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 perfect injection

I was one of the lucky ones, or so I thought. When I was diagnosed with unusual blood sugar levels in 2008 I was told by my doctor that we would take a wait and see attitude. Waiting meant me measuring my blood sugar levels with a glucometer twice a day and having quarterly blood tests to see if there was either a reversal to normal levels or an escalation. Seeing was about hoping that I could reverse the symptoms through diet and exercise.

Looking back I’m not to sure how this ‘wait and see’ approach made me lucky. ‘Waiting’ meant I could go into further denial and ‘seeing’ took me into untold distress. When my doctor finally made the call  to start insulin therapy after acknowledging that what I had was a late onset form of Type 1 diabetes, I cried for two weeks straight. Not because I was worried or fearful (which by the way I was, no one wants to be dependent on medication for the rest of their life) but because I was relieved. Relieved that I had a diagnosis that made sense and that I would have control of my health again.

Up until that point taking insulin was my biggest fear. How would I travel having to carry meds with me everywhere, what if I reacted to the chemicals in the insulin, what if it didn’t work.? My doctor assured me that I would feel a whole lot better once I started injecting. He was right. It took 6 months for my levels to return to ‘normal’. Insulin doesn’t cure diabetes, or solve the problem, but it does alleviate the issue of not being able to assimilate food . When the body doesn’t produce an essential hormone you have to get it in there somehow.

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One of the first things I learned from my diabetes educator was to rotate injection sites. The reason being if I constantly inject in the same place that area starts to form scar tissue making it harder to absorb the insulin. Also the injection site changes the rate of absorption. I started by injecting in the fat layer on my belly, then after meeting friends who lived with diabetes I learned to inject in the fat tissue on the sides and lower back. Recently I’ve started injecting in the top part of my bum. I still haven’t worked up the courage to try my upper outer arms or outer thighs, but I’m getting there.

The hardest thing to remember is where I last injected so I switch sides. Left side of my belly in the morning and right side in the evening. Basically I feel like a pincushion covered in bruises. I like to think of them as a battle scars, a fight well won. Those bumps and bruises show me I’m still alive. I don’t begrudge taking insulin one bit. Taking insulin is a privilege. Before the discovery of insulin, diabetes was a death sentence.

What I’d really like to see out there in terms of help in rotating sites is some kind of way to make sure I’m injecting in a different spot each time. I’ve seen an idea for a temporary tattoos for kids  and there’s a grid you can use, plus apps and charts. But to be honest all these options hasn’t solved the issue.  One of the best options I’ve seen is placing a teeny tiny temporary flower tattoo after injecting, so eventually your whole belly looks like a garden. Sounds fun right?

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In spite of the daily dilemma I have around injecting, life goes on. Initially, I felt nervous and awkward, and unsure as to whether it would work at all. It was my doctor who reassured me, “you know in a little while you’ll forget you even struggled with this part of it. It’ll be as automatic as driving a car.”

And you know what? As much as injecting can be a literal pain in the ass, he was right. As I dial up the dose and inject that sucker I know everything is going to be okay.

see you tomorrow

with great respect…

rachel

Hypo Hot Mess

You’d think I’d be used to being on the razor’s edge but I’m not.  Like a mother who forgets the pain of childbirth, I keep forgetting what a fine line it is to live with diabetes. Maybe it’s because my memory is selective, or that I still find myself going into denial. More likely it’s because I’m burnt out from all the nitty gritty stuff I have to do to stay alive.

Hypos are the worst. Every time a low comes on I think, “Sh…t  I’m going low. What time is it? Can I wait 15 minutes and then eat lunch. Nope? Ok, just take ½ a tab. That’s probably not enough. Wait 15 min. Sh…t still going low take another ½… No, strike that, take 1 tab. Wait 15 more minutes (by now I actually feel low… sensation of ants crawling all over my body, mind like a wobbly wet piece of jelly). Ok, just take another tab and be done with it. (check my blood sugar 10 times in 15 minutes). Crap my fingers hurt.

After it comes back up I cry a lot. Later I think about adjusting my basal but worry that if I do I’ll go high. Eventually, I adjust my basal, wait to see what happens and tell myself, “Next time I’m going to take ¼ tab. Next time I’ll trust my body and my intuition. Next time I’ll take less insulin.”

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My last big hypo happened right before I was supposed to teach a yoga workshop on mudras ( yogic hand gestures). I was sitting in front of 15 experienced yoga teachers while furiously checking my blood sugar. The trend arrow on my mySugr app wasn’t looking good.

I freaked out! I’d driven all that way, spent weeks preparing had gathered an awesome group of yogis, only to have the whole thing crumble because of my broken pancreas and stupid carb to insulin miscalculation. I kept telling myself, “Push through you’re stronger than this maybe it won’t keep plummeting. Start teaching you’ll be fine.” But no matter how strong I thought I was, I couldn’t fight reality. My body wasn’t going to kick in and save the day. I had to share through my vulnerability. It was either that or bale.

Stepping up meant sharing with the group that I was in the middle of a hypo, that I’d taken some glucose tabs and had to wait 15 minutes before I could teach. I felt awkward, my brain wasn’t clear enough to communicate, but the smiling and compassionate faces of the group gave me heart.

“Living yoga is about being with what is,” I continued, “and sometimes ‘what is’ sucks.”

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Luckily within a few minutes, I could feel the glucose bringing my brain back online. The class flew by and was loads of fun, but later I felt drained, weak and really emotional.

Before my diagnosis, I would get tired after teaching, but it was a good tired. The kind where you knew you had worked hard enough to deserve a rest. Hypo fatigue is something else. 24 hours later I still find it hard to focus, my nervous system is overly sensitive and I’m prone to panic attacks. In a way, it’s akin to burning oneself accidentally. At contact, it burns sharp and hot, but that’s not the problem. It’s the lingering throbbing pain that’s tough to withstand. Plus Hypos aren’t always just a one-off thing. When a Hypo, builds on another Hypo it takes days to recover. It’s a challenge not to lose heart or worry that I’ll never get on top of things.

As I mention continuously in my blog posts I really have to take my hat off to yoga. The physical practices of posture and breathing definitely help. Lately, I have been using the deeper practices like mudra (gesture) and mantra (sound) too. Holding my hands in certain positions really calms my emotions and repeating a mantra like OM is soothing for all the systems in the body. In fact, so soothing that chanting lowers my blood sugar.

In honor of being a Hypo Hot Mess, this weeks offering is a simple 5 element mudra sequence. As you go through each mudra feel harmony coming into the body, relax and breathe. You can do this anywhere anytime, focusing on one element for your practice or including all five.

With great respect…

Rachel