I have diabetes, so what

Today ‘diabetes’ was the big topic of conversation amongst everyone I spent time with. I love how friends are curious about how I manage my daily life with this condition. I enjoy clarifying the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, why we take insulin or sugar and the ins and outs of daily management. There are many diabetes myths out there, like people with diabetes can’t have sugar, or we take insulin for every situation, whether low or high, or that our diets caused our diabetes.

Diabetes is so much more complex and mysterious than that. It’s a bit like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. What I deal with in my iteration of diabetes is different to every other person with diabetes. That’s what makes it both frustrating and predictable. Living with diabetes means you can rely on its uncertainty.

And don’t get me started on how each person living with diabetes relates to their condition emotionally and mentally. In a recent conversation, a friend with type 2 diabetes stressed how exhausting it felt having to stay so vigilant with daily blood tests and visits to the doctor. In the end her way of dealing with it was to say, “I have diabetes, so what.”

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Listening to her take on diabetes made me reflect on my own approach. I could completely understand her position. Taking anything so seriously that it restricts your life can make you more unwell.

This is where I segway into my personal approach to management. It’s definitely the serious approach, where fear of complications such as loss of vision, amputation, kidney damage,and neuropathy give me the discipline and impetus for strict control. I’ve used my body my whole life to express myself through dance and yoga. The body being my joy meter. I remember thinking as a teenager that if I couldn’t walk, or dance I didn’t know how I’d cope. I feel the same way now as an avid yoga practitioner. I see the body as a powerful tool for health and wellbeing. If you can open, stretch and strengthen the body you can directly affect how you deal with any physical , mental or emotional stressor.

Luckily the daily discipline required of a dancer and yogi has its benefits, I utilise it  to be comfortable with eating the same kinds of foods at every meal, taking approximately the same amount of insulin, walking at a specific time each day, checking my blood sugar often and using yoga and meditation to mange my mindset. When I veer from my daily routine it takes days to catch up. It’s hard for me to experiment and try new approaches even when I know those changes would benefit me. I don’t want to beat myself up about my approach though… I’m fine with it. As one of my diabuddy’s once said,  “You do diabetes your way and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

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Walking with my friend today we talked about how it feels when I see a positive number on my glucometer or I know I’m doing good time in range. ” Do you feel like you can take a moment to soak in the tone of that feeling? In other words stop and feel how good it feels to know your managing well? ” I absolutely loved the way she put this. If I can acknowledge the good feelings, really soak them in then perhaps those more challenging moments i.e low or high blood sugar freakouts, will be less stressful. I like the idea that even something as stressful as diabetes gives me the opportunity to embrace those feel good vibes and to heal my nervous system.

A nice way to acknowledge that even though I have diabetes, so what.

See you tomorrow

with great respect…

rachel

It’s not up to me

Setting myself the task to write something every day for 30 days about diabetes to spread diabetes awareness is definitely daunting. I live with diabetes for 365 days a year and deal with it 24/7 so it should be easy to articulate that right? In reality the way I deal with diabetes is deeply private.

After spending 6 years ignoring it and then spending 4 years shouting about it via writing a book and being a fierce advocate through social media, it’s been interesting to spend this past year taking a break from the need to externalise my experience.

In 2019 I set a goal to lower my Hba1c, heal some of my underlying digestion issues and be brave when it comes to taking Insulin. I started 2019 using the Diabetic Health Journal, created by yogi and  diabetes health coach Lauren Bongiorno, with incredible results. Writing down daily goals, things I was grateful for and staying accountable made a big difference. My Hba1c went from 6% to 5.6 % in 6 months. If you’re not sure what that means it’s like dropping your cholesterol levels or blood pressure. Moving it from a pass to a win.

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I also went into hyper drive with my digestion, adding different supplements, bone broth and more variety into my daily meals. I worked on stored trauma with network spinal analysis and neuroimmunology sessions. Finally I made sure to keep up a daily walk and my twice daily yoga practice.

Making a concerted effort to shift some deep seated patterns has been an interesting process. I didn’t necessarily make great strides or have major revelations, instead I settled more into accepting what is.

“What is” might not be what I want but if I can accept it that’s a pretty good place to be. It’s how I dealt with diagnosis after fighting it for so long and pretty much how I manage my finicky digestion and volatile blood sugars and everything else that comes my way.

My latest go to phrase for everything is, ” It’s not up to me” That’s not about not doing everything I can to stay balanced. It’s about understanding that I don’t know the recipe of creation.  Letting go of needing to know, enjoying the gifts I’ve been given and trusting that whatever comes is perfect, goes a long way in helping me manage my condition.

I never expected to be diagnosed with diabetes but now that I have been I can honestly share it’s a blessing in disguise.

More on that tomorrow  #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

With great respect…

rachel

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6 tips to bounce back from a rebound high

The first time it happened I was clueless. People living with diabetes often talk about blood sugar roller coasters but I thought that just meant highs and lows in a short period of time. What I didn’t understand was that when I go low I also go high and not just right after correcting a low blood sugar. The high lasts for days. My body starts resisting the insulin I’m injecting and I need more insulin to manage the highs which means more risk of lows. When I was a kid I hated rollercoasters and for good reason. They made me feel sick, scared the begeezus out of me and I’d come off the dang thing with a sore throat from screaming my lungs out.

It took quite a few hypo’s for me to work out that the high’s that followed were to do with the lows. At first I just thought there was something wrong with the insulin, or maybe I hadn’t dosed enough. I even speculated that maybe my pancreas had finally hit the dirt and I really didn’t have an ounce of beta cell function left. Because I live with LADA ( latent autoimmune diabetes in adults) I still produce a minute amount of  insulin, this means that sometimes my body squirts out a tiny amount when I first start eating. It also means that if I am already low when I start eating I could go even lower and have a hypo. Not having the recipe as to what my pancreas will do when means there’s a lot of guessing going on. So when I’m high for days on end and doing everything exactly as I did it the days, weeks and months before it feels like I’m in the middle of a crap shoot. Lucky me!

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When people meet someone living with diabetes, the decision making and daily micromanagement is largely invisible. You might see a CGM or an insulin pump, but on the whole it seems as though the whole process runs smoothly.

Here’s what actually goes on most days for me. I wake up, inject. I eat, inject. Go a little below range, take a glucose tab. Go high, take some insulin.  I check my blood sugar every hour to be on the safe side except for at night where I place my faith in morpheus, the god of sleep trusting that the amount I take for my long acting insulin will keep me in range all night. 20 fingerpricks and up to 6 shots a day of insulin is not easy or seamless no matter how doable it is.

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What do I do to deal with the physical and mental blood sugar challenges during a rebound high? Here’s 6 things that have really helped me.

  1. Do some physical exercise which I know increases insulin sensitivity, like a walk with some hills,
  2. Do a yoga practice which works with the larger muscles of the body and includes standing hip openers and balancing postures
  3. Talk to myself in a positive and supportive way when I see a high number on my meter. I.e. This too shall pass, this is a normal response to a low blood sugar, everybody goes through this
  4. Do things in my day that give me joy, like writing, yoga, connecting with a friend or have some hang out time with my husband
  5. Go to bed early, there’s nothing more healing then a good nights sleep
  6. Reach out in the #DOC ( diabetes online community) to find out how my diabuddies deal with the same situation

And if you live with diabetes I’d love to know… How do you deal with a rebound high? Lets start a conversation in the comments below!

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

A horrible hypo

I titled this post at 2 am this morning after a sudden hypo around dinner time. At 2 am I was thinking clearly, taking time to make a note on my phone so I wouldn’t forget. At 7.15 pm things were a whole lot more chaotic. Well not at first….

I was cruising nicely through my evening yoga practice after taking my basal shot (long acting insulin which keeps my blood sugar level over night) about 30 minutes prior. I’ve been playing around with where to take the shot to avoid insulin absorption issues, and decided to inject in the soft fleshy area in the top part of my bum. There was a sting on entry and when I pulled the needle out quite a bit of bleeding so I knew I hit a capillary. I wasn’t concerned. Usually this means the insulin won’t absorb as well and I’ll sustain a higher level overnight.

I hopped on my mat, forgetting all about the shot. It was towards the end of my practice that I noticed some itchy sensations around my waist. This is usually a sign that I am going low but sometimes that itch comes when I’m high. I actually find the itch super annoying. It’s not at all useful in helping me determine whether I should check my level or not. Luckily I checked.

3.4 mmol flashed large on my blood glucose meter. This is NOT a good result. This is a scary result. The last time I had checked I was 5.4 and usually it would stay that number until dinner. This sudden and fast drop could only mean one thing. My long acting insulin had hit my blood stream and was absorbing all at once. If I’d been wearing a CGM ( continuous glucose monitor) I could have seen the trend. Arrow pointing down on an angle means I can treat it with around 8 grams of fast acting carbs and it would come up in 20 minutes. Arrow pointing straight down would mean taking 15 grams and still having to wait 20 minutes.

Sadly I cannot afford a CGM. I had to fly blind.

After cramming two tabs in my mouth at once I sat back down on my mat. By now the itch had turned into a crawl which went from head to toe. My husband who was sitting next to me and in the middle of his own yoga practice reminded me to breathe.

I engaged whats called Ujayii breath a slow whispering breath, which sounds almost like a snore and tried to focus on lengthening my exhalation. It worked and I stayed calm but it did little to budge the numbers on my meter. I took another tab and a half and started raving and ranting This is the point where someone telling me to calm down doesn’t  work.  Me telling me to calm down doesn’t work.

Telling myself, “don’t react, don’t eat more tabs, just be here, it will pass, your blood sugar will come up” is like that feeling on the edge of orgasm when the thought comes “don’t do it… hold off… keep enjoying…” and then you go for it anyway.

Not the best analogy, because sex feels good while hypos are horrible, a total brain melt. 

It took 30 minutes and three and half glucose tabs to come out of the tail spin. The graph on the app which measures my data went straight up. When I pulled out my syringe to take some fast acting insulin for dinner my husband was confused. Why are you taking insulin when insulin just caused the problem? How to explain that if I don’t take some insulin to cover the meal I’ll rebound even higher.

Living with diabetes is a fine and tenuous balancing act between the horror of lows and the haunting of highs. No matter which way you look at it you can’t win. Best not to try. Thankfully I rarely have these testing moments. I chalk this up to a consistent and daily yoga routine. More of which I’ll share with you here during #diabetesawarenessmonth.

Want to learn the ujayii breathing technique I use to calm myself during a low? Watch this short video below and join in.

See you tomorrow

with great respect…

rachel

It’s here! diabetes awareness month

Diabetes! The one word in the english dictionary I never really wanted to focus on. I can remember the day I was introduced to the word by my high school girlfriend. She wore a medical bracelet around her wrist and ate sugar free candy. She told me it wasn’t much fun having it, but little else. It wasn’t until my own diagnosis, thirty years later that I understood the gravity of the burden she carried. Living with diabetes isn’t like living with a slightly annoying flatmate. It’s a 24/7 alarm bell that never stops ringing.

After diagnosis I tried to ignore it, big mistake! For me ignorance has meant nerve damage and digestive issues that don’t abate. But I’m not bitter. I’m grateful.

This month is #DiabetesAwarenessMonth. I’ll be posting every day sharing how yoga and mindset has helped me to navigate this journey.  I’m not sure how I’ll fare, it’s a big task but I’m going to give it a shot (no pun intended).

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So why should everybody know about Diabetes?

Well for starters 425 million people worldwide have the condition. That’s a lot of people. And that’s not counting those with undiagnosed or misdiagnosed type 1 and type 2. Diabetes is one of the fastest growing epidemics in the world. It’s also a disease with no known cause or cure and with ridiculously high priced medication in a country, like the US.  Managing diabetes also has no set treatment rules. I.e Insulin is not a cure! It’s like managing Jello. There’s a whole lotta wobbling going on.

Lately I haven’t been waving my diabetes flag here on the blog or elsewhere. For personal reasons I needed to jump off the bandwagon for a while. I worked pretty hard for most of the year on getting my numbers in range. For non diabetes friends, that means I’ve worked towards having normal in range blood glucose levels. When I achieved my goal halfway through the year I took a writing break. It’s been a good exercise for me in looking at the topics which really matter to me. It’s also given me a chance to step back from all things diabetes and just be.

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Whether you know about diabetes, live with diabetes or know absolutely nada being is seriously cool. Being means being okay with the ups and downs. Being is all about taking each day as it comes. Without doing anything being is always happening anyway. So being conscious of being takes it to a whole new level.

After quite a lot of being…I’m feeling like doing again…Phew!

I hope you’ll join me this month here and on my social media channels. Do comment below if you’d like me to post about something specific like what postures I choose to do, what I eat to manage my levels or anything else.

See you tomorrow!

with great respect

rachel

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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

Idaho Graffiti 2008
Photo by Matthias Boettrich