The Gratitude Challenge: 5 Things I’m Grateful For

Yesterday, my dear friend Emma (who I did the Ask Me About My Type 1 Podcast with) posted a daily gratitude challenge on her Instagram account. She explained that the leadership training program that she runs teaches participants to develop small habits that change your life. One is to write daily “gratitudes” that help highlight all of your reasons “why”.

I interpret my “why” as the things that keep me going – the positives that help me shine a bit brighter, and the parts of my life that I just don’t appreciate or recognize as much as I should.

The Gratitude Challenge_ 5 Things I'm Grateful For
Will you take on the gratitude challenge?

So I decided to take time to list five of my “gratitudes” in today’s blog post, and like Emma, I challenge you to do the same.

Gratitude #1: My people (and pets). Goodness knows that I could and should tell the people in my life that I love them more often than I do. My people – my family, friends, coworkers – are incredible sources of strength and support in my life. They make me laugh, they are there to console me when I’m upset, and they are always generally around to offer wisdom and a listening ear when I need it. And I cannot forget my pets…Clarence the Shetland Sheepdog and Tyrion “Tater Tot” the betta fish bring me joy on a daily basis.

Gratitude #2: A roof over my head (and all things that come with that). I am so lucky to have a home to live in, a warm bed to sleep in, a kitchen to dine in, a family room to relax in…these are things that I absolutely take for granted during normal circumstances, and I can’t help but feel fortunate to have them given these strange times.

Gratitude #3: The ability to work remotely. These are trying times for working Americans…many people are without jobs right now, and I can only imagine how many families this directly and indirectly impacts. I’m appreciative of the fact that I am able to do my job (and do it well) remotely, and in that same vein, I’m glad that my department employs video chat during meetings – it truly does help me feel that much more connected to my coworkers!

Gratitude #4: The wide array of entertainment options available to me. I have so many universes, plots, and characters to explore right now through various books, television shows, movies, video games…and I finally have time to really delve into them in the coming weeks. I’m particularly looking forward to reading more – I used to positively devour books (I read the last book in the Harry Potter series in about 12 hours). My new nighttime routine is to get cozy and read for at least a half hour before going to bed. I find it to be the perfect escape. Plus, I can continue to pursue my hobbies – knitting, playing the mandolin, crafting in general, etc. – with all of this spare time I’m suddenly finding on my hands.

Gratitude #5: God. I don’t think I’ve ever discussed my religion openly online before, but I am a Catholic and I try to practice my faith in little ways on a daily basis. One thing that I do nightly is pray. When I pray, I have conversations with God, and it has brought me so much comfort in the last several weeks. And even if I wasn’t religious, I’m sure I’d still find it beneficial to meditate or reflect at the end of each day…to mull over the things that went well, and maybe some of the things that didn’t, and focus on the positives of the bigger picture.

Bonus Gratitude #6: It’s kind of (okay, definitely) weird to say that I’m grateful for diabetes…but it’s not the thing itself I’m thankful for. Hell no. Rather, it’s the other things – the people, the wisdomthe self-sufficiency, the experiences – that my diabetes has brought into my life that I’d like to express gratitude for.

Now you know some of my many “gratitudes”…why don’t you let me know yours? Tell me what you’re grateful for by dropping a comment here, or by tagging me on Instagram or Twitter. Let’s see how many people we can get to participate.

I’m Still Here

Hey friends. You probably noticed I didn’t have a new post up this week. (Unless you are one of the few people who saw my incomplete post go up on Monday…I took it down as fast as I could, and the finished version should be up soon. My bad!)

The reason for that is simple: I didn’t really know what to say. We’re living in an interesting time, to say the least, and I didn’t know how to address that on my blog. It seems silly to not address it at all (especially considering I just talked about it a few posts ago). But it also feels inauthentic to continue adding to the already-immense volume of information out there. I don’t feel that I have any commentary to add that would be of any value.

So I’m not talking about our current health situation right now. But that leaves the question…do I still talk about my health situation, meaning my diabetes? Is it stupid to blog about given everything else going on in the world?

Maybe, but maybe not.

I'm still here
I’m still here, making dorky faces.

My diabetes – and everyone else’s diabetes – won’t be going away just because there’s a pandemic right now. So why stop blogging about it? It might be nice for others to have a continuous reminder that they’re not alone with diabetes, not before, not now, and not ever. If sharing my story here helps other people in the diabetes community feel more connected in this time of social distancing, then I’m more than happy to keep telling it.

Plus…I think it’ll be good for my mental health (and hopefully for that of other people) to have something to write/read that won’t be anxiety-provoking.

Anyways, I just wanted to give you all a friendly little wave with this blog post – *waves energetically* – and let you know that I’m here if you need someone to talk to. Let’s all remember to stay human amid the chaos: Be kind, help others when you can, and we’ll weather the storm together.

3 Things I Want the World to Know About Insulin

See that tiny glass vial in the below image? Can you believe that the contents of it are extremely precious?

Can you believe that, at approximately $9,400 per gallon, insulin is ranked as the sixth most expensive liquid in the world?

It’s kind of crazy, right? But besides knowing that insulin is priced outrageously, there’s actually a few other things that I think the world should know about insulin.

Ethan Zohn_ A Survivor Contestant Who Inspires-2

  1. Not all insulin is created equal. Just like diabetes, insulin exists in various forms. Besides liquid insulin, there’s also inhaled insulin (Afrezza). And some people with diabetes may even take oral medications that are designed to help increase the effectiveness of insulin that they either receive via injection or produce on their own. There’s brand-name insulin produced by several drug manufacturers (the big three being Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi) as well as generic versions of the drug…but that doesn’t mean that generic insulin works just the same as brand-name insulin for all people with diabetes. Insulin is complicated and different types work better for different people.
  2. Insulin is incredibly sensitive. Take one look at the vial in the above photo and tell me that the insulin inside it is safe at all times. Nope, it sure isn’t! Besides the packaging being super fragile, people who rely on insulin must also be careful to keep it at the proper temperature at all times. All it takes is dropping the vial once or leaving it in an unstable environment for the insulin to be rendered useless, potentially wasting a few hundred dollars. It’s as volatile as it sounds.’
  3. Taking too much or too little insulin is dangerous and life-threatening. For some people, there can literally be a life-or-death difference between one unit of insulin. Too much can cause blood sugar to plummet and a person can experience severe hypoglycemia that may result in shock. Too little insulin has the opposite effect: A person will experience hyperglycemia that can have ranging consequences, some that are minimal/temporary, others that are very serious. That’s why precision is so important when dosing for insulin; on top of that, nobody wants to waste a single drop of the stuff because it is so expensive. But this is what many people with diabetes need in order to survive.

So when you see the hashtag #Insulin4All or hear someone talking about how overpriced it is, you’ll know some of the basic characteristics about insulin that make it invaluable to people with diabetes. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to join the fight to make insulin affordable and available to all – as it should’ve been to begin with.

A Problematic Post

I am not the kind of person who scrolls through social media looking for posts that will make me angry. And I’m certainly not the kind of person who likes the idea of calling someone out on their perceived wrongs via social media (or any other medium) because I think that it’s usually not constructive.

But I am the kind of person who thinks that word choice matters. So when I saw Autumn Calabrese, a celebrity fitness and nutrition expert, post the following text on Instagram, I got pretty upset. (Click photos to see them more clearly).

I’m not going to lie, I was pretty upset by this post. I’ve followed Autumn on Instagram for almost two and a half years now, ever since I subscribed to the popular Beachbody workout app. I really like her 21 Day Fix workout program because it kicks my butt every time in just 30 minutes. She comes across as a fun person who is really passionate about her job and enjoys the opportunity to help others, which is why I decided to follow her Instagram profile. Normally, I enjoy her posts because they’re filled with motivating fitness and eating tips that promote a healthier lifestyle. She definitely knows what she’s talking about when it comes to exercise and eating properly.

But after seeing this post, I think that Autumn – and people like her who are not educated in the minutiae chronic conditions like diabetes – needs to step off her soapbox.

She is using her post to say that diabetes – mind you, just generic “diabetes”, there’s no mention of any of the many types – is a lifestyle killer. She says that “the worst part about it is that you are 100% in control of if it happens to you.”

OMG. No, no, NO.

Forget that she was using the current coronavirus outbreak to promote her healthy eating plan (which in itself is a pretty weird way to advertise something) – she came after the diabetes community with this post. Now, I’ll never know what her true intent was, and I don’t care if Autumn was talking about a specific type of diabetes here. That doesn’t make a damn difference. The problem with this post is that she is perpetuating diabetes stigma and alluding to a myth that an individual has control over whether or not they get diabetes. Posts like this are the reason why there is so much confusion and misunderstanding when it comes to all types of diabetes, and I think she should be ashamed of herself for putting this on her profile.

It’s even more upsetting that she immediately got defensive when people started writing comments under her post, trying to inform and educate her. I was one of those people, and I think that I kindly and respectfully directed her to learn more by visiting beyondtype1.org so she could be better informed on all types of diabetes and maybe find out why what she wrote was harmful. Sadly, I never got a response, and her post remains on her profile, unchanged.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. You can also unfollow a person on social media and write a blog post to get your feelings out there, so that’s just what I’ll do here.

 

Ethan Zohn, An Inspiring Survivor Contestant

If you’re a reality TV junkie like me, then chances are you’ve probably watched Survivor at some point during its 20-year (and counting) run.

And if you’ve never seen a single episode, it’s still highly likely that you’re familiar with the concept of the show:

  1. Find a group of strangers willing to be stranded on an island for 40 days
  2. Make them compete against one another in tribes, then individually, for food/other rewards and “immunity” from tribal council
  3. Force the losing tribe to go to tribal council and vote one of their own off the island (“the tribe has spoken”, anyone?)
  4. Watch as a jury of voted-off contestants selects a winner, also known as the sole survivor
  5. Plunk a bunch of cameras in front of these people and watch all of their antics, including plenty of twists and turns introduced by the producers, that happen in-between
  6. Marvel over how Jeff Probst has not aged a day in the 20-year time span and looks like a million bucks in front of these dirty, hungry people who are actually competing for a million bucks

So yeah, that’s the basic premise…it might sound like a stupid show to some, but I know that Survivor has a devout and large fan following that includes my dad.

Growing up, my dad, my brother, and I watched Survivor almost religiously. We’d ooh and ahh when tribes pulled off unsuspected victories and make bets on who would be voted off the show each week. We’d have our favorites and our far-from-favorites that we rooted for and against. The three of us were nuts about the show for years, until one day we weren’t and only my dad continued to tune in.

Ethan Zohn_ A Survivor Contestant Who Inspires
Yes, that it is a photo of me on the last day of 5th grade, wearing my very own Survivor buff around my head…a buff that I still actually own.

Things changed for me this season, though…Survivor, Season 40 (!), takes previous winners and pits them against each other for the title of perhaps the ultimate sole survivor. The prize is a cool two million this time around, and I decided to start watching because I wanted to see how winners from when I watched fared in a show that would be a very different experience for them compared to when they first played.

And I’m having a lot more fun watching than I expected. Even though a couple of my early favorites were voted off too soon, there’s a chance for someone to re-enter the game thanks to the “edge of extinction” rules. This means that, for a few minutes each episode (so far), the camera focuses on the voted-off survivors who are trying to earn a way back into the game by surviving the edge of extinction.

Again…I get that this all sounds hokey so far. But what’s actually pretty cool to me is that I found a bit of inspiration from one of the survivors who is trying to fight the edge of extinction.

And that survivor is Ethan. I remember watching Ethan in two previous seasons of Survivor. I tooooootally had a crush on him (my brother made fun of me for it and yes, I know Ethan is happily married now) in his first season, which he won, and I remember being thrilled when it was announced that he’d compete a second time in an all-star contestant season. On TV, he came across as a friendly, smart guy who wasn’t cutthroat like some of the other contestants, but just as determined to win, so rooting for him was natural and it was crushing when he was eventually voted off.

It’s been 16 years since he last played the game, and a lot has happened to the guy in that span of time. In 2009, Ethan was diagnosed with a rare form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. From what I’ve read, he endured a difficult battle with cancer that lasted four years. Obviously, I don’t know details about that time in his life, but I can only imagine how emotionally and physically challenging it was to face that ordeal…certainly, though, it was much more difficult than competing on Survivor.

Fast-forward to the present: Ethan’s back in the game after that long gap of time away from it in which he’s faced a serious health condition. He might be on the Survivor-dubbed edge of extinction right now, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t fighting to stay in the game.

In fact, during last week’s episode, Ethan was struggling to complete the challenge that he and the other voted-off contestants had to do before sundown. It was a physically grueling task that required Ethan and the others to climb up and down a treacherous, steep path over and over again. As a viewer, seeing him lose his balance, become super pale, and admit to the other contestants that he wasn’t okay was hard to watch – he looked like what it feels like to have a severe low blood sugar. I was practically convinced that he was going to be forced to tap out of the game altogether, especially when he was visited by one of the show’s paramedics.

But then…he turned it all around, drawing on the strength he gleaned from literally fighting his way back from a different kind of edge of extinction from his cancer battle, and finished the challenge. It was a pretty spectacular comeback.

On-camera, Ethan explained how he was able to push through:

I wanted to complete this for myself, I did not want to quit. I want to set a good example for everyone who’s been through a health challenge and thinks that they can’t do it anymore…you can do it, you can get through those hard moments.

I kept saying to myself, remember when you were getting spinal taps, radiation…I started saying the mantras I was saying when I was going through chemotherapy to get me through those moments.

Watching this, I felt incredibly awe-struck by Ethan’s courage and resilience…and I felt like he was speaking directly to me, as well as any other person who is dealing with a health problem, whether it’s type 1 diabetes, cancer, or anything else. While all of these conditions vary greatly from each other, it’s amazing just how much the right mindset can help fight against whatever it may be.

So I’m writing this post to say thank you to Ethan for sending some inspiration my way, and undoubtedly, the ways of so many other individuals who struggle with the mental and physical side effects of an illness. Thank you for reminding us that we have to just keep going and do whatever it takes to overcome the obstacles we face.

Watch the clip in question below:

COVID-19, Chronic Conditions, and…Telecommuting?

First, let me apologize for adding to what seems like a never-ending cycle of news and media about COVID-19, a.k.a. the coronavirus. But I wanted to write this post because a friend of mine works for a company that sent out a communication about it that I found…interesting, to say the least.

The email in question was about the company’s current coronavirus protocol. The following is an excerpt from the email, provided by my friend:

If you have or live with someone who has a medical condition that the WHO has highlighted as being at higher risk for complications from the virus (elderly, immunocompromised state, chronic conditions such as diabetes, chronic lung disease, and cardiovascular disease), you are strongly urged to work from home if possible with your job function. If you cannot work from home, please consult with your manager.

So…the wording of this email struck me as a little odd for a few reasons. If I worked for this company, I’d wonder: 1) Just because I have one of the named chronic conditions, does this mean I must seriously reconsider my present working environment even though nobody in my office travels internationally? 2) What exactly does “strongly urged” mean, anyways? and 3) What is a manager expected to do if someone cannot work from home, for whatever reason? Make up their own set of rules? Force someone to come in or not come in? And if the latter is the case…would a paycheck have to be forfeited?

hugging the cactus - a t1d blog
I’m absolutely amazed that I managed to find a stock image that wasn’t terrifying for this particular blog post and topic…

As I pondered the answers to these questions, I also started to think that there was a chance I was overreacting to the wording of the email. So I asked other friends how they felt about it and they reacted the same way I did. Everyone was generally confused by the message that this was saying (or not saying) about people living with chronic conditions and how they should handle a situation like this.

Plus, I can’t shake the feeling that emails like this just add to all the hype/panic that we’re already being inundated with, and if I were to receive something like this, it certainly wouldn’t do anything to ease my normally-anxious mind. It’s getting more and more challenging to tune it all out…

…but on the bright side, at least I know how to properly wash my hands and sneeze/cough into my elbow. So I’ll continue those common-sense practices every day, and when I’m doing my own work, I’ll be glad it’s from the comfort of my own cubicle.

Diabetes Made Me

A thought occurred to me the other day: While diabetes doesn’t define who I am, it has unquestionably majorly impacted my life. I started thinking about and writing down how it has done so.

My diabetes has made me…

  • Worry endlessly about my daily choices
  • Angry, sad, confused (sometimes, all at once)
  • Become a control freak
  • Sleep fewer hours at night
  • Afraid about what could go wrong, and when
  • Wonder whether or not I’ll have trouble affording my medications in the future (not just my necessary diabetes prescriptions)
  • Believe that there are just some things in life I can’t do because of it

What sticks out to me about that list is that all of it is negative. So I tried thinking about all of the positive ways that diabetes has affected me, and I’m happy to say that I came up with a longer, happier list:

My diabetes has also made me…

  • Knowledgeable about nutrition
  • Unafraid of needles
  • Understand my own body better
  • Meet and connect with people I might not have otherwise
  • Comfortable with speaking in front of large groups about it
  • Become more philanthropic by volunteering my time and energy for certain groups
  • Self-sufficient (well, slightly self-sufficient)
  • Pack smartly when traveling
  • Prepared at practically all times for any diabetes-related scenario
  • Motivated to exercise on a daily basis to achieve better blood sugars
  • Mentally and physically stronger
Diabetes Made Me
Guess what else diabetes made me do? …It made me take this photo!!!

Diabetes makes me think about and do so many things that I would never dream of if I didn’t have it. A lot of those things are a pain in the neck and I truly wish I could have a break from them, but more of those things have shaped me into a well-rounded individual.

The good outweighs the bad, and diabetes has made me glad to have that perspective.