last three roller coaster days that’s what I have been doing. Trying not to let the decision making get to me. Literally sucking it up, making the decision and letting go. So far, it’s not as much of a train smash as I thought it would be. Phew!

with great respect…

Rachel

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Indoctrination

I want to take a minute to talk about indoctrination. Specifically, indoctrination in the diabetes world. When I was first diagnosed and for the first 6 years I didn’t really understand what it meant to have diabetes. I was told by my HCP to change my diet, to exercise and that eventually I might need medication. Being involved in yoga and healthy living since the age of 19, I had been taught that medication was always a last resort, to be avoided at all costs. That’s why it was terrifying to start taking Insulin. I nearly fainted when I took my first injection and for weeks afterwards every shot gave me crippling anxiety.

Eventually I got the point. Insulin was saving my life. When I reached out to the diabetes online community to learn more about how to manage my insulin with diet I was encouraged to read several books that emphasised something called the law of small numbers. The less insulin I took the less I needed to worry. That was coupled with my GP recommending I try a ketogenic diet.

Being someone who likes to be in the driver’s seat with my health I took everyone’s advice. I whole heartedly embraced low carb living. I did everything by the book. I restricted my diet, I took as little insulin as possible, I exercised religiously. From the outside I seemed happy, I was managing my health impeccably and had perfect blood sugar levels and a perfect HBA1c.

On the inside, my strict regime and lack of flexibility was slowly eroding my confidence. Eventually my body started to say WTF. Endless digestive issues, insulin resistance, a feeling of hopelessness around food culminating in a point where I stood in my local health food store gazing with longing at all the things I knew were out of bounds for me.  I’d race back to my supportive facebook groups looking for familiarity and reassurance. In spite of the feeling of despondency, I was ‘killing it’ they told me. Donuts are for sissies!

Indoctrination 101: If you think it’s true you’ll find a whole bunch of other people who think it’s true too. Fact and fiction become faction.  Marginalising and exclusivising myself into a corner where there’s no way out but to keep hitting my head against the same proverbial wall. Until I am bleeding so much it’s hard to miss.

That was the turning point for me. No matter how much I wanted to believe that restricting myself was the way to avoid all the pitfalls of living with diabetes, I couldn’t help noticing that there were lots of people living with diabetes who were managing their blood sugars just fine without restrictions. How did these people do it? What was their secret and why weren’t they shouting about it from the rooftops? Because THOSE people were getting on with their lives. And happily so.

I wanted to be one of those people and now through reaching out and getting the support I needed I am one of those individuals. No fancy diet or tricks. No indoctrination into another diet. Just me making decisions understanding how my body responds to diet and exercise. Lots of experimenting, lots of failures, lots of scary moments of stepping out of my comfort zone and tons of acceptance.

Eating toast and avocado, sweet potato and potato, watching the flat lines return on my meter. Making recipes, trying foods I never thought I’d ever eat again has built up my confidence and made me so much more comfortable living with this condition.

With great respect,

Rachel

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Three sentences for the new year

A yoga intention setting gift for you

OMG there are just 12 days left until it’s officially Christmas! I feel like December and January always sneak up on me and before I blink it’s a new year. These last two years have been gut wrenchingly challenging for all of us and as the new year approaches I am both hesitant and expectant and personally, charged and ready to respond differently to what life brings. This is in part due to investing in myself and my health over the last few months. Finding a new health care team to get down to the nuts and bolts of how my body responds to food and insulin and also following inspiring people in the online diabetes space.

The Diabetes Psychologist podcast has been a game changer for me, it seems ironic, being a lifelong yoga teacher and having all the best tools at my disposal to manage my mental health that I still gain so much benefit from understanding how my mindset around diabetes can improve.

I know I am not my body, that I am not my diabetes, but simply knowing this doesn’t change the nitty gritty of that super frustrating unexplained high or stomach dropping scary low. All the yoga and yoga knowledge in the world can’t fix a practical miscalculation that sends me on a physical roller coaster.

Three things that I have learned since tuning into the DS Podcast are;

  1. Diabetes is challenging, but I got this
  2. Be strategic in my decision making, strategy is the best defence.
  3. Have a clear vision for myself and how I want to feel about managing my diabetes

Waking up every day and being willing to face the challenges and telling myself I can handle them has brought more acceptance. When I skyrocketed to 15 yesterday after not taking enough insulin for breakfast, instead of freaking out, I grabbed my spade and gardening gloves and planted some flowers. When my meter showed a straight down arrow after 15 minutes of digging I refused to panic. I sat down, waited 10 minutes to see what my blood sugar would do.  After it stabilised, I was able to finish gardening without having to treat a hypo.

When I started to go low before my regular afternoon walk, I got strategic and pre-empted the low with a small amount of fast acting carbs trusting that I would come up enough to walk without worry.  On reflection, strategy is my new best friend as I get more confident with splitting my dose for foods that were near impossible to eat just 3 months ago.

And finally having a daily vision setting practice (called Sankalpa in Sanskrit) has given my day more meaning and focus. Instead of expecting the worst I see the best and brightest. I see myself filled with confidence as I do all the things I love, I see myself managing the ups and downs with grace and security. I see myself as a participant in managing my health rather than a victim of an unpredictable pancreas.

I’d love to share this summer sun solar intention setting practice with you this month as a holiday gift. Enjoy!

With great respect,

Rachel

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Doing it ‘scared’

Today marks another World Diabetes Day.

A day to share that people living with any kind of diabetes can do whatever they set their minds to. We are not defined by our condition. Spreading awareness of all the facets of living with diabetes, including access to medication, daily management and mental health help people not living with this condition understand more of what we are dealing with.

Each year I’ve been involved in one way or another. This year I’m more detached. That’s because this year I’ve been experiencing diabetes burnout.

13 years of living with diabetes, five years misdiagnosed and managing without insulin, four years solely on long acting insulin and four years on a full insulin regime. Once I went the full gambit I managed brilliantly by taking very little insulin, implementing the law of small numbers. Low carb=low insulin needs.

Things changed in March 2020. I felt drained, arthritic, suffered from multiple digestive issues and became less and less tolerant to foods and more and more insulin resistant. A few friends in the diabetes community recommended I try a new approach. Namely wholefood, vegan, high carb, low fat. I was ready, and dove in. After just a few months, my numbers rocked in the 5’s, I felt awesome. My digestion improved. I added more and more variety back in to my diet. I had energy, I felt hopeful and I was willing to experiment and make mistakes.

But then…I had two severe lows in a row. Nothing to do with my diet and everything to do with a faulty injection site. My long acting insulin sending me into a near death nose dive. It’s been a slow recovery.

Yoga has always been my main support and anchor. My mat a safe space. On the mat I drop the uncertainty, creating room for reality. I am not the body, I am not my thoughts, I am not the one identifying with the thoughts. Even the thought of myself.

Even though I have the right perspective and incredible tools on hand, the raw reality of injecting 7 times a day, not knowing if I’ll make another mistake and go low, not knowing how my body will respond to a piece of sourdough with avocado has been unnerving.

So, I’ve had to take a deep breath, consider that yoga cannot ‘fix’ this very real physical issue and reach out.

Thank goodness for Twitter.

On a random scroll down my feed I found a Telehealth Diabetes Clinic in Australia. I resonated with their message. ‘You do diabetes your way.’ Made an enquiry and just a few days later scored an appointment.

Right now, I am working with a diabetes dietician and we are testing foods, working out how fast or slow a food is absorbed into my blood stream. It’s true nuts and bolts stuff and takes a ton of time. Eating the food and recording the results. Taking a few days to recover if I misfire, learning, adjusting and trying again.

This past week I learned how to make recipes and create servings for carb counts. It should be a no brainer, but I am TERRIBLE with math. There were lots of scribbles and diagrams to look at and screen shots and charts to work stuff out.

I’m committed to the process.  Like doing full wheel or handstand for the first time I’m ‘doing it scared’. Terrified might be a better word to describe how it feels watching the arrows on my freestyle libre after a meal. There’s been lots of tears and glucose gummies under the bridge in the last two months. But I’m okay with that. Yoga has taught me discipline, persistence, patience and courage.

Happy World Diabetes Day!

with great respect…
Rachel

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Thinking outside the box

My yoga teacher used to say “the mind is a box”, a self-perpetuating entity that endlessly recycles itself loop upon loop. In yoga these loops are called vasanas. Habits etched so deeply in that we don’t even know they are there. Think a habitual response to a stressful event. That’s a vasana

I have definitely developed some indelible grooves after having weathered diabetes the last 13 years.  The way I inject, the way I finger prick, the way I scan my freestyle libre. Habits I do on automatic.  Then there’s the other stuff; like how I deal with a low or the things I tell myself about my diabetes. Do I really need to perpetuate these habits? Is it worth it?

Going plant based has definitely pushed a lot of habits to the surface. My metabolism has increased so I am way more sensitive to insulin. Which means anxiety about lows is at an all-time high.

And because I’m trying a low-fat approach, even increasing my fat intake by a smidgen means some sustained annoying just over the range highs. It’s hard not to compare. “Why can’t I be like all those other people on Instagram or facebook who sport their perfect A1C’s and flat lines?”

Reflecting on these habits has propelled me to make some changes. I’ve started working with a new CDE who encouraged me to work with a diabetes dietician.

Right now, we are tackling hard to dose for foods like bread, rice, potato, sweet potato and oats. These foods hit my blood stream 2-3 hours later. To work out the dose I’ve been doing ‘experiments’ eat, wait, record and stay equanimous.

Thinking about my blood sugars like they aren’t ‘my’ blood sugars.  Accepting that a rise in 2 mmol or a drop in 2 mmol is to be expected.  Being willing to move from a tightrope mentality to a balance beam. Giving myself some mind space. I.e. If I hit 12 mmol during an experiment, it’s to be expected. Even an hour or two at that number isn’t going to be a train smash.

Switching up my mindset is not new to me. Yoga affords me the ability to be able to watch my thoughts, to know I am NOT the thoughts. The thoughts are coming and going in my presence. I have learned that this ‘I’ who turns an action into a habit is just a role, it can’t be who I am. Stepping back from the action, the thought, the one identifying with the thought and recognising myself as that presence in whom all identifications, thoughts and habits are taking place, has helped me cope mentally and emotionally to no end.

And yet, I am still dealing with the reality that an essential component in my body does not work like it should. That the medication I take, the timing, the dose and how it will actually work on any given day is unpredictable.

Having outside support, asking for support and taking my time to observe, adjust and wait for me is thinking outside the box.

With great respect…

Rachel 

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Put yourself in my shoes

When I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes all I knew about the condition was that I would be insulin dependent for the rest of my life. I didn’t think much about the details about the invention of insulin until I became more involved with diabetes advocacy. I was surprised to discover that before the discovery of insulin in 1921, a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes was a death sentence.

Diabetes is one of the most studied diseases in the history of medicine, whose first mentions trace back to a collection of Egyptian medical texts proposing a treatment of a decoction of bones, wheat, grain, grit, green lead and earth. The Indian physician, Sushruta, and the surgeon Charaka were able to distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, termed as “madhumeha” (literally, ‘honey urine’).

The term “diabetes mellitus” was introduced in 1674 by the British physician Thomas Willis who defined diabetes mellitus as the “Pissing Evil.” It was only in 1776, that physician, natural philosopher and experimental physiologist Matthew Dobson discovered that urine of diabetic patients is sweet because of excess sugar.

Before the discovery of Insulin doctors were confused as to what caused diabetes. Was it a problem with kidneys, a metabolic issue? Not knowing the cause, all manner of bizarre treatments were prescribed from high calorie diets to fasting to opium. The founder of the Joslin Diabetes Centre, advocated for severe, prolonged fasting and under-nourishment as a cure for diabetes, coined the “starvation diet”.

Discovering that the problem lay with the pancreas took many years and experiments.

To give you a long history and treatise on the discovery of Insulin is not my goal, rather I hope it will inspire reflection on the ground-breaking discoveries we make as humans and the miracle of medicine and science.

I’m not a science nerd. I am a physical, emotional type, a dancer. Diabetes has forced me to find interest in things I wouldn’t naturally be drawn to. It’s made me more rational, reasonable and logical and I am starting to like this new part of me. Especially right now in the midst of this pandemic.

I admit I have been trolling conversations on facebook, just to try and put myself in the shoes of my friends who are struggling in the current climate. The ones who are adamant that the vaccines we are being asked to take are dangerous, that the statistics and scientists are wrong, coerced or lying because there is a much larger plan at work. That our freedoms are threatened, that we are now living in George Orwells 1984. Not only that but we must take a stand and say no.

I agree these are unprecedented scary times. Yet… it seems to me there is a missing piece to this and this is where the discovery and implementation of life saving insulin comes in.

How did Banting and Best, the two famous men responsible for bringing insulin to the world figure out that insulin was the key? They had to experiment. Once they had the inkling they were on the right track, they injected themselves to see what would happen. The final step was to inject a person living with diabetes who was about to die.

I am here today because of these risky human trials, because of years and years of experimentation and research. This was raw, edgy medical experimentation.

Now here we are in 2021, living on a knifes edge, friend pitted against friend, the world divided. Some of us absolutely convinced that the discovery of a vaccine for Covid is a miracle and others certain it’s a long-term death sentence, the end of life as we know it and NOTHING in between.

But what if this vaccine like insulin, is the start of something truly beautiful. A new beginning, a way forward in science, medicine and technology that’s only just beginning. Maybe this mRna technology are the first signs of a cure for all the genetic incurable diseases we have today. There is a great deal of evidence in credible scientific journals to suggest this.

To my friends freaking out, angry or even just hesitant and on the fence. There are many issues on our plate today. The climate crisis for one.

If we are willing to believe climate scientists, why aren’t we willing to believe our medical scientists? What is the difference? Is one body more co-opted than another? Most friends are terrified of what we are doing to the earth.

Which then begs the question how can a nature loving, non-harming, vegan like me even think of injecting myself with a supposed gene altering vaccine I know nothing about?

Try a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. It changed my perspective about everything. I have learned that sometimes to live a life in harmony with nature I have had to put myself first and trust science.

Life is precious and whatever keeps me living is precious. If that means injecting myself seven times a day with a lifesaving hormone, created in a lab from sequenced human DNA so be it. If it means taking an mRna vaccine so be it. I have way more years left in me to share, support and bring light to this earth

With great respect…

Rachel

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Beam me up Scotty

Something not many people know about me is that I am obsessed with sci-fi and dystopian stories. I was never a big Lord of the Rings fan, instead stick me in front of Star Trek and I’m as happy as a pig in mud. I am not quite sure why I’m so obsessed, but I think it has something to do with wanting to be just like my big brother when I was little, who along with my cousin, spent hours making meticulous Star Trek Enterprise models and filming action shots with them for fun.

Lately I haven’t had much patience for sticking my nose in a good novel, so I’ve been tooling through Netflix, consuming shows like Sense 8, Colony, Handmaid’s Tale and my current favourite ‘THE 100’

What is it about THE 100 that has me on a binge? It’s the unresolvable crisis’s that just seem to pile on top of each other in never ending succession, while going through every genre of horror, Sci-Fi adventure movie ever made. Think killer bees, the Lockness monster, the Blob, Frankenstein, Werewolves, Zombies, Cults, Raiders of the Lost Ark, King Kong, Jumanji, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Soylent Green, Rosemary’s Baby, even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (yes, to me that’s a horror flick)

No matter what kind of decisions the characters make to ‘do better’ or save their people, things never resolve in the way one would expect. In fact, in the show someone always ends up dying, getting maimed, or emotionally scarred for life. Yet somehow, they pick themselves up after their super awful decision and try again, usually making an even worse choice.

This is exactly on my worse days how I feel about managing my diabetes. No matter what choice I make, the outcome will never be what I expect. Even when I have all the right information, all the best tech, and excellent support.

Somehow, I’m back at the Dropship, waiting for the next Grounder invasion or trying to make nightblood in Zero G without a spacesuit or worse stuck in a bunker during yet another nuclear holocaust forced to become a cannibal or die.

Of course, if you haven’t seen the show you have no idea what I’m talking about but rest assured. Living with diabetes is just as edgy, and all out terrifying on even my best days.

Learning to accept my decisions when it comes to day to day management is my new goalpost. Like the characters in the show, who have to accept that killing, and maiming is the way to get their ‘humanity’ back.

I am not really sure about that sort of self-reflection when it comes to diabetes rather it’s through constant revaluation of the 180 decisions I make a day that keep propelling me forward with positivity and faith.

Like today when I took 65% of my breakfast dose, because I knew I’d be teaching yoga, which would drop my blood sugar, except woops it didn’t  so subsequently I spent most of the morning plateauing high, which then caused me to spike higher at lunch even with a correction, which in turn had me scrubbing the stove and vigorously moving furniture about which most likely will mean more insulin sensitivity by dinner and a low overnight. Adjusting like this over and over takes effort, discipline and awareness. Qualities I developed through my yoga practice.

Some people might think of yoga as Sci-Fi. All woo-woo weird stuff with buzz words like transcendence and higher consciousness. But in reality, yoga is what happens when all words, ideas, identifications and imaginations drop out. It’s the base. The thing that doesn’t change. The changeless is the nature of yoga which is you, the perceiver of every experience, every choice. Even when you make a terrible choice, taking you down a dark seemingly treacherous path to a place you know nothing about. Who you are, the yoga itself, is the constant. The pathless path.

With great respect

Rachel

P.s Join me for a grounding nourishing all level practice perfect for these times we find ourselves in

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Diabetes as a transformational experience

I’ve just completed a course on Mental Health Aware Yoga. I took the course because I wanted to learn more about how to meet the needs of students dealing with mental health challenges. As I progressed through the course it became apparent that everyone at some point or other has dealt with some sort of mental health issue. In fact, nearly half the population has experienced a diagnosable mental illness at some point in their lifetime.[1]

When I discovered yoga in my late teens, I realized the value of yoga in supporting me in dealing with my own challenges. As a young girl, after the sudden death of my mother I experienced anxiety. At the time it showed up as digestive issues and a fear of being by myself. My father and step-mother did their absolute best to support me, but back then unless there was a real observable physical or deep mental disturbance we were expected to cope and move forward.

The discovery of the physical practice of yoga gave me my first taste of true relaxation and surrender. I didn’t really understand why it worked. All I knew was that I wanted more.  Yoga gave me a sense of peace and security and I loved its physicality. Little did I know that the yoga class was a transformational space and the yoga itself a transitional object.

In Stephen Cope’s book “Yoga and the Quest for the True Self” he explains that, a transformational space is a place where you can find refuge from the demands of everyday life. A place where you can let go and say, “it’s not up to me.” A place where you can find acceptance and support for who you are rather than what you have. [2] He also explains what a transformational space is not. It’s not a place where you are asked to trade one set of ideologies or beliefs for another. I.e. trading ideas about religion with ideas about yoga or spirituality. Or that you must do a practice in a certain way to gain the peace and freedom you crave.

It was easy in the early days of my yoga life to think that I had to be rigorous with myself and push myself into the forms and shapes of the physical practice. Even though I had all the necessary ingredients to transform and grow, trying to be like my teacher or like the person next to me on the mat only served to make me more anxious. If I couldn’t get it right, I’d try harder. It took years of looking in all the wrong places and a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes to recognize that a transformational space didn’t have to be external, it could be the purest form of acceptance. Acceptance of one’s self.

Living with diabetes carries with it it’s fair share of trauma, anxiety, stress and depression. It’s a very rare person that can escape unscathed. No matter how much information you are given via your health care providers or support team no one knows exactly what you must do to manage your condition. No body responds to medication, diet and exercise in the same way. The amount of energy that goes into daily management is exhausting. You are asked to think like a pancreas 24/7.

One of the biggest things that’s overlooked by our health care system is how traumatic it is to receive a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. The initial shock and disbelief are overridden by the huge amount of information one needs to assimilate to immediately manage the condition. Without missing a beat, you are expected to self-medicate, learn how to use technology and treat any hazardous side effects. I.e. keep yourself alive!

Trauma occurs as a result of powerlessness in the face of an overwhelming force, and when the ordinary systems that give people a sense of control, meaning and connection are overridden[3]

Trauma like anxiety is not an uncommon occurrence. According to studies in the US more than half the population (60.7% of men and 51.2% of women) reported exposure to at least one traumatic incident in their lifetime, including rape, molestation, physical attack, combat, shock, threat with a weapon, accidents, natural disasters, abuse, neglect or witnessing something traumatic. [4]

I find it interesting that being diagnosed with a chronic illness is not emphasized on the above list. Nearly half the global population are dealing with some sort of chronic disease, and one in three adults worldwide is living with multiple chronic conditions: cardiovascular disease alongside diabetes, depression as well as cancer, or a combination of three, four, or even five or six diseases at the same time.[5] That’s half the population or more dealing with multiple traumas.

It’s astounding to me that more time and resources aren’t devoted to supporting the population to manage all the associated mental health challenges that come along with these chronic conditions.

It’s encouraging that yoga is now being seen as a viable adjunct alongside western psychological treatment. In studies on Yoga and Trauma In a randomized control trial (RCT) by Bessel Van der Kolk, David Emerson and colleagues, 64 women with chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD were assigned to either a trauma-informed yoga class or a supportive women’s health class.[6]  Students were taught physical yoga practices, breath work and meditation with an emphasis on inner sensing, taking note of how the postures felt internally as opposed to how they looked externally. The group was also encouraged to modify a pose or hold a pose longer or stop as they needed. Key phrases like, “notice, allow and when you are ready” were used in the instructor’s language. The key ingredient here was not to pressure the student. Rather inviting the student to follow what the body was telling them as they executed the poses.

The results of the study concluded that, [7]yoga significantly reduces PTSD symptomatology, in a manner comparable to well-researched psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological approaches, and that yogmay improve the functioning of individuals with PTSD by helping them to tolerate physical and sensory experiences associated with fear and helplessness and to increase emotional awareness and affect tolerance.

In my own experience, I have been able to find comfort and safety and a way through the traumatic shock of my own diagnosis and subsequent challenges with the use of what Stephen Cope calls “transitional objects.” A transitional object can be anything that is constant, reliable, and supports the student during this period of transformation. It could be the teacher, the room, a favourite book, a chant or a specific practice.[8]

As I transitioned from healthy person to person living with a chronic illness and specifically diabetes I found the following ‘objects’ of immense support.

A guide – having someone to literally and symbolically hold my hand through the transition. Not only is the support of loved ones invaluable but having a guide who knows the pitfalls and goalposts can help ease the transition. For me that started with my first CDE who showed me how to inject and work out my insulin to carb ratios. She also gave me significant emotional support. Reminding me that a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes happens to anyone. There’s nothing I could have done differently.

Hearing this brought tears of relief.  I had tried so hard to fight the inevetable and here was someone letting me know it wasn’t my fault. So often with a disease like diabetes we are told by the media and the medical establishment that we ate the wrong things, had the wrong kind of lifestyle. These ideas made me feel like somehow, I was wrong. Her kind and gentle words let me off the hook and helped me to relax.

A community – After my diagnosis I went online to see if there were any other people into yoga or healthy lifestyles living with type 1 diabetes. To my surprise I discovered a thriving community in online forums and Facebook groups. I tentatively sent out a question and immediately received 15 replies. Realizing I am not alone, that the problems I have living with this condition are shared, helped me come out of isolation. Whenever I have a question related to my diabetes management or my feelings about living with diabetes I can reach out and get immediate support. This has been especially potent when in the middle of the worst hypoglycemic event ever I reached out to a fellow type 1 on Instagram and received her advice on how to treat the event with glucose and post low insulin dosing.

A routine – Having a regular daily routine has been another potent tool. Knowing that I’ll be taking my insulin shots at the same time each day, eating at the same time, with roughly the same amounts of carbs. Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. Having a regular daily yoga practice and afternoon walk are all regimes that give me a sense of certainty and stability. I may not be able to control my pancreas, but I can control the parameters around how I respond to stress. Keeping things simple and rhythmic is a great way to stay stable and grounded throughout changing conditions.

A practice – Having a consistent yoga practice has been my number one transitional object. I’ll never forget the day of my diagnosis and how after returning from my GP I went straight to my yoga mat. As I settled into child’s pose to prepare for the practice I symbolically felt myself giving up and giving over to a higher power. Asking for support, healing and whatever else I could think of. I rededicated myself to yoga and all that it offers not only as a practitioner but a teacher. I recognized myself in the wounded healer and that I could only ever teach from my own experience. This shocking new normal would have to serve as the springboard for my journey into this next phase of life. Returning to my mat day after day, especially amongst the challenges of anxiety or re-traumatization from a severe hypoglycemic event.  My yoga practice rebuilds my inner strength.

In yoga a transitional object is called an ‘Alamba’ the word means crutch. We may need the aid of a crutch in the beginning but eventually as we regain our inner strength and heal from a traumatic event we walk freely again.

Learning more about mental health and how to support someone living with a mental health challenge through the medium of yoga has been an inspiring and healing journey for me. Not only have I gained valuable tools in working with others but it has been exactly the kind of transformative space and transitional object I’ve needed in my own healing journey.

With great respect…

Rachel


[1] Mental Health Foundation. (2016). Fundamental Facts About Mental Health 2016. London, UK: Mental Health Foundation.

[2] Cope, S. (2000). Yoga and the Quest for the True Self. New York, USA: Bantam Books.

[3] Herman, J. (1997). Trauma and Recovery. New York, US: Basic Books.

[4] Kessler, R.C., Hughes, M., Sonnega, S. and Nelson, C.B. (1995). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the National Comorbidity

Survey. Archives of General Psychiatry. 1995; 52(12): 1048-1060.

[5] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/12/healthcare-future-multiple-chronic-disease-ncd/

[6] Van der Kolk, B.A, Stone, L.,West, J., Rhodes, A. Emerson, D., Suvak, M., and Spinazzola, J. (2014). Yoga as an Adjunctive

Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 75(0), e1-7.

[7] Van der Kolk, B.A, Stone, L.,West, J., Rhodes, A. Emerson, D., Suvak, M., and Spinazzola, J. (2014). Yoga as an Adjunctive

Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 75(0), e1-7.

[8] Mental Health Aware Yoga Teacher Training Manual © Lauren Tober 2020