A joy to be alive

I can’t believe its the last day of Diabetes Awareness Month. When I set myself the task of writing a post a day it felt daunting. How was I going to come up with something to say every single day about diabetes? Turns out it’s not that hard. When you live with diabetes 24/7 there’s always something to say!

That’s the thing about the passage of time, it’s a human construct. We’ve decided based on a calendar we’ve created as to what time, day and month it is. Have you ever wondered what time it is on the sun? Timeless.

Living with diabetes is like that. It never ends. I’d like to think there’s a cure around the corner, but I’m realistic. For now the management tools we have available are enough. I’ve added yoga, ayurveda and a primarily plant based whole food, organic diet. I use every peer support group available and do my best to give back to the community. That’s the cool thing about living with type 1 diabetes I’m not alone. In every country around the world I know people just like me thriving.

At diagnosis I isolated myself and lived with guilt and shame until it became imperative that I educate myself about my condition. I still can’t believe it took me six years to do that. It shows how much the internet and knowledge around the condition have shifted in the last decade. A very good sign.

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With such positive changes in the way the general public and the diabetes community perceive diabetes I can only hope and pray that the situation around insulin pricing also changes for the better. No one should have to pay for their life.

Living with diabetes certainly isn’t boring, it’s a never ending kaleidoscope of unpredictability that put’s me on the razors edge. But I’m up for the task. It’s given me a strength I never knew I had, a conviction to make a difference and a willingness to let go of my ideas of how I think things should be.

Living with a chronic illness is more than just rising above a condition. It’s about living life to the fullest without preconceived notions, other people’s standards or idealised projections.

It’s a joy to be alive.

With great respect…

rachel

My best diabetes hack

One thing I love to do is scour the Diabetes Online Community for diabetes hacks. The best way to deal with all the little and big things that happen when you live with diabetes.  Best place to inject, how to dose for pizza, top CGM insertion points, ideal hypo snacks and that’s just a small glimpse into the vast ocean of support that can be gleaned from others who’ve been riding the tiger. At first, a newbie on the scene, I didn’t have any tips or tricks to share. Eleven years on there are definitely some hacks I swear by. If I had to distill my diabetes management into the ‘best diabetes hack ever’ it would be ‘routine’.

Having a consistent routine in place from the moment I wake up means I can relax. I know that I’m going to have my morning long acting insulin at 6 am, my breakfast at 7 am, I’ll be practicing yoga around 8 am, lunch at 1 pm , walk at 4 pm, long acting shot at 6 pm and dinner at 7.30 pm. I think of this set routine as a framework. Anything that happens in between these times is spontaneous, creative and fluid. Having a non negotiable routine creates stability in my blood sugars, a sense of trust that things are taken care of.

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Living with diabetes can feel out of control. Having a routine puts me back in the drivers seat. I may not be able to tame the factors that affect blood sugar  but I can manage my time impeccably. Routine may be boring for some, for me it’s a balm.

Routine is not just about the timing of shots it’s about consistency of meals, same kinds of foods at each meal. Exercise, a twice daily yoga practice and afternoon walk. Rest, heading to bed before 10 pm and waking at sunrise. These routines are part of in Ayurveda what’s called Dinacharya and are the staples that each Ayurvedic constitution relies on to stay balanced.

As we head into the holiday season it can be daunting to maintain our routines. For me a routine takes the stress out. I’d rather spend my time enjoying special times with family and friends, than try to fit in. It’s taken me a while to get to this. I still need to explain to family and friends why I’ve eaten before the 3 pm Thanksgiving meal, or 11 am Christmas brunch.  Knowing that I’m going to stay in range keeps me sane. After over a decade with diabetes it can be so frustrating to have days and days of insulin resistance after eating and dosing at a time that doesn’t suit. Call me boring, fixed…whatever I don’t mind!

Routine is also what’s enabled me to write everyday here for Diabetes Awareness Month. At first it was quite a task and I wasn’t sure I could keep it up. Consistency has been the key. Sitting down everyday to share my inner world with diabetes has been both healing and cathartic.  Thank you to everyone who has stayed the course with me. Tomorrow is the last day so make sure to check out the final wrap up for what’s been an amazing month of connection, sharing, awareness and community.

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

The 5 go-to yoga practices that saved my life

For todays post as part of Diabetes Awareness Month I am reposting a segment of an article I wrote for Beyond Type 1 in 2015. Make sure to read more on their site to find out what yoga practices are perfect for Diabetes management

I’ve been practicing Yoga since I was 17; right up until my sudden diagnosis of Type 1 at the age of 42, I was convinced that Yoga made me invincible. After my diagnosis everything changed. Instead of thinking Yoga would stave off the boogieman, I took responsibility and came to terms with the role that Yoga played in my life.

I discovered that Yoga is more than a good stretch. It’s a tree with many branches, each limb a path back to harmony and balance, a way to mitigate stress. Yoga is not a trend, it’s been around for over 5000 years.

The Yoga practices are powerful because they are subtle. The physical aspect is just one component of a multilayered methodology that looks at the flow of energy in the body. Life force and immunity can be cultivated and built through posture, breathing, meditation, the right diet and lifestyle adjustments.

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The word Yoga means, “wholeness, completeness, oneness.” Yoga is not a state. Rather it is the natural state of everything in the creation including ourselves. We are naturally peaceful, happy and whole. It’s only our thoughts about something, and our identification with those thoughts that create a sense of incompletion.

Yoga practice does two things — it pulls us out of the habit of identifying with our thoughts and reminds us of our true nature. When you feel all “zen” after class … it’s not the practice that’s doing it. The practices merely remind you that the peace, stillness and harmony you feel at the end of a practice are your natural state. For me, going deeper with Yoga has enabled me to better manage my relationship to diabetes and manage the stress associated with diabetes.

So what are my five Go-to Yoga practices that put me in the zone each and every day?

Read more  on Beyond Type 1

see you tomorrow…#NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

The fear is real

My whole life I’ve been dealing with fear. When I got into yoga and especially Ayurveda I found out that fear is a constitutional characteristic of vata dosha, the combination of the air and space elements. Having vata in my constitution has inspired my creative pursuits and enabled me to be adaptable and free spirited. It’s also been one of my biggest challenges. With the tendency to get carried away with thoughts and anxieties I’ve found it hard to land and ground. Little things can trigger the deep seated traumas.

Like anyone caught in a shocking situation, one does the best to cope. My coping mechanism for past traumas was to numb out, quash the grief and keep going. Keeping on keeping on has served me well for the most part. It has driven me to teach, share and now write. But just because I look like I’m happy and settled doesn’t mean I have been able to go beyond my fear.  Like I said, when I least expect it it creeps up on me.

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Last night and most nights when the lights go out and I’m nearly asleep I have this terrifying moment. I think I’ve forgotten my evening shot. Before I can catch myself and calmly go through my evening routine, my heart is leaping out of my chest. In that moment the fear is real. A few moments later I realise I’m being irrational and I start to relax. This kind of automatic response bugs me. I should have it all together.

But that’s crazy. They say that someone living with diabetes makes about 182 decisions per day. What to eat, how much to eat, how much insulin to take, how much insulin to correct, how many carbs to treat when low, how much and how long to exercise. What to carry just in case. OMG and that’s just a small glimpse. I think fear is natural amidst a pile of unpredictable factors. Besides my diabetes decisions, I have to keep my life going like everyone else. Bills to pay, work to do. You get the gist.

What I have learnt about fear is that it’s one of the supportive mechanisms of the nervous system. Fear gives us the capacity to move away from danger. It’s protective. I know a lot of people have used this anachronism of F.E.A.R, false-evidence- appearing- real.

Can we stop right there.  Yes we can overreact to our thoughts and yes we can project onto a situation, and yes it’s good to overcome our fears.

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HOWEVER…

As someone living with diabetes my fears are not a false projection. My life is in danger if I don’t get my medication dosage right. I can suffer from a host of complications, without the appropriate technology  to measure my levels I could go into a coma and if I don’t have access to medication, I die. These are real and tangible things that would make anyone afraid. Terrified actually.

So whats the solution? Quash the fear? Push onward and upward?

The simple answer is acknowledgement. When I acknowledge the reality that diabetes sucks and its not easy to manage. I feel more capable. When that bolt hits me at bedtime and I’m in its grip I remind myself, I am here and alive.

“Sometimes the best coaching advice you can get is simple acknowledgement that there’s nothing else you could have done.” Hannah Kearney- American Athlete

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect….

rachel

Just drop it

Writing every day about diabetes for diabetes awareness month is giving me the opportunity to share my innermost thoughts and feelings about diabetes. Hopefully it also sheds some insight into the inner world of anyone dealing with a chronic illness. Whatever crisis or challenge we face, it’s the ability to overcome, that transforms into a shared wisdom. I know for myself when I’m feeling at a loss as to how to deal with an aspect of diabetes management, finding out how someone else approached that same issue helps me enormously.

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I’m someone who likes to get it ‘right’. What I am learning ( slowly but surely) is that right is just a word I have been conditioned to believe in. There is no right way to do diabetes or anything for that matter. There is only what works for each individual.

Today I had an injection blunder. I put the needle for my long acting insulin in and it bounced straight back out squirting blood and insulin everywhere. When something like this happens it’s totally different to say dropping a pill on the floor. If I fumble and drop a pill, I just brush it off and swallow it. An insulin mishap however is totally different. I can’t determine how much insulin actually went in, so if I take another injection it could mean a hypo at some point in the future. All future bolus (fast acting insulin) calculations need to be taken into account. I’m hopeless at math so that’s a big issue right there. My motto for this one is better safe than sorry. So no extra insulin for me today which means possible higher levels all day. Total bummer!

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Stepping on my mat for practice it dawned on me that in spite of my earlier mishap, I make up the rules. I can’t change what happened, but I can change my reaction. A story from my teacher in India comes to mind. “When you hold something in your hand,” and he demonstrated the example by holding a red hibiscus in his hand, “holding it takes effort. But how much effort does it take to let it go? Dropping the flower is effortless.” He demonstrated this by letting go of the flower. As it effortlessly fell to the ground he added, “This is just like us. We hang on tight to our ideas, beliefs and ideologies until we are shown how easy it is to let go.”

Exactly my plan for today!  Just drop it.

See you tomorrow for #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

The Good News

I’m not one to write about the latest news on diabetes. It’s not because there aren’t amazing new technologies, cures and treatment protocols on the horizon. It’s just that I’d rather focus on what’s tangible and practical in my personal day to day management. When someone sends me a message with the latest ‘cinnamon’ cure I find myself ranting about the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes and how there is no cure for type 1. There are only useful management protocols that may or may not consistently work. A lot of my friends who were diagnosed years ago were told not to worry because a cure was coming in five years.  More than five years have come and gone and we are all still waiting.

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One of the biggest and scariest moments for me was realising that I had a life threatening, incurable disease. I was on the yoga mat in a pose when it dawned on me. I cannot adequately describe that moment. It was a mixture of shock, disbelief, denial and confusion. Coming to terms with that feeling and finding acceptance has been the core of my practice since.  I guess anyone when faced with any kind of diagnosis, or crisis goes through this. That’s why community and support are so needed.

What I am excited about in the diabetes space is how we can thrive with diabetes. There are some really cool organisations out there to tap into. As a regular contributor to Beyond Type 1 I am inspired by how they raised awareness through brilliant community building campaigns. It isn’t just about finding a cure, it’s about networking, inspiration and collaboration. Another powerful resource is Diabetes Daily. Daily updates and articles on all types of diabetes, recipes and research and a thriving community, I feel blessed to have so much information and support on tap.

In fact, today I received an email from the team at Diabetes Daily about a large study that identifies the habits of successful diabetes management. Compiled by the thrivable insights research panel the study looked at what habits those with optimal glycemic have in common? They surveyed 1,938 people and I’m pretty sure I was one of them.

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The survey analysis data demonstrated that those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes who have optimal glycemic control are significantly more likely to:

  • utilize low-carbohydrate diets
  • use insulin pumps
  • exercise regularly

Moreover, patients with type 1 diabetes were significantly more likely to:

  • use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM)
  • eat consistent meals daily
  • incorporate the protein content of their meal in calculating their insulin doses

The comprehensive data report was published on October 16, 2019 and can be found here: Habits of a Great A1c Survey Data Report. The lead researcher, Maria Muccioli, Ph.D, is also available for interviews about the findings. 

To me the best way to control my diabetes is a no brainer. I have heard many people in the diabetes space talk about diabetes as carb intolerance. It’s not that we shouldn’t include carbs its just how much. I find that about 100 carbs per day is my maximum. In my last blog on diet I talked about eating at the same time and roughly the same thing every day. I have also emphasised how important it is to have some way of seeing blood glucose data in real time. The more I know what foods do what, the easier it is to manage my levels . And you know how much I love exercise. Yoga for diabetes is the bomb!

That’s why I get all nerdy about these kind of studies. The more evidence we have of what enables us to live well with this condition, the more health care providers will come onboard. Believe it or not up until a year or two ago my doctor was still giving me a hard time for my dietary choices. Luckily education around this is shifting.

When I personally reflect on how I feel about diabetes management and the resources we have available I feel lucky. When my great grandfather had diabetes, there was no insulin and no education around diabetes. He died of diabetes complications. Ironically my birthday falls on the month and day of his passing. A powerful reminder of how grateful I am to have the education, choices and support to live a long, healthy and happy life with diabetes. Thats the good news!

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Staying in range

I’m feeling motivated to get my levels back to where I want them. Not that their not in a good range, its just I know I can do better. At the beginning of the year I worked with the Diabetic Health Journal. It’s a great way to stay accountable, set goals and track patterns. When I was using it my Hba1c went from over 6% to 5.5%. For anyone living with diabetes that’s a perfect number, but really hard to maintain. As much as I know that time in range (keeping my levels between 4-8 mmol) is ideal, there have been a few too many peaks and troughs for my liking. So when I opened the journal and set my goal for the week, I thought I’d try some intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting is different to a regular fast. I’m still eating, just spacing out when I eat. The last two days I had my last meal at 7.30 pm and broke the fast with lunch at 1.00 pm. That’s 18 hours between meals. The idea with IF is that it increases insulin sensitivity. It means I assimilate the insulin I am injecting better and blood sugar levels are lower. When I’m really sensitive to insulin I can even reduce the amount of insulin I’m taking which means less low blood sugars events. It’s a win win.

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The only issue for me is I am a huge fan of my avocado and egg breakfast. Day 1 was easy because I distracted myself by going to yoga. Day 2 (today) was harder. I was pretty hungry from about 10.00 am onwards.  I also haven’t seen any concrete results yet. I.e lower levels and increased sensitivity. Patience Rachel Patience…

After I started taking insulin in 2014, I came across a book by Ginger Vieira called Your Diabetes Science Experiment. I read it from cover to cover and learned a lot about the variables that affect diabetes. I learned that even though there are  guidelines and formulas for managing diabetes, it’s not one size fits all. Flexibility and a willingness to experiment are key assets. I’ve been using my yoga practice for years as my personal laboratory to see what my body is capable of. Having diabetes has made things tricky. Sometimes I’m not sure what’s affecting what. Is the sequence or practice supporting what I am doing or is a day of higher or lower levels affecting my practice?

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I feel like I am drawing a giant question mark on a blackboard.

Not having all the answers is something I’ve grown accustomed to.  I was the child that had to be ‘right’ or else. I thrived on competition. That’s why having diabetes has been a bonus in my life. It’s taught me to stop comparing, be kinder to myself and take a gentle approach.  So even though I’ve set a goal for myself to get back to the numbers I feel healthiest at I’m also open to the possibility that where I’m at now is absolutely fine.

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Catching a relax

Today the whole of our shire is blanketed in a smokey haze. The smoke is everywhere. It’s awful and there doesn’t seem to be much respite on the way. Meanwhile life seems to continue as normal…or does it? It’s pretty hard to ignore what’s happening not just on a local but global scale. The word that comes to mind is chaos.

When I think of managing diabetes I also think of the word chaos. Not because I can’t manage it, because overall I do that really well. Rather its the unpredictable nature of diabetes that keeps tripping me up. One day I’m struggling to stay above 4 mmol and the next I can’t get under 9 mmol (in range numbers are between 4-8 mmol). There is no X=Y with diabetes. The pancreas is a strange and elusive animal which doesn’t like stress. And how many times have I been stressed without even knowing I’m stressed? A lot.

The opposite of stress and what the pancreas loves is relaxation. Recently I’ve been catching those moments when I’m relaxed. Noticing a nice deep relaxed breath, a feeling of calm, soft tingles through the body, mind slow and centred. Every time I feel a ‘relax’ coming on I remind myself with a verbal prompt. This is me relaxed, this is what it feels like. Simply acknowledging these moments has helped me to sleep better, digest better, even think better. In fact, Relaxing makes everything better.

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This morning I went to a yoga class with my teacher and friend Louisa Sear. Her classes are hard. Not because there are complicated postures or sequences, more because she asks you to be in the pose with every fibre of your being. She instructs the class to hold the pose, fix the gaze and still the mind. Every pose is taught like this so that by the end of the class there is a sense of being cleansed from the inside out.

The ultimate agitation is our habitual need to identify with the moving miasma of the mind. Thoughts will always be there, including thoughts about diabetes, its up to each one of us as to whether we uptake that thought or not. Thoughts don’t have power. You do!

Understanding the triggers for relaxation and  fixing the gaze on that is a profound way to deal with the constant stress of living with diabetes. Instead of focusing on the tension you’re experiencing, mentally, emotionally or physically try and find somewhere in your body that is at ease. It could even just be your big toe. As soon as your mind goes there all the awareness and focus goes there too. When I do this, within seconds I’ve forgotten what the problem was.

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As I write this I’ve decided to take my own advice. There’s not much I can do about the external factors such as the choking smoke or annoyance with erratic levels. What I can do is take a full breath, be kind to myself and catch a relax.

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

The number of tests?

“How many times do you test per day?” this was the question put to me this morning by the Accuchek Guide rep while I was trying to replace my meter. “About twenty,” I replied adding that my blood sugar can tend to be volatile. The rep murmured a sympathetic sound. But I wondered what she really thought.

I know what my Endo thinks. He’s mentioned to me on more than one occasion that I am obsessed with checking.  Do I really need to wake up throughout the night to check? Ummm…YES!  It’s not like I set an alarm or anything, I seem to naturally wake up between 1-3 times per night anyway so why not check?

Overnight lows are the worst. In the days before I had the whole diet thing mastered I’d wake up and have to eat at 2 am. Nothing worse than sitting by myself in the kitchen watching the clock tick over while I wait for my blood sugar to rise.

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And what about in the day? Do I really need to check every hour? I actually don’t check every hour, it depends on whether I’m insulin resistant or have had some sort of injection blunder. Most mornings I can go from breakfast to lunch without even checking. I know my liver is doing its thing, dumping some extra glycogen into my system so it’s rare for me to drop. It’s usually between 12-5 pm that I like to be vigilant. I can never seem to get my lunchtime bolus right, and then there might be some extra exercise thrown in the mix around 4 pm.

Checking vigilantly when you live with Type 1 Diabetes is a make or break situation. Especially if you can’t tell when your low. Its called hypo unawareness, it happens when you have too many lows and the body stops recognising the feeling of being low. Like my horrible hypo two weeks ago, before I knew it I’d dropped to 3.2 mmol. Scary!

It was also after that horrible hypo and sharing it here that some friends encouraged me to use a CGM (continuous glucose monitor). This is something I would love to have but sadly here in Australia there is no subsidy for someone like me. To be eligible for the Dexcom or Medtronic CGM you have to be hypo unaware and admitted to hospital more than once or under the age of 21.

The Freestyle libre flash glucose system is also on offer here, but this has no subsidy at all. I have written before on the blog about how much I love this product. Sleek, discreet and accurate using it has increased my peace of mind and saved my finger tips. I’ve attended  product launches and #dx2Melbourne and can honestly share the company, its ethos and care are palpable. I’ve even lobbied the government to make access affordable for people like me and had a small feature in the Noosa News. In spite of my passion and efforts, I still can’t justify spending $100 every fortnight.

But wait ho… my wonderful parents, after reading my blog, gave me the best early christmas gift ever! A 6 months supply of the freestyle libre. I am touched and grateful.

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Here I am ready to launch. So excited to have some time off from the drudgery of test strips and the ability to see whats actually happening minute by minute with the food I am eating, the insulin I am taking and the sleep I’m sleeping. I’ll probably put one in starting next week so stay tuned…

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Dance 4 Diabetes

There’s a picture of me performing in a dance piece somewhere in an old photo album in my storage. When I think about that picture I think about a life time ago. Pre diabetes, pre marriage, pre child, pre yoga.

Being a professional dancer was a childhood dream. By the time I was twenty one I had performed, taught and choreographed in dance companies throughout Australia. There was a moment though where I came to a crossroads. I decided that if I wasn’t going to get into the company of my choice, which at the time was the Australian Dance Theatre, I was going to call it quits. I auditioned, didn’t make the cut and was devastated.

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Me dancing at 22 on the far left in Tasdance

I gave up and devoted myself to yoga, but my resolve didn’t last. Eventually I was asked to teach, choreograph, perform and serve as the Head of Dance at a local performing arts college. It was around the age of 35 that I hung up my professional dancing hat for good. Not because I wanted to but more because the demands of my job as a yoga teacher took over.  Living in NYC at the time and having to support the family meant there was only so much time for ballet classes and auditions. It was a reluctant decision, but I have no regrets. Sometimes the things we think we’re born to do turn into the things we are called to do. For me that’s yoga. I never asked to teach and share yoga but here I am.

Just before my diabetes diagnosis dance had reappeared in my life. I did a healing retreat which included dance as therapeutic release. It felt incredible to move again and I loved how the movement wasn’t about impressing an idea on anyone ‘out there’ instead it was about what was longing to come out.

To dance is to free oneself of grief, expectation, anger. A return to joy, freedom and peace.

When I saw this months campaign from Diabetes Australia, dance 4 diabetes I got excited. Now here’s something I’m good at and can get behind. Dancing takes the difficulty out of diabetes, it’s uplifting, inspiring, motivating, fun and good for blood sugars. It reminds us to be light hearted in the face of it all and inspires community and support. I love seeing people share their love of movement while shedding light on such an important cause.

The campaign motto is: Stop what you’re doing and dance! Then donate and dare (share) by tagging three friends and asking them to dance, donate and dare too.

Fun right? Here’s my entry below and the link to join Dance4Diabetes


See you tomorrow and happy #WorldDiabetesDay for my US friends!

#NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

With great respect…

rachel