Where I’m From and What my Diabetes Community is Like There

It’s November 18th which means that it’s Day 18 of the Happy Diabetic Challenge! The prompt for today was fairly simple – state where you’re from – so I decided to delve a little deeper and explain what my diabetes community is like at home…

Home is where the heart is, and it just so happens that I’ve got quite a diabetes community there, too.

I spend most of my time in Virginia these days, but I’m originally from Massachusetts. Growing up in that state shaped me as the human being that I am today, and it’s also where I had a total change in perspective when it comes to diabetes, community, and support.

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A map of Massachusetts, with a few diabetes accessories sprinkled in there.

I’ve said it many times here, but throughout my youth, I had my mom and my aunt as my type 1 influences in my life – that was it, and that was all that I needed and wanted.

Or so I thought.

When my feelings on diabetes support changed in college, I quickly discovered the value in fostering a sense of community wherever I go. So I made it a mission upon graduating to make sure that I maintained diabetes connections at home. It felt especially important as I was about to undergo another major life transition: joining the workforce full-time.

And I’m glad I fulfilled that goal. Through the power of social media, I attended a handful of diabetes meetups in the last few years that provided that sense of belonging that I yearned for and introduced me to many local T1Ds.

So as you may be able to imagine, it’s been tough for me to still receive invites to events and gatherings that I can no longer readily attend since I’m in a different state most of the time.

This is why I finally decided to do something about it. Feeling inspired by the spirit of National Diabetes Awareness Month, I found a group that meets up semi-regularly in my new location. I was nervous about it, but I made an introductory post on their page. I explained that I work from home; as such, it’s hard meet new people. And not only would I like to connect with other T1Ds, but I’m also interested in volunteering in the area.

My “bold” move paid off. Within hours, several people had commented on my post and made it known that I could reach out to them whenever to arrange a lunch or explore the city. I haven’t taken anyone up on it yet (with the Thanksgiving holiday being so close and all), but it’s really nice to know that the offers are there when I’m ready to take them up on it.

Even though the concept of “home” has been a little shaky in the last year, I know this much: Wherever I wind up, I’ll find and nurture a diabetes community there because people who just get it make even the strangest of places feel a whole lot more welcoming…and like home.

French Fries Are (Still) Evil

In Hugging the Cactus’s infancy, I wrote a blog post called French Fries Are Evil. In this post, I came to the conclusion that french fries are evil because they’re fatty, slow-releasing but high carb little jerks.

I’m here today, almost two years after that post, to let you know that these feelings toward french fries have not changed one bit.

Yep, they’re still evil.

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French fries…a.k.a. little sh*ts.

They straight-up tricked me into thinking that I was bound for a night of beautiful blood sugars not too long ago, despite the less-than-healthy decisions I was making regarding food and drink.

Why did I (naively) think that french fries would play nice with my blood sugars?

Well, for starters, I was doing my best to cut carbs the rest of the carbs I’d be consuming for this particular meal, which was a pulled pork sandwich with a side of fries. I ate less than half of the bun and I certainly didn’t finish the heaping portion of fries. But I did eat a lot more than I normally would (and savored every single one), making sure to bolus semi-aggressively for the indulgence.

And I was literally coasting for hours afterward – I didn’t budge above 130 for at least three hours post-meal. I was confused, but elated! Did I finally figure french fries out? Did I master the correct portion of carbs/protein/fat to eat with them? Or maybe my pancreas decided to resuscitate itself for a narrow window of time that particular evening?

I’m gonna go with the latter.

Because a bit after midnight – a witching hour, indeed – that’s when the crazy corrections, and excessive cursing on my part, started. The french fries had made a proper fool of me again, and I couldn’t believe I’d really fallen for their conniving ways again.

Needless to say, I won’t be ordering french fries with my meal again any time soon. Some foods just aren’t worth it when it comes to figuring out how to make them play nice with my diabetes, and french fries don’t quite cut the mustard.

Oh, and YOU’RE WELCOME for the really silly pun.

My Diabetes Hates Weddings

So basically everyone in my life right now is engaged, or on the fast-track to getting engaged.

And that’s awesome! No, seriously, it’s an exciting time for a lot of my family and friends. And I’m happy to be part of it all because I like going to weddings. Who doesn’t love to celebrate love?

Well, I can tell you what doesn’t love to celebrate love…MY DIABETES.

My diabetes effing hates weddings.

My diabetes hates weddings SO much that I’ve yet to go to one where it doesn’t act up in some way.

My New PDM (1)

I was naive enough to think that it would actually be a good diabetes day during the last wedding I attended. And it was, for the most part: I woke up, had a Dunkin Donuts sandwich for breakfast, got dressed and made-up. I showed up for the ceremony with a slightly low blood sugar that was swiftly corrected with a mini box of raisins (oh, if only I knew how many more I’d consume that night…).

I was fine, right through the cocktail hour and the start of dinner. But that’s where the troubles began. You see, there weren’t many passed hors d’oeuvres during the cocktail hour, and I could’ve really used some because I hadn’t eaten anything besides the sandwich and the raisins all day long. By the time dinner started, I was ravenous and basically shoved anything within arm’s reach into my mouth. This included a lot of cheese, meats, and pieces of flatbread.

If I’d actually been thinking about how my blood sugars usually respond to slow-acting carbs in things like flatbread, I might’ve actually wound up okay. But over the course of the next several hours, as wedding guests were whooping it up on the dance floor, my blood sugar was making a slow and steady climb up into the 300s! When I finally realized this, I started taking correction boluses that, apparently, were far too aggressive…because when I finally ended the night in my hotel room around 1:30 A.M., I was in the 70s. And dropping.

My lowest blood sugar was 43 that night. I ate multiple packs of raisins, 5 or 6 glucose tablets, a FiberOne bar, and half a pack of peanut butter crackers. All between the hours of 1:30 and 4 in the morning. It was exhausting. I was tearful and sweating so badly at one point that it looked like I had just come out of the shower. I even wound up sending my sleepy boyfriend down to the lobby at one point to buy me an orange juice, because I was running out of low blood sugar remedies. I drank half of it and was relieved to see my CGM showing, at long last, a diagonal up arrow. I couldn’t believe that I’d just spent the last few hours hovering below my “low” threshold on my CGM, but I didn’t waste any more time thinking about it – I was extraordinarily tired and happy to finally go to sleep.

But now that I’ve had time to think about it, I’ve realized that I need a new strategy for myself and my diabetes when it comes to weddings. I’m going to be my cousin’s maid of honor next month, for goodness’ sake, so I want to do everything I can to ensure “decent” (i.e, blood sugars under 200 but over 80) for the special day.

A key to success, I think, will be regularly scheduled meals and making sure that I avoid an empty stomach at all costs.

Don’t Tell Me How My Diabetes Affects Me…Please!

This post originally appeared on my blog at ASweetLife.org on August 8, 2016. I modified the title a bit by adding in the word, “please”…because a little extra kindness can work wonders! This particular blog post is still very relevant to how I feel when strangers make uninformed comments on my diabetes. The bottom line? If you don’t know me and my medical history with diabetes, then please, please, PLEASE avoid telling me how I should handle it. Much obliged!

I like to think that I am fairly tolerant of people asking me questions about my diabetes. From “What’s that thing on your arm?” to “What do glucose tablets taste like?”, I’ve heard quite the gamut of queries from friends and strangers alike over the years. More often than not, I try to provide honest and thoughtful answers to these questions and field follow-ups with patience.

I don’t respond well, though, when someone TELLS me something about my diabetes rather than ASKING me. It’s one thing if you’re telling me something that you know to be factually correct about diabetes as a whole, but it’s completely different if you’re telling me something about my diabetes as it pertains to me alone. And when I say “I don’t respond well” to that, I mean to say I keep smiling on the surface, but on the inside, I’m seething.

It’s been awhile since I’ve dealt with annoying assertions of this nature; unfortunately, this past week I had to grin and bear through two incidents in which I was being told what I should and should not do. (Note that I chose to not specify when and where each comment occurred, for my privacy and the privacy of others!)

Scenario One: At an undisclosed location, I’m helping myself to dinner. I add a cookie to my plate. A person in the vicinity says, “You shouldn’t be having that!”

This is a classic case of what you should never say to a person with diabetes. Most T1Ds will tell people that we can eat whatever we like, as long as we do so in moderation and remember to bolus for it accordingly. I was a little taken aback to hear this remark considering this person has known me since birth; therefore, they should realize I know how to take care of my diabetes by now. Initially, I was annoyed with this comment, but I decided to be graceful about it and say, “Yes, I can have that—I can eat whatever I like, within reason,” before exiting the room.

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Between the title and my post…this image is self-explanatory.

Scenario Two: At an undisclosed location, I’m cold, so I wrap myself in a blanket. A person in the vicinity says to someone else close by, “Molly has poor circulation because of her diabetes. That’s why she’s always cold.”

In the 18.5 years that I’ve had diabetes, I’ve never had someone tell me that it’s the reason why I get cold from time to time…just like anybody else might, whether or not they have a chronic illness. This comment really bothered me because I’ve had plenty of conversations with the individual about my diabetes, and I’ve never once linked it to my body temperature. Last time I checked, my circulation is perfectly normal. No doctor has ever told me that it’s poor. Plus, with air conditioners being put on full blast all summer long, I think it would be natural to get a little cold after sitting inside all day long without exposure to the sun’s warmth. I wish I had said something to put this person in their place, but wanting to avoid confrontation, I forced a smile and changed the subject.

In both of these situations, I probably wouldn’t have felt irritated if these comments were phrased at questions. Believe it or not, there’s a huge difference between telling me that my diabetes affects my circulation and asking me whether it does. Regardless of how diabetes-related remarks, queries, jokes, and references are phrased, though, I’ll still try hard to handle them with poise and a smile. I may internalize my frustration at the time of a bothersome statement, but it’s there and it does get to me.

Beyond Diabetes

This November, I participated in the #HappyDiabeticChallenge on Instagram. This challenge centered around daily prompts to respond to via an Instagram post or story. I’ve decided to spread the challenge to my blog for the last couple days of National Diabetes Awareness Month. As a result, today’s post topic is beyond diabetes.

I can’t believe that today is the final day of November, A.K.A. National Diabetes Awareness Month. In a way, I’m relieved. After all, diabetes advocacy can be exhausting. I’ve kept up daily Instagram posts, in one way or another, in response to the #HappyDiabeticChallenge. I’ve tried to keep all of my blog posts this month on theme. I even participated in a fundraising live stream on YouTube, which was an anxiety-provoking yet exhilarating event all on its own.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to dialing it back down, temporarily, for the month of December. I won’t stop advocating, but I will take a small step back from it so I can recover and process everything from the month in my own time.

It’ll be a good way of reminding myself that I’m more. More than just this stupid chronic disease. There’s so much more to me than diabetes: I’m a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a best friend. I’m a dog lover (despite being allergic to most of them). I’m a young professional. I’m a millennial (who proudly owns the moniker). I’m a Disney fanatic and Harry Potter obsessive. I’m a creative and passionate person who cares about a lot of different people, things, and projects.

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I am more than my diabetes.

I’m beyond my diabetes. I prove that to myself each day by living my life unencumbered by it. When it knocks me down, I always get back up to remind it that I’m the boss.

Beyond National Diabetes Awareness Month is a broader realization that I’m a bit burnt out by this hardcore advocacy. And that’s okay. I’ll take a breather and remember to enjoy life more, because I know that I’m beyond diabetes.

Favorite Things Friday: Lavender Sleep Balm

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

Diabetes and sleep can be mortal enemies. Some nights, I can sleep soundly for a full eight hours. Other nights, my sleep is interrupted three or four times by my CGM, buzzing and beeping to alert me to low or high blood sugar. It’s just as annoying as it sounds, and it’s even worse when I can’t fall back asleep after correcting accordingly. And even though I only experience interrupted sleep like this on a sporadic basis, that doesn’t make getting a sound night of sleep any less important to me.

And luckily, I’ve found something that helps me accomplish just that: lavender sleep balm.

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I stumbled across it in a Target store a few months ago. I’d always known about aromatherapy and its alleged benefits, but I was definitely skeptical about it. How was I supposed to believe that sniffing essence of, well, anything would boost my mood, erase stress, or lull me to sleep?

I brushed my doubts aside and decided to give the balm a try. The instructions were simple: Massage a bit of it onto my pulse points, jump into bed, and let the soothing scents of lavender and bergamot calm me down into a blissful sleep.

The first time I tried it, I applied it to each side of my neck and on my wrists, dabbing it into my skin like a perfume. I breathed it in deeply – even if this stuff didn’t do what it promised, at least it smelled really nice. I’ve always liked the smell of lavender.

And then I don’t remember what happened next, because soon after I got into bed, I fell asleep. It…worked? And it has seemingly continued to work every night that I’ve remembered to apply it…

Don’t get me wrong here – I don’t think this balm is equivalent to a magical sleeping tonic or anything like that. But I do think that it’s a nice, relaxing thing to incorporate into my bedtime routine. I strongly suspect that the self-care aspect of it is what truly calms my mind and body down. Who knows, though? Maybe I should do a little more research into aromatherapy and learn the science behind it.

In addition to helping me sleep peacefully in spite of my diabetes, maybe it could even help me deal with the stress that it can sometimes inflict on me, as well.

Baseball, Beers, and ‘Betes

I really wish that I could write a blog post entitled “Bears, Beats, and Battlestar Galactica”, and have it relate to diabetes in some way…but I guess I’ll have to deal with the fact that it’s not easy to work quotes from “The Office” into a diabetes blog.

Guess that this title will have to do! Plus, it really does tie into the content of this post, so…

There’s nothing like a baseball game in summertime. I admit that I’m far from a sports fanatic, but I do take pride in my Boston teams (namely, the Red Sox and the Patriots). When I found out that the Red Sox would be playing against the Nationals when I visited Washington, D.C. last week, I was pretty pumped and decided to buy tickets. After all, what better way to break up the workweek?

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An important note: The Red Sox crushed the Nationals at this game. Final score: 11-4.

It was a great choice. Even though it was a sweltering 100 degrees out, I had a fun time with friends. We drank beers, ate burgers/French fries/hot dogs, and cheered loudly for the Sox. My diabetes stayed far from my mind for once as my blood sugars played nicely, which was pretty surprising to me because I wasn’t exactly consuming low-carb items. I think that walking around the stadium in the heat helped combat the starchy foods, though I did have to bolus for a high blood sugar by the time we got home from the game.

But the point is, it felt wonderful to not worry about my numbers, even if it was for just a few hours.