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

Catching a relax

Today the whole of our shire is blanketed in a smokey haze. The smoke is everywhere. It’s awful and there doesn’t seem to be much respite on the way. Meanwhile life seems to continue as normal…or does it? It’s pretty hard to ignore what’s happening not just on a local but global scale. The word that comes to mind is chaos.

When I think of managing diabetes I also think of the word chaos. Not because I can’t manage it, because overall I do that really well. Rather its the unpredictable nature of diabetes that keeps tripping me up. One day I’m struggling to stay above 4 mmol and the next I can’t get under 9 mmol (in range numbers are between 4-8 mmol). There is no X=Y with diabetes. The pancreas is a strange and elusive animal which doesn’t like stress. And how many times have I been stressed without even knowing I’m stressed? A lot.

The opposite of stress and what the pancreas loves is relaxation. Recently I’ve been catching those moments when I’m relaxed. Noticing a nice deep relaxed breath, a feeling of calm, soft tingles through the body, mind slow and centred. Every time I feel a ‘relax’ coming on I remind myself with a verbal prompt. This is me relaxed, this is what it feels like. Simply acknowledging these moments has helped me to sleep better, digest better, even think better. In fact, Relaxing makes everything better.

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This morning I went to a yoga class with my teacher and friend Louisa Sear. Her classes are hard. Not because there are complicated postures or sequences, more because she asks you to be in the pose with every fibre of your being. She instructs the class to hold the pose, fix the gaze and still the mind. Every pose is taught like this so that by the end of the class there is a sense of being cleansed from the inside out.

The ultimate agitation is our habitual need to identify with the moving miasma of the mind. Thoughts will always be there, including thoughts about diabetes, its up to each one of us as to whether we uptake that thought or not. Thoughts don’t have power. You do!

Understanding the triggers for relaxation and  fixing the gaze on that is a profound way to deal with the constant stress of living with diabetes. Instead of focusing on the tension you’re experiencing, mentally, emotionally or physically try and find somewhere in your body that is at ease. It could even just be your big toe. As soon as your mind goes there all the awareness and focus goes there too. When I do this, within seconds I’ve forgotten what the problem was.

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As I write this I’ve decided to take my own advice. There’s not much I can do about the external factors such as the choking smoke or annoyance with erratic levels. What I can do is take a full breath, be kind to myself and catch a relax.

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

Dance 4 Diabetes

There’s a picture of me performing in a dance piece somewhere in an old photo album in my storage. When I think about that picture I think about a life time ago. Pre diabetes, pre marriage, pre child, pre yoga.

Being a professional dancer was a childhood dream. By the time I was twenty one I had performed, taught and choreographed in dance companies throughout Australia. There was a moment though where I came to a crossroads. I decided that if I wasn’t going to get into the company of my choice, which at the time was the Australian Dance Theatre, I was going to call it quits. I auditioned, didn’t make the cut and was devastated.

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Me dancing at 22 on the far left in Tasdance

I gave up and devoted myself to yoga, but my resolve didn’t last. Eventually I was asked to teach, choreograph, perform and serve as the Head of Dance at a local performing arts college. It was around the age of 35 that I hung up my professional dancing hat for good. Not because I wanted to but more because the demands of my job as a yoga teacher took over.  Living in NYC at the time and having to support the family meant there was only so much time for ballet classes and auditions. It was a reluctant decision, but I have no regrets. Sometimes the things we think we’re born to do turn into the things we are called to do. For me that’s yoga. I never asked to teach and share yoga but here I am.

Just before my diabetes diagnosis dance had reappeared in my life. I did a healing retreat which included dance as therapeutic release. It felt incredible to move again and I loved how the movement wasn’t about impressing an idea on anyone ‘out there’ instead it was about what was longing to come out.

To dance is to free oneself of grief, expectation, anger. A return to joy, freedom and peace.

When I saw this months campaign from Diabetes Australia, dance 4 diabetes I got excited. Now here’s something I’m good at and can get behind. Dancing takes the difficulty out of diabetes, it’s uplifting, inspiring, motivating, fun and good for blood sugars. It reminds us to be light hearted in the face of it all and inspires community and support. I love seeing people share their love of movement while shedding light on such an important cause.

The campaign motto is: Stop what you’re doing and dance! Then donate and dare (share) by tagging three friends and asking them to dance, donate and dare too.

Fun right? Here’s my entry below and the link to join Dance4Diabetes


See you tomorrow and happy #WorldDiabetesDay for my US friends!

#NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

With great respect…

rachel

The one truth that can’t be faked

I have been obsessed with Twitter since September. Growing up in the United States in a liberal democratic family means I have a keen interest in U.S. politics. The election in 2016 floored me and I have watched the steady decline of ‘the facts’ over the ensuing three years. Not that facts are all they’re cracked up to be. Think about it, as much as science claims a finding to be reality that same theory can also be disproved. Guaranteed change is a constant. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim for justice and liberty and all those other principles though. It pains me to see so much division, hatred and frustration emerging in a country where I was taught that no matter what your circumstances you could achieve the fulfilment of your dreams.

In a new paradigm of ‘alternative facts’ it’s hard to know what to believe, who to trust and what’s real. With all the fake news out there I’d like to note there’s one truth that can’t be faked.

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Diabetes.

Diabetes is a fact. Pancreatic beta cells have tanked. Insulin is required. Life is on a knife’s edge.

I can remember thinking early on after my diagnosis that there must have been a mistake. Maybe the lab messed up my blood tests. I wasn’t the type to have this disease and I was so healthy. A few health care providers even corroborated my theory. Even as late as 2008 some practitioners in Australia didn’t know that out of the 40,000 people diagnosed each year with type 1 diabetes, 50% are adult onset.

Fact: “According to the ADA, 1.25 million Americans have this disorder. This is about 5 percent of all diagnosed cases. The ADA estimates that 40,000 people receive a type 1 diagnosis each year in the United States.” Source: Healthline

Swallowing this fact has been a total reality check. Coming out of denial changed everything.

When it comes to chronic health issues especially ones that are invisible it’s hard for people to validate or understand our struggles. Keep in mind it’s not up to anybody else to verify what we are going through. Empathy and compassion is a powerful ally but in the end when the bugger’s hunkered down and immovable. What to do?

Flush out the tiger!

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It’s only through coming out and spreading awareness that truth can come to light.
It’s why I’ve been posting relentlessly here and all over social media. Plus writing about diabetes is therapeutic. It gives a voice to my inner world.

It’s also how I feel about the state of the union at the moment. Lets get it all out in the open. Let’s get to the bottom of this whole debacle. Let’s see the naked truth.

Once you know the truth about anything you’re free.

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

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.

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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.

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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

7 Things or thereabouts

There are a lot of things that influence blood sugar.  42 to be exact, according to Adam Brown from diatribe.org . If you’re keen to know what those are you can check out his handy chart here.

In the spirit of Diabetes Awareness Month and to share more about what its like to live with diabetes, I’ve put together my own short list based on personal trial and error. For those who don’t have diabetes and are just coming along for the ride, your blood sugar levels might also be influenced by these ‘things’ the only difference between you and someone with diabetes is. When your blood sugar rises your pancreas produces insulin to lower your blood sugar level, mine doesn’t. So unless I inject insulin or do something else to lower my level like exercise, I can’t just kick back and let my body do the work. When blood sugar levels go low in a non-diabetic , the liver kicks in with a drip feed of glycogen, to bring them back to homeostasis. My liver kicks in too, but as there is no insulin to meet the liver dump my blood sugar goes up again, hence the need for more insulin and round and round I go. Fun, fun fun…NOT!

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So here’s my list in no particular order.

  1. The Sun. Every time I lie in the sun for more than 20 minutes, I have higher levels for 24-48 hours afterwards. Apparently its the oxidative stress. It’s a double edged sword because if I avoid the sun I don’t get enough Vitamin D. I’ve worked out that if I limit exposure to 15-20 min and only sunbathe every two days I stay in range.
  2. High Fat Foods. I absolutely love my avocados and olive oil. I also love Haloumi and Feta cheese. My blood sugar however is very fussy when it comes to what I eat when. I’ve learned to avoid fatty dairy products before bed because I go high over  night and for 24 hours after. Avocados are a little more friendly, they actually help me keep my blood sugar from tanking while I sleep. So I load up on a hefty avocado with my dinner. But sometimes it backfires and I am still high when I wake up. I’m still trying to work out how to dose for fat. I feel like if I could figure it out I’d eat pizza again.
  3. Not enough sleep affects everything. Sleeping less than 7 hours a night for me definitely messes with my levels. I wake up about 1-2 times a night too so not sure what would happen to my levels if I was able to sleep through the night. I’d probably have lower levels in general.
  4.  A Daily Walk can either reduce my blood sugar level, which can be a bonus when I’m high, or raise my blood sugar level which is not ideal. When I walk, for how long and at what pace is also a factor. Walking directly uses the thigh muscles which burn glucose for fuel. It’s suggested that when levels are higher, or you’ve had a carb heavy meal, a walk will help insulin to work more effectively and reduce blood sugar. In my case a long walk (over an hour) on flat terrain  raises my blood sugar whereas a short 20 minutes hike up and down hills reduces my levels.
  5. Cleaning definitely drops my blood sugar in spades. All I have to do is look at the vacuum and I’m low. No joke!
  6. Travel. This is also very specific to the type of travel. When we travel by car anywhere over long distances I have lows. When we fly I usually have lows and then struggle with a stubborn high when we land. Jet lag is included in travel and wreaks havoc.
  7. Any kind of stressor like unexpected news, seeing a snake on the path, (that  happened yesterday) a loud noise, change in routine, fears, emotions, frustrations. So that covers the gamut right? All of this always gives me higher levels. Especially emotional outbursts.

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The one thing that doesn’t affect my levels is my yoga practice. That includes postural yoga, breathing and meditation as well as adhering to an ayurvedic daily regime. No matter how often, or how intense the practice my levels stay steady. In fact they flat line. That’s why I personally use yoga as my goto when I’m getting stressed out about my blood sugar levels. It’s like pushing the reset button.

It may not lower a stubborn high or fix a scary low, but it will calm me down enough to handle it.

See you tomorrow

with great respect…

rachel

I have diabetes, so what

Today ‘diabetes’ was the big topic of conversation amongst everyone I spent time with. I love how friends are curious about how I manage my daily life with this condition. I enjoy clarifying the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, why we take insulin or sugar and the ins and outs of daily management. There are many diabetes myths out there, like people with diabetes can’t have sugar, or we take insulin for every situation, whether low or high, or that our diets caused our diabetes.

Diabetes is so much more complex and mysterious than that. It’s a bit like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. What I deal with in my iteration of diabetes is different to every other person with diabetes. That’s what makes it both frustrating and predictable. Living with diabetes means you can rely on its uncertainty.

And don’t get me started on how each person living with diabetes relates to their condition emotionally and mentally. In a recent conversation, a friend with type 2 diabetes stressed how exhausting it felt having to stay so vigilant with daily blood tests and visits to the doctor. In the end her way of dealing with it was to say, “I have diabetes, so what.”

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Listening to her take on diabetes made me reflect on my own approach. I could completely understand her position. Taking anything so seriously that it restricts your life can make you more unwell.

This is where I segway into my personal approach to management. It’s definitely the serious approach, where fear of complications such as loss of vision, amputation, kidney damage,and neuropathy give me the discipline and impetus for strict control. I’ve used my body my whole life to express myself through dance and yoga. The body being my joy meter. I remember thinking as a teenager that if I couldn’t walk, or dance I didn’t know how I’d cope. I feel the same way now as an avid yoga practitioner. I see the body as a powerful tool for health and wellbeing. If you can open, stretch and strengthen the body you can directly affect how you deal with any physical , mental or emotional stressor.

Luckily the daily discipline required of a dancer and yogi has its benefits, I utilise it  to be comfortable with eating the same kinds of foods at every meal, taking approximately the same amount of insulin, walking at a specific time each day, checking my blood sugar often and using yoga and meditation to mange my mindset. When I veer from my daily routine it takes days to catch up. It’s hard for me to experiment and try new approaches even when I know those changes would benefit me. I don’t want to beat myself up about my approach though… I’m fine with it. As one of my diabuddy’s once said,  “You do diabetes your way and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

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Walking with my friend today we talked about how it feels when I see a positive number on my glucometer or I know I’m doing good time in range. ” Do you feel like you can take a moment to soak in the tone of that feeling? In other words stop and feel how good it feels to know your managing well? ” I absolutely loved the way she put this. If I can acknowledge the good feelings, really soak them in then perhaps those more challenging moments i.e low or high blood sugar freakouts, will be less stressful. I like the idea that even something as stressful as diabetes gives me the opportunity to embrace those feel good vibes and to heal my nervous system.

A nice way to acknowledge that even though I have diabetes, so what.

See you tomorrow

with great respect…

rachel