27 Acts of Kindness: Days 1 and 2

Hey Cactus huggers! Here’s my first update on how my 27 acts of kindness are going. I’ll continue to publish blog posts on my usual Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule, and each post will cover the retroactive acts of kindness. You’ll see how it works as each post rolls out…so without further ado…

My 27 acts of kindness challenge has officially kicked off! (Not familiar with what I’m referring to? Here’s my introductory post to the how and why of my challenge.) Here are the two acts I’ve done so far:

Monday, 4/6 – Act of Kindness #1: Fittingly, this challenge began on a Monday. I was excited to complete my first act of kindness, but had no idea what it should be. So I waited until the late afternoon, when I had a thought…why not help out someone near and dear to me?

To maintain this person’s privacy, I won’t be sharing any of their personal information or explain my connection to them. But this person lives far away from me. And I miss this individual. I think of them often and it’s important to me that this person knows that I care. Since my person is going through some job difficulties at the moment, I decided to send them a little money. It’s not much, but it was a gesture intended to let the person know that they are not far from my thoughts. Hopefully, they are able to use it to treat themselves a little.

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Writing the card transported me right back to my childhood days of corresponding with pen pals.

Tuesday, 4/7 – Act of Kindness #2: Over the weekend, I spent some time researching acts of kindness ideas online. And I came across one website that suggested making a card for a hospitalized child. I loved this idea for so many reasons. For starters, all throughout my childhood, I was obsessed with drawing and writing cards and letters to family, friends, and pen pals. And when I received something in the mail in return, I was always over-the-moon excited. My appreciation for letter-writing and receiving is probably what fostered my passion for writing, period. And since I was a hospitalized child when I was diagnosed with diabetes at age 4, something about writing a card for a hospitalized child now felt natural to me…like a full-circle moment or something. So I busted out my old magic marker kit and wrote a heartfelt message in a card that I mailed off to an organization called Cards for Hospitalized Kids. I hope that my card lands in the hands of a child who could really use a reminder that they’re not alone.

And with that…two acts of kindness down, 25 more to go! I’m looking forward to seeing how the challenge evolves over time. And if you decide to take part in it, please do and let me know! I’d love to give shout-outs to any fellow participants.

 

27 Acts of Kindness

I didn’t publish a new blog post on Friday.

This wasn’t accidental. I deliberately neglected my blog because…my heart just wasn’t in it. Contrary to my blog a few weeks ago, I felt…I don’t know…kind of dumb about maintaining my blog through all this? Like, what’s the point of my silly little blog when the world is fighting a massive battle right now?

Maybe it’s foolish to feel that way, maybe it’s not. I don’t know. I moped about it for most of last week, and then spent some time seriously thinking about how and why I was feeling mightily blue about my blog.

And then I realized: I’m feeling a bit helpless. I want to help my loved ones and my community in any way that I can, but how can I possibly do anything productive from home?

I thought about it some more before the perfect idea came to me.

In exactly 27 days, I turn 27 years old. There’s nothing particularly special or exciting about this age, but I do have the power to make it a meaningful birthday celebration by doing 27 acts of kindness each day leading up to May 3rd.

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I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my birthday than to share a little love with the world.

I don’t know exactly what or how these acts of kindness will unfold over the next several weeks – I think that part of the beauty of the challenge is that I can go with what feels right as each day goes by – but I do know that I’ll document my experiences here. I’ll share what I do each day and I’ll do my best to make sure that each act is unique. And I’ll continue to publish posts regularly (my 3x per week schedule). Daily posts would be ideal, but I know myself and I know my real-world workload wouldn’t exactly accommodate that.

The only other thing you might be wondering about my challenge is…what the heck does it have to do with diabetes? That’s a valid question, considering this IS a blog about my life with type 1 diabetes. And my answer to it is that I will do as many diabetes-specific acts of kindness as possible. I imagine that in the next month or so, plenty of diabetes-related anecdotes will sneak their way into my posts, as they always do.

And finally, a clarification…I hope my challenge isn’t misconstrued as me trying to do something “noble” or “noteworthy”. I want to emphasize that this challenge was born out of pure frustration that I’ve felt over feeling like I’m unable to contribute to society right now when it so desperately needs all of the help that it can get. My heart and my head have been with ALL of the essential employees – my dad and my best friend are just two people in my life who can be counted among them – who are showing up to work each day and dealing with a number of hurdles during this unprecedented time.

All of that combined has really motivated me to take this on and make this upcoming birthday truly meaningful.

A Diabetes Stream of Consciousness

I first heard the term “stream of consciousness” when I was in high school. My creative writing teacher used it in class one day when she asked us to start writing in our journals for 10 minutes straight – without stopping.

She described it as an opportunity to just let our thoughts flow out from our pens without interruption. Anything we wrote didn’t have to make sense…it was simply an exercise in just letting our writing be, in an unrefined and unapologetically honest kind of way.

hugging the cactus - a t1d blog
What would your diabetes stream of consciousness look like?

When I was struggling to write a blog post for today – because let’s face it, writer’s block is real – the stream of consciousness concept popped into my mind. And I started thinking about it in a diabetes lens, which resulted in this*:

Ugh there’s my alarm blaring again
let me reach for my phone and check my CGM data first thing
okay I will use this to bolus for breakfast what do I even want to eat today
okay let’s go ahead and just get the insulin pumping
input for 30 carbs even though I am not sure that I really want to eat 30 grams worth of carbs but whatever I’m sitting at home all day anyways so I may need any of the extra insulin that gets delivered
finally roll out of bed and make my way down the stairs and eat breakfast and do the crossword like I always do to wake my brain up some more
then set to work and work straight for the next two hours or so I forget exactly how long it was but then my CGM alarm interrupts my flow so rudely OMG why am I this high
okay I guess it’s time to take my lunch break a little earlier than I wanted but my blood sugar is too high and it will distract me further if I keep trying to work through it so I get up and do a high-intensity cardio workout for half an hour
and that does the trick, by the time I jump into the shower my blood sugar is coming back down
oh that’s so much better I sit back in my chair not too long after and get back to work and pause again only to have lunch
I make an egg with an English muffin and also eat a banana for “dessert” though I wish I could have chocolate boy am I craving chocolate lately or what
I pad my bolus with extra insulin because I seem to be trending higher lately which is obnoxious and then I settle in for an hour-long meeting and I’m relieved to discover I’m on mute when my CGM starts alarming again and I’m so fucking exasperated,
I’m high again and it’s probably because of the banana although I can’t really be sure so I start rage bolusing
BAM BAM BAM
get that insulin in my system puh-lease and then I work again for another couple of hours before it’s time for another break and
I go for a walk with my mom and the dog and we’re midway through our usual route when I start to feel those familiar signs of an early low blood sugar some shakiness and some general unease
sure enough when I get home I check my CGM (so many times that I check it throughout the day) and I’ve got a down arrow and I’m plunging into low territory quickly and FINALLY I can have some of that chocolate I’ve been wanting all day
YUM Cadbury eggs.

*I added punctuation and line breaks after writing for five minutes straight just to make this somewhat more readable.

What did I learn after doing this little writing exercise? Diabetes really dominates my mind from the moment I wake up. It is the reason behind just about every decision I make and I don’t really ever get a mental break from it.

But luckily, there’s chocolate for that.

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.

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.

Remembering My Grandpa

Six years and one day ago, my maternal grandfather passed away. He was 87 years old and lived a very full life, but his passing felt sudden to all of his family members who simply believed that we had more time with him.

In the immediate days following his death, my parents, brother, aunts, uncles, and cousins experienced a wide array of emotions, as well as physical side effects from overwhelming grief. I had some of the highest blood sugars of my life during this time, and I also came down with some sort of fever that left me boiling hot one minute and head-to-toe shivering the next.

I remember that getting myself ready for his wake was a real process – I was collapsed on the floor just outside of the bathroom, waving a hair dryer not just on my head, but also all over my body because I felt so frigidly cold. Little did I know, my blood sugar was also well over 400, but even if I’d known that fact sooner, I probably wouldn’t have cared very much.

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A photo from my Grandpa’s last birthday with us.

Anyways, the intent of this post isn’t to remember a truly heart-wrenching period of my life. It’s to help me remember my grandpa, and catch him up on everything that’s happened since he left us. I thought it’d be most appropriate to do this in the form of a letter.

Dear Grandpa,

I have so much to tell you. But let me start with an apology. I’m sorry that I didn’t appreciate you more when I was younger. I’m sorry that I didn’t try harder to talk to you and hear your many stories firsthand. I always respected you throughout my youth and teenage years, as my parents instilled upon me early on to respect my elders. And even in childhood, I knew you were the elder to respect; after all, I was convinced that you single-handedly ended WWII. What’s more respectful than that? Anyways, I digress – the point is that I wish I made more of an effort to learn more from you and I’m sorry that I’ll never get a chance to make up for that.

You probably already know most of what I’m going to tell you. We lost Zuzu the same year we lost you, and I’m sure she’s with you in heaven now, but then we gained Clarence a couple of years ago and I think you would get such a kick out of him. There’s been a few more losses in our family, too, but many more gains of all kinds, and I know that in a way, you were there with us for those occasions and everything in between.

You also probably already know that since we lost you, I graduated college and started my career. Weird, right? I also started a blog about diabetes, and really, it’s become a much bigger part of my life than it ever was before. I would love to see your eyes widen in awe at our diabetes technology and how advanced it has become over the years. (I remember how amazed you used to be when we showed you our computers and early-model eBook tablets, I can only imagine your reaction to medical technology!)

As I sit here and type this and marvel at how much (and how little) has changed since you left, I remain grateful for the fact that you were a big part of our childhoods (“our” meaning my brother’s and my cousins’ childhoods, as well as mine). I also take comfort in the fact that just because you’re not physically here to witness all of this stuff, you’re here in our hearts and you’re with us in that manner for every step in our journeys. I know that when I’m having a tough diabetes day, you’re one of the guardian angels looking out for me and helping me recover from it.

And I also know that you’d be proud of me for what I’ve accomplished so far in life, and for me, that’s more than enough motivation to keep going, fighting, and working hard to beat diabetes and be successful in other arenas, too.

Love,

Molly

A Tough Topic: Diabetes Complications

I’m broaching a subject I’ve never openly discussed in an online forum in today’s blog post…and that is diabetes complications.

The reason why I’ve never talked about complications is straightforward: They absolutely terrify me.

It’s a topic that’s so foreign and frightening to me that I don’t even know the full extent of diabetes complications. You can Google them, for sure, and discover a long list of scary conditions involving the heart, eyes, extremities, and other internal organs. But I’d rather not do that to myself, let alone the audience of this blog.

I don’t want you to think that I’m naive, though…I know that not talking about something doesn’t mean that it’ll just go away or never happen.

Recently, I became glaringly aware of this fact through the form of (what I presume to be) my own diabetes complication: tendonitis in my left hand.

In the last year or two, I’ve felt sporadic sensitivity in my left hand when I fully extend my wrist, bear any weight on it, or even when I do simple wrist rotations. I never really knew when to expect the pain, but it happened every few months and lasted about a week each time. So when I felt it again around the time I was due for my annual physical with my PCP, I decided to ask him about it.

He explained to me that, based on the type of pain and its duration, it wasn’t carpal tunnel (numbness and tingling are symptoms of that, not pain) like I thought it might be. It also wasn’t arthritis (I didn’t have swelling or reduced range of motion) or neuropathy (I wasn’t experiencing pins and needles), but he did say that those aren’t uncommon in people with diabetes. That’s when he located the exact inflamed tendon – the thick, fibrous cord that attaches muscle to bone – in my left hand/wrist that was giving me trouble.

A Tough Topic_ Diabetes Complications
Me with my new (but occasional) accessory.

Just like all the aforementioned conditions, my tendonitis is probably due to my diabetes. Although my PCP didn’t explicitly state that I definitely have it because I’ve had diabetes for 22 years, he did identify a cause-and-effect relationship between the two. But, fortunately, he also reassured me that my occasional flares of tendonitis are nothing to worry about. As long as I continue to do what I’m doing (which is supporting my hand and wrist with a brace when I experience bouts of pain, as well as rest the area as much as possible during those times), then I’ll be totally fine.

While I’m not exactly thrilled to have to deal with tendonitis, I am very relieved that I know there’s an explanation to help make sense of it all, and that I’ve been doing the right things to handle it. So even though I won’t be going out of my way to research any other diabetes complications any time soon (why on earth would I want to stress myself out unnecessarily), I have come to terms with my tendonitis as a possible complication for me. And rather than seeing it as a completely negative thing, I’ve decided to just keep doing what I’m doing, and continue to take the best possible care I can of myself and my diabetes.

They say prevention is the best medicine for a reason, right?