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

Sick with Diabetes

Usually I can fly 30,000 miles without a hitch but not this time. I’ve been hit by some sort of bug. Could be an allergy, could be my body trying to eliminate all the toxicity from breathing in smoke from the Australian bushfires or could be I actually picked up a bug. One thing I’ve consistently noticed about myself since diagnosis is that I hardly ever get sick. I know others have mentioned this too. It’s like diabetes gives us some sort of immune super power, where we are chronically ill but never sick. Weird!

I try to avoid exposure to bugs as much as I can. It can make me antisocial.  I won’t go to hangout with someone when they have the flu. Getting sick can wreak havoc on blood sugars. Fighting off a bug can raise levels, and having to take extra herbs or medications can lower levels. Even something supportive like Vitamin C can affect the accuracy of the readings on a continuous glucose monitor. Basically a cold or flu is a minefield I’d rather avoid.

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When I travel I wear a mask. It’s not pretty and I’m often the only one on the plane who wears one, but it seems to help. If nothing else it gives me a feeling of security.  Insecurity rears its ugly head when I am tired, sick and feeling irrational. Same as one of those out of control hypo moments. Brain offline, body shaking, must get glucose now kind of stuff.

Obviously this time the mask was no match for the super bug. Now I’m in that lovely cycle of watching and waiting. Watching how it progresses from excruciating pain at back of nose, to yellow phlegm, to sore throat, waking up every hour during the night, to loss of  voice. Where to next? No idea… Such fun!

Meanwhile my blood sugar seems to be staying in range for once. Go figureIMG_7258

And it’s a beautiful day in Africa! Nature is in full force in spite of my gluggy head. A little bird is building its nest in the rafters, the lion down the road is roaring, the natural bush around us is filled with cheeps and chirps and there is a presence and stillness in the surrounding forest and mountain scape that can’t really be described.

Yep, it’s definitely annoying to get sick when you live with diabetes, but it’s also a good opportunity to rest, reflect and appreciate one’s health.

Happy Thanksgiving!

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Take that diabetes!

Yesterday, somewhere above Antarctica I celebrated my diaversary, the day I was diagnosed with diabetes.  11 years ago my life took on new meaning. At the time I had no idea why or how. I was stunned, shocked and miserable. I can honestly say that 11 years later I am the happiest I’ve ever been.

My life didn’t take a turn for the better just because of diabetes, at diagnosis my marriage was also undergoing serious strain. Diabetes forced me to get real about what was and wasn’t working in my life. Anything that contributed to stress had to go.

I didn’t heal all at once, rather it happened in stages. I started by changing my diet, eating more whole foods, ditching leftovers, eating more consistently. I added Ayurvedic regimes like daily self massage, herbal tonics, sipping hot water throughout the day and making sure I was heading to bed before 10 pm. I added daily meditation and pranayama to my yoga practice, activities, like flower mandala creation, long morning walks and time to reflect. I had a space in my house where I built an altar. A place to remind myself to be grateful each and every day for life and all its gifts.

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Eventually my marriage ended and my son moved to Melbourne and it was time to sell our family home. That’s when I packed up and moved to Goa. At that point just two years post diagnosis I didn’t know that I was living with type 1 diabetes, I still thought it was type 2, or some sort of mistake. All the health practitioners I went to see insisted it couldn’t be diabetes. So I went to India hoping for respite, or even a cure.

The cure came after I met my husband, John and as I mentioned in a previous post when I discovered the profound teachings of Atma Vidya, Self-Knowledge. Being given the gift of seeing beyond my condition and circumstances as an individual changed my life permanently. It was the turning point for every single moment in my life where I had tried to lay blame. Like the idea that I had brought diabetes on myself, that there was something that I had done wrong to ‘get’ this disease either real or imagined.

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I learned that taking responsibility for every action and reaction isn’t some sort of cosmic destiny, it’s being a grown up. There is no reason ‘why’ I live with diabetes. It is what it is. It’s up to me how I live with it moving forward.

So here I am 11 years later living a life I could only have dreamed of.  So to celebrate this momentous day I say thank you. Thank you to diabetes, for my life.

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Take to the Skies

As I am just 24 hrs out from travelling again I thought I would share another post I wrote for Beyond Type 1. I am a well seasoned traveller, but geez travelling with all my gear sends me bananas. This time we will be away for 6 months, which means I am carrying 6 months worth of needles, CGM’s, insulin and test strips. So much stuff that my husband has to carry some in his suitcase and carryon as well. If you are curious to know my top travel hacks for travelling with diabetes keep reading.

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury

I live between three or more continents in one year, teach yoga internationally and I’m a Type 1 diabetic. This means I have to travel regardless of my health condition. Is it easy? No. Do I enjoy it anyway? Yes. Recently, I participated in a twitter chat to share people’s experiences around flying with diabetes. It gave me a chance to share some of my personal insights — how I use yoga to stay balanced and to inspire others to feel more confident about taking to the skies.

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I carry on me …

  • long and short-acting insulin in Frio wallets
  • two glucometers
  • needles
  • test strips
  • a letter from my doctor
  • ALL MY FOOD!

I also check ahead to make sure that the country I am flying to has access to the type of insulin I need and that I can get a hold of test strips. I google for everything. It’s probably obsessive, but I want to minimize my stress as much as possible.

Before I was diagnosed, I felt free to go just about anywhere and since my diagnosis, I haven’t let diabetes stop me — I’ve just adapted. Being diagnosed as a LADA Type 1 eight years ago, my onset was slow. For the first six years, traveling meant making sure I had all my own food with me and only staying in places where I could cook for myself. When I did go out to eat I always called ahead. I was managing my levels by staying as low carb as possible and had quite a few food sensitivities, so sometimes eating out was a tough call. I always thought that when I went on insulin things would get tougher. I was wrong. Insulin has actually made traveling so much easier.

Instead of trying to use food and exercise to stay in range — nearly impossible when you’re stuck on a plane for 16 hours with airline food — I can cruise through the trip with my once-a-day shot of long acting insulin. I’m not on fast acting yet, so I can’t comment on what it’s like to fly and bolus. But I’m convinced that traveling with your own snacks, not only for hypos, but for your own sanity, absolutely helps you to feel better when you land.

Read the rest at Beyond Type 1...

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

Chair yoga for everybody

There have been two times in my life where no matter how much I wanted to I couldn’t do yoga. Near the end of my pregnancy and 2003. Late stage pregnancy for me was a killer. Every joint and muscle had softened to the point where stretching just caused more pain. The baby was sitting low and towards the back of my spine. It felt like I was carrying around a bowling ball. Every try to do yoga with a bowling ball in your belly? Forget it.

2003 was the year the sh..t hit the fan with my nervous system. I had been having strange symptoms after 9/11 in 2001, but things really got heavy after holding my breath too long in a yoga class. A few hours later I was out with my girlfriends at dinner and started to get crazy dizzy. The six of us ended up in the ladies room, with me stooped over the sink feeling like my whole world had upended. A few days later I had some sort of heart arrhythmia in the middle of the night. My yoga mentor thought I might be dealing with a nervous system overload and looking back he was sort of right. It was most likely the beginning of my beta cell breakdown, but not knowing anything about diabetes I assumed it was some sort of spiritual emergency. You know…WOO WOO stuff.

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I now know it wasn’t but at the time I found anything that made me feel ungrounded which included yoga, breathing and meditation a no go zone.

Many of us diagnosed with diabetes struggle with all sorts of physical issues. We might have tight muscles, restricted joints, injuries or trouble getting up and down from the floor unassisted. Luckily there are simple ways to get around these challenges by practicing yoga on a chair.

When I work one on one I like to tailor a practice to what’s supportive and accessible. A group class doesn’t give me as much leeway, so in the practice below there might be some things that still feel challenging. I encourage you to do what you can and leave the rest.

As always your feedback is invaluable. Let me know how you travel.

see you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel