A meditation on kindness

This is going to be a rant…

I’ve been low lately. Low in glucose levels, energy and motivation. Motivation to write this blog and be active on social media. Other than wanting to share through my channels what we can do as individuals to make a better world, I can’t watch the endless stories on Instagram anymore, even when I like the people who share them. I’ve got no time for superficial nonsense and I could give two hoots about how to live a better me. This is it baby, I AM me.

My inbox is crammed with junk mail and there’s no end in sight. The weather is way too hot, too cold, and here just up the road 21 homes have been destroyed due to raging bush fires. Last night we went to see the Joker. I came out with a headache. This movie is all about the making of a villain. No superheroes in sight.

But who is the villain?

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As far as I see it, we have been complacent too long (me included). If we don’t do something, say something and change our behaviour not only towards the planet but each other we are all ‘the villain’. I don’t care which way you lean. Be a decent human being. Those people putting themselves on the line deserve our support. Better yet put yourself on the line. Start with your own home, reduce your carbon footprint.

And all of us dealing with the high cost of Insulin, crap insurance and lack of money for medication, devices etc, the situation isn’t looking up. I had a meltdown the other day realising that if I am somewhere where access to medication becomes impossible for whatever reason, I and countless others seriously wouldn’t have long to live!

If you’ve been reading my blog for the last 4 years, you’ll know I am super positive. I always try and see the good in things. I use my yoga practice to support my mental and emotional health and absolutely believe yoga and knowing its true meaning can solve all our problems.

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Photo by Jaime Kinsella

So even though I have been feeling disheartened I’m also excited. Excited that things have finally got to the point where there is a possibility that we can breakthrough our complacency and come together. I truly wish for this with all my heart and I believe it can happen. Being part of the diabetes community has taught me that.

When I’ve needed an extra sensor, syringes or a shoulder to cry on someone’s been there. It feels natural to help others when it comes to chronic illness. It’s not our fault and if we can’t turn to the people who understand, life would be bleak. I trust that even though crisis is the worst and impossible to face, it also calls out the best in us.

When I was in 9/11 in NYC and walking through the streets to make my way home, I walked along the 59th street bridge with 7,000 people shoulder to shoulder. We held each other in that embrace. Nobody was arguing, complaining or attacking. We were one breath, one body, helping each other home.

This post today is a clarion call. What small act of kindness can you do today to make a difference? It could be something personal or planetary. This is what is meant by the practice of Karma Yoga, Selfless service. The yoga of action.

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Recently my friend and mentor Eve Grzybowski started a group on Facebook called Climate Yoga. Asking Yoga teachers to find ways in which they could act off the mat to support the climate movement. The group grew from 10 to 200 or so in a matter of days. This shows how yoga can be a springboard for anything we care deeply about.

Why? Because during your yoga practice you learn to cultivate compassion for yourself. A posture may not be easy, your breath may be inhibited, you may feel too tired to stretch or hold a pose. Being kind to yourself is the first step in learning compassion. I often talk gently to myself on the days I don’t want to do anything. Reminding myself that if I just do two or three poses it’s enough.

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The same goes for how we can contribute to this huge behemoth of climate change. Think about two things you could do today and every day to reduce your carbon footprint. It might be something as simple as walking somewhere you would normally drive. ( p.s also great for blood sugar management) Going meatless on Mondays. Bringing your own bag to the supermarket.  In fact if you’d like a list I’ve found this one to be really cool.

And if you’d like to get inspired to ‘be the change’ you wish to see in the world. Try this simple loving kindness meditation.

Loving Kindness Meditation

Sit comfortably or lie down.

Bring your awareness to the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils.

Remember the happiest moment in your life and feel yourself happy and smiling.

Visualise sending yourself feelings of love, kindness and joy.

Think of 3 things that you love about yourself.

Think about ways in which you are kind to yourself.

Then say to yourself. May I remember myself as pure loving kindness. May I remember my natural strength, peace and joy.

Next think of someone you love and extend that loving kindness to them. Wish peace, strength, happiness and joy for them. Feel yourself sending them love and imagine them sending love back to you. Think of the things you love about that person.

Repeat the same loving kindness words for someone that you don’t know so well. A neutral individual.

Now repeat the same process with someone or something you feel is hostile towards you or you feel hostile towards. This could even be directed at the anger and frustration you feel towards your diabetes

Go back to step one. Direct loving kindness back towards yourself. Feel yourself as love, peace and joy. Feel how love peace and joy is the nature of every human being. Feel your compassion extending out from your heart to every single creature of the earth. Feel it like a giant heart pulsing through the whole of creation….

Finish by bringing your awareness back to your breath taking some slow deep belly breaths.

With great respect…

rachel

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Photo by Jaime Kinsella

Transform your greatest challenge

Today I am sharing a guest post from yogini Evan Soroka. Some of you may remember her from the diayogi summit in October. Evan is a wise soul whose lived with type 1 diabetes for the past 20 years and is living proof that yoga is an alchemical and transformational modality to completely revolutionize your life with diabetes. Everything Evan shares from her presence on social media, to her work with groups and individuals both on and offline, is infused with a calm wisdom that will transform how you see yourself and your diabetes. Her program Rise above T1D launches today and I am super excited to share her story with you. Take it away Evan…

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I have always been and will continue to always be a curious adventurer at heart. Growing up in the mountains much of my free time was spent under the influence of nature. It is no wonder that the story of my diagnosis revolves around adventure and the continued success of my journey with type 1 diabetes is due to that same ardor to know more.

The summer leading up to diagnosis was a season of flux. I had spent the previous year preparing for my Bat Mitzvah; a much anticipated coming of age ceremony in Jewish tradition. My body was under rapid permutation from girl to woman and the obvious signs of illness passed under the radar. Looking back I remember a rabid thirst that could not be quenched. The day before my Bat Mitzvah I wet the bed. My parent’s passed it off as nerves. There were a number of other subtle red flags, which would have been more obvious had I of been older and more self-aware. I kept a lot of the symptoms to myself. I was diagnosed at the end of that summer after a backpacking trip in the Colorado wilderness. It was not until this trip, quiet under the influence of Mother Nature, did I perceive of something being wrong with me.

After diagnosis, I did not understand the magnitude of the change to come. I enjoyed the spotlight and lavished attention. I was too young to conceive of my own mortality to be fearful and too curious to be upset by the doctors, hospital beds and needles. However, the limelight did not last and soon I was unhinged by my reality. The emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows, the tension of child/parent dominance, unresolved insecurities and emotions left me a shell of my former self. I struggled to learn new eating habits and became increasing obsessive with my weight, body image and stopped enjoying outdoor activities that I had once cherished. Two years after diagnosis I moved to rural Brazil on a Rotary Youth Exchange Program. My dad still jokes that I did not give my parents another alternative. I was determined to face the world and diabetes on my own. The year abroad was necessary for my own self-development and growth. I learned how to live on my own with T1D in a new culture, climate and explain my condition in a foreign language. I was confident but defiant, self-sufficient yet completely incompetent. Thankfully I found yoga.

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Yoga bridged the gap from my head to my heart. It was the first thing that I learned to do for myself since diagnosis that granted me a sense of freedom. It was a connection to a natural part of me that was beyond all insecurities, pain, and sadness. With practice, I learned how to use yoga as a tool to manage the symptoms and side effects of T1D.  Since those early years I have dedicated my life’s work to yoga.

A full-time teacher since 2007, I have received some of the highest credentials in yoga teaching, becoming an ERYT 500 (minimum 2000 hours of teaching) and a Certified Yoga Therapist (5-year program).

Yoga therapy, derived from yogic philosophy and Ayurvedic tradition, helps individuals facing health challenges at any level manage their condition, reduce side effects, restore balance, increase vitality and elevate attitude about life.

Yoga therapy, unlike Western medicine, considers the individual a whole multi-dimensional being addressing the physical, mental/emotional and spiritual levels. The tools of yoga postures, breathing exercises and meditation promote awareness, discipline and grant the individual the power to cultivate true and lasting change. I am a dedicated practitioner as well as a patient of yoga therapy, with a daily practice. I teach from direct experience and influence my students with the same drive and compassion that I have learned for myself.

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Today I am launching my  6-Weeks Rise Above T1D online yoga therapy program. This program is a compilation of my life practice and aims to teach all diabetics how to skillfully navigate chronic illness.

You will learn how to:

  • Apply yoga directly to your symptoms and side effects.
  • Increase insulin sensitivity, reduce stress and anxiety, manage energy levels and elevate your attitude about T1D.
  • Unearth limiting belief patterns and fears that hold you back from achieving what you really want.
  • Use your body as a vehicle for transformation and freedom.
  • Create and maintain a daily yoga and meditation practice.

If not for a regular practice I would not be the successful diabetic that I am today. I am by no means a perfect diabetic but it does not control me. When I am not on my mat or teaching you can find me adventuring in my Colorado backyard.

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Evan Soroka is a certified yoga therapist and teacher based in Aspen, Colorado. When she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in early adolescence yoga was the only thing that helped her manage the uncomfortable emotional and physical side effects. Since then Evan has turned her greatest struggle into her life’s purpose. Through the practices and teachings of yoga therapy, she empowers others to use their own body as a vehicle for healing and transformation. www.evansoroka.com

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,

Bold Freedom Through Time Mastery

Today I’d like to introduce you to Lesley O’Brien. Like me Lesley is passionate about Ayurveda. She has just written a book which is about integrating Ayurveda into your daily life. Check out her guest post on the blog and her special offer at the end of the post. Take it away Lesley… 

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When we first discover Ayurveda it’s a thrilling experience of revelation. We get to know how our body works in a whole new light.  Understanding what’s going on in our physiology according to Ayurveda’s knowledge of circadian rhythms brings relief because it makes sense.  We realize we can impact our health, reverse engineer and return to some semblance of I feel better in myself.

Yet after a while, Ayurveda can become confusing – when you hit the limitations of the popular Dosha categorizing system. Dosha opens the door to Ayurveda but if you remain at that level trying to fit everything impacting on you into the categories of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha you’ll get stuck going in circles.

Often a Doshic body type questionnaire will reveal your Vikruti and what needs balancing rather than your constitution as such, called Prakruti. Constitution or body type shouldn’t be measured by things that change like moods or how many times you pass a stool a day. Your body type is stable and best measured by factors about your physicality that don’t change. The more you attune your body type to natural rhythms and how and when it was designed to function, to digest, to sleep to move, then the further you are from disease formation.

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Ayurveda considers poor digestion as the primary cause of conditions like diabetes and calls the pre-diabetic metabolic phase Prameha. Weak digestion leads to toxic residue called Ama and it can accumulate in the pancreas impairing the production of insulin.

The aim of Ayurveda is to align body and mind in the environment. You’ll know this has happened for you when you have one of those ‘good days’! You’ll feel lighter, clearer and have more energy when you’ve supported the 20% impact you can have on the health of your constitution, and adjusted with your surroundings simultaneously. You do it through every substance you choose to take in through your five senses: through what you eat, drink, listen to and watch. It’s called epigenetics and you have enough control over the effects to either trigger dis-ease or recover from it to varying degrees depending on circumstances.

While in clinic practice I realised that there was something missing about how to help patients with the positive health potential of adopting Ayurveda’s lifestyle habits called Dinacharya. My patients wanted to be pain free and sustain a level of health they could self-manage at home every day. I wanted this for them too and I knew I needed more routine to lean into in my own life for sustained energy, yet we don’t DO things that are imposed on us consistently enough to get results. And we hit the shadow issues like the rebel or the control freak when we take on more than is reasonably doable given our circumstances. After studying behavioural science and researching efficiency for business, I developed the Bold Freedom method, aligning health science with the techniques needed to show up and take self-care every day.

There need to be elements of time management, relationship alignment and a conducive environment in any nutrition or movement method for real success in wellbeing. It’s the way to get deep, lasting results we can repeat and don’t have to rely on a weekly dose from a health pro to keep going. When all aspects of our being are supported through a complete method like Bold Freedom, integrity is graced.  Our home and work space, our calendars our diet all become conducive to a healthier lifestyle.

One of the secrets to finding more free time in your day is to create space – physical space and head space!

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Start with when you eat dinner. Eating dinner before the sun goes down fits in with how your body was designed to function best. You’re a primate and your bile is best at lunchtime for a main meal then. Having dinner before dark leads gracefully into earlier to bed and allows for waking without stiffness or a groggy head. When you eat dinner earlier, you naturally detox overnight while you sleep. You wake ready to eliminate the toxic residue (Ama) and start the day spacious and ready.

You may not need MORE food or sleep as much as you need to change when you eat and rest! The aim is to wisely use the time and energy you already have first. When you see your average week on paper, it’s glaringly obvious where you’ve misaligned with when you eat, and that maybe you’re overscheduled and stressed about things. This exercise can lead you to better decisions which create more abundance in so many areas of your life.

You have so much more control over finding more time and getting more energy than you might realise. It can take months to automate your daily routine and a year to get the household aligned! Remember you’re continually growing and refining. It gets better day after day after day.

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In essence, the Bold Freedom method guides you to write out how you use your time now. It encourages you to state your big lofty vision for the year – something that connects you with your body type and so what you’re created for. Then doable action steps get scheduled.

Looking at how you currently use your time is fascinating and sometimes embarrassing! Bold Freedom will help you create a space that’s conducive to how you want to live.

For example, if you want to exercise there needs to be a solid decision about whether you’ll exercise in the living room or garden or gym and what time of day you’ll show up.

When we don’t plan the action the words and ideas go around in heads as stressful pressure and we don’t think we can trust ourselves because we haven’t done what we said we’d do!

It’s vital we shed all that brings a sense of stress if we want to be healthy. It’s only when we’re easeful can we shed the Ama that keeps us clogged and unwell.

We can’t truly heal one area of life without affecting other areas of our life, because they’re interrelated, just like all the aspects of our physiology. If you truly get healthy circulation then your skin glow will improve.  Yet I’ve seen people get amazing developments at work but who are tired and can’t perform at the next level and be present for that growth. There’s a disconnect!

It’s vital to an easeful successful life that body and mind in the environment be strengthened and cleared simultaneously. Dinacharya is the best way to do that –it’s time well used in developing a foundational wellness to thrive from. When we wake early, hydrate, move, breathe, poop and scrape our tongues we rid the Ama from yesterday, we build our immunity and a whole new day of Bold Freedom begins.

“Who do you know who’s ‘too busy’? Give them the gift of healthy slower days. Order them a copy of BOLD Freedom when you order yours. FREE shipping.” 

lesley Obrien

Lesley O’Brien – Ayurvedic Medicine Practitioner: Herbal medicine, Nutrition, Massage therapy.
Lover of stand up paddle-boarding, bike riding, re-bounding, Yoga & wholefood cooking. Past volunteer firefighter.

I’ve helped people from as young 2 years of age to 93 years with a broad range of health conditions, such as chronic fatigue, acne, arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease. I’m constantly impressed by the human body’s ability to heal, to find a place where it’s pain-free and able to thrive. www.ayurbotanicals.com.au

 

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

 

The Politics of Rest

Rest, we all need it. It’s one of the three essential ingredients in life. Along with food and water, we’d die without it. So why do we try and cheat the one thing we need the most?

In my younger years, I enjoyed staying up till 3 am while trawling the Sydney nightclub scene. Those were the days of pointy black boots and off the shoulder T-shirts and way too many Bloody Mary’s. I was a professional dancer and had to be in the class by 9 am. Sleep was something you fell into because not sleeping meant falling out of a pirouette the next day.

Being 19, I thought it was cool to dance, drink and sleep as little as possible. Luckily that attitude and approach didn’t last. Being sensitive my body suffered. My back began to hurt and a chiropractor recommended yoga and meditation.

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A few months later I took my first class. It was weird and awkward. The strangest part came at the end. The teacher told us to lie down and covered us in blankets. She didn’t say anything and the room went really quiet. After a few moments, I sat up, looked around and saw the teacher glaring at me. She motioned for me to lie back down. I felt like one of those kids in nursery school at nap time. You know the kid who is just too fidgety to stay still for more than two minutes? That was me!

Eventually, I got the hang of it. I went through stages of letting go. In the beginning, my mind would race from one thought to another, I’d feel a rush of energy through my nerves. Then slowly that sensation would fade. I’d begin to breathe deeply and visualize things that couldn’t be real. Like seeing people floating on clouds, or strange luminous lakes. After the visuals passed I’d hear myself snoring. Soft buzzing snores that kept me present but relaxed at the same time. Eventually, I’d disappear. The teacher’s voice would too and then the sound of singing, or gongs would bring me back. The rest of the day I’d feel more relaxed, more tuned in and rested. The relaxation at the end of a yoga class, called Savasana (corpse pose) was a reset for my body and mind.

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In 2018 the politics of rest has become an obsession. According to studies, we are exhausted. We are literally killing ourselves with lack of rest. In my personal opinion, it’s the lack of fresh air, organic food, and people interaction as well as the constant pressure to have and do more. I also think technology and our dependence on it plays a significant role.

We play, interact, eat and even sleep through our smart phones. Even if we want to rest we are encouraged to do it with an app. Just yesterday I saw an article with the headline “A sleep app on your phone? Maybe not such a good idea.”

This is where Savasana solves the problem, but not just any Savasana. Yoga nidra. Yoga nidra (yogic sleep) is a phrase to describe a deep and conscious state of rest. Unlike the corpse pose, you stay alert while relaxing different parts of the body, counting breaths and sensing and visualizing various physical and emotional states.

Benefits of yoga nidra are akin to going into a deep sleep. Our brain has the capacity to work in different states of awareness: waking state, relaxed state, dream state and deep sleep state. There is also a fifth state called the gamma state, which happens at the point of orgasm or during any ecstatic activity.

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Even though science has categorized these states as separate from each other, in reality, they’re all happening at once. We choose where to place our attention. For instance, when you’re hard at work nutting out a problem or completing a task you’re in the beta brainwave state. If you decide to take a break, watch TV or read a book, you can become so relaxed you’re nearly asleep. That’s the alpha wave. The alpha wave quite naturally takes you into the dream state which is the theta wave. Before you know it, you’re out for the count. This is the delta wave. Everything disappears. No thoughts, no ideas, no individuality, no problems. Bliss.

The theory behind yoga nidra is that as you are led through a series of steps, starting with relaxing different parts of the body, observing the breath and finally working with visualization, quite naturally you flow into the alpha wave, which relaxes the nervous system and reduces your stress.

What I love about this yoga practice is that anybody can do it. You don’t need to be fit or flexible. You just need a comfortable spot to lie down. You can do it in bed, or if you are at work seated in a chair with your eyes closed.

Join me in taking deep rest with this yoga nidra we recorded recently with my husband and fellow yogi John Weddepohl at Inhale Life in Sydney. The nidra is accompanied by the sound of singing bowls played by yoga teacher Romina DiFederico.

Start the practice by lying on your back.

Have your arms and legs slightly away from the body, palms facing upwards, feet relaxed and open.

Turn the head gently from side to side until it rests in the center.

If your chin juts up towards the sky, place a blanket underneath your head.

Relax completely.

Don’t worry about the breath or what the body is doing.

Feel how effortless it is to lie here.

I am lucky to be alive

I’ve waited all week to write this post because it’s about time. Time, I threw my hat in the ring for National Diabetes Week to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes.

My personal diagnosis story started long before my actual diagnosis. It began with a sense that something wasn’t quite right with my body. I had always been a frequent visitor to the toilet and had a tendency to be on the thin side. I told people I had an overactive bladder and yoga kept me fit. It took a total exhaustive collapse for me to sit up and take notice. But even then I refused to take action. It was my husband who took me to the doctor and suggested I have some blood tests.

My doctor at diagnosis didn’t have a clue. He shouted the word “diabetes” at me and shoved a few pamphlets in my direction. I remember leaving his office dumbstruck. How could this be happening? Was he for real?

Luckily I was able to see an endocrinologist a few days later. He looked over all my blood work and scratched his head. I don’t think he’d ever met someone in their 40’s as healthy as me with any kind of diabetes. He advised me to get a glucometer and to keep testing. We were to keep on eye on things before drawing conclusions.

With a stricter diet and lots of yoga, I managed to keep my levels in check for at least a year. But I wasn’t out of the woods. A GAD antibody test revealed Islet cell antibodies. That meant the source of my diabetes was autoimmune. I remember asking my doctor if I could reverse it. The slow nod of his head said it all. “As long as your levels stay in range you won’t need medication. But eventually, you will.”

I played the waiting game for 6 more years… waiting for the symptoms to worsen, for the levels to rise. With every blood test, I battled to get my levels down. Then I burnt out. I stopped going to the doctor telling myself I had everything under control.

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in 2014 at 46 kg, 6 months before I started Insulin and 6 years post-diagnosis

In 2014, I broke down. I started peeing several times a night, I was down to 46 kilos, I’d stopped eating and increased my exercise. Nothing worked but I didn’t give up. As long as I had energy I assumed diabetes hadn’t got me.

Man, was I wrong.

Diabetes had held me in its grip from day one. If only I’d known sooner the ramifications of delaying insulin. How I might have preserved more beta cells. If only I’d understood how much damage high blood sugar causes to the nervous system, cells, and organs. Then I wouldn’t have mild neuropathy or such trouble with my digestion.

It took a crisis to get my attention and a community to bring me back to vibrant health. The moment I started insulin was the day my life changed for the better. I found a thriving community of people living with Type 1 in the blogosphere and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I reached out, asked questions and informed myself about my condition. As I grew in knowledge, I realized that with better information, more resources and awareness around type 1 diabetes I might have taken action sooner.

My biggest message for anyone out there is to be aware of the 4 T’s  ( Tired, Thirsty, Thinner and Toilet) which can affect anyone with any type of diabetes. If you live with type 2 catching these symptoms early is key. Some people living with type 2 can go up to 7 years before detection. Early detection of type 1 saves lives.

I wish I could say I believe there is a cure around the corner. I am hopeful for sure. but hoping doesn’t change the present moment. For now, cure or no cure. I live with diabetes. I have come to terms with my diagnosis and gone on to live my best, happiest most positive life.

I tell myself every day. I am lucky to be alive!

with great respect….

rachel

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Fit with Diabetes: An e-book review

I’ll never forget how it felt to step on my yoga mat to practice the day after I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2008. I was distraught, afraid and disillusioned. The tears flowed like a river and I couldn’t imagine the road ahead. My doctor had armed me with some pamphlets and told me to google diabetes. Back then I wasn’t on insulin and still had quite a bit of my beta cell function so worrying about insulin and exercise wasn’t an issue. My practice that day took me on a journey. With every pose, I felt myself calming down. The more I followed my breath the less my mind freaked out. By the end, I felt restored and ready. Ready to confront what lay ahead.

At diagnosis, I thought I had to tackle diabetes on my own,  I didn’t know there was a thriving community of people supporting each other with diabetes and I hadn’t met Christel Oerum the founder of Diabetes Strong.

Christel is a powerhouse who hasn’t let diabetes stop her. She’s tall, strong and looks like a warrior goddess.  After meeting her in person, I can attest to the fact that she’s a motivator of note. We met at the Diabetes Sisters Conference in October. I was in charge of leading the yoga classes and she was leading the morning fitness workout. Our approaches couldn’t be more different but our message is the same. Working with the body is a total buzz.

Recently Christel asked me to check out her new e-book, Fit with Diabetes which is all about how to incorporate exercise and healthy eating into your daily life with diabetes.

Having started fast-acting insulin just 7 weeks ago I am now much more concerned about how exercise impacts my blood sugar levels. Being someone who loves to walk, swim, dance and do yoga I’ve been concerned about having too much insulin on board. Christel’s book and her message couldn’t have come at a better time.

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The book begins with Christel’s personal story, not so much about her diagnosis but her discovery of how to work with insulin and exercise. She looked everywhere in the traditional medical and diabetes community for answers and no one could give her a precise formula so she decided to create her own.

What I love about Christel’s writing style and the format of this book is that everything is in easy to digest bytes.  The first chapter sets the scene for assessing our goals and motivation for getting fit with diabetes.

As she states clearly, “in order to start any new fitness regime you need, clear and realistic goals for what you want to achieve and the (positive) motivation that will allow you to work towards your goals on a daily basis”

She then heads into some real-life examples of how she’s helped her clients to set measurable goals. Throughout the book, she either refers to her own life experience or the experiences of others. As the reader it makes me feel like I can make the necessary changes to be fitter and healthier.

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The chapters that follow are about the different types of exercise and how diabetes might impact your blood sugar management. Topics like diabetes and cardio, diabetes and resistance training include relevant information like; how to manage each type of workout with a pump or MDI (multiple daily injections). She also covers how to reduce the risk of low blood sugar during and after exercise.

Her explanations are clear and supportive. She even provides a chapter on how to find your unique formula to take the mystery out of the math I feel I have to do every time I set out to exercise. If you’re still not sure about diving into the different types of workouts there are more case studies and real-life examples to relate to.

After you’ve found your individual formula she moves on to describe how to design your own home or gym work out.  Throughout the book, you’ll find inspiring photos of Christel doing various workouts including a series of workouts you can implement straight away.

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One of my favorite chapters is the one on nutrition and exercise and why it’s so important to have a healthy diet. As food is such a minefield in the diabetes world I like how she emphasizes that her approach to eating has to do with fuelling her workouts. In my opinion, she has a great attitude. We need a certain number of calories and carbs to approach different types of workouts and it’s not one size fits all. This chapter is all about working out your daily calorie and carb intake and includes some nutritious meal plans and how to create your own meal plans. The photos of Christel’s meals are mouth-watering!

Finally, there is a chapter on diabetes and losing weight. As she says, “weight management with diabetes can be done. It’s not impossible and it’s not out of reach”

This chapter is all about understanding the relationship between weight, insulin and calorie intake and what to do about it. I know for myself one of my concerns with starting a full insulin regime was that I’d gain weight. Understanding the mechanics of what actually causes weight gain helped me to reframe my thinking.

I have been learning on my journey with diabetes that what I need to nourish myself, how I respond to insulin and how exercise affects me is unique.  Experimenting, try new things and finding peer support are all ways I stay balanced and well with diabetes.

So what do I think of this book? A huge thumbs up!!! I’ll be referring to this informative, inspiring and motivating book, again and again, to find confidence and support as I continue to navigate my life with diabetes. Thanks Christel for creating this incredible resource!

Go here to find out more about the Fit with Diabetes e-book by Christel Oerum and  get your own copy

with great respect…

rachel

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Christel and me on a walk in the Malibu hills just last week 🙂

Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable

I started long acting Insulin in 2014 under pressure from both my endocrinologist and GP. Up until that point, I tried my hardest to avoid insulin because I saw it as the enemy. I can remember being on a 10-day trial of the Medtronic CGM to see what was happening with my levels and sitting in a room with other people who were also on the trial. The conversation turned to the number of shots we were on a day. The guy next to me was on three. Back then I thought I was pre-diabetic and considered myself lucky to be shot free. I didn’t realise that the source of my higher blood sugar levels was autoimmune or that I had LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults) which is essentially type 1 diabetes.

Starting insulin was terrifying. I had no idea how my body would respond and didn’t believe my endo when he assured me that I’d have so much energy that I wouldn’t recognise myself. Now that I’m on a  regime of both basal and bolus insulin I feel embarrassed that I didn’t believe him. Insulin has given me back my joie de vivre and made me feel like a kid again.

In my last post I talked about the challenges of getting a minuscule dose into a syringe and the feeling of fear around getting the dose just right. Just a few weeks later I’ve learned that practice makes perfect and a bit of peer support goes a long way.

I no longer worry about whipping out my syringe at dinner and dialing up my dose after hanging out with my friend Sarah MacLeod from What Sarah Said.
IMG_1902She showed me how to inject in the back of my arm by scrunching it up against a chair and mentioned how important it is to normalize injecting in public. I had always felt a little shy about lifting up my shirt and perhaps disrupting conversation to inject. She mentioned it didn’t make sense to go to the restroom, “who wants to go to a dirty smelly bathroom right?” It’s much cleaner at the table. I’d always worried that the insulin would get everywhere, on the food or other people. So far so good except last night was a little awkward in the Italian restaurant. The waiters were clearing the table just as I was priming my syringe. I persisted and although I probably overbolused a smidgen a ½ glucose tab in the movie theatre sorted me out.

When diabuddy, Christel Oerum from Diabetes Strong and I caught up for a walk in Malibu we discussed the predictability of dosing.

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When you know how your body responds to carbs, insulin and exercise its easy to see how much you’ll go up or down with a meal, a walk or a yoga practice. Like me, Christel, likes to take the guesswork out and counts every carb. She’s just written a really cool blog on how yoga impacts her blood sugars and her new Fit with Diabetes e-book is an essential read. More on her new book from me in an upcoming blog post.

I think my biggest challenge was to work out corrections (injecting insulin after a spike to keep blood glucose levels in range) It felt overwhelming and scary. What if I overcorrected, at what stage would I take a correction, and what if I wanted to eat, or exercise? To tackle this one, I had the support of Karen Rose Tank from Rose Health Coaching, she’s a certified health coach, yogini and type 1 diabetic and go-getter like me.

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I did my first correction at her house. She shared with me that you can use a correction to get yourself back in range and it’s a matter of keeping an eye on your levels after the correction.

Gary Scheiner, my diabetes coach from the mySugr bundle, explained that a good way to determine how far one unit will lower your blood sugar is to take a correction and then fast for the 4-hour duration that the insulin is in your system. It was magic to watch my level of 173 mg/dl (9.6 mmol) come down to 128 mg/dl (7.1 mmol) in 4 hours.

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Even cooler was to see how just 2 gms of a glucose tab would raise my level by 45 mg/dl. Big thanks to Mona Morstein from the Low Carb Diabetes Association and her new book Mastering Diabetes for giving me the info I needed to understand how to raise blood sugars safely. I was drinking apple juice to bring up my levels and could never figure out how much of a sip was 4 gms worth of carbs. I’ve learned that I only need half a glucose tab to stabilise my levels, no more eating the entire fridge at 11pm. It’s been neat to note that taking an injection at meals hasn’t impacted my daily yoga practice either. I can inject at breakfast, head to my mat an hour later and see little change in levels before and after practice.
IMG_2253All these milestones in the last two months have built my confidence and tackled my fears head-on.  It reminds me of the time my husband dared me to jump in the freezing ocean in South Africa. At first, I crossed my arms, shivered and refused to go in. Then, as I watched my husband dive under the waves I felt silly for being such a chicken. Slowly I waded in up to my ankles trying to get used to that numb icy cold feeling. Eventually, I dove in too and came up for air smiling from ear to ear shouting, “ That was awesome! and so refreshing!”

I can’t exactly say that living with diabetes is awesome or refreshing, but learning to ride the waves has a sweetness of its own.

with great respect…

rachel