Dancing with Diabetes

This last month has been all about my obsession with Ballet. It started when I was in the airport on my way back to Australia and Misty Copeland’s, Life in Motion miraculously leaped off the shelf and into my hands for the long flight ahead. Reading about her incredible talent and rise to stardom amidst a very unstable home life and her detailed descriptions of a life in Ballet, brought back vivid memories of what it was like to live and study dance in New York City during the early 80’s.

Back then I was an aspiring Ballerina and spent every spare minute either attending dance classes or watching the greats in American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet. My own career in dance lasted well into my 30’s. I never made it to a big company, ( I danced with a regional dance in education company in Tasmania), but I did get to taste what it’s like to perform day in and day out.

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Don’t let anyone tell you that dancing is glamorous. It takes grit, hard work, and guts to do all that graceful stuff and nerves of steel…not only to face external criticism but one’s own nagging self-doubt, fear of failure and much more.

Initially, when I was diagnosed with diabetes, I tried to dance down my blood sugar levels. I’d wake up, head to my yoga room, blast out music and thrash about for 20 minutes hoping for the best.  It worked quite well in the beginning stages when I was still producing quite a bit of insulin but later, not so much. After a while, any kind of exercise raised my levels and depleted my adrenals and sadly I stopped dancing.

Reading Misty’s book made me wonder. Are there other dancers out there who live with Type 1 Diabetes?

Enter, Zippora Karz, a former ballerina with the New York City Ballet who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just as her career was taking off within the company. Lucky for me she is also a writer so to continue my passion for all things Ballet I couldn’t help devouring her book, The Sugarless Plum. It’s such a great read and perfect for anyone living with type 1 diabetes who also loves all the intrigue of the Ballet. I soared along with Zippora as she realised her dream of joining the company, and then crashed when she was diagnosed, misdiagnosed and re-diagnosed again. Her journey to health and wellbeing is remarkable, her courage unshakable and her persistence in living her dream in spite of the many challenges and unknowns awe inspiring. Can you tell I love this book!

So after a month of watching videos of Ballet, reading about Ballet and thinking seriously about attending an Adult Ballet class, I decided it was time to digress from my usual yoga for diabetes topic and share with you a short interpretive dance about what it feels like sometimes to live with diabetes.

I’d love to know how you find creative ways to manage the many emotions that arise in a life with diabetes so feel free to comment below…

With great respect…

Rachel

The worst visit ever

I’m sitting here in the airport in Johannesburg after 10 hours of non-stop flying. With a couple of hours before my next flight, I have time to share my 3rd post for Diabetes Blog Week 

Having diabetes often makes a visit to the doctor a dreaded experience, as there is invariably bad news of one kind or another.  And sometimes the way the doctor talks to you can leave you feeling like you’re at fault.  Or maybe you have a fantastic healthcare team, but have experienced blame and judgment from someone else in your life – friend, loved one, complete stranger.  Think about a particularly bad instance, how that person talked to you, the words they used and the conversation you had.  Now, the game part.  Let’s turn this around.  If you could turn that person into a puppet, what would you have them say that would leave you feeling empowered and good about yourself?   Let’s help teach people how to support us, rather than blame us!

My GP had always been a cool guy. Into alternative things, he swam with dolphins, played the didgeridoo and always recommended herbs before meds. I’d been seeing him on and off since my son was born and we had a nice friendship outside of the doctor’s office.

The day of my diagnosis was just like any other day.  I’d been feeling fatigued, dizzy when I ate sweet things and my ex-husband had suggested we both get some blood tests. He’d gone to see the doctor first and was told that he had high blood pressure, but the news about me was way worse. The doctor wanted to see me straight away. “What do you think it could be?” I asked him. “Well I know it’s not Cancer but it is something to do with your blood.”

Sitting in the waiting room that day I was jittery. It seemed odd that I was that unwell. I’d always managed everything holistically with my health, hence seeing that sort of doctor.

As soon as I entered his office he told me to sit down. He swiveled back on forth on his chair and tapped his pencil on my blood test result form. I don’t know how to tell you this…but the news isn’t good.

And then he just blurted it out. You have diabetes!

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I can’t begin to tell you how I felt, my heart rate went through the roof, the bottom dropped out of my world. Diabetes is everywhere in my family, especially on my mother’s side. In fact, my great grandfather died from diabetes ( he was diagnosed before there was Insulin) Ironically, My birth date is the date he died.

It was hard to keep track of what the doctor said next. He told me that he had seen that my blood sugar levels were elevated so he checked my A1c. Sure enough, that was elevated too. “It’s a long journey to reverse this, you’ll have to find your own cure. I’m not quite sure how you got this…”

Next, he’s started telling me that I had to change my diet and exercise more while shoving pamphlets in direction. Then as a parting gift, he told me to Google diabetes.

As I drove home I just couldn’t believe what he was saying. It couldn’t be diabetes.

I think things could have gone really differently that day and if they had I might not have gone on to deny my diagnosis. It took almost 6 years to have actual diabetes symptoms so it was easy to shove his diagnosis under the rug.

If he had sat me down and explained to me that the beta cells in my pancreas were attacking themselves and that it couldn’t possibly be my fault. If he had asked me if there had been some really stressful event that may have triggered the onset.  If he’d told me that there were resources and tools to help me manage this and a worldwide community for support. That I could live a full happy healthy life. That there were people just like me that I could connect with, who could mentor me through the little things. Even just a few words of support and encouragement could have made all the difference.

Luckily in spite of that god awful doctor,  I survived!  In a way, diabetes has grown on me. I no longer blame myself for getting sick.

After nine years of living with diabetes, a lot of yoga and study of traditional yoga teachings, I’ve realized that there is no ‘ rhyme or reason’  for anything. Rather the whole of life, whatever happens, whether we call it good or bad… is a reminder to enjoy everything exactly as it is.

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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

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.

photo by Matthias Boettrich

Remembering 9/11

I used to play the blame game when it came to having diabetes. But all that came to a halt on my first visit to the Diabetes educator. “ You know you’ve done nothing wrong, “ she shared, “some people just have the marker in their genes and it gets triggered by a stressful event. Can you think of a time in your life where you could have triggered the gene?” 

9/11,  thats when everything shifted.

That day was terrible, terrible for everyone.

We were in Manhattan waiting for my mentor and Yoga teacher Alan Finger to teach his yoga class when the planes hit the trade towers. As soon as I realised what had happened, I felt like I’d been shot in the chest, my legs buckling underneath me.  After a few minutes I had to get out of there. My son and stepson were at school a few blocks away and I wanted to be with them. Dazed and feeling sick to my stomach I walked out onto the street. It was quiet; ghost like, people with ashen faces walked beside me. The sky was a crisp blue and I wondered, how could everyone just keep going?

By the time I arrived at the school I was feeling faint. I wanted someone to hold me and look after me, but I wasn’t the only one in shock. I had to pull myself together. It was a relief to have both boys with me. The only way home to Brooklyn was to walk across the 59th Street Bridge. I could feel fear stuck in my throat, dry and hard. Gripping my sons’ hands, we walked.

Nearly seven hours after the towers had fallen I fell into my husband arms, but it was no consolation for the shock that numbed my body. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t even think because my whole world had turned upside down.

I don’t think I ever really recovered emotionally or physically from that day. And although I can’t specifically pinpoint the day my beta cells started collapsing I started experiencing a lot of strange physical symptoms about a year later. Tingling up and down my body, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, a feeling of being overly expanded, frequent urination, hives and skin rashes, racing heartbeat, difficulty digesting and many more things which turned my life into a living hell.

Recently I read an article that stated that those exposed to the debris from the falling towers are only now showing an array of symptoms and illnesses.

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There was nothing I could have done to avoid that day. When the unexpected happens it happens. Right now somewhere in the world some terrifying event is taking place and someone is exposed to something they didn’t expect and could never predict. How does anyone cope? How do we move forward? I imagine a lot of us are reflecting on that today.

A friend of mine posts the same story every year on her facebook page. She says she does it so she never forgets how lucky she is. I also feel lucky, An odd thing to say when one has an incurable disease. Being diabetic is an opportunity to thrive against all odds. In my opinion that’s always the way forward. Keep doing your best, keep loving what is, no matter what.