Dancing with Diabetes

This last month has been all about my obsession with Ballet. It started when I was in the airport on my way back to Australia and Misty Copeland’s, Life in Motion miraculously leaped off the shelf and into my hands for the long flight ahead. Reading about her incredible talent and rise to stardom amidst a very unstable home life and her detailed descriptions of a life in Ballet, brought back vivid memories of what it was like to live and study dance in New York City during the early 80’s.

Back then I was an aspiring Ballerina and spent every spare minute either attending dance classes or watching the greats in American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet. My own career in dance lasted well into my 30’s. I never made it to a big company, ( I danced with a regional dance in education company in Tasmania), but I did get to taste what it’s like to perform day in and day out.

footsteps_herberston_zinman_batey_cowell_mcphee_89kl_large

Don’t let anyone tell you that dancing is glamorous. It takes grit, hard work, and guts to do all that graceful stuff and nerves of steel…not only to face external criticism but one’s own nagging self-doubt, fear of failure and much more.

Initially, when I was diagnosed with diabetes, I tried to dance down my blood sugar levels. I’d wake up, head to my yoga room, blast out music and thrash about for 20 minutes hoping for the best.  It worked quite well in the beginning stages when I was still producing quite a bit of insulin but later, not so much. After a while, any kind of exercise raised my levels and depleted my adrenals and sadly I stopped dancing.

Reading Misty’s book made me wonder. Are there other dancers out there who live with Type 1 Diabetes?

Enter, Zippora Karz, a former ballerina with the New York City Ballet who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just as her career was taking off within the company. Lucky for me she is also a writer so to continue my passion for all things Ballet I couldn’t help devouring her book, The Sugarless Plum. It’s such a great read and perfect for anyone living with type 1 diabetes who also loves all the intrigue of the Ballet. I soared along with Zippora as she realised her dream of joining the company, and then crashed when she was diagnosed, misdiagnosed and re-diagnosed again. Her journey to health and wellbeing is remarkable, her courage unshakable and her persistence in living her dream in spite of the many challenges and unknowns awe inspiring. Can you tell I love this book!

So after a month of watching videos of Ballet, reading about Ballet and thinking seriously about attending an Adult Ballet class, I decided it was time to digress from my usual yoga for diabetes topic and share with you a short interpretive dance about what it feels like sometimes to live with diabetes.

I’d love to know how you find creative ways to manage the many emotions that arise in a life with diabetes so feel free to comment below…

With great respect…

Rachel

We are all in this boat together

It’s still Diabetes blog week and I’m a bit late today with my submission. That’s what happens when you fly thousands of miles and have to do everything on your to-do list first before you can write!

Now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and how do you cope?  

I often wonder what life would have been like if I hadn’t been on the slow boat to diabetes. I mean what if it had never happened? Would I have ended up visiting a naturopath at 18? Would I have started yoga? I guess I’ll never know.

So many of the choices I made as a young adult were based on the fact that I never really felt healthy. There was always something wrong with my digestion or with my energy levels. Looking back I know it was all to do with the fact that my onset of type 1 was super slow.

IMG_0238

As a young adult, I was racked with anxiety, shame, and guilt and there was often a feeling in and around the area of my spleen that felt like I was being sucked into a vortex.

I’m convinced that every health issue was related to the demise of a beta cell. The weird emotional feelings were probably also related. As a young person, I didn’t really know what to make of it. As an adult thankfully I do.

I’ve never really been a depressive type but since diabetes, that’s changed. It’s not that I get so depressed that I can’t get out of bed, it’s just that the whole thing gets so overwhelming sometimes that I feel a sense of hopelessness and despair. The worst part is I keep those crappy feelings to myself.

I know it would do me good to talk it out but to be honest I couldn’t be bothered. Being a yoga teacher and having a reputation has some stigma attached to it. We are the ones others look to for inspiration. We are supposed to rise above it all. Well, surprise, surprise… trying to hold myself to some sort of standard doesn’t work at all!

Diabetes is by far the single most challenging thing I have ever had to deal with and I can do yoga till the cows come home and still feel pissed off, moody, angry and down about it.

So how do I climb out of my own hole when the going gets rough?

IMG_3008

By cutting myself some slack. By taking it one day at a time, one step at a time, one insulin dose at a time.

And writing. Writing it out is like talking it out, only better. When I write I don’t care about the reader.  I write for myself. As I write I can see what it is I actually think and feel. Once it’s out there I can decide if it’s true for me or not. Words are a beautiful mirror in which one can objectively reflect.  What that axiom? The mirror never lies.

Another thing I love about self-expression through the written word is that it connects me with other writers. In the Diabetes space, we are all passengers on the same boat. We may have different cabins and have brought our own belongings but we share the same trajectory. I love meeting with my fellow passengers on deck. This week has been especially healing for me. Reading everyone’s blogs, and commenting and receiving comments has helped to heal the wounds of diagnosis and beyond.

When it comes down to it we all face this disease in our own unique way. But knowing I’m not alone, that there is a thriving community has made all the difference.

IMG_6712

If you’d like to find out more about how yoga can help you manage your diabetes each and every day check out the rest of my blog and if you’d like to get the first chapter of my book for free go here

With great respect…Rachel

The worst visit ever

I’m sitting here in the airport in Johannesburg after 10 hours of non-stop flying. With a couple of hours before my next flight, I have time to share my 3rd post for Diabetes Blog Week 

Having diabetes often makes a visit to the doctor a dreaded experience, as there is invariably bad news of one kind or another.  And sometimes the way the doctor talks to you can leave you feeling like you’re at fault.  Or maybe you have a fantastic healthcare team, but have experienced blame and judgment from someone else in your life – friend, loved one, complete stranger.  Think about a particularly bad instance, how that person talked to you, the words they used and the conversation you had.  Now, the game part.  Let’s turn this around.  If you could turn that person into a puppet, what would you have them say that would leave you feeling empowered and good about yourself?   Let’s help teach people how to support us, rather than blame us!

My GP had always been a cool guy. Into alternative things, he swam with dolphins, played the didgeridoo and always recommended herbs before meds. I’d been seeing him on and off since my son was born and we had a nice friendship outside of the doctor’s office.

The day of my diagnosis was just like any other day.  I’d been feeling fatigued, dizzy when I ate sweet things and my ex-husband had suggested we both get some blood tests. He’d gone to see the doctor first and was told that he had high blood pressure, but the news about me was way worse. The doctor wanted to see me straight away. “What do you think it could be?” I asked him. “Well I know it’s not Cancer but it is something to do with your blood.”

Sitting in the waiting room that day I was jittery. It seemed odd that I was that unwell. I’d always managed everything holistically with my health, hence seeing that sort of doctor.

As soon as I entered his office he told me to sit down. He swiveled back on forth on his chair and tapped his pencil on my blood test result form. I don’t know how to tell you this…but the news isn’t good.

And then he just blurted it out. You have diabetes!

IMG_4763

I can’t begin to tell you how I felt, my heart rate went through the roof, the bottom dropped out of my world. Diabetes is everywhere in my family, especially on my mother’s side. In fact, my great grandfather died from diabetes ( he was diagnosed before there was Insulin) Ironically, My birth date is the date he died.

It was hard to keep track of what the doctor said next. He told me that he had seen that my blood sugar levels were elevated so he checked my A1c. Sure enough, that was elevated too. “It’s a long journey to reverse this, you’ll have to find your own cure. I’m not quite sure how you got this…”

Next, he’s started telling me that I had to change my diet and exercise more while shoving pamphlets in direction. Then as a parting gift, he told me to Google diabetes.

As I drove home I just couldn’t believe what he was saying. It couldn’t be diabetes.

I think things could have gone really differently that day and if they had I might not have gone on to deny my diagnosis. It took almost 6 years to have actual diabetes symptoms so it was easy to shove his diagnosis under the rug.

If he had sat me down and explained to me that the beta cells in my pancreas were attacking themselves and that it couldn’t possibly be my fault. If he had asked me if there had been some really stressful event that may have triggered the onset.  If he’d told me that there were resources and tools to help me manage this and a worldwide community for support. That I could live a full happy healthy life. That there were people just like me that I could connect with, who could mentor me through the little things. Even just a few words of support and encouragement could have made all the difference.

Luckily in spite of that god awful doctor,  I survived!  In a way, diabetes has grown on me. I no longer blame myself for getting sick.

After nine years of living with diabetes, a lot of yoga and study of traditional yoga teachings, I’ve realized that there is no ‘ rhyme or reason’  for anything. Rather the whole of life, whatever happens, whether we call it good or bad… is a reminder to enjoy everything exactly as it is.

IMG_6320

If you’d like to find out more about how yoga can help you manage your diabetes each and every day check out the rest of my blog and if you’d like to get the first chapter of my book for free go here

With great respect…Rachel

The wonder and magic of a life with diabetes

Woohoo! It’s here! Diabetes Blog Week!

For the next 5 days I’ll be writing on a specific topic along with other diabetes bloggers, sharing how I navigate the world of diabetes. Below is the first topic and my corresponding thoughts.

Tell us about some good things diabetes has brought into your life that you never could have expected?

The nervous system is a delicate thing, tiny fibers that crisscross the body and send signals from your brain to different key areas, telling it to move, breath, digest, feel etc. For some reason nine years ago, mine started to go haywire. Being a long time yogi I consulted my yoga books to see what the problem might be. After months of research, I reached my conclusion.

I was in the middle of a spiritual crisis.

Thinking that I was on the fast track to enlightenment wasn’t necessarily the best approach. For starters, it kept me from questioning my physical symptoms or seeking medical answers. If I had known that diabetes isn’t something you get from poor diet and lifestyle, or that it doesn’t just affect children, I would have dug deeper.

The bench | The Photo Forest

Back then there wasn’t much awareness about the signs and symptoms of diabetes.  Even now when I tell people I have Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults ( LADA) they scratch their heads and look at me funny.

Finding out that there was a reason for the strange jittery sensations, erratic digestion, food sensitivities, a constant sugary taste on my tongue and the feelings of exhaustion was a total relief. It’s not that I was happy to have diabetes, it’s just that my search for answers caused so much internal havoc, that having an actual diagnosis released the pressure valve.

I cried a lot those first few weeks after diagnosis. It felt so good to let go.

It’s been quite a journey since then and aside from those initial feelings of relief, I spent years trying everything I could to conquer the beast. What I’ve learned though is that you can’t ‘conquer’ diabetes. It’s not a country you can invade and call home.

Am I the proud owner of a life with diabetes? hmmm….it’s hard to put that answer into words…

What I can say is that diabetes has changed me for the better. It’s made me raw, honest and put my feet on the ground.  It’s also motivated me to open up and share through my writing more about what it means to live with chronic illness and spread awareness about the disease.

Diabetes has also inspired me to be deeply grateful. I used to take life for granted. I’d wake up every morning, dive into the day and never stop and think. Wow! I’m alive.

Now, I make a concerted effort to stop, look around me, drink in the beauty of this life and remember…

Life is precious. It’s not a given.

IMG_7991

If you’d like to find out more about how yoga can help you manage your diabetes each and every day check out the rest of my blog and if you’d like to get the first chapter of my book for free go here

With great respect…Rachel

Why I dropped the ball

Hey there, it’s been a while! Firstly I want to apologise for the long break between blogs. I’ve been plowing through a few ‘moments’ in my life that have garnered my full attention.

Things like:

organising my book tour in the US

getting published in Elephant Journal

creating vlogs for Yoga for Fertility and Yoga for Adrenal support

hosting my parents first visit to South Africa

did I mention, marrying the man of my dreams?

and finally getting a printed advance readers copy of my book on Yoga for Diabetes, How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda 

Here’s a little photo collage to put you in the picture….

Meanwhile, diabetes has been kicking my but!

I’ve been splitting my basal dose, upping ratios, wrestling with unexpected highs and lows and doubling down on my yoga practice to manage the associated stress.

Amidst all the celebrations, I’ve been dealing with a ton of fear. So much so that I found myself writing about it for Beyond Type 1, my favourite online yoga charity and community.

Here’s a little exerpt

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 8.24.41 AM

“Meeting my fear has never been easy. But slowly over time I’m getting better at taming the beast, especially now that I live with Type 1 diabetes.

My initial response to my diagnosis was to deny that I had diabetes. The theory being: what doesn’t exist can’t hurt me. It took time and courage to realize that the only thing standing in the way of me accepting my condition was fear.

Fear of hypoglycemia, fear of ketoacidosis. Fear of insulin. Fear of forgetting to take insulin. Fear of food, fear of what other people think about what I eat. Fear of getting fat or losing too much weight. Fear of complications. Fear of losing my livelihood. Fear of losing my relationships. And the biggest fear? Fear of dying. We all grapple with that one, diabetes or not…” read more here

IMG_0460

So… it’s been a crazy few months and I can’t wait for some sense of normalcy to return so I can keep sharing with you really great ways to use yoga to help you manage your diabetes.

….And I’d love to hear from you what kind of things you’d like to see more of on the blog.

Wishing you an absolutely beautiful day wherever you are!

with great respect

Rachel

Letting it all go

I’ve been tearing up quite a lot lately. It could be that I finally have a home again after 6 years of non-stop travel. Or the fact that so many of my childhood dreams are bearing fruit. Or that, besides all the good in my life, I still find it hard to accept the daily ups and downs of diabetes. No matter what the reason for my tears I know that taking the time to sit and be with my vulnerable heart enables me to be stronger and to deal with whatever challenges come my way.

As my holiday gift to you, I’d love to share this simple technique to release the feelings that can threaten to overwhelm us during this sensitive time.

And…I wish you a very happy, settled and balanced holiday season!

with great respect…

Rachel

The Sat Yam meditation

Place your hand on your heart. Feel the warmth of your hand at your heart and notice your breath. Take a few moments here to let the mind settle.

160111_dav7452

Bring the heels of your hands together and extend the fingers so your hands are in the shape of a cup or lotus (padma mudra).

160111_dav7456

Imagine that inside your cup/lotus are all the emotions and feelings that haunt you. Don’t think too hard about it. See what arises.

160111_dav7460

As you inhale, lift the cup/lotus by straightening your arms sending the emotions back to pure unconditioned awareness.

160111_dav7467

As you exhale, open your arms to the side and surround yourself in a fine purple mist.

160111_dav7471

Repeat this a few times, lifting the cup/lotus overhead on inhalation, surrounding yourself with a fine purple mist on exhalation.

Repeat the moving meditation a few more times silently adding the sound Sat on inhalation and Yam on exhalation.

Let go of the movement with the arms, resting the hands on the thighs.

Continue to chant internally: Sat as you feel the breath moving up the spine to the crown of the head on inhalation; Yam surrounding yourself in the fine purple mist on exhalation. Think of it like an internal fountain replenishing itself with every in and out breath.

Finally, feel the sound Satyam resting like a pulse at the centre of your heart. Rest there for another few moments.

When you’re ready, gently open your eyes and head into your day.

 

 

What will the world look like now?

Last night I couldn’t sleep and I know I wasn’t the only one. The biggest question on my mind was, what will the world look like now? What will be the worlds attitude towards America and how will we move forward?

My Facebook feed is packed with fearful and tearful exclamations and words of comfort too. Close friends who practice yoga sharing personal stories of how they’ve coped in the past with tragedy and uncertainty. How do any of us face the unknown?

img_2988

As this is still #diabetesawarenessmonth and managing diabetes is a 24/7 job this whole election palaver and subsequent result although hugely daunting is also an opportunity to tune in to how any of us cope when faced with something we don’t want to face.

When someone is diagnosed with diabetes often friends and family comment that at least it’s not cancer. At least you can’t die from diabetes. Isn’t it the same with an election result we’d rather not stomach? Surely this isn’t going to kill us and for those of us who live with chronic illness, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

We find ways to more than cope. We thrive!

img_5808

And how do we thrive? Through acceptance. Accepting the hand we have been dealt with grace and determination.

Do you know anyone who lives with diabetes? have you seen them injecting at a meal, testing their blood sugar, eating differently, perhaps fiddling with a device attached to their belt? If you have then you might have assumed that what they do is easy and that they have adapted.

What you don’t see is the shock and horror of diagnosis. The fear and uncertainty of how they will cope. The grief, and the loss and despair. Even worse if that diagnosis happens to a baby or a small child how that little innocent being is just that, innocent and how the parents for years to come will have to bear the burden. Constant blood sugar checks day and night, injections and more.

img_0015

The road ahead after diagnosis is harder then anyone can imagine. But somehow little by little that baby grows up, graduates from college and goes on to live a healthy and productive life.

I truly believe that as a human race our ability to adapt is a blessing. We can stare down the barrel of a gun, live in the most appalling conditions, survive holocausts, wars, famine and still love and create beautiful, astounding things that change the world.

Shame

This month is Diabetes Awareness month and today I wanted to share more about the vulnerability I experience while living with Diabetes.

I can remember the moment of diagnosis like it was yesterday. The feelings of confusion and disbelief as my GP hurriedly told me, “YOU HAVE DIABETES” There was no sugar coating, no silver lining and I was terrified and convinced there was some mistake. I didn’t get to see a specialist straight away so for at least two days I just sat in my house in tatters. I didn’t know what to do. The doctor had given me all sorts of instructions to change my diet, google diabetes and find out how to fix myself.

lotus-the-photo-forest

I didn’t know whether to call my parents, tell my best friend or just be quiet about the whole thing. The biggest overriding feeling I felt was shame. I kept thinking how could a yoga teacher who was supposedly healthy get this disease. 8 years ago I knew nothing about type 1 diabetes and that it was possible to get this as an adult and that mine was a particularly slow onset.

At that stage I thought I had type 2 diabetes which can be brought on by stress, diet, lifestyle choices and other factors. The two diseases are very different. In type 1 the pancreas loses beta cell function and the ability to produce insulin. In type 2 the body does produce insulin but the cells resist the insulin. In LADA which is what I have, it’s sometimes called 1.5 which means I can do both. Not have much insulin and resist the insulin. This means I have to do everything I can to make my cells more open to receiving insulin and preserve my beta cell function at the same time.

rachel-diabetes-awareness-month

Understanding my disease was the first step in letting go of the shame I felt. When I was finally at the stage where I needed Insulin, the diabetes educator said in no uncertain terms that this disease is not my fault and that there is absolutely nothing I could have done to change its onset and progression.

The tears that flowed from that moment were tears of relief. letting go of my shame has helped me to be more compassionate too. Not one person living with chronic illness, mental health issues, personal tragedy or any other crisis should ever feel ashamed.

Things happen!

It’s up to us how we respond to our circumstances. I am grateful every day for the gift that diabetes has given me.

with great respect…Rachel

Want to know more about my first year on Insulin? Get my free ebook here.

Highs and lows

Friday was a biggie, not in terms of my blood glucose numbers, but because I’ve finally realised a life long dream. In November 2017 a book I had no idea I would even write, when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes eight years ago, will be published worldwide.

If you’ve been following this blog over the last two years you’ll remember how busy I was last year writing Yoga for Diabetes Some of you even generously donated to the crowdfunding campaign I ran in February. I am beyond grateful for the outpouring of generosity from friends, family and people in the DOC.

real-life-photography-by-nora-freebie-2

What I didn’t expect was to be approached by a publisher in the U.S after the campaign had finished and that our discussions over the last 7 months would lead to being offered a contract for world wide distribution. Obviously I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Prior to being offered the contract my plan was to have the book ready for print by May 2016. Being an absolute novice with self publishing I came up against all sorts of road blocks while sourcing quotes from printers. On the exact day that I received the best print quote I also received the contract offer from the publisher.

I have decided to go the traditional publishing route with the hope that my enthusiastic supporters from the crowdfunding campaign will celebrate this exciting turn of events, even if it means waiting a year to receive the book.

So the absolute high of the week? Signing that contract!

contract-signAnd the low?

Waking up up the next day with higher blood sugars. Heading to my mat hoping the numbers would fall. Turning up the dial on my nightly basal injection. Feeling sleepy, grumpy and frustrated because no matter what I do only trial and error will bring my blood sugar down again.

When I hit these emotional lows, the best yoga practice is one of surrender, acceptance and knowing that I can ‘try’ again tomorrow.

And what does that practice look like?

me-in-prayer

I imagine myself at the feet of something greater and offer up my pain, frustration and sorrow to that force. I express absolute gratitude for the sweetness of life, the breath and this body, letting the emotions come.

This to me is the power of Yoga in the form of Bhakti. And one of the many ways I bring yoga into my daily diabetes management plan. No matter what your religion, culture or belief, surrender and gratitude are universal and a powerful daily practice.

with great respect…Rachel

And if you can’t wait for the book why not check out my free ebook on how I managed my first year on Insulin here.

A week in the wild

I’ve just returned from the Kruger National Park in South Africa, a vast tract of land teaming with wildlife. What a privilege to spend seven days watching the natural lifestyles of wild animals. And guess what…it’s all about the food.img_9488Animals are either ground grazers, tall leaf eaters or wild hunters (like leopards and lions) I’m talking rhinos battling it out in a nearly dry river bed, herds of elephants eating trees covered in thorns, giraffes crossing and re-crossing roads in search of the freshest and tastiest leaves. And not only do they eat, but they fight for the right to eat. We watched giraffes weaving their necks together, elephants pushing and shoving each other and kudus locking horns. My partner mentioned that it was all about survival of the fittest. If you win the battle you get your pick of the best. It made me think about living with diabetes and how we work twice as hard as someone with a functioning pancreas to stay fit and still we deal with that feeling that it’s never enough!img_9457Unlike our complex needs for exotic combinations on our dinner plates, animals keep it simple. Their primary directive is survival. If I can’t get it on the ground and I can reach it in a bush, I’ll eat that. Basically, like animals all a human body needs is nutrients to survive. I can get caught up in personal taste, be fussy about presentation, but if I was on a desert island? I’d probably behave like any wild animal and eat whatever!img_9555Besides watching all the munching and crunching there was a lot of digesting and sleeping going on too. We came across twenty crocodiles asleep in the sand along the banks of a watering hole, lions stretched out in a riverbed and a leopard straddling a high branch completely dead to the world.img_9496I never thought watching animals would be so soothing, fascinating and timeless. We spent over 6 hours in our car at one time and literally had to drag ourselves back to camp for a refresher before we jumped back in the car for more. Before the trip I worried that I’d get frustrated by sitting in the car all day. It’s completely against the rules to get out even for a pee (apparently a lion or some such other wild creature can come out of the bush at any moment and eat you up) But surprise, surprise it was easy. When you place your focus outside yourself time falls away and you forget all the little niggley things including the fact that your blood sugars might not be behaving.img_9631As the days went by I felt lighter and lighter and as a bonus my blood sugars levelled out. Maybe all any of us really need is a week away in the wild.

Check out these sweet little films below and if you’d like my free ebook on how I survived my first year on Insulin go here