Dia-Feated.

I feel defeated when it comes to just about every aspect of my life with diabetes as of late.

I feel defeated in terms of my blood sugars lately: I’ve experienced too many highs due to an ever-present fear of low blood sugars.

I feel defeated in terms of what my A1c reading might be at my endocrinologist appointment next month: I don’t even have a clue as to what the value might be right now, but my intuition is telling me that it’s higher than I want it to be, which sucks because I’ve tried hard to keep it down.

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I feel defeated in terms of my diabetes supplies: I’ve had to pay a lot more money than I ever anticipated for them. I turned 26 less than 6 months ago and I’m having trouble imagining paying so much money for my supplies for the rest of my life, let alone the rest of the year. I know I’m not alone, but knowing that others are struggling (in very different and similar ways) makes me feel worse.

I feel defeated in terms of this blog: I feel like nobody else really cares about it except me. This is fine in some ways because one of the reasons why I write this blog is because it’s a form of therapy for me. But in other ways, this makes me sad because another reason why I started Hugging the Cactus was to make a positive impact, somehow, on the diabetes community that I love so much. But it’s hard. There’s many bigger, louder, more important voices in the online space that simply have a better reach than me. These people know how to connect with their audience in a way that makes a more profound impact than I ever could. Lately, I’m asking myself, “why bother” a lot more than I’m saying to myself “keep it up”.

I’m not writing about my diabetes-related feelings of defeat – my dia-feat – to garner sympathy or attention. I’m just trying to keep it real. It’s a little different than what I would consider conventional “diabetes burnout” to be, because I do still have that desire to thrive and do well with my diabetes management…but things just aren’t quite going my way.

I know that other people like me feel this way sometimes.

And I know that the dia-feat won’t last forever.

But it is important for me to acknowledge it now, so I can start figuring out how to dust myself off and pick myself back up soon.

 

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3 Things That Make Low Blood Sugars Tolerable

Okay, to be TOTALLY honest, low blood sugars aren’t – and won’t ever be – fun. Nine times out of ten, they can be inconvenient, upsetting, and even scary (depending on how low it is). But like most things associated with diabetes, I try to look at the bright side every now and then to remind myself that it could be worse. So even though I don’t welcome low blood sugars in just about any circumstance, I decided to look at them, and their less-than-pleasant side effects, from another perspective. Hence, this three-item list that explains what makes low blood sugars slightly more tolerable to me.

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  1. The sweat.
    I detest sweating. I don’t care if sweat is the result of a good workout or a day spent at the beach – it’s gross either way. And it’s definitely not an attractive low blood sugar symptom. But…on the other side…I tend to sweat a LOT when my blood sugar is low and it makes me feel like I’ve just had an excellent workout without any effort or exertion on my part. So I guess it’s kinda like gleaning the health benefits that you’d get from sitting in a sauna for a bit? IDK…it’s a bit convoluted but just agree with me on this one.
  2. The excuses.
    I’ve made it a personal mission to try to avoid using my diabetes as a scapegoat. There are times, though, that it really does prevent me from doing something in a timely manner/when I’m asked. For example, if I’m experiencing a low blood sugar at work and a colleague comes by to talk to me and ask me for something, I do find it’s best to let them know that I can’t attend to it right away because of the blood sugar. Nine times out of ten, people understand, and they let me treat it accordingly. And it gives me time to just relax and deal with it, taking the stress away from a situation by simply being honest about it (so I guess it isn’t really an excuse, but sometimes I feel a little guilty about using a low as an out on something. Low guilt is real, people!).
  3. The cake. (Or really any food when you’re low. Because it all tastes delicious. But nothing is quite as satisfying as cake.)
    I think the inspiration for this blog post came when I was enjoying a big, fat slice of cake in order to bring my blood sugar back up. My goodness, some foods just taste beyond amazing when I’m using them to treat a low. The sweeter it is, the more satisfying it is to both my taste buds and blood sugar levels. And anyone who has experienced a low blood sugar before (people with and without diabetes) can attest to the fact that food is simply a million times better when it’s being consumed at a time that your body is URGENTLY telling you to feed it.

Alright…now that I’m looking back at these three things, I’m kind of laughing at myself. Because I can TRY to make low blood sugars a more positive thing, but let’s be real, they still kind of suck. But I guess there’s no harm in trying to be upbeat about them.

 

 

Metformin Update #3: Is it My Imagination…or Side Effects?

Frequent readers of this blog are probably familiar with my journey with Metformin. If you aren’t, or want to brush up on my history with it, read here, here, and here in order to get caught up.

The big white “horse pill” that is known as Metformin has become a relatively solid part of my routine in the last six or so weeks. I’ve skipped doses here and there for varying reasons (i.e., on occasions when I’ve had two or more alcoholic beverages); otherwise, I’ve been taking it and monitoring my blood sugars carefully each day.

But apparently, my blood sugars aren’t the only thing I should be watching diligently.

METFORMIN UPDATE #2

Just like any other drug out there, Metformin comes with side effects…which I totally chose to discount from the beginning, mainly because my endocrinologist thought that the extended release tablets would mitigate the likelihood of side effects. I’m questioning that logic, though, after experiencing indigestion and general stomach discomfort within a few hours after taking my Metformin pill.

It didn’t happen just once. There were at least three consecutive days that I experienced these symptoms. Within an hour or so after eating dinner, I felt uncomfortably full – like I’d eaten a whole Thanksgiving meal instead of a normally portioned dinner. I know that I wasn’t eating a larger quantity of food than usual, and since I typically have a semi-insatiable appetite, I knew that it just had to be related to my Metformin dose.

I decided to do some more research into the side effects of Metformin. And I was pretty surprised by what I saw. Shocked, actually. Because evidently, a massive array of side effects can occur on Metformin. The stomach discomfort I’d experienced was common, but other side effects that caught my attention included restless sleep, muscle pain, cramping, and a rash/hives.

Very interesting. I’ve felt all of those things in the last few weeks. I chalked it up to overdoing it with my exercises, but…it’s not like I was doing anything new or particularly strenuous in my routines. I do a combination of cardio and resistance training, for about an hour most days of the week. I always make sure to stretch before and after working out, and yet I felt a soreness and achiness (mostly in my legs) for a few nights in a row a couple weeks back. There was even one night that I tossed and turned so much that I hardly slept a wink – the restlessness in my legs was that bad. And the rash/hives? I’ll go into more detail in a future post, but on a random Tuesday night, I experienced a breakout so bad that I wound up going to the ER. They cleared up within an hour or so of a Benadryl dose, but it was still a scary experience.

Okay, so I think I can safely blame all of these issues on my Metformin intake. But that still doesn’t quite answer why I was experiencing multiple symptoms so suddenly. My theory is that my body was struggling to adjust to taking Metformin consistently, and as a result, I was feeling the side effects. There’s no way for me to be sure, but I think this warrants another experiment…another break from Metformin. My blood sugars have been good on it, but have they improved so drastically that I can’t imagine life without Metformin?

The answer is a resounding no.

I’ll likely consult with my endocrinologist at some point to tell her my thoughts and theories. But for now, I’m taking a break for an unknown period of time to see if there’s any change in how my body feels. We’ll see how it goes.

Favorite Things Friday: Vial Safe Insulin Protector

One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite things that make life with diabetes a little easier for me.

Okay, so it’s DEFINITELY been a few months since I last wrote about a favorite thing of mine. I admit that I started running out of things that I deemed worthy enough of sharing with my readers! It felt silly to continue doing it on a monthly basis if I didn’t have anything particularly great to write about, so I stopped, promising myself that I’d pick it up again the next time I got excited about a product.

Enter the Vial Safe insulin protector sleeves that I just ordered.

Favorite Things Friday_ Vial Safe Insulin Protector.png

I’d seen posts about these little insulin vial jackets before on Instagram, and I always had them bookmarked in the back of my mind as something I should order. After all, I’ve felt the agony of a shattered insulin vial before, and let me tell you: It’s awful. I was somewhat young when I broke my first (and hopefully only) vial and basically brushed the whole thing off because I assumed that it would be easy (i.e., free) to get a replacement. But now, at age 26 and in my first few months of being on my own health insurance plan, I know better. Accidentally breaking an insulin vial in this day in age seems like the equivalent to setting a stack of hundred dollar bills on fire – completely pointless, unnecessary, and wasteful.

So I’m betting that my two new Vial Safe sleeves will help protect me from ever experiencing a shattered vial again. I’m especially looking forward to bringing them with me on my next trip, as they’ll surely keep my vials more secure as I have the tendency to shove them wherever I can find space in my luggage.

I bought my Vial Safe insulin protectors on Amazon, but there also available for purchase here. And no, I wasn’t asked (and I’m definitely not being paid) to write about these or any other products I’ve ever mentioned on Hugging the Cactus – I simply believe in spreading the word about a quality item if it has helped make diabetes management easier for me in some way.

 

Learning to be Chronically Chill

I’m not sure that I’ll ever fully be at peace with my diabetes.

I have days when I hate it a little less, sure. I even have days when it doesn’t bother me at all. But true acceptance of my diabetes? I used to think I had it…not anymore. In 22 years, there’s just been too many times that I’ve detested every aspect about life with diabetes: the painful shots/needles, the constant planning, the many doctors appointments, the countless hours of sleep lost, the amount of money that goes into caring for it…the list could go on and on.

I know, I know…this all sounds extremely negative. It’s a little unlike me. But let me tell you what, instead of forcing myself to unequivocally accept my diabetes, I’m learning how to be what I’ll call “chronically chill” with it. It’s a bit of a play on words, you see. Diabetes is considered a chronic illness (I prefer to think of it as a condition; to me, “illness” has an ickier connotation). By definition, the word chronic means long-standing or permanent, and I’ll always have diabetes. So it’s about time that I start to be chronically chill – persistently cool, relentlessly alright-fine-I-get-it-you’re-not-going-away-any-time-soon – with my diabetes.

Learning to be Chronically Chill
Me, being my chronically chillest, on the beach.

To me, this is different than accepting it. Others might disagree, which is totally fine, but I think that accepting diabetes means hugging it warmly, with open arms. I don’t want to do that. Rather, I want to get to a place where I can be just…fine with my diabetes. Just let it coexist with me. I never want it to get to the best of me, but I also don’t want it to think that it can stay with me forever. I guess it’s the optimist in me that still thinks a cure is right around the corner.

How am I going about this process of being chronically chill? I’m taking it a day at a time. I’m trying to not get bogged down so much by the small things. I’m trying (and this is super mega hard for someone like me) to come to terms with the fact that I can’t have control over everything in my life. I’m trying to focus more on things like time in range versus my A1c. I’m trying all of this at once, and I believe that it will help me achieve the chronically chill status I’ve described.

And if the process goes more slowly than I want it to, I’ll just refer to the above photo of me on the beach from time to time…because it’s hard to find a place where I’m more chill – my most serene self – than when I’m near the sand and surf.

Doing Everything Right and Still Getting it Wrong

One of the most frustrating things about having diabetes is feeling like you’re finally understanding it, perhaps even mastering it, only for it to lash out at you and make you feel like you don’t know shit about it.

It’s when you do everything right – check and treat accordingly, eat properly, exercise sufficiently – and still get it wrong when your blood sugars don’t behave the way they should.

I really hate when this happens, but I loathe when it happens on vacation…which is exactly what happened to me last week when I was in Maine for a few days.

Things started going awry shortly after I woke up (if only I knew then that I was in for a DAY!!!). I ate breakfast and my blood sugar swiftly started to rise. But I didn’t panic, because that’s what I wanted to happen. We’d be walking all around town for part of the morning and most of the afternoon, so I wanted my blood sugar to be on the higher side so that my chances of dropping dramatically in the heat were lower. I made the right call – soon after we got downtown, I noticed a diagonal down arrow on my Dexcom app. Things were headed in the right direction…or so I thought.

Not long after I spotted the diagonal arrow, I started to feel a little low-ish. Not super shaky or anything, but just a bit disoriented. I decided to pop into my favorite candy store to fill a small bag with treats so I had something sugary to munch on that would prevent a bad low blood sugar.

Those were mistakes number one and two…not consulting with my CGM again before eating candy, and going to town on it because it was CANDY and it tasted delicious.

Doing Everything Right and Still Getting it Wrong

Within a half hour, I was rising up, up, and up. I took a small amount of insulin to correct it, not wanting to be too aggressive and risk a real low. But as I walked around the amusement park with my boyfriend and his family, I just wasn’t coming back down like I thought I would. I lingered in the mid-200s for much of the early afternoon, and by the time we stopped for lunch, I was rage-bolusing to bring my numbers down faster. I even chose a lower-carb lunch option in the hopes that it’d stave off another high blood sugar, but nope, the BG gods were not in my favor that afternoon. As we moved from the amusement park to a brewery (a drastically different change in locale, I know), I bolused once again, and then noticed that the batteries in my PDM were low.

And that actually wasn’t a problem, because I was prepared enough to have spare triple A batteries on me – thank goodness! I took the old ones out, popped the new ones in, and waited for my PDM to come back to life. And it did…but it asked me to input the month, day, and year.

Dammit. THAT’S never a good sign. I entered the information and the system accepted it, and then my pod failed immediately after, which meant that I had to ditch the brewery and the group of people that I was with to get back to the house we were staying at as quickly as possible to put a new one on.

It doesn’t get much more irritating than that.

(Later, I discovered that my PDM’s internal battery was going, and that this behavior would occur every time I replaced the triple A batteries. Needless to say, I’m awaiting a new PDM from Insulet, because it’s just not smart to continue using an aging PDM.)

By the end of this day of turbulent blood sugars and unpredictable medical device malfunctions, I was mentally beat. I felt like I’d been thrown into the roughest of ocean waters and forced to tread water for hours in order to keep my head above the surface. It’s exhausting to know that, when it’s all said and done, I was really trying to do the right things and take care of myself. I was SO DANG PREPARED with those extra triple A batteries, for goodness’ sake! But man, diabetes…just when I think I know it better than anything else, it throws me for a loop and I remember a saying from Professor Mad-Eye Moody of the Harry Potter series (of course I’m talking about Harry Potter again, don’t act surprised): CONSTANT VIGILANCE. I’ve got to be aware of my diabetes at all times. I’ve got to know how to react and when so that my diabetes will remain in my charge – not the other way around.

Sugar and T1D: Friends, Not Foes

For someone who doesn’t eat sugar…. you sure do know how to bake….damn those were good

My coworker sent this to me via instant message as a way of thanking me for the cupcakes I’d brought into the office that morning. Before 11 A.M., a dozen and a half or so “butterbeer” flavored cupcakes I’d created were devoured by my coworkers, who gave rave reviews on their taste, much to the delight of this wannabe pastry chef.

This particular message of praise, though, made me simultaneously smile and cringe: It was that comment, again. The one about sugar and not being able to eat it.

Everyone in my office knows that I have type 1 diabetes. And because I make it my mission to spread awareness of how to react in certain situations that a T1D might encounter, most people I work with know that in cases of low blood sugar, fast-acting carbohydrates (i.e., sugar) are essential as they’re the fastest way to fix a low.

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Sugar saves my life from time to time…and no, that’s not an exaggeration.

But every now and then, I’m reminded that no, people don’t always remember what you tell them about diabetes. It goes to show that there’s always room for more advocacy…which is why I write about diabetes and won’t stop talking about it to those who want to know more.

As a result, I’m constantly telling people that I can and do eat sugar; in fact, it saves my life from time to time. Maybe that’s the subconscious reason why I love baking cupcakes, cookies, and more: For a girl who relies on sugar sometimes, I sure do know that a baked good every now and then is what helps me stay alive.