A Human Garbage Disposal

Sometimes, I feel like I am a human garbage disposal.

It’s not everyday, but there are occasions in which I want to eat anything and everything within arm’s reach like it’s the last meal or snack that I’ll consume for days. When I’m experiencing a low blood sugar, I’m especially likely to inhale food as if I’m a living Hoover vacuum…or as I’ve come to think of it, a human garbage disposal.

There’s no doubt about it: Diabetes has totally screwed up my relationship with food. I’ve written about this previously. I’m also just as sure of the fact that my relationship with food has gotten worse as I’ve grown older, a phenomenon that I blame on numerous factors such as the natural process of aging, social media, and society’s constant scrutiny of how women’s bodies “should” look. Add my diabetes into this mix and I feel like trash about my body and harvest negative feelings towards food (despite also loving food).

I definitely blame my diabetes for ruining my relationship with food.

So yeah, a human garbage disposal – with diabetes, no less – feels like an accurate way to describe me and my relationship with food.

Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a “pity me” post. Not at all. This post is more so me…trying to understand what can be done to repair my relationship with food. Because I think if I can repair it, then I can start seeing positive outcomes on my blood sugar and start to strengthen my own sense of self-love. These are important things, you know, and I’ve hit a point where I’m just tired of feeling so damn negative about my diabetes, food, and my body all the time.

I might feel like a human garbage disposal lately, but “human” is at the forefront of that phrase. I’m human, I make mistakes, and my relationships with my diabetes, my food, and my body are bound to ebb and flow over the years.

At the end of the day, I think it’s just a matter of making peace with that.

Vacation Time

This time last year, I was headed to the beach for a week and wrote a post expressing my excitement over the change of scenery…and the fact that the CWD FFL conference was taking place, albeit virtually, during the same span of time.

I was beyond stoked to get away for a week, my enthusiasm no doubt fueled by having spent the last few months in isolation (with my parents) due to the pandemic. But I was also incredibly anxious seeing as I didn’t know how drastically this vacation would differ from the ones we’ve taken in years past because of COVID concerns. I wrote:

I have no idea if my family and I will be able to even go to the same strip of sand and ocean without having to worry about things like too many people and not enough masks. We probably won’t be able to eat at many restaurants like we typically do on vacation; instead, we’ll likely cook a significantly higher percentage of our food at home. And we definitely won’t be able to peruse the shops like we have done every year since going to this particular beach town – we’ll have to be a little more creative when it comes to staying entertained.

Granted, I also wrote in that blog post that I was grateful to have the FFL conference to “attend” as a distraction that was both one that I wanted but also one that might be necessary so I wasn’t completely without fun things to do over vacation.

The beach I’m heading to may not look exactly like this but that doesn’t make me any less excited for vacation.

What a relief it is to think about how much things have changed between now and then. Thank goodness for vaccines!

This is my long, roundabout way of saying that I’m on vacation all of next week and I’m so excited to have all that time to unplug and unwind. As much as I liked attending the FFL conference virtually last year, it didn’t foster that sense of community and joy as much as it does when I’m attending it in-person. I’m thrilled for the individuals who are able to go in-person this year, though – I know they’ll get so much out of it and have a truly fun time.

But for now, it’s time for me to hit the recharge button. I’ll still have a couple of new blog posts up and ready next week so be sure to come back then to check them out!

T1D and “Inspired” Food Choices

There’s no doubt that T1D directly affects my relationship with food.

Sometimes, I eat whatever I want with zero guilt. Other times, I painstakingly count not just the carbs, but every single macro of any morsel that meets my mouth. And more often than not, I fall somewhere between those two extremes.

But no matter what, my relationship with food is exhausting and probably one of the most inconsistent relationships I’ve ever had in my entire life.

It’s also a relationship that causes me to make what I’m calling “inspired” food choices.

Diabetes certainly impacts my food choices…especially when it comes to blood-sugar spikers like pizza, pasta, waffles, cake, and more.

Choices like eating dessert before dinner because my blood sugar is low.

Choices like only eating low- or no-carb foods because my blood sugar is high.

Choices like timing my meals down to the minute because I know that my body functions best when I eat regularly.

Choices like keeping snacks in my purse, my overnight bags, my car, and miscellaneous other locations because I never know when I might need food on the fly.

Choices like restricting my eating because a low blood sugar made me binge on food one day, and the guilt carried over to the next day.

Maybe “inspired” isn’t the right word to describe my food choices here. There’s so many more that could apply: weird, strategic, healthy, unhealthy…the list is limitless.

Just like the number of “inspired” food choices that my diabetes triggers.

Good, bad, and everything in between, though, the first step in making changes to my relationship with food is acknowledging the flaws in it. While I admit that I’m not sure what the next step is, I do know that I’m feeling determined to finally establish a guilt-free relationship with food.

Diabetes already takes too much from me…I refuse to let it continue to make my relationship with food negative.

Diabetes and the Blame Game: Time to Stop Playing It

This post originally appeared on Hugging the Cactus on June 13, 2018. I’m sharing it again today because the blame game is played far too often in life with diabetes. People pass judgment on others for how they choose to manage diabetes, and it does more harm than good. Read on for my thoughts on why we need to stop shaming others.

Here’s a little disclaimer: This post is highly personal. I’m going to dive deep here and talk about a few things that bother me when it comes to how others perceive T1D. My opinions are strong, but I’m entitled to them – just like you are.

“I can’t believe his blood sugar got that low. He really needs to have better control over his diabetes.”

“Why wasn’t she carrying a snack with her? That’s so irresponsible, she should know better!”

“They’re unhealthy. The way they manage their diabetes isn’t okay and it’s no wonder they go to the doctor so much.”

These are words that others have spoken about people with diabetes in my presence. While these thoughts and feelings aren’t necessarily about me, it doesn’t mean that I don’t take them personally.

Why do they bother me? Because they’re dripping with judgment.

The blame game can cause a whole lot more harm than good in the life of a person with diabetes.

It’s easy for someone who simply doesn’t understand diabetes to make assumptions based on a couple of observations they make about someone with diabetes. But just because it’s easy to assume things, it doesn’t make it okay.

Just because you see someone have a tough diabetes day, it doesn’t mean that’s what it’s like all the time.

Just because someone forgot to carry a low blood sugar remedy on them, it doesn’t mean that they always forget one.

Just because you know of someone who frequently visits the doctor, it doesn’t mean their diabetes is “out of control.”

Just because you blame someone for not taking “proper care” of themselves, it doesn’t mean that they don’t try their damnedest.

That’s what’s so wrong about making assumptions about how someone manages his/her/their diabetes: It’s impossible for anyone to know the full story about that individual’s diabetes, because they are the one solely in charge of it. They know how it behaves 24/7/365. They know it better than their doctor, spouse, family, friends, and coworkers. And the funny (and by funny, I mean really shitty) thing about diabetes is that sometimes, you can’t predict what it’s going to do next. So you have to be prepared to roll with the punches at a moment’s notice. And you’ve got to be that prepared all the damn time: when you’re awake, asleep, traveling, exercising, working, and just plain living.

Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

So that’s why I think the blame game is especially cruel when it’s played to cast judgment on people with diabetes. We have the incredibly difficult task of taking care of something that most other people never have to worry about, and blaming someone for not “doing what they should be doing” is heartless and does nothing to help them.

I challenge anyone reading this to think twice before they jump to conclusions about how a person with diabetes takes care of themselves. Remember that just because you may have witnessed them going through a difficult diabetes experience, it doesn’t mean that it’s like that for them all the time, or that they aren’t doing everything they can to take the best possible care of themselves. The world is occupied by enough critics – do your part to be supportive, not shameful.

What to Do When a Loved One with Diabetes is Struggling

This blog post was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on March 20, 2019. I’m sharing it again today because as tough as diabetes can be for me, it can be even harder on my loved ones who can’t do anything about it – especially when diabetes struggles turn into emotional struggles. Read on for my opinion on how you can help your loved one with diabetes overcome difficulties.

If you have a partner/spouse, relative, or friend with type one diabetes, it can be difficult to know how to best support that person when they’re experiencing struggles related to diabetes. You might try to offer a shoulder for your loved one to lean on, but that might not always work. Your loved one might push you away or continue to internalize their issues. It can create turbulence in your relationship with one another, and it’s frustrating all around.

So what can you do?

Emotional support is incredibly important when it comes to helping a loved one with diabetes get through a difficult time.

As someone who both has T1D and loves others with T1D (my mom, my aunt, many good friends), I believe that the best way to react is to just listen. Whenever I’ve faced serious struggles or emotional turmoil due to diabetes, nothing has helped me quite like a person who spares time for me to listen to me. Whether I just need to spew out an angry diatribe (LOL at the pun), cry about my problems, talk through issues, or seek advice, it’s worked wonders on me to know that I have individuals in my life who are willing to listen to me. Let me emphasize the listen part once again – listen, not tell me that I’m right or wrong, or offer advice (unless I specifically ask for it).

I get it; sometimes, it’s easier said than done to just listen. A few people I know are so determined to help me fix the problem that they can’t help but react emotionally along with me when I’m dealing with diabetes drama. But trust me, that usually heightens (rather than alleviates) the tension.

It’s all about teamwork. Give and take is involved. Often, enormous amounts of patience are required. Sometimes, it takes awhile for the struggles to subside. But one thing that is certain is that your loved one with diabetes will always thank you and be grateful for your support in their time of need. It’ll strengthen your relationship as well as function as proof that diabetes can’t break your bond, no matter how hard it might try.

How I Realized I’m Experiencing a Bout of Diabetes Burnout

Diabetes burnout is the generic term used to describe a state in which a person with diabetes becomes tired of managing it and may become neglectful of one or more aspect of diabetes care.

I say “generic term” because diabetes burnout doesn’t look the same for every person, though, so it can be tough to recognize it when it’s happening. I know this from personal experience: I’m going through a bout of diabetes burnout right now.

Diabetes burnout is just a part of having T1D.

It took me weeks to realize it, but I finally came to the conclusion that I was burnt out because several things dawned on me at once:

  • It was taking me longer to respond to CGM alarms. I would hear them going off, but I didn’t necessarily care to even look at them, let alone correct them. As a result, I let a lot of high blood sugars linger much longer than I should have, which made me feel frustrated and bad about myself for causing harm to my body.
  • I wasn’t eating healthy foods. The Easter holiday brought an abundance of chocolates and sweets into my kitchen, so instead of choosing fruits or veggies to snack on, I was going for high-carb items with zero nutritional value…and I didn’t bother bolusing for them, which of course, wreaked havoc on my blood sugar.
  • I did the bare minimum to keep my blood sugars in check. I was still bolusing for all my meals, but the snacks in between? The little desserts I’d have? The alcoholic beverages I’d enjoy? Nope, certainly wasn’t taking those into account when I took mealtime boluses.
  • I got lazy with carb counting. I kept gravitating toward bottomless bags of snacks when I did my weekly grocery store trips, even though I knew that I have no restraint when it comes to highly addictive, faux-healthy foods like Annie’s cheddar snack mix or cute little teddy graham cookies. Whenever I’d crack open a fresh box or bag, I’d dig in and wouldn’t stop digging in, going way over the recommended serving sizes and not bothering to slow down and count out my carbs.
  • I was allowing my emotions to influence my diabetes care (or lack thereof). I’m a self-professed emotional eater. That, coupled with excess stress/anxiety levels, shifted my attention away from my diabetes.

So, yeah, there’s no question that I’m in a period of diabetes burnout. Joy.

As tired as I am of taking care of my diabetes, though, it doesn’t compare to how exhausted it makes me to beat myself up over my burnout day after day.

I’ve been through burnout before. I know I’ll make it through, just like I have in the past, and I am also aware that I’m likely to experience it again in the future. And rather than come up with a super-specific action plan to conquer it, or give myself a timeline to overcome it, I’m just going to ride it out knowing that I’m trying my best each and every day, and that’s what matters most.

4 Ways Diabetes Motivates Me

Life with diabetes can be inconvenient, unpredictable, and downright frustrating. But it’s not all bad. In fact, after living with it for more than 23 years now, I’ve actually identified a few different ways in which it helps motivate me.

And what, exactly, are those ways? Well…

#1: It’s constantly challenging me to strive for the better: Better “control” over my blood sugar levels, better management of my diet and exercise regimen, and better care of my entire body, in general. While it involves a lot of work, it’s extremely motivating because I know that anything I do for the better of my diabetes and my body now will pay dividends in the future.

#2: Diabetes encourages me to ask questions. I think that my diabetes is the reason why I’ve learned to be curious. It pushes me to want to know the who, what, when, where, why, and how of various scenarios, both relating to and not relating to diabetes. It’s natural for human beings to be inquisitive, but they don’t always do something to pursue answers to questions. My diabetes pushes me to do that, with varying degrees of success, and that’s something I’m grateful for.

After having diabetes for more than 23 years, I’ve realized that it can be highly motivating.

#3: It pushes me to prove people wrong. There’s so much stigma surrounding diabetes…”You can’t eat that! You can’t do this! You can’t do that!” are exclamations that I’ve heard my entire life from different people. Rather than nodding and smiling politely at these poor, misinformed individuals, I strive to show them exactly why they’re wrong. Whether it’s explaining the facts or going out and doing the very thing they said I wouldn’t be able to do because of diabetes, it’s empowering for me to smash down diabetes misconceptions.

#4: Diabetes inspires me to seek more out of life. This goes hand-in-hand with point number 3, but it counts as a separate notion because this is all about how I view my life with diabetes. I didn’t fully accept my diabetes until I was a teenager. That acceptance represented a turning point for me during which I realized that just because I was dealt this card in life, it doesn’t mean that it should stop me from accomplishing my hopes and dreams. Over the years, my diabetes has made me want more: opportunities, experiences, relationships…you name it and I’m hungry for it.

Sure, diabetes can be my biggest headache…but it can also be my greatest motivator, and I think it’s important for me to embrace the beauty of that.

The Days that Diabetes Bothers Me

The vast majority of the time, I’m relatively unbothered by my diabetes.

I accepted long ago that it’s not going away any time soon. While that acceptance has made it easier to live a full life in spite of diabetes, I definitely still experience the occasional day that diabetes bothers me more compared to other days.

The days that I’m unbothered by diabetes are enriched by the ones when it bothers me.

It’s the days that I’m trying to enjoy time spent with loved ones.

It’s the days that I want to eat whatever I want without any consequences.

Heck, it’s the days that I want to eat, period – I’ve had days in which diabetes has restricted me from eating much of anything at all.

It’s the days that I need a really solid night of sleep the night before, but don’t get it because diabetes interfered.

It’s the days that I’m feeling so burnt out from it all that I just want to be normal.

Obviously, I’ve learned how to power through these days that I’m truly bothered by diabetes. But the ones that I simply can’t find the strength to do so are the hardest, and that’s when diabetes really gets to me.

I think that after 23 years with it, I’m allowed to be bothered by my diabetes every now and then. I don’t have to radiate sunshine and positivity about life with diabetes 24/7.

However, I think it makes the times that I’m unbothered by my diabetes that much richer because that’s when I get to stick it to diabetes.

Take that.

How Raising a Puppy is Similar to Dealing with Diabetes, Part 2

Just about three years ago, I was helping my parents raise their puppy, Clarence. And naturally, with me being who I am, I found that raising him was a lot like dealing with diabetes – and wrote about it in this blog post.

Now that I’m a puppy parent, I revisited that post and found that there are even more similarities between the two.

For starters, one of the biggest parts of diabetes management is the constant monitoring involved in it. As it turns out, the same can be said about raising a puppy! Much like my blood sugar, I am watching her like a hawk during all waking hours. I’m prepared to pounce on her if she’s chewing up a puppy pad or squatting down to her business indoors, just like I’m prepared to act when my blood sugar is going higher or lower than I’d like.

Raising a puppy is only this cute and sweet about 2% of the time. (Okay, total exaggeration here, but I’m writing this after Violet decided to do her business in her playpen just after I had her outside.)

Also, as it turns out – shocker – having a puppy around is exhausting. My sleep has been interrupted several times over the last few weeks by Violet’s whimpers. Before, I used to only have to worry about a Dexcom alarm waking me in the middle of the night, but now I have to respond to her cries, too. Fortunately, having a puppy isn’t totally like having diabetes in this regard, because at least I can nap when she’s napping! (We all know that diabetes never sleeps…)

Another similarity, one that I don’t mind so much, is the frequent exercise that Violet needs. Just like my diabetes tends to be “better controlled” when I exercise each day, Violet also responds really well to playtime. The best part is that after a nice, long session of fetch or tug-of-war, she tends to zonk out afterwards, which I see as the puppy equivalent of having the coveted 100 mg/dL blood sugar.

However, there are tons of obvious differences between raising a puppy and managing diabetes. But the best, perhaps biggest one of all? Violet improves (well, when she doesn’t have an accident indoors) my overall mood and mental health. I know that her ability to do this will only increase over time as she matures. And I know that having her around will help me through the tough diabetes days that I’m bound to face in the future, and for that and so much more, I’m thankful for my little pup.

A Check In on Diabetes and Mental Health

Today is Day 18 of the #TrueDiabeticChallenge that I’ve been posting about on Instagram all month long! I’m using the prompt to inspire the topic of today’s blog post: mental health. Read on to learn how I’ve been juggling my diabetes and mental health lately…

When I think of “diabetes and mental health”, a lot of things cross my mind: Burnout, self-care, and a whole slew of emotions, to name a few of them.

So as I pondered what I’d write about when it comes to this topic – and be totally transparent as to how my mental health is lately as it pertains to my diabetes – I knew that one emotion in particular would be the focus.

Loneliness.

I’m actually a bit envious of this cartoon girl because at least she has a furry friend to keep her company.

For the first time in my life, I’m living alone (mostly by choice). While this new chapter is certainly exciting, it’s also downright petrifying at times, especially when I’m contending with literal highs and lows of my blood sugar.

I struggle the most with being alone and managing my diabetes when I go low. This probably isn’t uncommon among other people with T1D who also live alone and I knew to expect to feel this way to a certain extent before making this transition. But I didn’t realize exactly how much comfort I take in the presence of others when my blood sugar is low.

I don’t know what it is, exactly…it’s not like I suddenly forget how to treat low blood sugars. It’s not that I ever relied on someone else to bring low blood sugar treatments to me (though I’ve always appreciated that on the occasions it’s happened). And I benefit from having a Dexcom CGM to monitor my blood sugars 24/7 and alert me to sudden changes. So…what gives?

As I search for that answer, I’m going to try to remember to be patient with myself as I navigate my new circumstances. It takes time to acclimate to a new environment and diabetes can make that more challenging. I mentioned self-care at the start of this post…maybe it’s time I start practicing it more deliberately to help make this transition smoother!