Diabetes is an opportunity

It’s burning in the hills behind the town where I live in Australia. I am grateful not to have to evacuate but am concerned for those who do. The entire valley all the way to the beach is in a blanket of smoke. It’s hard to breathe. We just went to the beach for some relief but there was none. It was strange to see people out and about in cafe’s and shops as per normal. Apparently it’s only going to get worse. So many more friends are leaving their homes to be safe. It’s heartbreaking.

I feel this way about Diabetes too. Even though I live with it myself I feel for every single person who lives with this condition. It’s heartbreaking when anyone is diagnosed. I know all too well the challenges ahead. Every day can feels like Russian roulette. It’s a massive learning curve and you can’t get away from it.

jason-blackeye-tVo6wYUIBYo-unsplash

In spite of all the feelings that come up after diagnosis I also see diabetes as an opportunity to live differently. Instead of taking things for granted I wake up each day grateful to be alive, I’m learning through yoga and other modalities to regulate my nervous system, to react less to the stress of variable blood sugar levels. My diet is refined and I maintain an active life. This kind of approach takes focus and sustained effort and there are plenty of times where I feel frustrated and defeated.  But I try not to let my down days take over. I have always been an enthusiastic participant in life.

Today as the smoke chokes the air around us I think about all the people all over the world in crisis. How do we rise above, stay resilient and not give up in the face of uncertainty? How can we make a difference in spite of circumstances beyond our control? I draw strength from a simple Ayurvedic principle.

You can’t fight fire with fire. The softness of water is what douses the flame.

matt-hardy-6ArTTluciuA-unsplash

The softness of water is about slowing down, tuning in and calmly moving forward. Flowing with change rather than pushing against it. Connecting with water is about dispersion and delegation. In the face of disaster it’s coming together in community and supporting each other. If we all share the burden we’re stronger together.

It’s the same with diabetes. When I reach out into the diabetes online community I find like minded friends managing their health in myriad ways. All of this forms my pool of inspiration. Even better is going to a support group or event where we all meet and share. I’ve learned more about my condition from these brief in person events than I have from my doctors and diabetes educators.

Knowing there is a community out there to answer a question, share a technique, help me find the best product or device is priceless. Before diabetes I would never have outsourced, researched or informed myself in this way. Diabetes has literally inspired a whole new me. My mission for diabetes awareness month is to share from the heart how diabetes affects me personally but its also about sharing how yoga is an incredible balm.

In this very difficult time, no matter what the struggle, it is my prayer that the varied practices and teachings of yoga become an important part of the healing journey.

More on that tomorrow…  #NDAM, #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Change is coming

Today, I’m hooked on the news. Instead of scouring through my feed and picking up the latest info on diabetes, i.e. tech innovations, cure explorations or people thriving in the DOC (diabetes online community) I’m absorbing the enormity of an issue that goes way beyond personal health and wellbeing.

Our planet is broken, and the impassioned speech delivered by Greta Thunberg to the UN climate summit says it all, “This is all wrong, I shouldn’t be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to me for hope? How dare you! … For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight?”

greta serious

And she’s right.

I will never forget the day, at 16 when my much older boyfriend sat me down to let me know that the planet and our environment was headed for disaster. He elucidated the perils of hydrofluorocarbons, greenhouse gasses and the delicate nature of our ozone layer. He told me to steel myself for the road ahead. I felt helpless, terrified and had nightmares for weeks afterwards.  But somehow, I got used to ignoring my anxiety around the issue. In the 90’s the hole in the ozone layer was just a fact. Living through 9/11 and the horrors of chemical and environmental exposure, the breakdown of my immune system and the continued fight to feel better physically in spite of the increase in pesticides in the food and water was a given.  Wasn’t everybody dealing with some sort of compromise?

In the early 90’s I tried to do my part. I built an eco-friendly mud brick home, used a composting loo, solar power and rainwater. We ate home grown veggies, supported local farmers markets and grassroots initiatives. Leaving the safety of our sustainable principles for a life in NYC in my mid 30’s was scary. I told myself it wouldn’t be forever, and I could go back my gentle connection with the earth when the timing was right.

When I did eventually return to Australia in 2004 my health had deteriorated so much that I didn’t have the energy to live so sustainably anymore. And then my diabetes diagnosis forced me to focus on my personal needs above a broader vision.

jacqueline-godany-N6SvY-wAl0w-unsplash

But Greta’s speech to the UN has broken the dam. No matter what’s happening to me personally I need to act. Even if it’s just to make the yoga for diabetes community aware that this is the biggest issue of our times.

And yes, yoga and practicing yoga is supportive but it’s not going to solve the issue. The issue will turnaround when we make changes in our personal lives and come together as a whole to make a change.

As Greta concludes in her speech, “You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

To find out more about the climate crisis and what you can do

https://350.org/

https://fridaysforfuture.org/

With great respect…

rachel

Stop the merry go round, I want to get off

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

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

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

And you’re right. I need a break….

IMG_6037

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

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

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

IMG_5892

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

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

Chronic illness just is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With great respect

rachel 

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.

IMG_6178 copy

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.

Woman in Red- The Photo Forest

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.

IMG_5525

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.

mental health

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,

Writer’s Envy

I don’t think I’ve ever said this but I have writers envy. I know…I know…it’s probably nuts to say this but after spending two days with Australia’s top diabetes bloggers and advocates at the Dx2sydney2018 event hosted by Abbot, it’s hard not to feel awestruck in their presence.

My jaw dropped when Renza Scibilia from Diabetogenic casually mentioned that she knows exactly how long it takes her to write a blog and that it’s all of 7 minutes. When I pointed out how incredible that was because I swear each piece of writing is breathtakingly brilliant and meaningful and something I believe every person with diabetes should read, she insists that because she doesn’t review what she writes or even check it for grammar that surely it’s not.

IMG_2903Each person at the Dx2 event has a strong voice in the diabetes space here in Australia. I read what they write voraciously and they are no less passionate in person. Behind every blog is a person with a message and a mission. I feel grateful to be amongst them even though I do feel like the odd one out. As one of our presenters put it, I’m the yoga lady.

This was my second Dx2event. The last one was in Melbourne and full disclosure: Abbot paid for my accommodation, travel, and food with no expectation that I would write about the event or my experiences. The opinions shared here are my own.

The main purpose of the event is to share conversations about diabetes, diabetes tech, and advocacy. We were also there to trial the freestyle librelink an app which works on both Android and iPhone.  You use your phone to scan instead of the reader. I’ll talk more about the app and my experience in a sec.

When Renza asked us to share one thing that we’d received from attending it was hard to know what to say. Having just returned from the US and meeting so many bloggers and advocates who are all doing such great work I couldn’t help reflecting on how different our role as bloggers are here in Australia. We are not fighting for the same things all though we are living with the same condition. Here our medical supplies and insulin is subsidized. We have organizations that lobby for us at the federal level and we also have state organizations that advocate and spread awareness.

dx2event group

The Online Diabetes Community is still relatively new. We are a small band of warriors who aren’t afraid to speak to tech companies and let them know what they could do better. We are willing to go off-label and experiment to have better control and we don’t shy away from expressing frustration and our vulnerability.

And at the same time, we are dealing with health care providers who are slow to adopt technology and organizations that have outdated systems. Everyone is doing their best to upgrade the dinosaur but as Greg Johnson the CEO of Diabetes Australia shared, the main issue is that we don’t have interoperability, the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information. Put simply, when the devices can’t speak to each other it’s a pain in the bum!

IMG_2894

That’s why upgrades like the freestyle librelink are exciting and useful.

As Renza put it in her blog, “ I am all about making diabetes easier. I frequently say that I lament the days when I could run out the door with my phone, keys and wallet and nothing more. Diabetes doesn’t really allow us to do that, thanks to all the paraphernalia we need to carry with is. While we still will need to carry lots of kit, by doubling up our mobile phone as a sensor scanner, we are able to take one thing less with us in our (oversized) diabetes kit bag.”

Yep, making life with diabetes easier is my goal too. It’s why I mentioned the possibility of a pump trial in my previous blog and why I diligently stick to a twice daily yoga practice to keep up my insulin sensitivity. Handy apps and diabetes tech definitely helps too.

As most of you know I am a HUGE fan of the freestyle libre. Definitely, love the Australian version with the one-hour startup and 14-day lifespan. When I first heard about the librelink I was super keen to try it. Now that I have I am totally on board and here’s why;

  1. I love the idea of being able to scan directly from my phone
  2. There’s more info on the app than on the reader like a home screen which has the last reading you took, your glucose graph and estimated Hba1c
  3. You can scroll back over the data in the graph to see what your readings were
  4. It has the same great features as the reader with better color combos.
  5. It has a text sound feature kind of like Siri where you can audibly hear your glucose readings if you’re driving or its night time

 

Even though I love the app there were also a few hiccups during the 24-hour trial.

  1. It only runs on an iPhone 7 or higher or an android phone. I don’t have an iPhone 7( I’m still happy with my 5s) so not sure I’d want to purchase a cheap android as then I’d still be stuck with an extra device in my bag.
  2. On the iPhone you have to make sure the app is open and you have to push a “ check glucose” button. You can’t just wave the phone over the reader with the phone on screensaver. This is not ideal for overnight so you would still need to use the reader.
  3. The phone has to be placed in a certain spot to scan the sensor. Even a few millimeters out and it misses it. Which means sometimes you’re doing a lot of waving around with your phone which could look anything but discreet.
  4. I kept getting an error message telling me the sensor was already linked to a different device. I usually had to wait a few seconds for it to pass but it wasn’t an instant reading.

You can definitely use the reader and the phone at the same time as long as you scan the sensor with the reader first and then scan the phone within the 60 minute start-up period. I like this option because it means you can use the phone when out and about and the reader at night for the convenience of an instant scan.

IMG_2898

The phone like the reader doesn’t have alarms, something blogger Matt Bendall ardently argued for during the event. So even with the librelink app, it’s still a flash glucose monitoring system. Something we discussed too was the subject of data overwhelm and how the freestyle libre offers an alternative to that. Having never used a Dexcom or Medtronic myself I can’t comment or compare. Personally, I like the scan option which means I test when I want to. I definitely get an adrenaline rush when I see a trending arrow that goes straight down or up so I couldn’t imagine how much panic would ensue if I had alarms. But that’s me. I tend to overreact to everything and why I do yoga!

So what do I think? I’m giving it the Two Thumbs UP. The app is launching June 5th here in Australia and I’ll be linking up as soon as I upgrade my phone. Now I have an incentive.

I am so grateful that Abbot hosts these Dx2events, not just because we get to try out new gadgets but because I get to spend two days learning more about what it means to live with diabetes. There is nothing more precious than peer support, friendship and being able to laugh about things that no one else would understand.

As someone shared on the last day it’s these sorts of events that fill up our cups. Right now mines’s full to overflowing.

IMG_2907

If you’d like to check out my brilliant blogger buddies here in Australia click the links below

Renza of Diabetogenic

Frank of Type 1 Writes

Drew of Drew’s Daily Dose

Melinda of Twice Diabetes

Tanya of The Leveled Life

David of Bionic Wookiee

Jenna from Typeonevibes

Ashley from Bitter Sweet Diagnosis

Matt Bendall

Kim Henshaw

The Power of Choice

Last week I was invited to an information day in preparation for the launch of the Ypsomed Insulin pump in Australia.

Full disclosure: Ypsomed paid for my hotel accommodation and transportation to attend the info day without any expectation that I would write about their product. Any of the opinions expressed here are my own and come fully locked and loaded.

From the onset, meeting the folks from Ypsomed was a sheer pleasure. The company is born and bred in Switzerland. Everything in Switzerland is nicely organized, the people are extremely polite and the scenery is stunning.

IMG_2827

The motto of the company is, “to make life easier and simpler with diabetes” Customer care is the forefront of their focus. Hence the reason for gathering a room full of diabetes bloggers to tell them about the pump and to garner opinions about the product.

I was impressed by the opening statements from Eberhard Bauer, the senior vice president in marketing and sales. Ypsomed is a family business making high-quality products. Pumps are manufactured in Switzerland and local customer support centers are in every country.

The look and feel of this pump is stunning. Lightweight with an easy touch screen, it’s discreet and easily tucked away in a pocket or bra. The inserter for the infusion set is similar to the freestyle libre inserter in that at the press of a button, it’s in. The glue used to secure the set is skin friendly too. The infusion set also has a 360 spin for the free flow of movement.

I haven’t tried a pump yet, but I am certainly interested in learning more about it. I’d have to change the insulin I’m on, which knowing me would require more bravery (I find it really hard to make changes to my diabetes management due to fear rather than just not liking a change in routine). In spite of my frustrating phobia, I am super curious to see how it would affect my diabetes management and even more interested as to how it would work with my active yoga practice.

Even though I am not a pumper I think everyone in Australia should have options to choose how they want to manage their diabetes. Ypsomed is definitely providing that freedom of choice.

If you’d like to know more about the product some of my fellow Aussie Diabetes Bloggers have written some great in-depth posts not only detailing the pros but the cons as well.

Check out Mel’s experiences hereAsh’s hereFrank’s here  David’s here and Renza’s here    

I came away from the event not only feeling inspired by the company and their mission but by my friends and fellow bloggers. They weren’t shy about asking questions or giving their opinions. As I continue to wade in deeper into a life with diabetes I am finding incredible value in peer support, trusting that my way of management is perfect for me and that we all deserve to have simple and effective management tools at our disposal.

photo for blog on ypsomed

with great respect…

rachel

 Go here to find out more about the Ypsomed pump.