We are all in this boat together

It’s still Diabetes blog week and I’m a bit late today with my submission. That’s what happens when you fly thousands of miles and have to do everything on your to-do list first before you can write!

Now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and how do you cope?  

I often wonder what life would have been like if I hadn’t been on the slow boat to diabetes. I mean what if it had never happened? Would I have ended up visiting a naturopath at 18? Would I have started yoga? I guess I’ll never know.

So many of the choices I made as a young adult were based on the fact that I never really felt healthy. There was always something wrong with my digestion or with my energy levels. Looking back I know it was all to do with the fact that my onset of type 1 was super slow.

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As a young adult, I was racked with anxiety, shame, and guilt and there was often a feeling in and around the area of my spleen that felt like I was being sucked into a vortex.

I’m convinced that every health issue was related to the demise of a beta cell. The weird emotional feelings were probably also related. As a young person, I didn’t really know what to make of it. As an adult thankfully I do.

I’ve never really been a depressive type but since diabetes, that’s changed. It’s not that I get so depressed that I can’t get out of bed, it’s just that the whole thing gets so overwhelming sometimes that I feel a sense of hopelessness and despair. The worst part is I keep those crappy feelings to myself.

I know it would do me good to talk it out but to be honest I couldn’t be bothered. Being a yoga teacher and having a reputation has some stigma attached to it. We are the ones others look to for inspiration. We are supposed to rise above it all. Well, surprise, surprise… trying to hold myself to some sort of standard doesn’t work at all!

Diabetes is by far the single most challenging thing I have ever had to deal with and I can do yoga till the cows come home and still feel pissed off, moody, angry and down about it.

So how do I climb out of my own hole when the going gets rough?

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By cutting myself some slack. By taking it one day at a time, one step at a time, one insulin dose at a time.

And writing. Writing it out is like talking it out, only better. When I write I don’t care about the reader.  I write for myself. As I write I can see what it is I actually think and feel. Once it’s out there I can decide if it’s true for me or not. Words are a beautiful mirror in which one can objectively reflect.  What that axiom? The mirror never lies.

Another thing I love about self-expression through the written word is that it connects me with other writers. In the Diabetes space, we are all passengers on the same boat. We may have different cabins and have brought our own belongings but we share the same trajectory. I love meeting with my fellow passengers on deck. This week has been especially healing for me. Reading everyone’s blogs, and commenting and receiving comments has helped to heal the wounds of diagnosis and beyond.

When it comes down to it we all face this disease in our own unique way. But knowing I’m not alone, that there is a thriving community has made all the difference.

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If you’d like to find out more about how yoga can help you manage your diabetes each and every day check out the rest of my blog and if you’d like to get the first chapter of my book for free go here

With great respect…Rachel

What can I do to make a difference

Today is Day 2 of Diabetes Blog Week and already it’s been amazing to read and share with our thriving #DOC. I feel completely inspired and in awe of the writing talent out there and if you are reading this, you guys are my diabetes heroes! Even though I was diagnosed 9 years ago I still feel like the new kid on the block when it comes to managing this disease. After yesterday’s topic,  I feel armed with a whole new arsenal of tools to manage my diabetes. Thank you!

Here’s today’s prompt…

 So today, let’s discuss how cost impacts our diabetes care.  Do you have advice to share?  For those outside the US, is cost a concern?  Are there other factors such as accessibility or education that cause barriers to your diabetes care?

I feel like I am one of the lucky ones. I was born in Holland, grew up in the U.S and moved to Australia when I was 18. I can still remember the day I received my medicare card and my shock at how anything related to doctors and medical tests was free. While my siblings and parents complained about the costs of doctors and insurance in the States and worried about my health care, I told them not to worry. Australia isn’t called the lucky country for nothing.

That was when I was 18… things are definitely more costly now, but as my friend, Frank from Type 1 writes  just shared on his blog,

” If I have to have diabetes, then there’s no place I’d rather have it than in Australia.”

Living in Australia with Diabetes has been affordable and it’s one of the reasons I feel grateful to call it my home. But I do live and travel often to other countries and have come to realize that Insulin, test strips, needles and diabetes devices aren’t always on tap and don’t come gift-wrapped.

Recently I’ve been living in South Africa. It’s a land of contradictions with a huge disparity between the people who have and the people who have not. I’m basically a tourist here so not really part of the medical system but recently the harsh reality of what it’s like for the people here hit home.

A friend came for a visit and with her was Abongile.  Somehow it came up in conversation that I had type 1 diabetes. Abongile just happened to be a dietician in a clinic in Johannesburg for about 30 kids with type 1 diabetes. I was showing her my freestyle libre flash glucose monitor and how it worked. She was astonished. The kids she cares for and their parents can’t even afford the insulin they need to survive. Not only that, because there is no awareness of type 1 in the school system, the kids can’t take the risk of being on more than two shots a day. Apparently, hypos are a no go because the teachers don’t have the skills to respond appropriately. So all the kids in the clinic are on mixed insulin and do something called ‘carb blocking.’ They are allowed a certain number of carbs per day, based on the types of foods they eat. A packet of sweets is one block, a bag of potato chips another.

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As a nutritionist, Abongile works hard to educate parents about the types of foods that are good to help the kids manage their levels. But some parents can’t even afford healthy fruits and vegetables. When I asked her if there was any money from the government to help the kids she laughed and shook her head. The one thing they have been able to achieve is to give each child a glucometer.

After speaking with Abongile I was completely floored and felt ashamed. How could I even consider complaining about the fact that the freestyle libre was $90 out of pocket, or that my favourite brand of test strips was on back order, or that I have to pay very little for a years supply of Insulin when these kids don’t even get to take the Insulin they need.

It immediately made me want to help. Before Abongile left I made sure I had her contact details I told her about an organization called Type 1 International which helps people get access to Insulin and medical supplies. I wrote a letter to one of the founders about the clinic and my meeting with Abongile. It felt good to put them in contact with each other and that somehow I could make a difference.

Abongile wrote back to me a few days later…

“Thank you very much for your quick connection with the T1 international on my hospital’s behalf. I am very grateful for your keeping to your word as well :). I will keep you updated with any/all positive developments for the clinic from the T1 foundation. “

Something I learned from my exchange with Abongile was that whatever we can do to help others have access to Insulin and diabetes-related supplies we must do. Whether it’s helping someone with less access, lobbying our governments, writing about it or networking to spread awareness.

Even the smallest action helps.

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If you’d like to find out more about how yoga can help you manage your diabetes each and every day check out the rest of my blog and if you’d like to get the first chapter of my book for free go here

With great respect…Rachel

The wonder and magic of a life with diabetes

Woohoo! It’s here! Diabetes Blog Week!

For the next 5 days I’ll be writing on a specific topic along with other diabetes bloggers, sharing how I navigate the world of diabetes. Below is the first topic and my corresponding thoughts.

Tell us about some good things diabetes has brought into your life that you never could have expected?

The nervous system is a delicate thing, tiny fibers that crisscross the body and send signals from your brain to different key areas, telling it to move, breath, digest, feel etc. For some reason nine years ago, mine started to go haywire. Being a long time yogi I consulted my yoga books to see what the problem might be. After months of research, I reached my conclusion.

I was in the middle of a spiritual crisis.

Thinking that I was on the fast track to enlightenment wasn’t necessarily the best approach. For starters, it kept me from questioning my physical symptoms or seeking medical answers. If I had known that diabetes isn’t something you get from poor diet and lifestyle, or that it doesn’t just affect children, I would have dug deeper.

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Back then there wasn’t much awareness about the signs and symptoms of diabetes.  Even now when I tell people I have Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults ( LADA) they scratch their heads and look at me funny.

Finding out that there was a reason for the strange jittery sensations, erratic digestion, food sensitivities, a constant sugary taste on my tongue and the feelings of exhaustion was a total relief. It’s not that I was happy to have diabetes, it’s just that my search for answers caused so much internal havoc, that having an actual diagnosis released the pressure valve.

I cried a lot those first few weeks after diagnosis. It felt so good to let go.

It’s been quite a journey since then and aside from those initial feelings of relief, I spent years trying everything I could to conquer the beast. What I’ve learned though is that you can’t ‘conquer’ diabetes. It’s not a country you can invade and call home.

Am I the proud owner of a life with diabetes? hmmm….it’s hard to put that answer into words…

What I can say is that diabetes has changed me for the better. It’s made me raw, honest and put my feet on the ground.  It’s also motivated me to open up and share through my writing more about what it means to live with chronic illness and spread awareness about the disease.

Diabetes has also inspired me to be deeply grateful. I used to take life for granted. I’d wake up every morning, dive into the day and never stop and think. Wow! I’m alive.

Now, I make a concerted effort to stop, look around me, drink in the beauty of this life and remember…

Life is precious. It’s not a given.

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If you’d like to find out more about how yoga can help you manage your diabetes each and every day check out the rest of my blog and if you’d like to get the first chapter of my book for free go here

With great respect…Rachel

Why I dropped the ball

Hey there, it’s been a while! Firstly I want to apologise for the long break between blogs. I’ve been plowing through a few ‘moments’ in my life that have garnered my full attention.

Things like:

organising my book tour in the US

getting published in Elephant Journal

creating vlogs for Yoga for Fertility and Yoga for Adrenal support

hosting my parents first visit to South Africa

did I mention, marrying the man of my dreams?

and finally getting a printed advance readers copy of my book on Yoga for Diabetes, How to Manage your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda 

Here’s a little photo collage to put you in the picture….

Meanwhile, diabetes has been kicking my but!

I’ve been splitting my basal dose, upping ratios, wrestling with unexpected highs and lows and doubling down on my yoga practice to manage the associated stress.

Amidst all the celebrations, I’ve been dealing with a ton of fear. So much so that I found myself writing about it for Beyond Type 1, my favourite online yoga charity and community.

Here’s a little exerpt

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“Meeting my fear has never been easy. But slowly over time I’m getting better at taming the beast, especially now that I live with Type 1 diabetes.

My initial response to my diagnosis was to deny that I had diabetes. The theory being: what doesn’t exist can’t hurt me. It took time and courage to realize that the only thing standing in the way of me accepting my condition was fear.

Fear of hypoglycemia, fear of ketoacidosis. Fear of insulin. Fear of forgetting to take insulin. Fear of food, fear of what other people think about what I eat. Fear of getting fat or losing too much weight. Fear of complications. Fear of losing my livelihood. Fear of losing my relationships. And the biggest fear? Fear of dying. We all grapple with that one, diabetes or not…” read more here

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So… it’s been a crazy few months and I can’t wait for some sense of normalcy to return so I can keep sharing with you really great ways to use yoga to help you manage your diabetes.

….And I’d love to hear from you what kind of things you’d like to see more of on the blog.

Wishing you an absolutely beautiful day wherever you are!

with great respect

Rachel

Yoga mudras for diabetes

When most people think of yoga they think of a physical practice involving stretches and strengthening exercises to create flexibility and balance.  But there is another way that yogis approach their practice. Rather than seeing the practice as postural, they think of the practice as a way to build energy. This energy is called Prana and it’s our life force.

The physical postures help to detoxify the system while the breathing practices cleanse and purify the system. Once energy flows freely we can start to absorb prana more readily and seal it into our nervous system. The more prana we retain the easier it is to manage our stress.

In yoga, mudras are the postures we use to seal energy into the body. These can be physical postures or they can be hand gestures.

Mudras have been around for thousands of years. In fact, before there was language we used gestures (sign language) to communicate. That’s why we still use our hands when we talk.

Mudras are the perfect way to calm the emotions and settle the mind and they are super easy to do. No prior experience needed!

Perfect for supporting us in our diabetes care.

I decided to create a vlog of a short mudra sequence that you can practice right away.

Want to know more about how I used yoga to help me come to terms with my diagnosis? Check out my free ebook Surviving Insulin. Would you like to find the perfect practice to make living with diabetes that little bit easier? Why not work with me

Letting it all go

I’ve been tearing up quite a lot lately. It could be that I finally have a home again after 6 years of non-stop travel. Or the fact that so many of my childhood dreams are bearing fruit. Or that, besides all the good in my life, I still find it hard to accept the daily ups and downs of diabetes. No matter what the reason for my tears I know that taking the time to sit and be with my vulnerable heart enables me to be stronger and to deal with whatever challenges come my way.

As my holiday gift to you, I’d love to share this simple technique to release the feelings that can threaten to overwhelm us during this sensitive time.

And…I wish you a very happy, settled and balanced holiday season!

with great respect…

Rachel

The Sat Yam meditation

Place your hand on your heart. Feel the warmth of your hand at your heart and notice your breath. Take a few moments here to let the mind settle.

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Bring the heels of your hands together and extend the fingers so your hands are in the shape of a cup or lotus (padma mudra).

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Imagine that inside your cup/lotus are all the emotions and feelings that haunt you. Don’t think too hard about it. See what arises.

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As you inhale, lift the cup/lotus by straightening your arms sending the emotions back to pure unconditioned awareness.

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As you exhale, open your arms to the side and surround yourself in a fine purple mist.

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Repeat this a few times, lifting the cup/lotus overhead on inhalation, surrounding yourself with a fine purple mist on exhalation.

Repeat the moving meditation a few more times silently adding the sound Sat on inhalation and Yam on exhalation.

Let go of the movement with the arms, resting the hands on the thighs.

Continue to chant internally: Sat as you feel the breath moving up the spine to the crown of the head on inhalation; Yam surrounding yourself in the fine purple mist on exhalation. Think of it like an internal fountain replenishing itself with every in and out breath.

Finally, feel the sound Satyam resting like a pulse at the centre of your heart. Rest there for another few moments.

When you’re ready, gently open your eyes and head into your day.

 

 

Holiday Surprise

I can’t believe we are a quarter of the way into December. My inbox is already teaming with gift ideas and strategies for surviving the holiday rush. Instead of coming up with tips and tricks for my own brand of ‘surviving the holidays’  I’d like to share some exciting non holiday news.

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I may have mentioned in previous posts that my partner John and I have been building a house over the last few months on an incredible piece of land in South Africa. Finally at the end of November, we moved in!

Instead of focussing on social media content and how yoga can help manage your diabetes, I’ve been focusing on home contents. It’s been quite exciting making a house into a home and knowing that our home will eventually be a hub for people to come rest, rejuvenate and be with themselves.

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Our centre is called the Sundaram yoga & adventure park. Sundaram means “the Beautiful” and beautiful it is.  Right now our centre is a simple dwelling on a virgin piece of land surrounded by an 150 million year old indigenous forest with sweeping vistas of mountains down to the sea. Eventually it will be a network of cabins and studios to host workshops of all sorts for people from all over the world. I’m especially keen to host Yoga retreats for people living with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes…so stay tuned for more on that one.img_0144So with all the excitement on the ground, my blog has been gathering dust …but 2017 is just around the corner  and my goal is to serve up some awesome meditations, yoga practices and more to usher in the new year… until then have a wonderful holiday season!

with great respect…

Rachel

P.S Want to know more about my first year on Insulin? Get my free ebook here.

 

What will the world look like now?

Last night I couldn’t sleep and I know I wasn’t the only one. The biggest question on my mind was, what will the world look like now? What will be the worlds attitude towards America and how will we move forward?

My Facebook feed is packed with fearful and tearful exclamations and words of comfort too. Close friends who practice yoga sharing personal stories of how they’ve coped in the past with tragedy and uncertainty. How do any of us face the unknown?

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As this is still #diabetesawarenessmonth and managing diabetes is a 24/7 job this whole election palaver and subsequent result although hugely daunting is also an opportunity to tune in to how any of us cope when faced with something we don’t want to face.

When someone is diagnosed with diabetes often friends and family comment that at least it’s not cancer. At least you can’t die from diabetes. Isn’t it the same with an election result we’d rather not stomach? Surely this isn’t going to kill us and for those of us who live with chronic illness, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

We find ways to more than cope. We thrive!

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And how do we thrive? Through acceptance. Accepting the hand we have been dealt with grace and determination.

Do you know anyone who lives with diabetes? have you seen them injecting at a meal, testing their blood sugar, eating differently, perhaps fiddling with a device attached to their belt? If you have then you might have assumed that what they do is easy and that they have adapted.

What you don’t see is the shock and horror of diagnosis. The fear and uncertainty of how they will cope. The grief, and the loss and despair. Even worse if that diagnosis happens to a baby or a small child how that little innocent being is just that, innocent and how the parents for years to come will have to bear the burden. Constant blood sugar checks day and night, injections and more.

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The road ahead after diagnosis is harder then anyone can imagine. But somehow little by little that baby grows up, graduates from college and goes on to live a healthy and productive life.

I truly believe that as a human race our ability to adapt is a blessing. We can stare down the barrel of a gun, live in the most appalling conditions, survive holocausts, wars, famine and still love and create beautiful, astounding things that change the world.

Shame

This month is Diabetes Awareness month and today I wanted to share more about the vulnerability I experience while living with Diabetes.

I can remember the moment of diagnosis like it was yesterday. The feelings of confusion and disbelief as my GP hurriedly told me, “YOU HAVE DIABETES” There was no sugar coating, no silver lining and I was terrified and convinced there was some mistake. I didn’t get to see a specialist straight away so for at least two days I just sat in my house in tatters. I didn’t know what to do. The doctor had given me all sorts of instructions to change my diet, google diabetes and find out how to fix myself.

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I didn’t know whether to call my parents, tell my best friend or just be quiet about the whole thing. The biggest overriding feeling I felt was shame. I kept thinking how could a yoga teacher who was supposedly healthy get this disease. 8 years ago I knew nothing about type 1 diabetes and that it was possible to get this as an adult and that mine was a particularly slow onset.

At that stage I thought I had type 2 diabetes which can be brought on by stress, diet, lifestyle choices and other factors. The two diseases are very different. In type 1 the pancreas loses beta cell function and the ability to produce insulin. In type 2 the body does produce insulin but the cells resist the insulin. In LADA which is what I have, it’s sometimes called 1.5 which means I can do both. Not have much insulin and resist the insulin. This means I have to do everything I can to make my cells more open to receiving insulin and preserve my beta cell function at the same time.

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Understanding my disease was the first step in letting go of the shame I felt. When I was finally at the stage where I needed Insulin, the diabetes educator said in no uncertain terms that this disease is not my fault and that there is absolutely nothing I could have done to change its onset and progression.

The tears that flowed from that moment were tears of relief. letting go of my shame has helped me to be more compassionate too. Not one person living with chronic illness, mental health issues, personal tragedy or any other crisis should ever feel ashamed.

Things happen!

It’s up to us how we respond to our circumstances. I am grateful every day for the gift that diabetes has given me.

with great respect…Rachel

Want to know more about my first year on Insulin? Get my free ebook here.

Highs and lows

Friday was a biggie, not in terms of my blood glucose numbers, but because I’ve finally realised a life long dream. In November 2017 a book I had no idea I would even write, when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes eight years ago, will be published worldwide.

If you’ve been following this blog over the last two years you’ll remember how busy I was last year writing Yoga for Diabetes Some of you even generously donated to the crowdfunding campaign I ran in February. I am beyond grateful for the outpouring of generosity from friends, family and people in the DOC.

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What I didn’t expect was to be approached by a publisher in the U.S after the campaign had finished and that our discussions over the last 7 months would lead to being offered a contract for world wide distribution. Obviously I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Prior to being offered the contract my plan was to have the book ready for print by May 2016. Being an absolute novice with self publishing I came up against all sorts of road blocks while sourcing quotes from printers. On the exact day that I received the best print quote I also received the contract offer from the publisher.

I have decided to go the traditional publishing route with the hope that my enthusiastic supporters from the crowdfunding campaign will celebrate this exciting turn of events, even if it means waiting a year to receive the book.

So the absolute high of the week? Signing that contract!

contract-signAnd the low?

Waking up up the next day with higher blood sugars. Heading to my mat hoping the numbers would fall. Turning up the dial on my nightly basal injection. Feeling sleepy, grumpy and frustrated because no matter what I do only trial and error will bring my blood sugar down again.

When I hit these emotional lows, the best yoga practice is one of surrender, acceptance and knowing that I can ‘try’ again tomorrow.

And what does that practice look like?

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I imagine myself at the feet of something greater and offer up my pain, frustration and sorrow to that force. I express absolute gratitude for the sweetness of life, the breath and this body, letting the emotions come.

This to me is the power of Yoga in the form of Bhakti. And one of the many ways I bring yoga into my daily diabetes management plan. No matter what your religion, culture or belief, surrender and gratitude are universal and a powerful daily practice.

with great respect…Rachel

And if you can’t wait for the book why not check out my free ebook on how I managed my first year on Insulin here.