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.

How Moving to a New State Impacted my Diabetes

A few short days ago, I made the move from Massachusetts to Virginia…and just as I predicted, the whole process has been emotionally draining. I’ve cried more times than I can count. I’ve busted my butt trying to get settled as quickly as possible. I’ve been eating poorly as a way to cope with my emotions. And my blood sugars have been all over the place as a result…again, just as I predicted, but still a bit disheartening.

I knew to expect some diabetes turbulence from the get-go. After all, a seven-hour car ride doesn’t exactly bode well for anyone’s blood sugar. But surprisingly, the drive to Virginia was probably when my blood sugar was most stable. I was snacking a little (okay, a lot) on the drive because it gave me something to do other than cry and talk unintelligibly to my boyfriend (my trusty driver) and it was far from healthy snacks…think fast food breakfast sandwich, Reese’s cups, and trail mix. Could’ve been worse, could’ve been a whole lot better. I think that because I was well aware of the high carb content of my snacks of choice, it motivated me to stay on top of my blood sugars and give myself micro-boluses as needed.

So that was all well and good.

Then came the actually moving-in process.

You are a rare gem.

Box after box and bag after bag were transported from the car, up three flights of stairs, and down a long hallway. It’s no wonder that I went a little low from all that back-and-forth, though I did think that riding the elevator as needed would’ve prevented too much of a drop. And if I could go back in time, I’d like to address the day that I took off from work to do the bulk of my unpacking and adjust my temporary basal settings to something like a 50% decrease for six hours or so. That’s because as I sorted through clothing, emptied boxes, and organized all of my possessions, my blood sugar just did not want to stay put at a comfortable level. Over the course of the very long day that I spent unpacking, my blood sugar dropped low enough that I had to stop what I was doing to eat three times. It felt like I was constantly stuffing my face with food, which was frustrating and the last thing I wanted when all I desired was to get settled.

That’s the physical component of moving – a lot of labor; more specifically, lifting, tidying, hanging, folding, unfolding, and if you’re me, cursing.

But there’s an emotional side to it, too, that I would guess affected my blood sugar just as much as the physical aspect did.

I’ll be honest: Tears were shed. Anxiety felt like it would swallow me whole at points. Doubts ran through my mind as I wondered whether I was strong enough to be so far away from family and friends. I was feeling – and am still feeling, TBH – so many different emotional swings that I am fairly certain that I can blame my blood sugar swings on them.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I know I need to give myself time to adjust. I’ve got to take it day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. I need to let myself feel the way that I feel and remember to be kind to myself, especially where diabetes is concerned.

It just helps to write it all down.

My Thoughts on Moving from MA to VA

In the last few weeks, I’ve told most people in my life that I will be moving to Virginia (from Massachusetts) at the end of March. I have a lot of feelings about making the move: anxiety, excitement, anticipation, fear, optimism, and curiosity are chief among them.

And naturally, one of my top concerns is how my diabetes will adjust to my move. I imagine that the first week or so will be the most challenging. Between moving boxes and setting things up inside, I’ll be doing quite a bit of strenuous physical activity. It’s not that I’m not used to it (I exercise pretty much every day), or that I’ll have to do it alone (my boyfriend, who I’m moving in with, is going to help). It’s more so that I’m worried about the emotions I’ll be experiencing as I go through the moving-in process…and how those emotions will manifest themselves in my blood sugars. The “what ifs” keep running through my mind. What if I have trouble getting my prescriptions? What if I can’t find the right health-care team for me in Virginia? What if my diabetes struggles with the change? What if, what if, what if?

Succulent Sundays
Moving is an emotional process that can affect more than just mental health.

Don’t get me wrong – I really am excited to make this move. I’ve lived in the same small town my entire life, and though my love for it and the people who live there will never waver, it’s time to see what else is out there. And it’s really time to stop sustaining a long-distance relationship with my boyfriend. The last four years have been exhausting as we’ve traveled back and forth to visit each other for fleeting periods of time.

But I do know myself, and I remember quite clearly how I handled going off to college for the first time. I cried. For like, three days straight. I also marveled at the dining halls and the endless options available to me. Translation? I let my emotions drive my food choices and, in turn, my blood sugars suffered. But then…I started getting into a routine. I ate meals more regularly. I started exercising. I kept my mind occupied. And I started meeting new people and forming friendships that I cherish to this day. I grew from a naive teenager into a young adult with her shit *somewhat* together who started to accept a lot more responsibility in life. I finally became accountable for my diabetes in a way that I never was before, and even though it scared me initially, I recognize that it was ultimately exactly what I needed to do.

So I’m seeing the parallels here between my transition to college and my current transition with this move. I know that I’ll cry and be scared and miss my family and friends, but I also know that it’ll get easier as I establish my rhythm. The same can be said about my diabetes – it may protest in the beginning and be turbulent and unpredictable, but I’ll tame the savage beast…because I always find a way to.

Here’s to a new chapter in my life, one marked by more independence, self-growth, and positive change. And my goodness, here’s to frequent flier miles and the fact that home will always be one short plane ride away. Massachusetts can’t get rid of me that easily.