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.

Knitting Keeps My Diabetes (And Me) From Unraveling (1)
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.

Managing Diabetes When Sick

This post initially appeared on Hugging the Cactus on February 26, 2018. Since I’ve already dealt with two bouts of congestion and coughing this cold and flu season, I figured it was appropriate to republish this post to remind myself of my philosophy when I’m run down with illness: Don’t push myself and give my body time to rest as much as it needs in order to get better faster. 

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.

Why Online Communities Aren’t Always the Best Source of T1D Support

Before I jump into this post, let me make this unequivocally clear: The DOC (Diabetes Online Community) has been an incredible source of support, advice, and education to me ever since I discovered it (roughly seven or eight years ago). This post isn’t necessarily about the DOC; rather, it was inspired by a recent experience I had with a totally different online community. But what I’m about to say here can be applied to just about any kind of virtual support group in existence…

In addition to the DOC, I consider myself a member of a few other online communities. One of them is focused on fitness. (I’m not going to specifically name the group here, mainly because I’d like to maintain its privacy as well as the privacy of its members.)

Anyways, said group was formed to provide members with a place to post about their respective fitness journeys. Members are encouraged to post daily about their workout routines, nutrition plans, and any emotions that might arise as they work toward building a healthy lifestyle. It’s common for members to interact with one another and show support when someone is struggling, as well as applaud victories big and small as they’re met. Unsurprisingly, negativity and criticism aren’t welcome in this group, as it can be detrimental to the goals that each member has for himself/herself.

Thanks for the love!

In keeping with the spirit of the group, I posted a photo a few weeks back of myself (making a grumpy face) after a particularly challenging cardio workout session. In the caption, I wrote: “Excuse my pissed off expression…I had to cut cardio fix short because my blood sugar was getting too low. Only worked out for about 20 minutes this morning. I really wanted the full one cuz I treated myself with food just a tad too much yesterday…but I don’t totally regret it because it reminded me that I just don’t feel good when I snack unnecessarily. I’m always struggling to remember to only eat when I’m hungry or if my blood sugar is low, not because I’m bored or emotional. I know one day I’ll fully accept this and practice it!”

I wasn’t seeking sympathy or anything, I was just being honest with the other members of the group and channeling a bit of my frustration. Regardless, a few people did comment on the post with some reassuring words, like “you’ve got this”, “thank you for sharing”, and “one day at a time”, which I appreciated.

But what I did not appreciate was the comment thread that followed and involved myself and two other group members (my thoughts as I initially responded to this chain are denoted by asterisks):

Group Member #1: Oh no, be careful! Do u usually run low?
Me *Not wanting to dive into a long explanation*: I’m pretty well controlled for the most part, but exercise can make me go low sometimes! 
Group Member #1: do u have diabetes?
Me: yes, type 1 diabetes for 21 years now
Group Member #1: oh wow! Be careful!! Do u carry glucose tabs with you?
Me *Rolling my eyes as I respond, and adding a “haha” to keep it light*: of course! Haha I’ve had T1D for a very long time so managing it is second nature.
Group Member #1: okay good! Just making sure. Sorry, this was the pharmacist in me asking (an annoyingly cute monkey-with-hands-over-eyes emojis PLUS smiley face emoji followed this comment)
Group Member #2: The nurse in me wondered the same. 🙂
Group Member #1, responding to Group Member #2: haha! (followed by a stupid heart emoji)

What exactly is my issue with this thread? It starts with the “be careful”. It was probably an innocuous comment on the poster’s end, but I thought that me telling her that I’ve had diabetes for 21 years might signal that I know a thing or two when it comes to managing it. It also mildly irked me that she was qualifying her comments to me by saying that she was a pharmacist. That’s great and all, but that doesn’t make her an expert by any stretch of the imagination on diabetes…same thing to the girl who also chimed in by saying she was a nurse.

Now, you might be thinking that I’m overreacting to this whole thing – and part of me agrees, I’m sure that both girls just had pure intentions and wanted to offer support in their own ways – but if that’s the case, then this is a perfect example of how things can get misconstrued in an online setting. My interpretation of this thread is that both girls were trying to tell me that their expertise in their respective fields meant that they knew a good bit about diabetes, and rather than come off as supportive, the comments felt like show-offish (like, oh, look at me and how much I know!) and as if they thought I couldn’t take proper care of myself. Again, my interpretation may or may not be true, but it’s fact that we all need to be careful when choosing our words in situations like this. Even better, when something isn’t totally clear, we can choose to say nothing rather than chime in with a comment that might come off wrong or sounds misguided.

With that in mind, I now get why some people say that online support just isn’t for them. Personally, though I appreciate and like being part of online communities, this experience did teach me a lesson about being careful with my interactions in these spaces, and that I should always try to remember…it’s impossible to gauge tone/emotion in the comments section, and coming across as a know-it-all isn’t a good look on anyone.

For Feet’s Sake!

First and foremost, let me apologize: I’m sorry for all of the cheesy puns that are about to follow.

Now that’s off my chest, let me put my best foot forward and write about feet.

People with diabetes are told to pay extra special attention to their feet. There’s a few things to look out for, such as circulation and nerve issues. So recently, when an old foot injury flared up, I knew trouble was afoot and I better do my best to heel it.

A couple years ago, I broke a very tiny bone (roughly the size of a corn kernel) in my foot called the sesamoid bone. It was classified as a stress fracture, so I wore a bootie and did non-weight-bearing exercises for six weeks while it heeled. I also decided to take a break from high-heel shoes and cushion my sneakers with gel inserts, which wound up being an important step in recovery. Before long, my foot was feelin’ fine and my soul was joyous.

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Fast-forward to the present day, and the injury seemed to be waltzing its way back into my foot. For feet’s sake, I thought it was a thing of the past! Luckily, I’d kept my gel inserts from the first time around and started wearing them again. I didn’t want to toe the line with this foot pain – I addressed it and monitored it closely, and will continue to do so.

For now, my foot is toe-tally better. I’m reminding myself that it’s important to pay attention to my body’s signals and handle them accordingly. Foot health is absolutely not something to mess around with, and like everything else related to diabetes, I’ve got to hop to it and take good care of my feet. Can you digit?

The One Good Thing about a CGM Hiatus

All was quiet. A little too quiet…

No beeps. No buzzes. No alarms.

And the silence was refreshing. I didn’t like being without my CGM for a week, but there’s no doubt about the one positive effect that its absence had on me: It gave me a much-needed mental break from an audible aspect of diabetes.

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Diabetes can be LOUD sometimes. Especially in hypo repeat mode.

It was a blissful reprieve from my diabetes literally screaming at me like a needy baby. A week-long vacation from my CGM hollering at the top of its lungs “HEY YOUR BLOOD SUGAR IS HIGH DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT” or “WAKE UP YOUR BLOOD SUGAR IS LOW YOU BETTER TREAT IT RIGHT NOW.”

It’s rare that I can describe diabetes as peaceful; in this case, it was, and the experience will make me consider putting diabetes on mute a little more often.

 

Why I Decided to do a 3-Day Cleanse (and How it Impacted my Blood Sugars)

No carbs. No dairy. No meat. No processed foods. Strictly vegetables, fruits, and shakes for the next three days. 72 hours – I could do it, right?

Last week, I completed a 3-Day Cleanse. My goal was that it would help me feel a little bit refreshed after a couple weeks of nonstop gluttony. I figured it’d help reset my system and make me feel less bloated and tired. I didn’t want to do a typical “cleanse” though, the kind that forces you to stop eating any and all food and stick with juices. That’s why I did this particular program – I would be eating real foods on a regular basis throughout all three days. The bonus was that it would be foods I’m familiar with and are generally low carb, which could only mean good things for my blood sugar.

My routine for all three days would follow this format: Wake up, drink a glass of water, blend a shake together with one serving size of fruit. I’d have a cup of herbal tea one hour after breakfast, and one hour after that, I’d have a fiber-filled drink. Lunch would consist of another shake, one serving of vegetables, one serving of fruit, and one spoonful of hummus. I’d have an afternoon snack of baby carrots and one spoonful of almond butter with another cup of herbal tea an hour after consuming the snack. Dinner would be one last shake, one cup of vegetable broth, and a spinach salad with olive oil and lemon juice drizzled on top. I could have a final cup of herbal tea any time in the evening.

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I didn’t expect to learn as much as I did throughout the program, but those three days taught me a lot about how the things I put into my body impact not just my blood sugar, but my state of mind. Here’s what happened during my cleanse:

  • Day 1 – This day was by far the easiest to complete. Despite dialing back the amounts and types of foods I was consuming, I didn’t feel hungry at all – everything sated me. I was really enjoying watching my Dexcom CGM graph because it barely budged. I stayed right around 90-110 mg/dL for most of the day, probably because I was eating minimal carbs. Fewer carbs means less room for error, and this concept was definitely cemented into my mind by the end of the cleanse. I went to bed with a slight headache at the end of day 1, but a smile on my face. This would be a breeze!
  • Day 2 – My CGM sensor went kaput by mid-morning, and I was PISSED about it. I wanted the ability to continue tracking my blood sugars on this cleanse, and suddenly it was no longer available to me (because oh-so-conveniently, it was my last sensor in stock). Fuming over my CGM situation, I started feeling slight pangs of hunger shortly after having my fiber drink. I ate lunch as soon as I could after that, and spent much of the rest of the afternoon fighting a headache and dreading going home to see – not eat – my mom’s delicious home cooking. On the brighter side of things, my digestion seemed to be improving already and I felt a bit less bloated.
  • Day 3 – I went from “Oh, this cleanse will be a breeze!” to “OMG THESE ARE THE LONGEST THREE DAYS OF MY LIFE GIMME REAL FOOD AGAIN BEFORE I HAVE A MELTDOWN” in less than 48 hours. That’s gotta be a new record. I distracted myself as much as I could from my misery by burying myself in my work, which helped to a degree. But I couldn’t fight the lightheaded sensation that seemed to grip my entire body. I was confused by that – I though only eating real, plant-based foods would eliminate crummy feelings. Maybe I was experiencing a sort of withdrawal as my body got used to this new diet? I can’t confirm that, but I suspect that after a few more days, I likely would’ve felt much better…or hungrier. I’ll leave it to speculation because there is no way I’m doing this again any time soon. But MAN, am I proud of myself for completing the cleanse without cheating, not even once.

So if I felt THAT miserable toward the end of the cleanse, then why am I glad that I did it? Mainly, I’m astonished at how much easier it was to maintain my diabetes and “desirable” blood sugar levels in that three-day time period. Even without my CGM, I was still getting great results. It reinforced something that I already knew: that the body will react accordingly to the quantity and quality of foods that are used to nourish it. It made me realize that perhaps I should toy with cutting down my daily carb intake and upping my veggie/fruit/protein consumption to find out whether that positively impacts my blood sugar in the way that I think it will. This doesn’t mean I’m starting a low-carb or keto diet; rather, I’m simply going to follow a more thoughtful one.

To sum it up, this three-day cleanse/torture act/lesson (whatever you want to call it) helped make my understanding and appreciation of food much stronger, which makes it worth it in my book.