Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I don't need you judging my diabetes

It's really easy for people who don't have diabetes to judge others who do have it.

Should you be eating that?

Why did you let your blood sugar get so high?

Your blood sugar is low...again?

You forgot your insulin? How can you forget?

Someone who has diabetes doesn't say these things to another person with diabetes. Only people who have regular-functioning organs say things like this because they haven't been in the position where they have to take responsibility for what their body just does for them normally.

Let me tell ya something. It's not always easy to "control" diabetes. And it's very easy to forget to give yourself insulin before eating a meal, no matter how long you've been injecting or pumping. It's like forgetting anything else...your keys, your phone, that appointment you had. Sure, it's more serious than those things, but I am human, which means I make mistakes. I forget to do things. I can't be perfect.

So, before you judge a person with diabetes or tell them what they should be doing, remember that they probably already considered whatever it is you're about to tell them. They've already felt bad about that high blood sugar. And judged themselves for forgetting their insulin. You telling them that "if they just follow a healthy diet and take their medications, then everything will be fine" is not actually going to be helpful.

Now, if you're in a position where you're helping to care for someone with diabetes because they're not taking care of themselves, then it's a different ball game. I've never been in that position and I can't speak to that. I can only speak about what I know.

And what I know is this. This morning, my blood sugar was 74. I remembered thinking I could give myself less insulin or just give myself a dosage after I eat. Well, by the time I was done making my breakfast and eating it, I completely forgot about this conversation I had with myself. It wasn't until a couple hours later that I remembered I hadn't given myself any insulin. I had one egg, three pieces of turkey bacon, coffee, and one piece of wheat toast with a bit of jelly. My reading was 224. Instead of getting upset with myself, I gave myself insulin, and went about my day. Because sometimes that's all we can do. And sometimes, it's all we should do.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Diabetes: the Silent Disease

How many times have you tried to hide your diabetes? Smile and fake laugh when someone makes a diabetes-related joke? Avoid a chance to educate someone about it?

Hiding it doesn't make it better. Being silent doesn't make you strong.

These are the two things I'm constantly learning as a person with diabetes. When I was diagnosed, I cried. But after getting over the initial shock of it, I took it on like it was no big deal. I didn't want it to get the best of me. I didn't want it to affect me. Anytime I poked myself with a needle or mentally counted carbs or took a sugar break, I adopted the attitude of, "It's no big deal, guys. I'm fine. Don't look at me. Go on with things like you normally would! EVERYTHING IS NORMAL AND NOTHING IS DIFFERENT."

But as people with diabetes, we know that's not true. Nothing is normal. Everything is different.

It's going to affect us. Sometimes for the better (hello, better eating habits and a stronger commitment to my health) and sometimes it's for the worse (hello, anxiety about low blood sugar and stressing over high ones).

But hiding it and pretending that everything is normal is not the best approach—for you or for anyone else. I can't tell you how many times (in the last 9 years of having T1D) people have found out that I have type 1 diabetes and they say things like "but you're so skinny" or "well, you look really healthy." Newsflash, people who just don't know. I may look fine on the outside, but that doesn't mean I am okay on the inside.

I may go to the gym, but that doesn't stop the high blood sugars that make me feel lethargic and crappy. I may make better food choices but that doesn't stop the lows that lead to shaky hands and back sweat. I can make all the healthy choices I want, and diabetes can still rage on.

But the more you pretend it's okay, the more people will remain uneducated about diabetes and think it's okay to lecture you on food choices or make dumb jokes. When you hide it, you're perpetuating the idea that diabetes is something that needs to be hidden—as if it's a weakness or something to be ashamed of.

Don't hide in the bathroom when you have to give yourself a shot. Don't stay silent when someone makes an untrue or hurtful comment. Don't pretend it's okay when it's not. The only way to change peoples' perceptions about something is to speak up.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Pushing your limits

People with type 1 diabetes have to push through many different types of challenges. One of those challenges is knowing when to push yourself and when to not push yourself. This is one challenge that I struggle with quite often. 

I wasn't diagnosed until 21, so I can remember what life was like before diabetes. I grew up living a fairly active lifestyle. I played sports growing up and I went to the gym regularly as an adult. Because I was diagnosed in my 20s, I have always been the number one person in charge of my diabetes and overall health. My parents were there as a support system, of course, but it has always been up to me to know the ins and outs of how my diabetes works. I say "my" diabetes because—like many chronic conditions—diabetes varies for everyone.

A couple months ago, I started going to a weight lifting class at my gym. A friend of mine kept talking about how great it was, so I decided I needed to get back into the groove of going to classes. I'm also constantly working on ways to challenge myself because trying new things and pushing myself outside of my regular routine can be scary. 

The point of weight lifting is to build strength, to push yourself, to fatigue your muscles so you can get stronger. It's very different from a cardio workout, which often makes my blood sugar drop quickly. For me, a cardio workout means I need to test my blood sugar every 20 minutes or so. Now, you might not do this, but I do it because I know how my diabetes works, and I want to be extra safe when I'm at the gym. 

But when I'm in a strength-building class, my blood sugar stays pretty much the same (or drops very little). Because of this, I feel less anxious about what my blood sugar is doing during my workout. I often go through the one-hour workout without checking. But the challenge here is knowing how to read the signs, which can be tricky with diabetes. 

A low blood sugar can leave me feeling spacey, tired, weak, shaky. And these are the very things that can happen during my weight lifting class! I never leave a class without my arms and legs feeling wobbly. So, I often debate with myself during the class about whether it's a low blood sugar or if I'm just feeling what I am supposed to be feeling during an intense workout. The key for me is whether or not I feel spacey. It's hard to explain, but there are little (personal) things that can help you distinguish. However, there are times where you can't feel your lows, so I believe that when in doubt, test, test, test. Once I know my number, I know how to proceed—whether it's knocking back some sugar or continuing my workout knowing that it's safe for me to keep going. To keep pushing myself. 

There are times, though, where I don't want to check my blood sugar and I just want keep going like the all the other people in the class. I don't want to feel different. I don't want any weird looks. I don't want others to slow down because of me. I want everything to keep going on as it normally would. Keep on going, I think. I can keep up!  

But my life isn't the same. Diabetes has forced me into a new way of living and reacting. And sometimes I need to slow down and stop because of it. I need to listen to what my body is telling me and know when to stop pushing myself. And that doesn't make me a weak or less capable person. Being okay with this is my challenge. 



Friday, January 24, 2014

What Diabetes Means to Me

I've been thinking a lot lately about what diabetes means. Like anything in life, it means something different for everyone. Some of us have type 1. Some have type 2. Others don't have it but know someone who does. And then there are those who know nothing about it, but feel like they should comment on it anyway.

So, here's a little list of what diabetes means...to me.

1. Testing my blood sugar anywhere from 5 to 10 times a day. This means poking my fingers over and over again. With it comes the waiting and the analyzing. Why is it high? Why is it low? Oh, it's normal—yay me.

2. Yes, I actually congratulate myself on my blood sugar. That's what happens when you take over the work of your organ. But this can also mean I get frustrated or blame myself for the "bad" numbers.

2. I favor fingers without thinking about it—until I look at them closely and realize the sides are calloused or have little black dots from all the pokes.

3. Waking up in the middle of the night and having my first thought be, "you should test your blood sugar." Sometimes it's normal. Sometimes it's not.

4. I carry some form of sugar with me at all times—just in case. Even the thought of not having enough glucose tabs or forgetting to grab my juice can make me feel panicked. Having sugar around is like having a security blanket.

5. Constantly reminding myself that it's going to be okay. This is especially true for when my blood sugar is low. "You've had lots of lows. Remember that time your blood sugar was 30? It's only 50 now. That's not so bad. Your glucose tabs worked then, and they'll work now. You'll feel better soon."

6. If I'm alone when my blood sugar is low, sometimes I call my parents. It goes back to feeling reassured—that someone who loves you will take care of you if you can't take care of yourself.

7. The fear of passing out. I've never passed out and hope I never do.

8. I have it pretty good considering how much things have advanced since diabetes was first diagnosed. Sure, things aren't perfect. Insulin is not a cure. But things have come a long way, and I'm grateful for that.

9. I should be more prepared. Every time I hear of a natural disaster or really anything that could be considered a crisis, I think about how I should really have all my diabetes stuff in one place, preferably within a bag that I could easily grab.

10. Sometimes I have to take breaks and ask for help. This is something I'm much better at. For the longest time, I didn't want to be viewed as different. I didn't want anyone to think I couldn't handle something. Now I have to face the fact that I can handle it—I just may need a little break to drink some juice or take some insulin.

11. I pay attention to everything I eat and do. It's not all about sugar, people. It's carbs. It's fiber. It's fat. It's protein. All of those things affect your blood sugar. Same goes for sitting, walking, or running. Being stressed. Being sick. Being on your period. The weather. Taking a hot shower after taking insulin.

12. I think about diabetes a lot. But, I also DON'T think about it a lot. It's hard to explain. A lot of diabetes is second nature. I've been doing this thing for 8 years now. I'm pretty used to it. But because I pay attention to every little thing, and because it's always THERE, that means I'm always taking it into consideration.

13. It's not funny. I'm okay with the half robot jokes. I allow people I know well to make what I will call sarcastic jokes about the diabetes-sugar correlation. But really, I'm tired of that whole joke. There aren't many chronic illnesses out there that get made fun of quite like diabetes (correct me if I'm wrong).

14. Worrying whether anyone else in my family will be affected one day. This includes my future children that I may or may not have. Still on the fence about that one.

15. My life is automatically harder, but it doesn't mean that it's worse. Sure, diabetes can be a difficult diagnosis. There's fear, there's paranoia, there's guilt, there's denial. It's with you all the time. It affects everything and everything affects it. But that doesn't mean everything has to go downhill because of it.

There are so many more things I could get into, but I will leave it at that—a glimpse into the life of a person with diabetes.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Major League Soccer & the JDRF

Hey peeps,

I don't know if you're into Major League Soccer, but your MIGHT be into the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). This year, Vancouver BC's Community MVP for MLS W.O.R.K.S. is Bobby Samra. He's a really good guy who does great things in his community. If he wins, he'll get $10,000 to donate to the charity of his choice. His charity is JDRF.  A few years ago, Bobby's son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. A lot of us here know first-hand what it's like to get that diagnosis. And a lot of us know how it affects the people who love us. The JDRF has done a lot for Bobby's family, and now he wants to give back to the charity that has done so much for him and his son.

Now, NORMALLY I would not be voting against my own team (The Timbers!), but voting ends at 2pm PST, and at this point, it's a very, very close race against a Cascadia team (The Whitecaps) and Montreal Impact.

You may love soccer or you may not know anything about soccer. Either way, a vote for Bobby means a vote for the JDRF. If you want to see $10,000 go to the JDRF, please visit this link:

http://www.mlssoccer.com/mlsworks/community-mvp/vote

Click on Bobby Samra's name and VOTE! You can vote an unlimited amount of times.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Will You Hold onto My Diabetes...Just for a Bit?

I started this blog because it was extremely therapeutic to post about my d-life. And it helped to "meet" other people who were going through similar experiences and emotions. But then, I decided to stop all of it. I didn't write. I didn't read. But I wondered about what was going on with all of you. And maybe you wondered if I was okay. And I am--okay, that is.

It just became too much. Too overwhelming. I needed a break. But as you already know--you never get a real break from diabetes. Even if you've got a good handle on it, it's still always there.

When I was first diagnosed, I started out with a pretty great attitude about the whole thing. This came after crying in the doctor's office about how I couldn't have milkshakes anymore, of course. (And yes, I know I can still technically have milkshakes, but I also hate the whole mentality of, "I can eat ANYTHING with insulin on my side!)

Anyway. I tackled that whole diabetes thing. I cut a lot of things out of my diet. I learned a lot about nutrition and carb counting. I learned that being low doesn't mean I get to eat a kit-kat bar. I learned how to use a glucose meter and prick my fingers without hesitation. I learned to say things like, "It's really not that big of a deal" or "You could do it if you had to." I learned to NOT say things like, "Fuck you. I'll eat this if I want to, jerk."

I took a break from my insulin pump because I was tired of hiding the thing in my bra. I was tired of feeling it there, always attached. I was tired of inserting the CGM and having one more thing to stress over and obsess about. I was tired of the beeping and the vibrating and the constant mental calculations.

I've been on shots for a year and I've been doing pretty well (hello, 6.7% A1C). But doing pretty well isn't enough. For the last year, I haven't really learned anything new about managing type 1 diabetes. I've just been plugging along. I've been taking care of myself, sure, but I've also been complacent.

More recently, I went to the diabetes expo in Portland. As weird as it sounds, it re-energized me to learn more about diabetes and the products and tools available for me. I realized that while I was taking a break, I was also scooting diabetes under the rug or shooing it into another room.

For the most part, I pretend my diabetes doesn't exist. I look down and don't say anything when people who don't know me make diabetes jokes (would you joke about any other chronic illness, you assholes?). I give myself shots under tables. I never explain why I can't eat just yet or why I don't want a free company lunch that involves lots and lots of carbs. I live with it every day, but I don't let others live it with me. I don't let them see it because I'm afraid I will turn into the kind of person I don't want to be--the person who thinks, WOE IS ME. I HAVE DIABETES, WAHHHH.

To be honest, I feel that way more than I probably should. And maybe that's because I haven't been exposing that side of me. So maybe it's time for me to get back in the game. Share my ups & downs and read about yours. And maybe by doing that I can be a little bit stronger.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Where did that last year go?

It's been over a year since I've blogged. What? Is that true? I guess so! I didn't mean to take such a long hiatus, but I did. I hope no one thought I was dead...

A lot has happened since my last post. I'll skip through last winter and just go straight to this year.

I broke up with my boyfriend in April. Not an easy decision, but the right decision.

I quit my job in April and started a new job in May. Technically, I'd been working for my "new" company since March, but I was still working full-time at my old job. I was essentially working 60 hours a week for a little over a month.

I went back to shots in May. I decided I wanted to be free of the pump during summer. However, it's fall now and I haven't gone back to the pump. I will eventually, but it's been somewhat of a relief to not have it on me 24/7. I feel like I worry less--or have one less thing to fiddle with constantly.

My A1C is at 6.9%. It's dropped a little, but my ideal would be 6.5 It's been LESS THAN 6.5 before, so I know it's possible. I've been "better," but still a little lazy with getting my a1c down.

I wasn't looking for a new relationship, but then I met someone awesome. And Canadian. "They" say things happen when you're not looking for them. I'm not sure I actually believe that, but in this case, it's true. I didn't want a relationship. Especially not a long-distance relationship. But then I ended up with one. It was just too good to pass up.

I work all the time. Or that's how it feels. I tend to work over 40 hours a week. I love my company and the people I work with, so I don't mind the long hours or sometimes late nights.

I still wrestle with thoughts, like "I want to eat this whole bag of chips." "Or have 2 pieces of cake." I hate to think of being "different" or saying my life is different than your "normal" life. But it is. And I still battle with that at times--the "before diabetes" me and the "after diabetes" me. I'm not sure that will ever truly go away.

I turned 28. I don't feel 28. And apparently I don't look 28. No one believes me when I say how old I am, so I guess this is the age where I can safely start lying about my age. So, hello, I'm Val, and I'm 22 years old.