You know how in Spongebob Squarepants, title cards are held up every so often in episodes to depict the passage of time?
Imagine me holding one up now and saying in the Spongebob narrator voice: “500 Blog Posts Later”…
I can’t believe I’ve hit 500 blog posts published on Hugging the Cactus…all in the span of a little more than 3 years.
Most of these posts I’ve written and posted here exclusively. A couple posts have appeared on sites like Beyond Type 1. A dozen or so posts I’ve shared twice because I either especially liked them or wanted to revisit something I’d written years ago. And a handful more posts were written by others for organizations like T1International and shared here because of their powerful messages.
I’m quite proud of this 500 post milestone and want to give credit…not to myself for it, but to you, and to the other writers and individuals who have helped me get this far.
Without YOU reading my posts and commenting, my desire to keep sharing and writing would wane.
Without other writers and individuals, I’d lack inspiration and perspective that are key to keeping this blog as interesting as possible.
Support means the world to me when it comes to managing diabetes, and as it turns out, when it comes to managing this blog, too. So thank you for yours.
I hope you continue to come back to read the next 500+ blog posts.
Merry Christmas! I am taking today off from writing a longer blog post, but I wanted to be sure to 1) wish you and yours well during this holiday season and 2) remind you to take it easy this holiday. It’s no secret that just about everything about 2020 wasn’t great and certainly far from ideal…making it more important than ever to take a step back from everyday hectic life and take a moment to appreciate all your blessings, big and small. If you are spending the holidays alone or have trouble finding the joy in this time of year, know that you are not alone and be kind to yourself. Tell all the special people in your life that they are loved and you will instantly find yourself embracing the spirit of the season.
Diabetes can interfere with so many aspects of daily life…including friendships and relationships with others.
I’m an extremely fortunate person: I’ve never had my diabetes be a “deal-breaker” for a friendship or a relationship. I’ve never had much difficulty in explaining it to others or receiving support from friends when I’ve needed it. Of course, the level of support that I get from people in my life with T1D is much different compared to the support I get from people in my life without it, but both types of support are invaluable.
Recently, I had an Instagram follower ask me for my advice on how to help friends understand T1D: what it’s like and what’s appropriate to do/say to a person with diabetes. She expressed her frustration with a friend who doesn’t seem to understand that just because she has diabetes it doesn’t mean that she can’t enjoy sugary treats from time to time. So in response to her anecdote, I decided to round up my five best tips on how to navigate T1D and friendships/relationships in which there’s a lack of understanding and a little too much judgment.
#1: Be open, honest, and willing to answer questions. In almost two-and-a-half decades of life with diabetes, I’ve learned that this is the most important thing I can do when meeting new people and forging friendships/relationships. It’s not like my diabetes is the very first thing I say to people (“Hi, I’m Molly and I have diabetes” sounds like a South Park gag)…but it is something that I make sure to casually cover early on in the relationship. Opening the door to communication about diabetes from the get-go seems to have helped me avoid tricky situations in which I have to spend too much time correcting misunderstandings about life with diabetes and not enough time on fostering my connection with an individual.
#2: Show all aspects of life with T1D. My philosophy is to never hide any part of my diabetes from friends. I let them watch me when I do fingerstick checks, site changes, and more. I involve them when I need help correcting a low blood sugar or need to take a moment to do a bolus calculation. I’ve found that this really helps my friends feel included and they tend to show more interest and genuine curiosity when I do my “diabetes stuff” around them. It creates natural learning experiences for my friends and they get to see firsthand just how much work it can be to take care of my diabetes.
#3: Tag along to endocrinologist appointments. I understand that this might not be possible right now in this “new normal”, but in the past, I’ve had my significant other come with me to endocrinology appointments. The most memorable experience was seeing a diabetes educator with my significant other so I could be retrained on how to use an emergency glucagon kit, and so he could learn for the first time. It was really eye-opening for my partner, and ever since then, I’ve encouraged others to invite their loved ones or the person/people they live with to attend appointments every now and then. And hey, since so many doctors’ visits are virtual these days, maybe it’ll be even easier for more people to tag along to these appointments than before.
#4: Make an introduction to the DOC. Some of my friends are more social media savvy than others, so for those who have shown interest, I’ve introduced them to the diabetes online community on Instagram. There are sooooo many profiles there ALONE – forget Facebook/Twitter/other diabetes blogs – that do an incredible job of shedding light on the significant and mundane (and everything in between) parts about daily life with diabetes. These accounts have helped them truly get diabetes in a way they hadn’t previously and I think it’s made my friendships stronger, healthier, and judgment-free.
#5: Correct misconceptions – gently. Even my closest friends, or the ones with the best of intentions, have slipped up now and then and said something to my face that is simply not true about diabetes. And that’s okay, they’re not perfect (and they certainly know that I am not). When this happens, I use it as a teaching opportunity and let them know why what they said is wrong or factually incorrect. I find that the gentle, patient approach helps to reinforce whatever it is that I’m telling them, so at the end of the day, it’s a win-win for all parties.
This blog post was originally published by Hugging the Cactus on September 12, 2018. I’m reposting it today because it is still incredibly important and relevant: We ALL must work together and treat one another with respect. Life with diabetes is hard enough on its own! Diabetes online community, I love and value you so much…please just remember to be kind to others. Continue reading for my thoughts on why I think it’s fruitless to debate one another regarding diabetes…
I found the diabetes online community (DOC) a few years ago – or perhaps it found me – and to this day, I’m incredibly grateful for it. It’s introduced me to new friends and it’s always been a reliable source of information. Whether I’m lamenting a low blood sugar at 2 A.M. or asking if anyone has advice on a pod problem at 2 P.M., odds are I’ll have someone reaching out to me within minutes in some form or fashion. That kind of on-the-fly support is invaluable.
That being said…the DOC is not always a perfect safe haven.
In fact, if there was one thing I could change about it, it would be to make it a judgment-free space: because all too often, people are unfairly judged for how they choose to manage their own diabetes.
I’m not saying that people aren’t entitled to opinions. Of course they are! But what happened to respectfully disagreeing with people?
I’ve seen situations like the following across different social media platforms:
People getting attacked for following low/medium/high-carb diets
People getting criticized for sharing “good” and “bad” blood sugars/A1cs
People getting judged for dealing with diabetes burnout – as well as people getting judged for sharing their diabetes triumphs
People getting discouraged from posting only the pretty parts of diabetes
We can’t keep doing this to each other. Just because a certain diet or T1D management strategy works out well for one person, doesn’t mean that it will work the same for another. That’s because diabetes is not a one-size-fits-all condition.
And we shouldn’t be judging one another for our differences. In fact, our differences can teach us so much more than our similarities can. We should celebrate one another for living with diabetes: doing the best we can, day after day, whether it yields “ideal” or “not ideal” results. Because it’s damn difficult to manage, and anyone who says otherwise is being judgmental.
We can learn and grow from one another, which is pretty powerful, as long as we refrain from this “I’m right, you’re wrong” attitude.
This post was originally published on the T1International website on June 15, 2020, and is written by Sydnee Griffin. I reached out to Sydnee and asked if I could re-post it here because Sydnee’s words opened my eyes to the medical side of racism and the importance of supporting my Black friends (and all Black voices) with and without diabetes. Thank you for sharing your story, Sydnee.
My diagnosis story is so similar to numerous other type 1’s, I almost never tell it. I had the weight loss, the extreme thirst, the irritability, and the constant hunger. Paired with abdomen pain that was similar to that of menstrual cramps, all of these things signaled ‘puberty’ to my 16 year old brain. I had been living with the discomfort for so long, it was no longer new to me.
I remember a handful of things about being admitted to the hospital and the time I spent there. The first is the hospital staff telling me if I had gone home and waited for the test results to come on Monday, I probably wouldn’t have made it through the weekend. The second is the amount my family needed to advocate for my care during my stay. From the office of my primary care physician to the hospital itself, my mother had to speak up in order for me to get the treatment I needed and in a timely manner. Though the initial night of the hospital is fuzzy, I remember my mother going back and forth with the ER technicians imploring that I needed to be put on an IV ASAP. She noted that I had lost significant color and all of the questioning could be done while I was hooked up. The back and forth seemed to go on for hours. When I left the hospital I remember wondering, “Why did my mom have to beg those people to do their job when I was visibly sick?” A few years later after I had dealt with numerous visits, checkups, and insurance calls, I became aware of the medical side of racism.
A quick Google search will take you to a few sites that define the term medical racism (i.e. racism and prejudice that carries over into the medical field) and even more articles about the instances occurring. What do Beyoncé, Serena Williams, and I all have in common? We all have experienced medical racism that could have easily cost us our lives – and so have numerous other Black people. It’s one of the things I don’t share with my white friends that I’ve made online who have type 1 diabetes.
Another occurrence I see fairly often with my non-white friends with diabetes is questioning over their diagnosis. My friends who look like me are familiar with the question, “You’re type one? Are you sure?” This is a question that my white friends are rarely ever asked. This is because type 2 diabetes is more prevalent in communities of color, but also because type 1 diabetes organizations and type 1 diabetes social media accounts often promote the image of the skinny white kid as the face of type 1 diabetes.
I recently made an Instagram account to help connect with others living with type 1 diabetes and to become a face of the community. Before I got involved, the biggest thing I noticed was the lack of Black representation on diabetes Instagram. There are a handful of them that I follow, and it’s great that they’re there – but I had to scour Instagram for them. So even, as they exist, they’re not getting nearly the same amount of attention or recognition as their white counterparts. And it’s easy to say, maybe their content isn’t as engaging (you’d be wrong, but let’s entertain the idea!) – you mean to tell me not a one of them is as popular as your local white type 1 blogger? I can search through the hashtag #t1dlookslikeme and not find a single Black person under the “popular” posts.
These are the things that contribute to both misdiagnoses in the doctor’s office and stigma outside of the doctor’s office. These are the things that need to change and the things that we can change that don’t involve getting a degree in medicine.
How can we change them? For starters, follow and highlight local Black and non-Black POC on social media. Listen to their stories, speak out and support them. Right now, I’m seeing a ton of white people with diabetes online who are complaining about people wanting them to speak up on the protests and police brutality occurring now. Some see their account as something that’s only for diabetes content. Hearing that is really disappointing, as I’ve pointed out to quite a few of them. Because I’m Black and diabetic every day.
I have to worry about police brutality in addition to blood sugars and health outcomes. So when they tell me they don’t think the two are related, or “diabetes content” it really shows me where their head is at. It is a privilege to solely be marginalized with your one disability. I have had to grapple with myself as a Black person about whether or not I am doing enough with signing petitions and donating, because I can’t be out protesting due to living with diabetes and COVID-19 still being prevalent. It is a privilege to not have to worry about diabetes and COVID-19 and a privilege to not have to worry about being racially discriminated against in a healthcare setting or any other setting.
To my Black diabetic friends – I am here online if you need an ear, or support, or help in any way. Please don’t feel like you’re alone. We are here, we are strong, and we aren’t going anywhere. For anyone looking to get educated right now, myself and lots of other Black social media users are posting helpful resources on how to donate and support even if you’re immunocompromised.
Don’t think that you as a white person or non-Black POC need to necessarily make a statement. There are tons of Black voices you should and can amplify in this time. We are similar in so many ways when it comes to this disease, but we are also different in so many as well. You have Black friends. You have friends with diabetes. Both see you when you don’t support them. They notice as you advocate for affordable insulin to save their lives, but don’t declare that their Black life matters. You need to know their lives are in danger in more ways than one. Support them through this like you would support them with any other diabetes related struggle.
I can’t remember a time in my life that I didn’t. In fact, as a child, I was convinced that my future profession would be a veterinarian (a marine biologist was also in the mix at one point). I went as far as shadowing a real-life veterinarian during my 8th grade career day, and I took an Introduction to Animal Science class in college when my major was still undeclared.
Alas, I decided that a career with animals wasn’t in the cards for me when I realized I probably wouldn’t be able to handle the emotional and physical challenges associated with caring for them. Interacting with animals is all fun and adorable until one gets sick and may need to euthanized (I witnessed such a thing on shadow day in 8th grade…it was so sad). Or when a large, strong billy goat charges you because you have his food and he’s hungry (true story, it’s a miracle I got out of his pen uninjured). But just because I don’t deal with animals professionally, it doesn’t mean that my love for them is any less.
So I focused on how I could help them to kick off this week’s acts of kindness.
Monday, 4/27 – Act of Kindness #22: I adopted a RED PANDA on Monday!!!
…I wish I could say it was a REAL panda who was going to come and live with me and frolic around the backyard with me and my dog, but that’s just too good to be true – this adoption is just virtual. But I’m excited about it nonetheless. I love red pandas because 1) they’re adorable 2) they’re hilarious and 3) they’re seriously photogenic – really, I’ve never seen a bad picture of one. Sadly, they’re also an endangered species: According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, there may be fewer than 2,500 adult red pandas living in the wild today.
So as I thought of how I could combine my love for animals with an act of kindness, the idea came to me that I might be able to support one of my favorite exotic species via virtual adoption. I chose to make my donation to the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. because I was lucky enough to spend a handful of treasured days there last year. The zoo is incredibly gorgeous and home to countless fascinating animals, including two sweet red pandas. During my last visit to the zoo, I was able to see one of them very up-close through a window. I was so charmed by the little one that I practically had to be ripped away so other people could take a look, too. It’s really neat that I’m able to support them, in some way, now through my virtual adoption (and I get a red panda plush sent to me as a thank you…I’m not gonna lie, I can’t wait to receive that in the mail).
Tuesday, 4/28 – Act of Kindness #23: Of course, I was looking for a way to help out furry friends a little closer to home yesterday. Specifically, I wanted to do something to help out dogs.
Dogs have always been and will always be part of my life (even though I am allergic, LOL). I grew up with two Shetland Sheepdogs and my parents have their third, Clarence, now. My aunts and uncles always had dogs, too (Labradors, Dachshunds, and some mixes are among them). Life is just…better with a dog. The more dogs, the merrier, in my opinion.
The second Sheltie that my family had was from a shelter. We never knew too much about her history, other than she must’ve suffered some sort of trauma before she was rescued. Even though she had major challenges to overcome behaviorally, my family cherished the time she was with us and we were always grateful that we’d connected with the shelter that we rescued her from.
So she was on my mind yesterday when I decided to visit a local animal shelter’s website to see if they were requesting any special support during this time. That’s when I found their Amazon wish list – literally a list of items that the shelter needs that can be purchased on Amazon.com – and went about purchasing some items that could be shipped directly to them. I bought some collars, leashes, and harnesses that they will be able to provide to new pet owners as animals are adopted. I wanted to do more, but I’m hopeful that when it’s safe to do so and when the shelter begins accepting new volunteers, I can maybe continue my support in that fashion.
Animals are awesome. I know that my pets and any that I’ve seen over the years at zoo have taught me so much. Giving back to them in any way, shape, or form is humbling and almost as nice as getting to hug a smooshy fluffy pupper or red panda…almost.
Earlier this week, I expressed that I was feeling a little burnt out, and hoped that the week would get better as it went on.
And I’m happy to say that it did.
The acts of kindness from the last couple of days are especially unique, because I’m not sure whether I’d be able to do them if we weren’t experiencing a time of social distancing right now. This will probably make more sense as I explain exactly what they were…
Wednesday, 4/22 – Act of Kindness #17: A few days ago, I saw the sweetest video that moved me to tears: An elderly man living in a nursing facility was gifted a pillow from a nurse with his deceased wife’s picture on it to replace the photo of her that he sleeps with every night. It is simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming, but mostly it’s just an incredibly lovely act of kindness that the caretaker did for her resident during these challenging times. (Watch the video here.)
This video, coupled with thoughts of my own grandmother who spent the last several years of her life battling Alzheimer’s in a nursing home, prompted me to wonder about how the elderly in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are handling the current state of things. I can’t imagine it’s easy. We hear news almost daily about different facilities that are directly affected, and I’ve seen and read a number of stories about residents who are sorely missing their loved ones who are unable to visit them at the present moment.
It’s got to be incredibly difficult and painful.
So I wanted to research ways I could help someone, anyone, who is living in one of these facilities and who might need a pick-me-up. I came across this link, which supplied a list of facilities in the country that are accepting letters, cards, and drawings for their residents.
But I wanted to do something more.
On that same web page, I saw the link to www.carenotcovid.com. I learned that I could film a 30-seconds-or-less video that The American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living will show to nursing home and assisted living residents across the country in order to give them support and hope. An excellent idea, right? It took me fewer than 60 seconds to make my video, upload it, and share it on Twitter. In addition, I made an Instagram story so my followers could see some of the ways they can help, too…because wouldn’t it be awesome if those living in nursing homes and assisted care facilities received tons and tons of uplifting messages?
Yes…yes, it would be awesome.
Thursday, 4/23 – Act of Kindness #18: I got to do a really cool thing yesterday afternoon: I attended a virtual meet-and-greet with high school students in which I answered their questions about how my business is handling this challenging time. This neat opportunity was made available to me by my company, which recently launched a special COVID-19 volunteering and giving page on one of its directories.
I had no idea what to expect going into this, and I was worried that I might be talking aimlessly for a full half hour to bored high school students. But that’s not at all what happened. After I introduced myself and explained what I do for my company (and how it operates), I was pleasantly surprised when they really engaged in conversation with me, and asked me thoughtful questions such as how I’ve created a sense of normalcy working from home during this time, what my biggest challenges are, and whether I think these events will change the way business and society operate in the future. It was a very fluid conversation and the students thanked me profusely for my time at the end, which made me feel like it was truly appreciated that I set aside part of my afternoon to talk to them.
And it made me feel really thankful that associates within my company put in the time and energy to make these volunteer opportunities available to us so that we can participate in something constructive to help combat feelings of helplessness.
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.
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!
It’s November 20th which means that it’s Day 20 of the Happy Diabetic Challenge! Today’s prompt is “biggest supporter”. Since it’s impossible for me to identify a single person as the biggest source of support with my diabetes, I decided to write about how my thoughts on diabetes and support have changed over the years.
Emotional support is a lovely thing. It feels good to have people in your life who you feel have your back. And it’s twice as nice to have when you’re dealing with a chronic illness like diabetes.
I talk extensively about diabetes and support in the most recent episode of the podcast, Ask Me About My Type 1. (Here’s the link in case you haven’t listened to it yet.) Rather than rehash everything I said in that episode, I’m going to use this post as an opportunity to reflect how my wants and needs in terms of support for my diabetes have changed over the years.
It’s interesting (at least, it is to me) to think about how and why my desire for support has changed as I’ve grown older. My childhood was very normal despite diabetes. It was always there and it was always a thing I had to deal with, but I definitely didn’t feel compelled to talk about it as much as I do now, let alone lean on others in difficult times. Why is that?
I think it has a lot to do with getting to know myself better as I’ve aged.
After all, they say that with age comes wisdom. And though I don’t exactly consider myself a wise old sage or anything of the sort, I do think that I’ve acquired some enlightenment about myself and the way that I process things in my adulthood.
Specifically, I realized in the last few years that diabetes has instilled in me a strong desire to feel in control of every aspect of my life…not just diabetes. When something doesn’t go according to whatever carefully thought-out plan I’ve cooked up, I get upset. And I tend to either bottle up my dismay, which is never a good thing to do, or I totally take it out on the whichever poor soul happens to be within my vicinity, which isn’t fair. Neither of those reactions is a healthy method of dealing with things, but at least I’m aware of that and I’m actively trying to improve how I cope.
I think that this example shows how important diabetes support has become to me because I’m able to lean on others in those times that all of my diabetes plans don’t work out the way I envisioned them. I’ve figured out, over time, that it’s just about the only thing that really works for me. Talking to other people with diabetes (and without diabetes) about struggles that I’ve faced makes me feel less alone. It used to be scary for me to be so vulnerable with others, but I’ve found that it’s worth it because it helps me heal, move on, and forgive/accept myself for feeling whatever I’m feeling.
Support from others is truly powerful…but above that, learning to rely on others – learning how to best support myself, really – is more than that. It’s magical and absolutely enhances the quality of my life with diabetes.
Today’s blog post is intended to be short, but sweet: I want to take this as an opportunity to say thank you.
Since I published my post last Friday about being “dia-feated”, a dozen or so members of the DOC – and even a couple nonmembers – have reached out to me via social media to share their words of encouragement with me:
“…I enjoy your blog posts and your voice is important to me”
“…your blog reached one person, and that’s enough (for me)”
“I read your blog all the time, and it helps me.”
Each message expressed similar sentiments using different words: Don’t give up. My voice matters to someone.
Again, the intention of that post was never to drive traffic to my blog or messages to my inbox. I was merely trying to express some sentiments that I’d been feeling for a few weeks now. But the fact that so many people DID, in fact, take the time to reach out to me and exchange a few messages with me meant the world. I found each one to be uplifting and truly touching, and if you were one of the individuals who wrote to me, I can’t thank you enough.
It’s funny – but truly wonderful – how kind words from friends and strangers alike can do so much to revitalize your soul and make you see what’s right in front of you: an amazing, supportive community who just gets it.