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!

The Dog Days of Summer…with Diabetes

August is just ’round the corner (!!!) and that…feeling is creeping up on me.

That uncomfortable feeling that’s intensified by hot and humid weather.

That annoying feeling that happens when my CGM sensors and insulin pods seem to fall off my body and wither in the summer heat – the adhesives are no match for the sun’s merciless rays.

That restless feeling that creeps up when it’s too damn muggy out for my daily afternoon walks…the walks I rely on to help regulate my blood sugars and my mental health.

That fed-up feeling that’s the result of me going outside for 15 minutes, hoping to get some fresh air, only for my blood sugar to drop rapidly thanks to the high temps.

That creeping feeling of needing some kind of relief: Relief from the hottest days of summer and from every facet of diabetes management becoming just a bit more complicated because of it.

The Dog Days of Summer...with Diabetes
Is this the picture associated with this post just because I wanted to show off my dog being cute on a boat? No! Never! Absolutely not…okay fine yes.

And now that I’m acknowledging how much I’m craving relief, it honestly just sounds like I’m going through some genuine diabetes burnout.

It’s not surprising: This year’s been a wild one for me (and let’s face it, the world) in multiple ways. Overall, my stress and anxiety levels are up and my motivation to do everything that I “should” do to manage my blood sugar levels is way down. I’m very aware of what’s good about my diabetes management lately (such as my daily exercise routines) and what’s maybe not so good (my constant desire to snack on carbs and not measure them out and/or bolus for them).

I’m hopeful, though: Maybe as I continue to cope with my seesawing emotions and blood sugars, they’ll find a way to balance out on their own and be a little less intense…just as the weather will become once Autumn rolls around.

Why Does Everything Have to Be so Complicated? (Musings on Diabetes and Emotions)

I hope that the moment you read the title of this blog post, Avril Lavigne’s smash hit from 2002 got stuck in your head (sorry, not sorry).

On a related note, it felt like it was the right phrase to use as a title for this post.

In the past, I’ve written how diabetes has turned me into a bit of a control freak (meaning that I don’t do well with the curve balls it sometimes launches into my path). I prefer a schedule – nothing too regimented, just enough to know what to expect in terms of diabetes issues in a day. And that’s not always possible; hence, I have some control-freak tendencies.

Lately, I’m also wondering if diabetes has made me more emotional.

The thought occurred to me when I was deep in self-reflection mode, a place I’ve found myself going to again and again throughout my quarantine. I started thinking about instances in which I let my blood sugar influence my mood, and I realized that it happens more often than I care to admit.

White and Blue Emojis Animated Social Media Graphic
Life with diabetes sometimes means reacting like all of these emojis within a matter of moments.

I wonder if the tie between my emotions and my diabetes exists because my diabetes requires me to be so attentive to my body at all times that it’s also caused me to have a heightened awareness of my emotions and what may be causing them. I definitely allow blood sugars, both high and low, to affect how I feel when they happen. I let the successes and failures of diabetes technology influence my mood. And when I start to get down in the dumps about non-diabetes things, it often turns into full-blown diabetes burnout.

Diabetes is complicated on its own.

But to think that it interferes with my emotions, too?

Isn’t it enough for diabetes to impact me just physically and leave my mental state out of it?

 

TTFN, Twitter

The title of this post really should be “Sorry Twitter but I haven’t been an active user in about two and half months for some specific reasons I’m about to highlight here, but hopefully I’ll come back to you later when things settle down,” but that’s just not very catchy, is it?

Anyways…

The reason why I’m saying ta-ta for now, Twitter, is that it’s become a really tough space to dwell in – or even pop in for a quick visit – throughout this pandemic.

It’s nothing that any account that I follow did or tweeted specifically…it’s just an amalgamation of everything that appears on the site these days. Between the news alerts and downright depressing tweets showing up left and right on my feed, it’s taken a huge hit on my mental health.

TTFN
I’ll return to Twitter full-time…eventually.

It’s a shame because for a long while, Twitter was kind of my go-to in terms of connecting with the diabetes community. I participated in weekly diabetes social media advocacy chats that were a lot of fun and a great way to communicate with fellow T1Ds near and far. But as Twitter grew more and more negative for me, I found myself gravitating more towards Instagram, where things are admittedly a little too shiny/happy/beautiful/perfect all the time. Instagram doesn’t quite fill the void that Twitter did for me in terms of linking up with my T1D community, but it’s something steady I can rely on for now, and with the added benefit of introducing me to other T1Ds who might not be on Twitter.

I’ll end this post by saying that I doubt I’m the only one who feels this way about one or more types of social media during the pandemic. Actually, I know FOR SURE that I’m not the only one who has felt emotionally drained by logging into different platforms and seeing just the one post that is enough to sap you of all positive, happy feelings. And you know what my advice would be to anyone who has felt the same way as me? Recognize it by avoiding those platforms for as long as you need to. I deactivated my Facebook profile for a couple of different weeks so far this year and my mental health absolutely benefited from me doing so. I don’t tap on the Twitter app on my phone lately and I know I’m saving myself from a ton of anxiety and emotional turmoil.

Just like the world has adapted to this “new normal”, it’s all about being pliable enough to see what does and doesn’t work for your mental heath right now, and then identifying alternative ways you can support it.

Dealing with Loneliness and Diabetes During a Global Pandemic

If I was an old-timey sailor keeping a log on my voyage across the ocean right now, I imagine that my entry for today would look a little something like this:

Quarantine, Day #55: It’s been almost two full months since I’ve set foot outside of the confines of my home. I’m so appreciative of the little things, like good weather days and food to sustain me, but I never realized how much I would miss face-to-face interaction with human beings. I miss everyone: my extended family, my friends, my coworkers. I miss people who are physically close by and far away from me. I miss strangers. No wonder all the rum is gone, me hearties!

Okay, so that last line is a bit of a stretch, but you get the gist of it.

The times and the circumstances are making me (and many others) feel a unique sense of loneliness.

Yes, I’m lucky enough to be quarantined with people and a dog who love me. I don’t take that granted for a second, nor do I want to forget how fortunate I am to have so many things that others do not (ample food, clothing, Internet access, entertainment options, etc.).

Still, I’ve felt deep, dark pangs of loneliness and sadness a handful of times since my quarantine began.

Dealing with Loneliness and Diabetes During a Global Pandemic
This whole situation has made me rather introspective.

I’ve felt profound sadness for others: My heart aches for anyone who has lost a loved one due to this wretched thing. I constantly worry about the physical and mental health of those on the front lines of it all and wish there was more I could do.

I’ve felt isolated from my loved ones: Sure, I have video chat and texting and those are excellent ways of keeping in touch with people. But it doesn’t compare to the in-person connection that I have with my extended family, friends, coworkers, and others in general.

In my most melancholy moments, I’ve cried ugly tears that I couldn’t control because I can’t find the words and I can’t even fully understand my own feelings in those fleeting periods.

Is it disgust at myself for crying in the first place when I don’t really have anything to cry over because I am a gainfully employed individual who has access to her medication and other living essentials?

Is it frustration at myself for allowing myself to be dragged down by my conflicting emotions?

Is it anger over taking the little things for granted or for this whole situation, in general?

Is it grief over the many life changes I’ve faced in the last year? A longing for the way things were before?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I do know that the waves of loneliness I’ve ridden in the last six weeks (and are bound to continue to ride occasionally) have directly impacted my diabetes.

I’m going to be real with myself (and you) for a hot second here: I haven’t taken particularly excellent care of myself in all this. My eating habits have changed. I’ve spent more time knocking down my body and its appearance than appreciating it for what it is. And I’ve berated myself over and over again, asking myself why I can’t just get my shit together and produce better blood sugars, dammit.

So…how exactly am I going to change this? How can I make my thoughts and feelings about myself and my diabetes healthier when I’m already struggling with loneliness during a global pandemic?

I think the answer, for now, is simple but effective: I’m going to work harder at keeping a routine that incorporates setting and achieving small but meaningful goals each week. I’m going to follow the tried-and-true SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based) goal-setting formula and more importantly, I’ll take the time to actually write them down. I may share them here sometimes, but I think I should also be consistent and capture them in some sort of journal that is only for my eyes. Writing in a journal may seem silly to some, but after seeing some posts on Instagram about the benefits of doing so and talking with a few friends who actively maintain journals…I think it’s just what I need right now, in tandem with leaning a little harder into my various support networks during those particularly blue moments.

Plus, gentle reminders to myself that even though I may feel on my own when it comes to my diabetes and other roller coaster emotions during this global pandemic, I’m never truly alone. And neither are you.

 

27 Acts of Kindness: Days 15 and 16

We’re entering week #5 (or is it 6?) of work-from-home life here at Hugging the Cactus.

Truth be told, I’m feeling a bit burnt out this week.

After a decently nice weekend, I entered Monday feeling rather…blah. Which was annoying because I’ve actually kind of enjoy Mondays recently.

But rather than embracing this one with open arms, I treated it more like Garfield the cat would…ew, Monday again.

The bright side was that I still had acts of kindness to do that will surely make my week better as it goes along.

Monday, 4/20 – Act of Kindness #15: I texted a friend today. This friend is someone who I usually only talk to in group settings, but because I know that the individual has really been struggling lately, I wanted to let the person know that they’re on my mind (again, keeping it kind of vague here on purpose to protect this person’s identity). We ended up making plans for a virtual tea party later this week, which I know will be mental health bolster to us both.

After exchanging just a couple of messages with this friend, it dawned on me just how important it is to check in on our family and friends – not just during the hard times, but also on a regular basis. Because who doesn’t like knowing that someone is thinking about them? Or that someone cares about them? I think that a lot more people struggle with feelings of loneliness than we might realize, so if sending a thoughtful text or picking up the phone to call someone is all it takes to make a person feel a little less alone, then it’s a small gesture that could have a big impact on the well-being of many.

Sunshine
In other news, this adorable little sun makes my day so much brighter…and I hope that I help make the days of others brighter, too.

Tuesday, 4/21 – Act of Kindness #16: In keeping with my “checking in” theme, I decided to combine that with my appreciation for the talented bloggers within the diabetes community. There are just so many awesome blogs out there that I don’t get to visit often enough! So I spent a portion of my Tuesday afternoon catching up on blog posts from various members of the DOC from the month of April. After reading them, I did my best to leave comments on each post because as a fellow blogger, I know how much I enjoy it when I receive comments on my writing. It’s always a good feeling knowing that someone out there cares enough to read my ramblings, so I figured other bloggers might like getting a note on their most recent posts.

While I was reading and commenting, it also occurred to me that I could review one of the diabetes podcasts that was kind enough to have me as a guest a couple months ago. I left a rating and a review on Apple podcasts for This is Type 1, and hopefully, the hosts will see it and it will make them smile.

I’ll wrap up today’s blog post by sharing the blogs I visited and left comments on, because I think you should check them out, too!

Ally’s blog: Very Light, No Sugar – “The Sugarhouse”

Frank’s blog: Type 1 Writes – “Insignificance”

Renza’s blog: Diabetogenic – “A COVID-19 food post not about banana bread”

Tracy’s blog: Sugarcoated – “A Westworld of Our Own”

Rachel’s blog: Yoga for Diabetes – “Rest, restore, and get creative”

Briley’s blog: inDpendence – “Details. Lots of ’em”

Colleen and Jessie’s Podcast: This is Type 1

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.

I’m Still Here

Hey friends. You probably noticed I didn’t have a new post up this week. (Unless you are one of the few people who saw my incomplete post go up on Monday…I took it down as fast as I could, and the finished version should be up soon. My bad!)

The reason for that is simple: I didn’t really know what to say. We’re living in an interesting time, to say the least, and I didn’t know how to address that on my blog. It seems silly to not address it at all (especially considering I just talked about it a few posts ago). But it also feels inauthentic to continue adding to the already-immense volume of information out there. I don’t feel that I have any commentary to add that would be of any value.

So I’m not talking about our current health situation right now. But that leaves the question…do I still talk about my health situation, meaning my diabetes? Is it stupid to blog about given everything else going on in the world?

Maybe, but maybe not.

I'm still here
I’m still here, making dorky faces.

My diabetes – and everyone else’s diabetes – won’t be going away just because there’s a pandemic right now. So why stop blogging about it? It might be nice for others to have a continuous reminder that they’re not alone with diabetes, not before, not now, and not ever. If sharing my story here helps other people in the diabetes community feel more connected in this time of social distancing, then I’m more than happy to keep telling it.

Plus…I think it’ll be good for my mental health (and hopefully for that of other people) to have something to write/read that won’t be anxiety-provoking.

Anyways, I just wanted to give you all a friendly little wave with this blog post – *waves energetically* – and let you know that I’m here if you need someone to talk to. Let’s all remember to stay human amid the chaos: Be kind, help others when you can, and we’ll weather the storm together.

Why I Care Less About My Blood Sugar When Practicing Self-Care

Do you ever let your blood sugar run high on purpose?

I do. But only when I feel it’s necessary. One such occasion is when I’m treating myself to a spa day.

I don’t do that often (because it’s hella expensive), but I looooove unwinding by getting an hour-long massage or a facial. And the last thing that I want to worry about when I’m pampering myself is my blood sugar.

I don’t want to hear any alarms going off, I don’t want to check my blood sugar, I don’t want to bolus, and I certainly don’t want to dwell on diabetes during a period of time in which I’m supposed to relax. Because diabetes is the opposite of relaxing, and anyone who lives with it in any capacity deserves to have a mental break from it as often as possible.

I also never, ever want a low blood sugar to happen when I’m practicing self-care. Talk about a total buzzkill! In my imagination, nothing could be more disruptive to a moment of zen than hearing a low alarm go off and having to roll off a massage table to grab a tube of glucose tabs, all while being mostly naked. NO THANKS.

Red Valentine Countdown Social Media Post
Right after this picture, the PDM, Dexcom, and phone were all tucked away for an hour that flew by too fast.

So I will purposely let my blood sugar run high when I’m practicing self-care because for that window of time, it’s super important to me to forget about diabetes, the biggest source of stress in my life, and focus on enjoying a mini vacation from it. And it’s not like I’m ever letting myself climb dangerously high (because dealing with a 250+ blood sugar during self-care sounds almost as awful as having a low) – I usually aim for 150-180.

For me, it’s incredibly worth it to just let it go and embrace being slightly out of range for a blissful (but all too short) period of time.