Knitting Keeps My Diabetes (And Me) From Unraveling

Sometimes, I feel like I’m 86 years old instead of 26 years old.

Why?

Well, for starters, I’ve always loved watching the soap opera General Hospital, a television program that’s more often associated with older demographics than my own millennial age group. I also enjoy wearing pajamas and being in bed as early as possible on weeknights. And I have developed various aches and pains in the last year that make me feel like my joints are aging at a much more rapid pace compared to the rest of me.

Oh, and one of my favorite pastimes happens to be knitting, which is apparently an “old lady” activity. And if liking to knit makes me old, then dye my hair gray and give me a walker, because I won’t be giving it up any time soon.

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Me, triumphantly showing off the very first blanket I knit this past fall.

 

Knitting has become important to me because it’s not just about producing something pretty: It’s an outlet for me. It allows me to be creative and it gives me something to focus on when anxious thoughts and feelings start to overtake my mind. It’s a way for me to express my love for someone when I make them a blanket or a scarf that took me hours to stitch together. And it has become a special form of self-care for me and my diabetes that isn’t necessarily about treating myself (like I do with a massage), it’s more about me channeling my time and energy into something else, if that makes any sense.

To elaborate more on how it helps me and my diabetes, knitting is the perfect thing for me to get into when I’m waiting for a bolus to kick in and bring down a high blood sugar. It’s also great when I’m wanting to snack on food because it keeps my brain and fingers preoccupied. Nine times out of ten, if I’m knitting, I’ll choose to continue working on my project rather than pausing for a snack break, which is better for my blood sugar and my waistline.

My balls of yarn and growing collection of knitting needles are there for me when I’m seeking solace or distraction, whether or not I need one or the other due to diabetes. By no means am I awesome at knitting (I truly have a lot to learn still), but that’s not the point…the point is that it keeps me and my diabetes from unraveling during the times that I feel like I’m one stitch away from becoming undone, and I’m so glad that I’ve found joy in it.

 

 

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.

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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.

A Device-Free Shower

For the first time in *literally* years, I took a device-free shower the other day.

AND IT WAS AMAZING.

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Ta-ta for now, little friends.

Let me clarify that by device-free, I mean that I wasn’t wearing a pump or a CGM on my body. Both were due to be changed that evening, so with what can only be described as unadulterated glee, I peeled my Dexcom followed by my pod off my body before practically leaping into the shower.

It probably sounds funny, and perhaps a little dramatic or flat-out fucking weird, but those 15 minutes without a single medical device stuck to me were glorious. I wasn’t worried about accidentally knocking something off. I was free to scrub off the adhesive that had kept the devices stuck to my skin, and I felt oddly empowered – carefree, even – that I could enjoy one of the most mundane daily routines without needing to worry about my diabetes. Sure, for the duration of my shower, I wasn’t receiving my basal rate of insulin, but I really didn’t care because 1) I took a small bolus to compensate for it before I removed my pod and 2) I was more focused on doing this one little thing for myself to reclaim my body from diabetes devices, even if it was for a short window of time.

So you might argue that I had my first truly nekkid shower for the first time in forever. And it made me happy. A brief reprieve from diabetes is always welcome, and I’ll take it in whatever silly form I can get it in.

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.

Diabetes Self-Care: Massaging Away my T1D Stress

Sometimes, you just gotta treat yo’self. (Parks and Recreation, anyone?)

One of my favorite ways to do that is through massage. I can’t think of a more relaxing way to unwind from various sources of stress than massage. Especially when your shoulders and neck are so tense that it feels as though they’re permanently knotted up.

So I went for a one-hour massage a couple of weeks ago to see if I could successfully take a mental break from everything while addressing my muscle tension. And I’m so glad I did that for myself. Plus, it didn’t hurt that my massage therapist was super attentive when it came to my diabetes.

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What makes for a good spa experience? Himalayan rock lamps, calming music, and silent diabetes devices.

I explained to her that I was wearing a tubeless pump on my lower back, and that she should feel free to massage around it. I also mentioned that if she happened to hear anything buzz or beep during our session, she should just disregard it – if my pump or CGM alarmed, I’d take care of whichever device that was going off at the end of the session.

The massage therapist couldn’t have been more reassuring. She let me know that she previously worked as a physical therapist and had experience in the field for more than 10 years. As a result, she’d seen just about everything over the course of her career – an insulin pump and a glucose monitor were nothing.

That short conversation before the start of the session really helped it start off on the right foot. I felt much better knowing that she wouldn’t be freaked out by my devices. My openness to talk about my diabetes also inclined her to ask me if it affected certain parts of my body more than others, and if she should be sensitive to that throughout the session. I appreciated her attentiveness, and she asked follow-up questions throughout the massage to ensure I was getting the best experience possible.

Not only did I leave feeling like a million bucks, but I also left feeling glad that my CGM and pump stayed silent throughout the one-hour massage: allowing me to truly free my mind from diabetes, even if it was just for a short time.

Managing Diabetes When Sick

The inevitable finally happened: I caught a cold. It really didn’t surprise me, because 1) it’s cold season and 2) I’ve been running around like a mad woman the past couple weeks and missing out on sleep.

Though it was expected, it certainly wasn’t welcome. I can’t stand being limited with my activity levels, and it’s been tough enough to get by recently due to my broken arm. Alas, I spent about three full days doing nothing but sleeping and binge watching Gilmore Girls as I nursed myself back to health.

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My best friend during my cold? This box of tissues.

During this time, I was extra concerned about my blood sugar levels. They tend to be better when I’m active, so I was worried about how they would fare when I was moving so little.

I admit that I probably did the wrong thing by not eating much during this time. It seemed like I needed to pump myself up with a heftier dose of insulin any time I was eating a meal, likely to compensate for the lack of movement. Even so, I seemed to spike a little too much for my liking after meals. So I really cut back on food. In hindsight, it wasn’t my best move, because even when I did eat it was not healthy (few fruits/veggies, mostly breads and fats).

But I do give myself credit for staying hydrated – a crucial step in getting better. I drank so much water, Powerade, and tea that I felt like I was constantly taking trips to the bathroom. It was worth it, though, because it’s easy to become dehydrated when sick and make a bad situation worse.

Also, I think I made the right move by taking some sick time from work. The day I woke up with a tingly throat, I thought I could soldier on and work a full day, but it became clear the moment I sat down at my desk and couldn’t focus that it would be best to just go home. I took a sick day the following day and was able to work from home the day after that, so I’m grateful that I have a flexible and understanding employer who knows that health is a priority over everything else.

As much as I loathed being mostly confined to my room for 72 hours, it was the smart call. It reminded me how important it is to listen to my body and to not push it when I’m not feeling 100%. There’s no shame in self-care.