Stop the merry go round, I want to get off

Keeping up with social media, blogging, yoga teaching and just plain surviving is intense. As much as I love every single aspect of my life, I definitely get overwhelmed. Like today, after a night of surfing the edge of lows (6 glucose tabs later), I’m kind of a wreck.

I’ve always been good at “putting on a smile.” It comes from my dancer days when we were told that a smile is the best way to deal with a stuff up. i.e. falling on your butt.

I’m not sure smiling my way through frustration with diabetes is the answer. I should probably be doing more yoga. I do quite a bit, but I’m also teaching a lot at the moment so getting up early after a rough sleepless night means I’m sleeping in instead of groping my mat at dawn. If you don’t do yoga you’re probably thinking, jeepers Rachel give yourself a break.

And you’re right. I need a break….

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A break from diabetes would be awesome. A break from finger pricks and needle sticks. A break from counting carbs, guestimating doses, downing glucose tabs and the constant micromanagement that creates a dull ache in my brain that never ever goes away.

A break from getting letters from the DMV telling me I can’t drive without a medical assessment and the endless costs of this test and that test just to make sure I am not sliding backward. Which by the way I just found out I am. Hashimoto’s is now showing up even though ‘apparently’ my thyroid antibody count is down. ( Whatever that means…)

Like all good 21st century peeps I’ve signed up for endless free webinars and summits on thyroid and gut solutions. I’m seeing a neuroimmunologist, I’m drinking chicken bone broth, taking clean fish oil and probiotics, chlorella and I’m whole food plant based while having eggs.

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P.S If anyone gives me one more dietary guideline I’ll detonate!

And with all this endless frustration I’ve realised that I feel powerless. Powerless because chronic illness is not something that stops being chronic just because I want it to.

Chronic illness just is.

Even though I’m offloading my feelings, I also know that there are things I can do to alleviate my frustration.

Recently in a beautiful online women’s circle, the facilitator offered as an out for when we were wallowing in our emotions. Instead of saying yes to powerlessness, anger, or victimhood she reminded us to focus on going for what we loved.

When you focus on going for what you love your subconscious says yes to that.  So even if diabetes is a total downer, it doesn’t have to drag you under. A subtle shift in focus is all it takes.

Relax, I am guided and supported. My body will look after itself and find balance. You are LIGHT itself

In that spirit, I invite you to join me in this simple practice to stop the merry go round.

When you feel at your wits end with diabetes, when you feel fed up, burnt out, frustrated, spun out and overwhelmed imagine sloughing off those emotions like you would an old coat. Then step into a circle of light. In that circle are all the things you love, your creative desires, let the images come without effort. As you focus on what you love, feel yourself becoming lighter and light filled. Feel the delight and the freedom of you expressing your gifts. Then take a pen and paper and write down all the things that you felt and saw in your circle of light.

Once you’ve got it all down on paper get creative. Turn your words into a poem, a college, a song, a story. Put those words and the images in a place where you have your diabetes stuff so you are reminded to say yes to going for what you love.

Finally, trust that you are always guided and supported no matter what. Your existence is a blessing.

With great respect

rachel 

Making room for yourself

I’ve had to take a few steps back in the last few weeks from the blog. Not because I don’t have anything to say, but because there’s too much to say and I’ve needed to collect myself.

My passion is yoga and to share that in whatever form that takes. So in teaching regular classes I’ve come back to my rhythm. We all have a rhythm when we’re doing what we love. Some people like to call it flow.

For me, it’s a connection to words and images weaving together into a dance of postures. I love talking about the benefits of the poses, the power of the breath and the magic of stillness. What I love most about teaching is for most of that time I forget about diabetes. Sure I check my levels midway through class or sometimes take an injection, but mostly it’s not my focus.

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Whenever we are doing something we love and completely immersed in that it’s YOGA. Yoga means wholeness, completeness. In reality, this is our natural state we just don’t know it.  Capturing that flow state when living with chronic illness, especially diabetes is a challenge. There is way too much micromanagement involved. I’m definitely guilty of that and to be honest sometimes even doing lots of yoga doesn’t help. It can just end up being another form of escape, control, whatever!

This is where receptivity comes in. Learning to just sit, be quiet and to receive what’s actually happening in that moment. To receive the simplicity of yourself warts and all.

There is a beautiful exercise I often share in class to allow the noise of the outside world to drop away and it relates to the 5 elements, Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space.

Click the image below and join me for this simple 5-minute practice to stop, breathe and receive the beauty of yourself and the moment simply as it is.

With great respect…

rachel

For the love of a body

I’ve never been someone to feel at home in my body. For as long as I can remember I’ve dealt with feelings of discomfort. The feeling that everything that’s supposed to work in the usual way doesn’t. Digestion, breathing, and vital organs. I’m pretty sure the whole shebang was caused by the sudden death of my mother when I was 11, but I also remember a time before that when my mom threatened to use an enema bag on me when I refused to go to the toilet. I was terrified that my body wouldn’t do what it was ‘supposed’ to do.

Feeling frustrated and disconnected from one’s body isn’t unusual. It seems to be a general trend especially now with autoimmune and chronic health conditions on the rise. When we are conditioned to be comfortable living through our smartphones and laptops. Where productivity and quantity matter more than quality of life. Where we’ve forgotten the vital ingredient for existence. A body.

Stop, take a breath, think. How would you be reading this blog if you didn’t have a body, how would you be able to eat your lunch, without a body? How could you do anything without your body!

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Photo by Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho on Unsplash

As a dancer from a young age, I grew up understanding that my body was an instrument to be pressed and moulded into shape, to be moved into submission. Starved and folded, propelled and pulled my body had to be perfect. In my eyes, this seemed impossible. There were so many imperfections from flat feet to short legs to rounded bits where there should have been bones. So as a teenager I went to war with my body. Expecting the impossible.

Learning to suppress my feelings about my body became the norm for me. As long as I didn’t pay attention it wasn’t there. I longed to feel more comfortable and healthy, but it always felt out of reach.

And then I found Yoga. Yoga changed my life and my relationship with my body. When I first tried the practice I felt awkward, embarrassed, it was nothing like a plie at the barre or a jump on center stage. It was precision, alignment, breath, extension. A feeling of swoosh and whoosh as organs came back to life. It was release and relaxation. Tension easing. And the biggest takeaway was the malleability of the muscles and ligaments. For the first time in my life, my body felt fluid, I literally changed the shape of my muscles.

When I went to an audition for a dance company the year after I started practicing yoga the choreographer mentioned how my dancing had changed. How I moved more gracefully and my physique was lithe. It was nice to be acknowledged but it also terrified me. What if I couldn’t keep it up or worse what if my body failed me altogether.

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Many years later it did. Type 1 diabetes takes no prisoners. I have never felt more let down by my body than on the day of my diagnosis. It hurt, it really did.

Climbing out of a hole is no easy feat. I know I’m not the only one who lives with a chronic illness or has had to face the reality of a body that isn’t functioning as it should. It takes courage to see things for what they are. To let go of blaming oneself or feeling ashamed of doing something that may have caused the breakdown.

I am reminded of a story told by W. Timothy Gallway

“When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as “rootless and stemless.” We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.

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Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash

Learning to see the body for what it is, is the first step in coming back to body love. It’s your vehicle, your temple, the altar upon which you are able to experience the wonder of creation. It has given you 5 senses to enjoy your surroundings. It has given you a heart to love, lungs to breathe. The ability to experience pleasure, sensuality and the depth of connection. As a woman, you gestate and nurture life, as a man you help to create life. Everybody is unique, a love bomb exploding with passionate expression. Whether healthy or ill, you the enjoyer occupy the body, one of a kind and yet inexorably part of the whole. Take yourself out of creation and the whole creation is incomplete. Watching the dancer nothing gets added to the dancer in the dance.

Loving others comes easily, not loving ourselves can seem like the core issue. I truly believe that in a life with chronic illness trying to ‘love” ourselves can feel too much like a concept. So instead of beating yourself up about not loving yourself enough or that you lack self-love.  Try this simple visualisation practice below….

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You can record this in your own voice so you can practice it without reading it.

Take a comfortable seat and close your eyes. Imagine that you are walking in a forest. In the middle of the forest, you see a clearing. Step into the clearing and just be present with all your senses alert. Notice what’s in the clearing. What do you see? How does it make you feel? Now gaze intently at the circle of trees surrounding the clearing and imagine that behind each tree is a role, a persona, something you tell yourself about your diabetes or chronic issue, something you tell yourself about your body. Imagine calling those identities, thoughts and roles to come out from behind the trees and call them back to you. As they come to you embrace them. Recognizing them for what they are thoughts, ideas, identities, beliefs, projections. Things that you’ve given energy to. Call them back and let them dissolve in your heart. You are not the beliefs, or ideas about your body. You can never be what you have. You have thoughts about your body. Your thoughts cannot be you. As you recall all these fractured parts of yourself notice how it feels to embrace them and integrate them. Keep calling out to the identities behind the trees until there are none left. Once each one has found its home in you. Imagine yourself filling from your toes to your crown with pure golden light. Pure gold, impenetrable light. Feel your body, strong, resilient, calm and centered. Notice how this makes you feel. Keep feeling the strength of this gold light feeding every cell, bringing you back to total body harmony. Take as long as you need to bask in this light. Then when you are ready. Gently open your eyes and come back to normal waking consciousness…

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Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash

May the light of who you are be the reminder that gives you the courage to meet every day exactly as it is.

With great respect…

rachel

The Good and the not so good

Who I am I kidding I am not at all sad to say goodbye to 2018. Yes, it was a year of many milestones, such as continuing to launch the book and creating an online summit, not to mention getting my BG levels under control.

But that doesn’t mean I was running around with a 24/7 grin on my face.

It’s been a year of tightening the reins, learning to say no, reaching out for help even when I was ashamed too, accepting that situations aren’t always how one imagines and giving myself a break.

And I know I haven’t been the only one plowing through in 2018. Most everyone I’ve spoken to says it’s been a tough one. Tough externally and internally.

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Luckily I have a gratitude practice. I’ve learned to focus on what’s working and to acknowledge that. Gratitude for me can be as simple as an internal thank you when something goes my way, engaging in a creative endeavor like writing, painting or singing or landing on my mat so I can let go and feel all the feels.

Gratitude is also about acknowledging the individuals and support groups that truly make my day and remind me that even though sometimes it feels like things are just too tough to bear, there are others just like me facing this condition with courage and tenacity.

Together we rise!

So as I bid farewell to 2018 here are some lessons learned

  • When in doubt reach out. People are ready and willing to help
  • Find out what people want before you create it
  • Do what you do best
  • Living simply is a blessing
  • It’s okay to rest
  • If you can’t give materially give of yourself
  • Learn to listen
  • Reuse, recycle, waste nothing
  • Tell your friends you are grateful for their friendship often
  • Be in Nature
  • Cry when you need to and make sure you get in some good belly laughter too
  • When things feel overwhelming do one task that you know will yield results
  • Eat well and sleep well
  • Turn a hobby into a skill that you can use to serve others
  • Seed an idea without expectation
  • Develop a physical or mental focusing practice that you can repeat daily to bring a sense of meaning and purpose to your life

Happy New year! (2)

Wishing everyone a wonderful and blessed  2019

with great respect…

rachel

 

You Got This!

It’s Christmas Eve here in Australia. Last year we were in The US with my family. We’d spent days shopping for presents, dressing the tree and the turkey and enjoying the snow and the cold. It was a personal cause for celebration with the launch of my book and the promise of many events and launches to come. I remember thinking how lucky I was to be with my family, to feel safe and supported and to be able to live my mission in the world.

As the year has unfolded it’s been full of incredible highs and difficult lows. As much as I’ve enjoyed traveling to share yoga throughout America and Australia it’s also been challenging. I live with a chronic illness, and staying on top of my health while living in a different place every few weeks has forced me to reflect and pause and think about how I want to begin the new year.

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My goal in Jan 2018 was to start taking insulin for meals. I’d started to notice my basal was no longer covering what I was eating. Plus I didn’t think I could take one more mouthful of greens, greens, and only greens.

I took the plunge with great support from some of my diabuddies plus testing out the MySugr app with diabetes coach Gary Schiener. After working out my insulin to carb ratio, when to inject and how to treat lows with glucose tabs ( I did some testing on how much glucose I need to raise levels in 10 minutes) it all came together.

A few months into the regime my diabetes educator said that my body responded well to mealtime insulin and it appeared more predictable than my body’s response to basal insulin ( I’ve really struggled to get that dose right).

A few months later when my A1c was the lowest it’s been since diagnosis (5.9%), she poured over my data to make sure I wasn’t living in the land of lows (which I wasn’t) and then finally last week my doctor declared I must still be producing some insulin and honeymooning because my A1c is holding steady.

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Go figure 10 years on. I know it’s the yoga and breathing and discipline with diet but shhh…. Don’t tell!

But just because I’ve managed to smash my A1c goal for the year doesn’t mean it’s all unicorns and rainbows. As much as I want to share all the good stuff here on the blog I also want to be real.

What you see on FB or Instagram doesn’t show the 24/7 reality. There is exhaustion, pain, and emotions, like anxiety, feelings of failure, overwhelm, insecurity, grief, and loss.

There are moments where I don’t want to write one more word on the page.

As much as I feel these feelings ( I know this is not just me but basically everyone) I’m also capable of rising above them through knowing that feelings are just thoughts I’ve entertained and given momentum too. No matter what the thought, good or bad, it’s just a thought. As quickly as it comes it will go.

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So what’s my go-to when I am feeling absolutely exhausted or overwhelmed?

I do one thing that brings me comfort and one task I know I need to get done to work towards a set goal. It could be as simple as making myself my favorite lunch (baked sweet potato and pumpkin salad with Haloumi) and then answering a work-related email or creating a flyer for my next event and then going for a walk.

Whatever those two things are in committing to them I find myself relaxing, returning to my center and able to gather more energy for the next task.

As the year turns over into 2019 my wish for everyone is to know you are not alone when it comes to living with diabetes. No matter how tough it gets, or how challenged you are, there is hope and support. For me its Yoga, for you it might be something else. No matter what it is. You got this! If I can do it so can you.

Wishing you a truly beautiful holiday season. You are a precious gift!

Namaste and with great respect…

Rachel

From our family to yours,

You Are That

The other day I was scrolling through Facebook and I was captivated by a song. Within minutes my toes were tapping, my body was swaying and I was humming along. Listening was pure bliss and total happiness. At that moment I forgot myself, my life with diabetes or anything else for that matter.

The benefits of yoga are many, however, the benefits are not just the product of targeted exercise or the marrying of mind, breath, and body.

They are the direct result of choosing to immerse yourself in a focussed activity that momentarily suspends the idea you have of yourself. That idea is a conglomeration of a lifetime of experiences, conditioning, and beliefs. In psychological terms, it is referred to as your identity.  When our identity is suspended and we are no longer identified we feel blissful, Ananda, because we are the bliss.

Bliss is not a state-it’s the nature of awareness and who you are.

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So what is your bliss? Is it music, dancing, cooking, laughing, being outdoors, playing with friends? Whatever is blissful is only blissful because of you.

Let that sink in for a moment.

It’s easy with this condition to focus on what isn’t bliss.

Like daily finger pricks, site fails, too many lows and highs, carb guesses, medical costs the never-ending 24/7 vigilance of a condition we didn’t ask for and can’t get away from that leads to burnout, depression, and anxiety

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But that kind of focus, the one where we naturally go isn’t doing anyone any favors

I’ll say it again.

Whatever you see as blissful is only blissful because of YOU. Without you, there is no bliss.

The next time you do something you love, and you find yourself forgetting everything and you are swept up in the magic of just being.

Stop and remember yourself.  YOU ARE THAT.

with great respect…

rachel

Want to bliss out? Check out my yoga playlist on Spotify curated especially for you. Click the image below or head here

I’ve come a long way baby

Today is my Diaversary. Ten years of living with diabetes and baby, I’ve come a long way. When I was diagnosed, neither I nor my health care providers knew a lot about the type of diabetes I had. Type 1 LADA has such a slow onset that it can appear as prediabetes or even type 2.

Ten years ago I had no idea the DOC (Diabetes Online Community) existed either so I never reached out for support. Besides my motto was, “Yoga teachers don’t get diabetes or if they do, yoga fixes it.” Thinking this way was wrong on every count. Looking back I’m glad I hit rock bottom because it took a crisis to wake me up.

Even though it was tough and took a while, the path I’ve gone on has made me more compassionate and inspired my mission to support others living with this condition to thrive.

This morning I jumped on Instagram to tell my story. Check it out below.

With great respect…

rachel

 

How Do You Plan to Mark World Diabetes Day?

Today is November 14, World Diabetes Day. A day to shed light on what it means to live with this condition. And this year the build-up to “the day” has been more intense than ever. Friends in the blogosphere have been writing daily blogs, sharing memes, hashtags and so much more. I’ve been contributing too through daily Instagram and Facebook posts with the hashtag #makediabetesvisible and #diabetesawarenessmonth.

As I explore the different aspects of my life with diabetes I can’t help thinking…

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How lucky I am to be alive.

How before 1921 and the discovery of Insulin my condition would have been a death sentence.

How living with diabetes has widened my community and connected me with people who are making a difference in the lives of others.

How it’s humbled me, made me more compassionate, sensitive and taught me to put myself first.

How it has made me healthier, more resilient and courageous.

How it has inspired me to be honest with myself.

How its deepened my connection with my husband, son, parents, and friends.

How I’ve experienced vulnerability as strength.

How yoga has helped me cope, been my anchor and helped preserve my immune system.

How western medicine and medications which manage diabetes are life-saving and non-negotiables that everyone should have access to.

How charities and organizations that raise money for diabetes and do so tirelessly should be given the recognition and financial support they deserve.

And how even though there are no days off with diabetes, one can go beyond diagnosis to live a happy, adventurous and fulfilled life.

How do you plan to mark #WorldDiabetesDay?

with great respect…

rachel

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Photo by Matthias Boettrich

 

One step closer

I’m back and so is the blog. Thanks to everyone who participated in our Diayogi Dialogue Summit. The feedback was phenomenal and even though I created and launched the summit I felt like I was a student along with everyone else.

I now have more yoga management tools under my belt to help me with the highs and lows. The Summit will be listed in the menu tab of the blog until the end of November to coincide with Diabetes Awareness Month so if you haven’t had a chance to watch all the episodes yet just go here and scroll down to find them all.

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Today marks the start of Diabetes Awareness Month and this is also the month that I was diagnosed 10 years ago. I feel like I have grown in leaps and bounds since then. From sitting in my endo’s office in total denial to being on a full insulin regime and getting my A1c into the normal range.

If you live with diabetes you know this isn’t easy. For me, yoga has been the key ingredient and learning to trust my body and life itself. As I’ve been upping my fast acting insulin doses, introducing more foods and finding the right balance between rest, work and home life, I finally feel in control of how I manage my daily life with this condition.

At my last doctor’s appointment, my doctor was encouraging. He celebrated my A1c results with me while offering a different kind of goal for my next visit. He said his aim is to help me normalize my life with diabetes so that injecting and checking my levels is a seamless experience.  He compared it to the everyday routine of brushing my teeth. I had to smile when he said this. I mean who can compare 7 injections a day to the painless swish swish of tooth brushing? But still, I get the gist.

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As I get used to fine-tuning my doses and the timing of the shots it gets easier and easier to get on with the day and the enjoyment of this precious life. I may not be a pro just yet but I’m definitely one step closer.

with great respect…

rachel

 

Hypo Hot Mess

You’d think I’d be used to being on the razor’s edge but I’m not.  Like a mother who forgets the pain of childbirth, I keep forgetting what a fine line it is to live with diabetes. Maybe it’s because my memory is selective, or that I still find myself going into denial. More likely it’s because I’m burnt out from all the nitty gritty stuff I have to do to stay alive.

Hypos are the worst. Every time a low comes on I think, “Sh…t  I’m going low. What time is it? Can I wait 15 minutes and then eat lunch. Nope? Ok, just take ½ a tab. That’s probably not enough. Wait 15 min. Sh…t still going low take another ½… No, strike that, take 1 tab. Wait 15 more minutes (by now I actually feel low… sensation of ants crawling all over my body, mind like a wobbly wet piece of jelly). Ok, just take another tab and be done with it. (check my blood sugar 10 times in 15 minutes). Crap my fingers hurt.

After it comes back up I cry a lot. Later I think about adjusting my basal but worry that if I do I’ll go high. Eventually, I adjust my basal, wait to see what happens and tell myself, “Next time I’m going to take ¼ tab. Next time I’ll trust my body and my intuition. Next time I’ll take less insulin.”

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My last big hypo happened right before I was supposed to teach a yoga workshop on mudras ( yogic hand gestures). I was sitting in front of 15 experienced yoga teachers while furiously checking my blood sugar. The trend arrow on my mySugr app wasn’t looking good.

I freaked out! I’d driven all that way, spent weeks preparing had gathered an awesome group of yogis, only to have the whole thing crumble because of my broken pancreas and stupid carb to insulin miscalculation. I kept telling myself, “Push through you’re stronger than this maybe it won’t keep plummeting. Start teaching you’ll be fine.” But no matter how strong I thought I was, I couldn’t fight reality. My body wasn’t going to kick in and save the day. I had to share through my vulnerability. It was either that or bale.

Stepping up meant sharing with the group that I was in the middle of a hypo, that I’d taken some glucose tabs and had to wait 15 minutes before I could teach. I felt awkward, my brain wasn’t clear enough to communicate, but the smiling and compassionate faces of the group gave me heart.

“Living yoga is about being with what is,” I continued, “and sometimes ‘what is’ sucks.”

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Luckily within a few minutes, I could feel the glucose bringing my brain back online. The class flew by and was loads of fun, but later I felt drained, weak and really emotional.

Before my diagnosis, I would get tired after teaching, but it was a good tired. The kind where you knew you had worked hard enough to deserve a rest. Hypo fatigue is something else. 24 hours later I still find it hard to focus, my nervous system is overly sensitive and I’m prone to panic attacks. In a way, it’s akin to burning oneself accidentally. At contact, it burns sharp and hot, but that’s not the problem. It’s the lingering throbbing pain that’s tough to withstand. Plus Hypos aren’t always just a one-off thing. When a Hypo, builds on another Hypo it takes days to recover. It’s a challenge not to lose heart or worry that I’ll never get on top of things.

As I mention continuously in my blog posts I really have to take my hat off to yoga. The physical practices of posture and breathing definitely help. Lately, I have been using the deeper practices like mudra (gesture) and mantra (sound) too. Holding my hands in certain positions really calms my emotions and repeating a mantra like OM is soothing for all the systems in the body. In fact, so soothing that chanting lowers my blood sugar.

In honor of being a Hypo Hot Mess, this weeks offering is a simple 5 element mudra sequence. As you go through each mudra feel harmony coming into the body, relax and breathe. You can do this anywhere anytime, focusing on one element for your practice or including all five.

With great respect…

Rachel