Friday, January 27, 2017

The It Could Be Worse Statement

Often times to find light in diabetes, we think of the worst, you know, "well I could have ______ instead of diabetes and that would be worse." While this is totally a way of coping with our diagnosis, this is also a way that our friends, family and strangers phrase our diabetes diagnosis as well.  Raise your hands up if you've been told, "it could be worse."  And, I get that, but here is the problem with the 'it could be worse' statement.

When we think of a diagnosis of diabetes, we think of two things, managing diabetes through frequent blood sugar checks and taking insulin. Seems pretty straight forward. Right?  But, the more you spend time talking to someone with diabetes about their disease, you will quickly learn that diabetes isn't about these two 'simple' steps, rather a complicated mess of things. From the outside, people who love us question why we won't just take another dosage of insulin or check more often. They BEG us to just do something and not destroy ourselves, as if we have simply just given up.  

The problem, of simplifying diabetes, or making it somehow seem like a 'light' and totally 'manageable disease' is that we are drowning those people who live with this disease.  We are telling them that with a few easy steps and some 'harder' work, they to can be living a life of happiness like so-so celebrity who lives a glamorous life with diabetes. But, the reality of what it takes to manage a twenty-four hour/seven day a week disease is incredibly difficult.

As one of my teens from my empowerment once said, "It's hard to manage something you never asked for." And, with any  effort you put towards keeping yourself alive, the strength is admirable.

No disease is easy, no disease is any less than another, all of us who are fighting battles with our own bodies are warriors.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

It Stings

Mary Tyler Moore, who lived with type 1 diabetes, passed away today.  I think the first thought on most people's minds was the big question of, "did she die to complications related to diabetes?"  The haunting feeling that this disease that we deal with could take away a life, hurts the hearts of those that are living with diabetes and those that care for ones with diabetes.  While Mary Tyler Moore lived a reasonably long life with diabetes, it still stings a bit to read a fellow type 1 has passed.

When I was first diagnosed, I remember my mom had told me that Mary Tyler Moore also had type 1.  To be honest, I don't know if I really knew who she was at that point because of the generation gap, but I took interest and my mom bought me her book, Growing Up Again: Life, Love and Oh Yeah, Diabetes, that talks about her diagnosis during her show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Learning about other celebrities along the way with diabetes is always interesting, seeing how they manage their disease and how they give back to the community, something Mary Tyler Moore did very well.

As the diabetes community mourns over her loss, I do hope that we see how much she accomplished in her life span and how many lives she touched.  It is difficult to not think the worst, wondering what lead to her death, and if we will reach those stages, or how we can avoid them as people who battle the same condition.  In connection with the mental health campaign put on by Bell Canada, #BellLetsTalk I hope to make a point to say that if you are feeling anxious about your diabetes, if you're worried or scared, reach out and talk.  I am offering my support and listening ear, anytime.

I know hearing news of fellow type 1's passing away stings, I know it makes you think a million different things, and assess your management skills - am I doing enough?  But know, that you're not alone.

Rest in Peace Mary Tyler Moore


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Coping Mechanisms

The more people you come across living with diabetes, the more your realize how different one can deal with their diabetes. I have lived with diabetes for almost eight years and in that time frame I would say that my level of calmness with my diabetes has been pretty steady.  I have never really let diabetes stop me from doing anything nor worried about it's effects on whatever I was doing at the time, such as writing exams or going out with friends. Of course there are moments where I've had to intervene to take care of my diabetes, but not once have I felt that diabetes took my sanity.

However, it's the smaller stuff that seems to steal my sanity. I am quite a perfectionist at times and things like, matching, organization, making plans - disrupt my calmness.  I find it incredibly strange that diabetes never has disrupted my calmness quite like a mismatching plate and napkin set. It's incredible, like my body knows, what is not all that important and stresses about that instead...

I get the stress that comes with living with diabetes and I won't type away saying I don't ever stress about my diabetes, but sometimes I wonder if that is my exact coping mechanism when dealing with this 24/7 disease.    Instead of stressing over the disease that I can do my best to manage, but cannot change, I stress over the plans of a girls' night out and making sure every detail is perfected - because that is something I can muddle around, and make perfect.

Either way I believe we all have our coping mechanisms when it comes to diabetes whether that's reaching out to talk to someone about it, ignoring it or going out of our way to stress about something else...


Friday, January 20, 2017

Maintaining Friendships

This week has been great for connecting with friends - it's funny how a lot of things sort of happen all at once, you plan for something and it attracts a whole lot of everything else.  Busy attracts busy perhaps?  But, these past two weeks have been incredibly busy, but filled with things I love and that includes work (I love the jobs I do!)

But, more so what it involved was connecting with old friends, and to me, that is so incredibly important because I must admit, keeping in touch with all the people I know and care about can be difficult.   I have friends from all over and putting in the time to really catch up isn't easy, but is totally worth it.  I had decided early on in the year that I wanted to really put more effort into seeing, listening and going the extra mile for the people that mean the most to me.  

As someone who prefers pajamas over dresses sometimes, it can be difficult to convince myself to 'just do it' go out there and make plans.  This week I caught up with a good friend who really was my first real diabuddy (friend with diabetes). The funny thing is that we actually had known one another most of our lives, going to the same elementary school, but never talking until we both found out we were in the same situation - the diabetes situation! Throughout my diagnosis we kept in touch, often meeting for super long chats at Williams' Cafe, but once he moved to a new province our friendship distanced a bit, until I realized he was moving to the same city as I am in.  This week we met up and it was like no time had passed - I was reminded of the importance of keeping those we truly connect with, close.

For some flashback Friday, here is a blog post written in 2009: 100 Days

Another person I reconnected with was a friend from College.  This time, many more years had passed between the time we last hung out up until this week, but I did like her new philosophy of strengthening her friendships - as it matched what I had set out to do in the new year.   It reminded me the importance of not letting life just fly by without really spending time with your friends and family.

Maintaining friendships does take time and effort, but I can guarantee that the payoff is worth it.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Unrealistic Expectations

I think we all have this expectation on how we should manage our diabetes. Whether that expectation comes from our parents, endocrinologists or the diabetes community - at times it can be rather defeating when we try to live up to an expectation we feel is unattainable.  I cannot stress enough how different diabetes is for each person who has it.  The way in which one person handles their diabetes is completely different to the next, and that is something we all should keep in mind when we are communicating about our diabetes whether that's a in-person conversation at your endo's office, or an online conversation on a forum.

Setting unrealistic goals about our diabetes is asking too much of ourselves. Lowering your a1c from seven to five in a matter of months - is difficult, and not an easy journey, so taking baby steps and focusing on how you want to handle diabetes (not how someone on Instagram handles their diabetes) is key.

Comparing ourselves is a good way to set unrealistic expectations.. let's keep in mind that social media is a snapshot of most people's highlight reel and not always their bloopers.  Seeing meter numbers that reflect a 'perfect' blood sugar doesn't mean that person is always on point - keep that in mind when you're trying to push forward with your diabetes. We all have faults, triumphs and stumbles, we just don't always show them.

Pointing out what's wrong and not what's right.   I'm going to do it, I'm going to quote Dr. Phil on this one, "It takes 1000 'atta boys' to erase one, 'you're an idiot.' " But seriously, those discouraging words you hear from your diabetes team or family/friends resonate so much, even more so then the times they let you know you were doing a good job.    It's important to sit back and think about what your own accomplishments are with your diabetes and set yourself up with a practical expectation.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Time, Listening & Acts of Kindness

As you get older you realize the importance of time, listening and acts of kindness.   I'd hope that some are lucky to realize the importance of these things earlier in life, but I can say my awareness of these things has heightened as a I reach my late 20's.   People struggle every single day on things we cannot imagine.   People carry on throughout their lives sometimes without ever showing their fears, heartaches or pain - and while those people appear happy on the outside, that isn't always the case behind closed doors.

I have made it my mission to reach out to those that I surround myself with and check in.   Not in a, 'I'm your parent' type way, but checking in to make sure they have a good day, and in turn I believe that gives them the opportunity to reach out to me if they need someone to listen to, and visa versa. I strongly believe that even a small act of kindness, a good morning text, a 'how are you doing' email, all of those things open the doors to helping those that sometimes may feel alone.

Recently on a conference call, one of the call participants told us how much she appreciated each and every one of us and while that gesture seems simple, it really impacted me and made me think about the times that I have let people know I appreciate them and what impact our words have on people (for the good and bad). I take those notion of the importance of time, listening and acts of kindness and put it towards not only my family and friends but also to the teens in my local support group that I run.  These three things are so incredibly valuable, more than anything one could buy and implementing the notion of these things into our daily lives - I feel, could be impactful.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Give Yourself Time

You do not owe anyone anything.  You are fighting a disease that many have no idea what that entails.  You spend countless hours worrying about your own health, whether or not you are prepared to handle the worst outcomes of your situation, if you can continue on without completely losing your mind. You do not owe anyone an explanation why you need to take some time to yourself.  Whether you're a warrior with type 1 diabetes or a parent/caregiver of someone with diabetes - you're doing some pretty hard things and taking time to re-coop is totally okay.   For me, I fill my days with lots of things, whether it's connecting with friends, posting on social media, going for a run, regardless the day is packed with tasks to do whether that's voluntarily done or not.      But, there is always apart of me that is pushing back time to sit back and relax.

Everyone relaxes differently, whether that is with a glass of white wine, a bubble bath or listening to calm music (or all the above...)   this time is so important because it helps us restore our faith in ourselves... that we can push through the next 24 hours not only with a bravery but also with our sanity in tact.  I know so many people out there who confess that they do not feel they have time for themselves or the money to spare, but one thing I have learned is that little acts of self love go along way, taking an hour on the weekend to get a pedicure or treating yourself to a Starbucks drink - that's all it takes sometimes to boost yourself into feeling better.

I'd like to challenge all my readers to pick a date this month to do something for themselves, and really do it!  Don't cancel that manicure, don't drain the tub too soon, give yourself an hour of relaxation to restore yourself.  You owe it to yourself!


Monday, January 9, 2017

Three Ways to Save

Living with diabetes isn't always about finding the easiest way of dealing, rather many people living with diabetes are looking for ways to find the cheapest way.  Diabetes is expensive!   Every little part of it is expensive, from the insulin that keeps us alive, to the doughnut we had to buy to keep ourselves from passing out!  As much as my global travel has taught me that I am lucky for my warm home, my free healthcare and my insulin in my fridge - it's still expensive!

I have learned a few diabetes hacks, that I thought I'd share...

1.  Buy juice boxes, rocket candies (smarties for my American Friends) anything but those expensive 'diabetes' tabs.  

Unless you've been sponsored by a diabetes sugar tab maker, you're probably spending quite a bit on sugar.   I know, I know, some people find it works faster, but I would like to say, that for me, other things work that are not super expensive, say, like rocket candies that I can get at the bulk barn for a fraction of the cost!

2. Ask for samples! You know, maybe you'll only get a few test strips or a vial of insulin, but sometimes companies/doctors/pharmacies have samples! 

It never hurts to ask for samples or see if there are any extra supplies.  A vial of insulin can cost A LOT, and if your doctor happens to have a trial sample in their clinic's fridge - why not!   

3. There is always a way to make things work! 

If you're on a pump and you are offered insulin via pen or pen vial, you can make it work!  Visa-versa! The wonderful syringe or reservoir, although annoying, can help you suck that wonderful insulin out and put it to good use!  If there is a will, there is a way, and if it will make you save money, then even better!


Friday, January 6, 2017

The Hardest Hour of Diabetes

The hour you wake up from your deep sleep, confused, exhausted and unsure if you're low or not.  You lay there looking up at the ceiling thinking about whether or not you're low. The convincing sweat that is rolling down your chest and the back of your neck and the weakness in your body.
 During that hour, there is the moment you binge, anything to keep yourself level, so that you can go back to sleep. You calculate how much longer you have before your alarm sounds.  Rummaging through the cupboards and fridge, stabbing juice boxes with straws, emptying drawers to find candy.
Then, still eating you decide to go back to your warm bed you left. You lay there, in the stillness of your own home while the world around you is asleep, but you're an inch into the peanut butter jar and crumbs are following you from bed to kitchen counter.  Then, finally you convince yourself to stop. Stop eating and reassure that you'll be okay until morning, trying to fall asleep with a full belly and the worry that you over ate or did not eat enough.

* this was found on my iPhone notes that I wrote at 12:49 a.m December 2nd, while having a low * 


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

How to Make Blood Sugar Checks a Habit

I would say that the most failed task a person with diabetes does is likely checking their blood sugar often.  I am guilty of this.  There are days that I am checking fairly often and other days where I am surprised at how little I bothered to check...i.e maybe once a day.  It's an awful habit to not check your blood sugar because while we are type 1's feel as though we have an innate knowing of what our blood sugars are without checking, sometimes we can be really wrong, which could lead to a whole slew of issues.

Living with type 1 diabetes for almost 8 years now, I've come to the understanding that there are some key things that make me check more.   I can tell you that FEAR is not one of them. Although fear can encourage checking more I don't think it's a sustainable way to promote frequent healthy blood sugar checks.    Instead here is the one thing that keeps me motivated to checking my blood sugar and make it a sustainable habit.  Although this does seem to help, this is not a surefire way to be 'perfect,'  I still find myself slacking on occasion.

  • keep your meter closer to you

This is key for me. If my meter is in my purse downstairs, and I am upstairs, chances of me going downstairs, digging through my purse to find my meter is low.  Having my meter close by promotes more blood sugar checks simply because it's close to me and in visible range to where I am.  I almost feel guilty seeing it sit there while I enjoy a snack, because I know it's purpose and I know I am supposed to be using it.

There may be barriers as to why someone is not checking frequently, such as access. So I believe that the frequency in which you test should suit your needs and goals.  If you can only afford to check twice a day it is better than none. If you can afford to check multiple times during the day, and that makes you happy (and not stressed) than do that.   For myself, I check between 3 - 7 times a day on average depending on the activities I have done, the food I have ate, and mood that I am in.   What works for one person, isn't always going to work for the next.  But, I am a firm believer in having my meter close by, in order to test more often! 


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Do What You Love

Another gym membership is now in my possession - which makes my heart happy.    I have been to a few gyms in my life, and all have become a little part of me. I love the community a gym brings, for instance when I was at YMCA pre-Kilimanjaro, I got to know the staff very well and even made a friend out of one of the trainers.   Gyms although sometimes have a bad rep, they are an awesome way to get out of the house without having to spend money (unless your gym happens to be connected to a grocery store, but I've learned to leave my money at home!)

This isn't really a post about gyms, because I'd assume most people know what gyms are like.  But more so a post about finding something that makes you happy.  As we continue on this year we will find ourselves feeling like we are in a rut or at least bored - it's bound to happen at least a few times.  Finding things that make us happy are important and making the time to do those things can sometimes be difficult.  But, I believe in the saying that if you absolutely love something/someone you make time for that thing or person.   

Now that I have a gym membership, because running in the winter is NOT my thing... I can get back into running - which I love to do and once the snow melts and the temperature climbs to a reasonable level, you'll find me running the trails again.   I am trying to make time for this because I love this, I love how I feel before and after and it really keeps me energized - after all I work from home, so getting outside in the real world is wonderful! 

A few other things I have promised myself to do is continue to write, as that is also something that makes me happy and connect with my friends even more.  I think I do a decent job at checking in with friends, but I feel like I could do better.  I want to surround myself with things I love, and people I love.  I want to make time for these things/and people and really make the most of 2017.  

I'd love to hear what makes you happy and what you plan to do in 2017 to make those things happen?


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Three Diabetes Resolutions

Tis' the season to make a bunch of resolutions and promise yourself you will stick to them and while some of us are able to keep those promises to ourselves, it can be incredibly easy to let them fall to the wayside.   So, I thought of three resolutions, we, as people living with diabetes can promise ourselves and hopefully help one another keep them going strong.

1.   Don't be so hard on yourself in 2017

Diabetes takes a good chunk of our time and energy, we know that.   As much as we do good for ourselves, like give ourselves insulin for our dinner or remember to bring our meter to the gym - we often fault ourselves WAY too much over the things we do happen to forget or not do.  Give yourself more credit for the things you do everyday - after all you're keeping yourself alive!

2. Connect and Give Back 

As soon as you're diagnosed with diabetes you start your training on being an expert in the field.  It's amazing how much we learn over our diagnosis, and I can only imagine the people who are 20+ in can somehow smell the carbs of food miles away and give an accurate dosage... but really, we are all full of tips and tricks that could really benefit someone out there, and even so, just lending your ear to hear out a fellow type 1, is an awesome way to give back to the community.   Take it even further and start/join a support group whether that's online or in person!

4. Show your thankful heart 

You know that saying, "It takes a village to raise a child..." well that village doesn't stop helping once you're an adult.  The village whether that is online or in person is always there to help guide you, and that is something to be thankful for.  Last year I started writing cards and mailing them to the people that have supported, helped, and loved me in the past year and I plan to do that again. Living with diabetes we do rely on people and there are certain people in our life that make living with diabetes manageable and keep us from cracking.   Don't forget to take the time to show your thankful heart for those that have raised us up along the way - maybe even a thank you letter to your endo?!