Memory Monday: The First Time I Self-Injected Insulin!

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much my diabetes thoughts, feelings, and experiences have unfolded over the years. Today, I remember…

…the first time I self-injected insulin and how absolutely terrified the mere thought of doing so made me.

Since I’ve never really minded needles that much, you’d think that self-injecting would be a cinch for me. That couldn’t be further from the truth, at least for the first few times that I had to do it.

It goes back to one endocrinologist appointment when I was nine, maybe ten years old. My doctor and my parents were talking about how I was reaching an age where I should start to take on a little bit more responsibility in terms of my diabetes care. I don’t remember whether my endo or my parents suggested it, but one of the two parties said that a good starting place would be to start giving myself my own insulin.

Initially, I protested. I hated the idea. But I warmed up to it when my parents reassured me that they would check the syringe for me before I stuck it into my skin. At this point in time, I’d practiced drawing up my own insulin dosages. I’d pass the syringe along to my mother or father for the actual injection. So I had the first step in the process down pat, and it only made sense for me to put two and two together and do it all independently.

Since I was hemming and hawing over the prospect, though, my endo had the brilliant idea to practice on my father with a saline injection right then and there, given that he was willing for me to do it. As he rolled up his sleeve, I grinned wickedly (I was annoyed with him for some trivial reason that day) and waited while my doctor prepared the saline injection. As she brought it over, I panicked a little, and I must’ve asked two or three times whether it was actually safe for me to do this. Because even if I was irritated with him, for whatever stupid thing it was, I didn’t actually want to hurt him.

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Once I was adequately assured that the injection would be harmless, I took the syringe into my hand, took a deep breath, and stuck it into my dad’s arm. I remember pushing down on the plunger slowly, and my dad sitting in the chair, totally composed and un-bothered by the sensation. When I took the needle out of his arm, I exhaled loudly, not realizing that I had been holding my breath the whole time. What can I say, it was a nerve-wracking feeling. It’s not every day that you learn how to inject yourself, or someone else for that matter, with a syringe.

Over the course of the next week or two, I practiced my new skill on oranges supplied to me courtesy of my parents. With each practice injection, my confidence grew and I realized that it wasn’t that scary. I would press the orange against my leg or my arm, pinch at its peel, and give it an injection of salt water – super quick, super easy.

In no time at all, I felt brave enough to give myself my first self-injection. Just like I did with my dad in the doctor’s office, I breathed deeply before plunging it into my leg, exhaling only when I was done. And I felt the satisfaction of having done it on my own, which was sweeter than I thought it would be.

Working up the courage to self-inject is just one example of many experiences I’ve had with diabetes and being afraid to try something new. Whether it was trying a CGM for the first time or transitioning to a pump, each new thing I introduced to my diabetes care and management routine scared the hell out of me at first. But just like I proved to myself that self-injecting was nothing to be afraid of, I’ve shown myself time and time again that new things for diabetes aren’t always so bad.

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Memory Monday: My Lowest Low Blood Sugar

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much my diabetes thoughts, feelings, and experiences have unfolded over the years. Today, I remember…

…the lowest low blood sugar that I ever experienced. So low, in fact, that I never actually found out how low it reached. Scary stuff.

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Admittedly, my memory’s a little fuzzy when it comes to recollecting what exactly happened, but here’s what I remember: It was my sophomore or junior year of high school. I woke up in the morning and checked my blood sugar – or so I thought. In reality, I think I imagined checking my blood sugar, or perhaps I went through the motions of doing it without actually getting a reading.

Regardless, I made my way down the stairs and into the kitchen, where I encountered my mother. I told her that I wanted “special cake”.

I remember her looking at me with worried eyes and asking me what I was saying. All I can recall is that I asked for special cake two or three more times before getting totally frustrated with her. How could she not understand my request for Special K cereal?

That’s right, in my stupor, I thought I was saying that I wanted Special K cereal for breakfast. But I didn’t realize that my low blood sugar was causing me to slur so badly that my words weren’t coming out clearly.

I vaguely remember my mom’s panicked reaction as she figured out that I must be experiencing a low. I think she asked me what my blood sugar was, and when I couldn’t tell her because I didn’t remember, she knew it was time to force some orange juice down my throat. I was conscious for that, but it’s like it was erased from my memory – I have no recollection of drinking the juice or what the moments after that were like.

I wound up going to school late that morning, only to have to go home less than halfway through the day. My low “hangover” was so bad that I felt nauseous in my classes and couldn’t concentrate on the lessons.

Obviously, I fully recovered from the incident. Even though my memory is shoddy at best when it comes to remembering the whole experience, the mere fragments that I can recall are enough to make me scared to ever go through something like that again. It’s a reminder that diabetes can be terrifying, but living with it is a reality that I have no choice but to accept – fears and all.

Memory Monday: Cloudy and Clear

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much diabetes technology, education, and stigma has changed over the years. Remember when…

…it was a thing to mix insulin?

Yup, I’m referring to the days of cloudy and clear insulins – also known as NPH and Regular, respectively (insert corny Neil Patrick Harris joke here). Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about? This is going back at least 15 years, probably more like 20, to when short-acting and long-acting insulins needed to be mixed in order to avoid having to take two separate shots. I only vaguely remember mixing my insulins, but here’s what sticks out in my memory about the process:

  • It was always “clear before cloudy” – the Regular insulin had to be drawn up in the syringe first to avoid getting any of the cloudy insulin into the clear vial.
  • The cloudy insulin needed to be rolled between the hands before inserting a syringe into it…I can’t remember why. Maybe to help bring it to room temperature, or make sure it was adequately mixed?
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I definitely do not miss the days of filling these bad boys with two different kinds of insulin.
  • Drawing the insulins into a single syringe was nerve-wracking as hell. Precision was everything.
  • Air bubbles! They ruined everything!

I certainly don’t miss the tedious process of having to draw up insulin in such a careful, precise manner. If only I’d known how much easier an insulin pump would make my life sooner…

…but I guess that just makes me appreciate my pump more.

 

Memory Monday: That Time I Created a Diabetes Lesson Plan for Middle School Students (Part 2)

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much diabetes technology, education, and stigma has changed over the years. Remember when…

This is a continuation of last month’s Memory Monday, in which I reflected on what it was like to work on a diabetes-oriented community action project when I was a freshman in high school. There were two main components to my project: running a School Walk for Diabetes, and educating a group of middle school students on type one diabetes.

Ugh, the thought of presenting to a group of middle school kids horrifies me now, but I guess I wasn’t so afraid at the time – you know, because I was a cooler, older, more sophisticated 14 year old lecturing the immature 12-year-old children.

*I’ll pause to allow you a moment (or several) to laugh at that mildly ludicrous notion.*

The easiest part of prepping to talk to the students was devising a lesson plan. My project partner and I put together a beautiful slideshow (complete with Comic Sans font, how professional) that we would use in the first half of the presentation. During the second half, I would show the students all of my medical equipment and demonstrate things like priming an insulin pen and testing my blood sugar. We also provided students with examples of healthy snacks for a person with diabetes and when to eat them. The formal presentation would end with us giving students the chance to ask questions.

Sounds pretty neatly put together for just a couple of freshmen, right?

Turns out, it really did go over well with the students! There were a couple technical difficulties (blast those LCD projectors), but my partner and I knew our presentation like the back of our hands, so nothing deterred us from accomplishing the goal of our lesson plan: for the students to have a greater knowledge of diabetes.

We felt like our hard work was worth it when we received completed evaluation cards from the students. We’d asked them to tell us: 1) The best part of our lesson, 2) The worst part, 3) Rate it on a scale of 1-5 (1 being worst; 5 best), and 4) Write one fact about diabetes they learned. Our average rating wound up being 4.2, which made us feel like rock stars! All these years later, I still have some of the best comment cards preserved in a binder about my project:

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Personally, I really love how one student thought that diabetes is spelled “diabedes”. And I’m amused by how another student didn’t seem overly crazy about the PowerPoint (it must’ve been that damn Comic Sans font that ruined it).

But joking aside, this whole project still resonates with me ten years later because I think it marked the beginning of my passion for diabetes advocacy. It was one of the first times that I willingly shared my diabetes with others and let a real conversation take place about it with no holds barred.

 

Memory Monday: That Time I Planned a School Walk for Diabetes (Part 1)

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much diabetes technology, education, and stigma has changed over the years. Remember when…

Okay, so I’m deviating slightly from my typical “Memory Monday” post as I take a walk down *my personal* memory lane. I’m reminiscing about that time I planned a School Walk for Diabetes at my high school as a freshman. This is going to be a two-part “Memory Monday” as next month, I’ll write about how that same year, I had to create a lesson plan and educate a whole group of middle school students about T1D, too!

But let’s focus on this part – the School Walk for Diabetes bit – first.

I’ll admit my memory’s a bit foggy on the matter. But fortunately, I kept the binder that documented my hard work on this project, a binder that was both hilarious and horrifying for me to look through 10 years later. I’ll also admit that it was somewhat impressive; after all, this was a massive project for a high school student to tackle. I had a project partner who contributed a great deal, though, so that absolutely helped make it a success (ahem, we got a 100% – an A+ – as our final grade, NBD).

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The nerd in that picture (A.K.A. me) would end up with a 100% on this project!

As I leafed through the binder, I found a description of what it was like to organize the Walk component. We met with a couple of local teachers who were in charge of the event and told them we wanted to do anything we could to assist them as part of our project. After many email exchanges and in-person conversations, we had an action plan for how the day of the Walk would flow.

Here’s my oh-so eloquent description of the day of the walk:

May 31, 2008 – Time Spent on Project: 5 Hours

We arrived at 8:30 to help set up for the Walk. We hung a large sign in front of the school and decorated the track with balloons and motivational signs. For three hours, we stood on the track and punched holes in paper bracelets for the Walk participants as they completed a lap. A reporter was present and took our picture for the paper. The Walk was successful and we raised just under 5,000 dollars for the American Diabetes Association. We helped clean up after the Walk, which took half an hour.

Really riveting material there, huh? But truly, it’s kind of neat to see that my passion for diabetes awareness was strong even in those days. I think participating in this project marked the beginning of my comfort level with my diabetes increasing, and it’s cool to have a record of that.

I could do without the photos of me as an awkward teenager, though…

Memory Monday: BD Glucose Tablets

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much diabetes technology, education, and stigma has changed over the years. Remember when…

…BD glucose tablets were like, the only kind of tabs available?

I remember them vividly. The tablets were came in what looked like giant packages of gum. They were orange-flavored, but colored white. And they were square, chalky, and the epitome of boring. Even so, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I used to sneak them from my mom’s purse when I was little. (Sorry, mom.)

I don’t really know why I did it, considering they weren’t exactly the tastiest treats. But it felt rebelliously good to take one here and there, even if I wasn’t experiencing a low blood sugar. I knew I wasn’t allowed to graze on snacks as I wanted, and I knew that it would make my blood sugar go up. I also knew that I didn’t fully understand what diabetes was and why it was so important to be careful with how many glucose tablets I ate at the tender ages of six and seven years old.

Over time, I kicked the habit. As more flavors and varieties of glucose tablets popped up in the market, I grew increasingly resentful of having to use them to treat lows in the first place. I wasn’t enticed by the tropical or berry flavor mixes; after all, they didn’t have quite the same appeal as those weird white tablets.

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Today’s glucose tablets come in much more colorful and flavorful varieties.

Now, I’m just glad I’ve discovered ways to bring up a low quickly that don’t involve chewing chalky discs. Orange juice, mini boxes of raisins, gummies, smarties, and more all work efficiently. I still choose to carry around glucose tablets, though, because the tube they come in is discreet. Glucolift brand tablets are a personal favorite to stock the tube with, because they’re more pleasant to ingest, thanks to their quick-dissolve formula. Plus, I can’t totally hate something that’s saved my butt more times than I can count.

Memory Monday: Log Books

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much diabetes technology, education, and stigma has changed over the years. Remember when…

…log books were a THING that PWD used to track blood sugars?

Log books were pocket-size diaries (of a sort) designed for PWD to keep track of blood sugars, insulin and carb intake, mealtimes, etc. Basically, it was the old-fashioned way of recording blood sugars so that you could bring it with you to your endo appointments so your doctor could review the book for patterns.

I remember HATING having to write down my numbers. I felt like those little log books were contraptions put in place to judge me and my numbers. Imagine an eight year old who felt judged by something like that? It’s just wrong. But I get that they had a purpose to serve, and even when I was little, I knew it was important to write everything down even if I resented doing it.

That’s why I made it more fun by drawing doodles next to certain blood sugars – a frowning face would appear when I was high, and a mini burst of fireworks would find their way next to a blood sugar of 100 (which I now refer to as a unicorn bg, along with much of the rest of the DOC). I also distinctly remember using the log book to keep track of where I was injecting my insulin: “RL” would appear on the page if I was due to give a shot into my right leg, or “LA” for my left arm. These days, I’m really good about swapping sites, mainly because it’s easy to remember, thanks to my pods. But as a kid, it was more challenging, so writing it down helped.

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Thankful that my meter tracks my blood sugars for me now (also, that 230 mg/dL would’ve totally gotten a frown-y face back in the day).

Thank goodness for modern meters and insulin pumps that keep track of my blood sugars for me now. It’s so much easier to show up to an endo appointment and hand over my meter for the nurses to download. Plus, doing so means that my doctor and I get to review all sorts of colorful charts showing my blood sugars over a certain period of time, which is more telling and helpful than a doctor thumbing through my log book and murmuring, “I see,” every few moments.

Log books are such an archaic artifact of my diabetes history that I don’t even own any nowadays. I trashed them all, years ago, when I realized that my blood sugars from 2001 were sort of irrelevant to now. Do you still have any of your log books lying around?