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.

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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?

 

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.

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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?

 

 

Happy New Year!

They say that hindsight is 2020…well, I say that because it is officially 2020, we’re going to be hearing a lot about that little pun in the coming days and weeks.

So today marks the beginning of a new year; more significantly, an entire decade. The last time a new decade began, I was the tender age of sixteen. Ah, how young and naive I was then. If only I knew then what I did now…!

Happy New Year!
Welcome, roaring twenties!

On a more serious note, this decade of diabetes is bound to be much different compared to my last decade of diabetes. For starters, I’m beginning this one with a whole lot more T1D tech than I had in 2010: I’ve got my Dexcom CGM and my OmniPod insulin pump. I was also still in high school ten years ago; in the last decade I graduated, earned my bachelor’s degree, and I’m now five years into my career. Oh, and I also moved out of my parents’ house for the first time. Needless to say, much has happened in the last ten years, and I can’t believe I was able to summarize the biggest changes in just a couple quick sentences.

Anyways, they do indeed say that hindsight is 2020. Vision becomes clearer and you learn lessons from the mistakes you’ve made.

For me, this blog is actually a bit of its own 2020. It serves as a record of how my thoughts and feelings toward diabetes have changed, and with that comes a bit of clarity and insight. And I like it. It helps me process my diabetes and stay in tune with the emotions that come with it. So in that regard, I think a little hindsight can be healthy, as long as I don’t dwell in what I could and should have done – only what I can and will do.

With that said, Happy New Year. I wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2020.

Merry Christmas!!!

Dear Reader,

Merry Christmas (and if you do not celebrate, happy holidays)! I am taking today (as well as Friday) off from blogging in order to give myself a much-needed break – though I will republish an old blog post on Friday, just to keep pace with things. I’ll return with fresh content on Monday, December 30th.

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This silly, seasonal GIF of me is too funny (and appropriate) to not use today – and all throughout the holiday season as my blog’s banner.

Until then, here is a friendly reminder to be kind to yourself. I understand that this is not the most wonderful time of the year for everyone, and no matter how you feel about it, know that it’s okay – I hear you. Don’t beat yourself up over your blood sugars. Forgive yourself and look for the bright side when things don’t go your way. And whether you do or do not have diabetes, it’s important that you know that I genuinely appreciate you for visiting this blog and that I wish you nothing but the best today, and every day.

Warmly,

Molly

My 22nd Diaversary

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve (already) and it just so happens that it’s also my diabetes diagnosis anniversary…or “diaversary,” as it’s colloquially known.

This means that tomorrow marks 22 years of living with diabetes.

For some, that might mean I should celebrate with a cupcake or another special, carb-y treat. And I probably will, because it’s Christmas Eve and sweets are sure to be bountiful at any gatherings I attend tomorrow. But I don’t really plan to do so with my diaversary in mind; for me, it’s the holiday that’s got me in a more festive mood than the fact that my diabetes is 22.

I don’t really know how to feel about this diaversary. My feelings last year about my 21st were very clear: I was down in the dumps about it. I was desperate for a break. And I really didn’t say much more beyond that.

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If you were me, would you do anything special to celebrate 22 years of diabetes?

This year is a little different. I feel the same as last year in that I would do anything for just a single day off from diabetes, but also…I guess I’ve just learned to embrace the routine of it?

I dunno. My relationship with diabetes is always going to be a bit of a roller coaster, just as my blood sugar can sometimes be. I’ll have my highs and my lows, and in between all that…is how I feel now. It exists. It’s just…there. It’s been part of me for 22 years and it will continue to be a part of me as we head into this next decade. (Where’s that cure they’ve been promising us…oh, it’s another 5 years from now, right?)

So my diabetes is 22 and I’m feeling “meh” about it. And that’s perfectly okay. I won’t deny my feelings (or lack thereof). I’ll simply just continue to live my life with diabetes, learning from both the literal and figurative highs and lows as I go along.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, dear readers. Be well, hug your loved ones, and enjoy the spirit of the season.

My Diabetes Turned Me Into a Control Freak

I am the type of person who always has “a plan”.

On second thought, that may be an understatement. I’m the type of person who always NEEDS TO HAVE a plan.

I always need to know the date, time, location, and what to expect during my length of stay when it comes to anything in life: a night out with friends, a quick trip to the grocery store, a vacation.

I always need to know what the plan is for dinner…and breakfast, and lunch, and snacks…every single day.

I always need to know what my options are should a plan not go according to my carefully thought out course of action; in other words, I take a great deal of comfort in having a Plan B…and a Plan C, Plan D…

The bottom line is, I think that my obsession with planning has a lot to do with how my diabetes has turned me into an absolute control freak over the years.

Weekend Sale
My diabetes is the reason why, for much of my life, I’ve felt like I needed to plan out everything that I do.

Let me explain: Try as I might, I will never have complete control over my diabetes. This has been a difficult reality for me to accept, but it’s the truth, and I know that nobody can ever truly control diabetes. It has a mind of its own sometimes, and the best that we can do is react accordingly to the curve balls it throws.

Since I won’t ever have control over this major, major thing in my life, I think this has triggered me to feel compelled to control everything else in my life…even things beyond my control. And yes, it’s as maddening as it sounds.

It affects myself and everyone close to me.

It is the reason why I worry so much and waste a lot of brain space on things that I shouldn’t.

And it’s something that, though I’ve come to terms with it, I would like to change because the rational part of me knows that it’s not healthy to maintain the unrealistic expectation that I can control everything that happens in my life. If I can accept things like random pod failures and unexplained high blood sugars, then shouldn’t I also be able to accept that other random things can just happen in life, such as a pipe bursting in my apartment or the car I’m driving getting a sudden flat tire?

The more rigid version of myself that existed a year ago would’ve absolutely panicked and melted down in the face of those scenarios, but the type of person I’m trying to be now actually recently handled both of those unpredictable events with a lot more coolness and calmness than I ever could have imagined.

So I guess what I’m getting at here, in a very long-winded way, is that my diabetes may have turned me into an obsessive planner control freak…but I’m just beginning to discover my ability to let go a little more and not let my diabetes affect my thinking and reactions to many other things that happen in life.

A1c: Keep it a Secret or Share it with the World?

This post originally appeared on ASweetLife.org on May 12, 2015. I felt very strongly about keeping my A1c to myself four years ago. I’m still not too keen on sharing it with the world for the reasons I explain in this post, but I have been known to celebrate A1c victories on social media by posting particularly exciting results. Where do you stand on the spectrum? Keep it a secret, share it with others, or somewhere in between?

Over time, I’ve grown more comfortable with the concept of sharing as much of my diabetes story as possible. I’m open to the idea of answering questions that others may have for me, but there’s a key piece of information that I don’t think I will ever willingly share online: my hemoglobin A1c.

Some might make the assumption that this is because I feel ashamed or defeated by that number. I won’t lie, there are times in which I do get disheartened by my current A1c – particularly when I expected to hear a more favorable report from my endocrinologist.

Rather, I think the real embarrassment stems from the comparisons I make between my own A1c and the numbers reported by others. When I began blogging for ASweetLife just over two years ago, that marked the start of me exploring the world of T1D blogs. It was awesome to connect with others virtually by reading about their own personal experiences with diabetes. I admired the courage that many demonstrated by revealing some of their greatest challenges and obstacles they had overcome in their journeys. It seemed that improved A1c numbers were a common theme for nearly all of them.

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What do you do with your A1c information?

At that point, I started to compulsively compare my number to everyone else’s numbers. I seriously questioned myself and my ability to obtain a better A1c reading. I mentally berated myself for having a less-than-perfect number. The rational part of me knew that it was not wise to measure myself against others, but I just couldn’t seem to help it.

After a while, it dawned on me that the road to better A1cs had not been smooth for any of these individuals. It was marked by divots, twists, and turns along the way. As such, I wasn’t being fair to myself as I sought to see a better A1c. I know that it’s hard work and that I just need to focus on my own overall health and well-being (as opposed to that of other people) as I continue to strive for that 6.

Regardless, don’t expect to see me posting my A1c to my blog any time soon. I don’t really think I need a daily reminder out there for all to see of what my A1c was at a given moment in time. Instead, I think it’s important that I focus on what’s happening now and what I can do to help my current state of being. So for now, I’m content with keeping my A1c to myself.

5 Things That I Don’t Mind About Having Diabetes

I thought about how I should title this blog post many, many times. It didn’t feel right to say “5 Things I Like About Having Diabetes” or “5 Things That Make Diabetes Okay”…because I will never like having diabetes, and I will never be okay with it.

But that being said, after living with it for 21 years, there are some “perks” to it that have made it somewhat more bearable. Okay, a LOT more bearable. Besides insulin, diabetes technology, and the like, there are five things that I came up with that make diabetes suck less for me.

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First, and most obviously…diabetes has brought wonderful friendships into my life. I’ve written about these friendships many times before and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so in the future, because they’re invaluable to me. I have some regrets about not realizing the importance of peer support when it comes to diabetes when I was younger, but maybe I figured it out in adulthood because some part of me knew that was when I would need it the most.

Second, diabetes has made me stronger. I won’t downplay the fact that it increases my anxiety and stress levels…but I also can’t deny that the trials and tribulations of life with type 1 diabetes has made me a tougher person.

Third, diabetes has forced me to be an obsessive planner. I do wish that I could live a bit more spontaneously sometimes, but honestly, I’m pretty proud of my ability to think ahead and plan well in advance of things. These planning skills have translated to other aspects of my life, too – I wasn’t on the party planning committee at work just for the heck of it!

Fourth, diabetes has taught me so much about nutrition. I’ve been reading nutrition labels before I could read actual books. I’ve met with nutritionists at various points in my life to learn how to eat a balanced, healthy diet that consists of the right amount of carbohydrates for me. I’ve educated myself on the power of the glycemic index and how it impacts blood sugar. Without diabetes, I’m not so certain that I’d have such a clear understanding of how different foods affect my entire body. I’m grateful to know so much about nutrition, because I think it makes me a healthier person, overall.

And fifth, diabetes has lead me to several interesting (and in some cases, compensated) research opportunities. Yes, you’ve read that correctly – my diabetes has allowed me to be a research study participant in a handful of studies and I’ve gotten paid for my involvement. The amounts have varied over the years – anything from a $5 Amazon gift card to a $200 stipend – but it’s not just getting paid that makes research participation worth it to me. It’s also knowing that I could be making a difference to the larger diabetes community. For instance, offering detailed feedback on a diabetes device or product might help make it better in the future, and if that means I spend an hour on the phone answering questions, then of course I’ll do it.

In times of diabetes hardship, it’s important for me to remember these five things. Diabetes was a shit card in life that I was dealt, but it’s not the worst thing that could happen to me. Reminding myself of these bright spots help to make life with diabetes a little bit better.

Blogger Burnout

Blogger burnout…it’s very similar to diabetes burnout, only not quite as frustrating because it doesn’t affect my physical and mental health as severely.

But it does best describe how I’m feeling right now. To be honest, I’m a passenger on the struggle bus at the moment as I try to balance many of life’s demands. I’m traveling frequently this month, attending numerous family and social events, scheduling all sorts of appointments, and trying to remember to breathe in between everything. A lot of this stuff is self-inflicted, I’ll admit, as I tend to thrive when I stay busy. But I won’t deny that it’s hard. When running this blog is tossed into the mix, I feel like I’m on the cusp of spontaneous combustion. Oh, and it doesn’t help that my blood sugars have been up and down as I run – no, sprint – from one thing to the next.Love always wins. (1)

I put a lot of pressure on myself to deliver the best content that I possibly can to my readers, who I care about very much, even if I don’t know all of them personally. I do my best to post brand-new content three times per week, which involves a lot more work than you might think. I have to come up with a topic, create an image to go with it, edit the piece, schedule its publication, and prepare multiple social media platforms to promote it. And that’s just for one single blog post.

By no means is this a “farewell” post or even an “I’m-taking-a-break-for-an-undisclosed-amount-of-time” post; rather, I just want to be honest with my audience that I’m struggling to keep up delivery of solid content. Please don’t be surprised if I continue to republish old content (but still originally written by me) in the next few weeks. Please continue to visit the blog as often as you can. And please, bear with me as I get through this little burnout phase – I promise to come out of it and be a stronger writer before long.

Type 1 Diabetes…the Uninvited Bachelorette Guest

T1D is an unwelcome presence in my life, but I’ve made peace with it. However, it doesn’t stop me from worrying about how its existence might affect others in a wide variety of situations.

Take a bachelorette party, for instance…I wasn’t sure how my diabetes would respond to a weekend spent in Saratoga Springs with my soon-to-be-married cousin and the gaggle of girls who would accompany her to a few different wineries, a comedy show, and other various shenanigans. I went into the situation hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.

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What does “expecting the worst” mean? Basically, it meant that I was preparing for the apocalypse. The bachelorette weekend was barely 48 hours total, but I was so paranoid about something going wrong with my diabetes that I packed twice the number of pods that I would need, extra insulin, spare syringes, Glucagon, and a low-blood-sugar-snack stash. Although I had a rough idea of what our itinerary looked like for the weekend, I still wasn’t 100% of what we would be eating and when, which as any T1D could tell you, is kind of a major concern when it comes to taking proper care of diabetes – and that concern is intensified when alcohol gets thrown into the mix, as it unquestionably would on our quest to find the best winery in Saratoga.

My worry only grew when things didn’t exactly start as I envisioned them. We hit the road around 4 o’clock in the afternoon that Friday, and picked up the delighted bride in Western Mass a short while after 6 o’clock. I expected that we would stop for food soon after the bride joined our caravan of cars bound for New York…only to be proven totally wrong when I discovered that most people were too excited to stop and eat. “No problem,” I said to myself. “I’m sure that by the time it’s 7:30 or so, people will be hungry.”

No such luck. As I watched my blood sugar slowly drop, my stomach roared with hunger as I thought about the last meal I ate, nearly seven hours ago. I knew I should speak up and ask the group to pull over, but I was scared. I didn’t want to be “that” person who was making such demands, especially since I was merely a passenger in the car and not driving.

But it was almost 8 o’clock and I knew that if I didn’t eat soon, it wouldn’t bode well for the rest of the night. My body tends to rebel if I go to sleep soon after eating a decent amount of food, and my blood sugars usually make me pay for the lateness of the meal. I feebly requested a stop to the girl who was driving, and discovered that she desperately needed to make a trip to the ladies’ room – at last, my chance for food! I called one of the girls in the other car to let them know that we would all be hitting up the next rest stop. “And Molly needs to eat!” The driver yelled into my phone before I could hang up. I felt myself blush, not wanting to be a pain in the ass…but little did I know, the girls wanted me to speak up.

When we all met at the rest stop, everyone asked with genuine concern how I was doing. As I assured them that I was much better now thanks to my Subway sandwich, I was gently scolded by the bride – my cousin – for not saying something sooner. Each girl agreed and I promised them that I would be better about letting them know about potential blood sugar issues for the rest of the weekend.

The funny thing is, though, that I really didn’t have any problems whatsoever. I was very surprised, due to the fact that we were eating late/inconsistent/not-very-healthy meals each day, drinking a few different kinds of alcohol, and spending less time than I anticipated moving out and about…normally, that’s pretty much a recipe for disaster. I can’t help but wonder if I avoided problems because I did everything the “smart” way – ate plenty of food to combat the effects of alcohol, took extra insulin as needed, and stayed hydrated all day, everyday. It certainly is a formula for success, and deserves credit for taming the unwanted bachelorette guest all weekend long.

Now if only I can replicate this for the upcoming wedding weekend…