I’m the type of person who needs to stay as busy as possible: I like being productive and having the satisfaction of saying that I’ve accomplished something each day. That doesn’t always mean that I’m successful, but I do my damnedest to make sure that I check off at least one item from my to-do list on a daily basis.
And I don’t like saying “no” to others, so whenever someone asks for my help, I’m on it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a family member, close friend, or an acquaintance – I do what I can when I’m called on for help, and as you might be able to imagine, this is both good and bad for me.
In terms of diabetes management, it’s great because when I am particularly busy, this means that I’m probably not sitting around a whole lot – the constant go-go-go makes my blood sugars pretty happy. Plus, having a packed schedule keeps my mind occupied when I need to think about something – anything, really – other than my diabetes. If I’m having a tough diabetes day, I don’t have to dwell on it; instead, I have tasks X, Y, and Z to do. If I’m waiting for a stubborn high blood sugar to come back down, then I can start working on a project rather than stare at my CGM for the next hour.
So in this way, keeping myself busy is a fabulous way to take my attention away from diabetes when I desperately need the mental break from it…but it’s also harmful at times, because let’s face it, there are many times in life where I really do need to concentrate on my diabetes care and management.
Whether it’s a big or small task that I’m working on, I put 110% of myself into it, which means that I really don’t have extra thinking room for my diabetes. Some examples of times that I’ve been far too lost in what I was doing to give diabetes a second thought are when I’ve been in the middle of a knitting project and my Dexcom is went off but I actively ignored it in order to keep my focus on whatever row I was working on (and my blood sugar stayed higher for longer than it should have), or when I should’ve taken a break from writing social media posts for my friend to eat something because my blood sugar needed it, but I just wanted to finish the job first.
Now that I’ve figured out how my diabetes is helped and hurt by my jam-packed days, will I continue to stay constantly busy? The answer is definitely. But I will also try to remember the importance of balance in order to keep my diabetes at the forefront of my mind in a healthy manner.
I still can’t believe that I broke my wrist…again. At least I changed it up a little this time and broke my left one instead!
A broken bone is a broken bone, but my healing experience has been very different compared to last time.
For starters, when I broke my right wrist a couple of years ago, it was in the middle of winter (I slipped and fell on ice in the driveway). I was put into a cast that I wore for 4-6 weeks that felt like 4-6 months because of the challenges I faced. Between attempting to become ambidextrous as I built up strength in my left hand and taking a solo trip to Atlanta, Georgia to film a commercial for Dexcom, I did my best to work around my injury…even though I felt incredibly defeated in the face of the limitations it imposed; specifically, I felt that I couldn’t keep up with the exercise regimen I’d worked so hard to establish. I feared that I’d exacerbate the injury, so I didn’t even try to work around it.
This time around, it’s summer. The break happened after I tripped and fell down some stairs (klutz, much?). I’m wearing a brace for 3-6 weeks instead of a cast: My orthopedist said it’d be much more comfortable versus a cast, which can get seriously stinky and sweaty in the warm weather. And rather than stressing about how I’ll continue to exercise while also allowing myself to heal, I’ve made modifications that have kept my body, broken bone, and ‘betes happy.
I guess I learned from the last broken bone that it’s better to keep moving in some way, shape, or form than dwell too much on the injury itself. In other words, I’ve been trying hard to focus on the things I can still do while I’m wearing a brace as opposed to the things I cannot do. For example, my broken wrist can’t stop me from taking daily walks or, when I’m feeling more ambitious, going for an occasional run. It can’t stop me from making the shift to lower-body-focused workouts or core strengthening routines. I refuse to let this injury be the reason that I get sloppy with my nutrition or workout routines, and it certainly isn’t an excuse to become unmotivated in terms of my diabetes care. If anything, it might just be the reason that I tighten things up and make some much-needed improvements.
They say that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade…so I’m going to try, because a broken wrist won’t stop me from getting something good out of this less-than-ideal situation.
And I’m not exclusively talking about endocrinologists here, because really, they’re the ones who specialize in diabetes…so, you know, they are supposed to just get it.
I’m talking about the other medical professionals that people with diabetes might see in addition to their endocrinologist.
Take me, for example…I see a primary care physician, a dentist, an allergist, an OB/GYN, and an ophthalmologist.
And only a couple of those specialists really understand what it means to have a T1D patient in their care.
For example, I saw my allergist back in February (before all this COVID stuff) to see if she could switch me to a nasal spray that cost less than the $45 per month I was paying (because let’s be real, if I can save money on a prescription, I’m going to do it). The appointment was supposed to be quick and easy, but it turned into a two-hour affair (!) because she was concerned about my asthma.
I highlighted my issues with asthma in a post from January. The big takeaway from my most recent spells of wheeziness is that the inhaled steroid I was taking to deal with it at the time was making my blood sugar skyrocket, and I felt like I had to choose between breathing comfortably and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels…not an ideal this-or-that scenario by any standards.
So when my allergist detected some “squeakiness” (her words, not mine, and it makes me laugh because that’s a cute way to refer to the rasping gasping of asthma) in my lungs when she was listening to my breathing with a stethoscope, she asked me to catch her up on my history with asthma. When I did, she immediately understood my reluctance about taking the inhaled steroid, and prescribed me a new medication that will reduce my asthma symptoms as well as some of my allergy symptoms.
I’m never going to be thrilled, per se, about adding yet another medication into the mix: It’s just one more thing that I have to remember to do each day at a certain time. But what did excite me about this prescription is that I’ve noticed a real difference since I’ve started taking it. And more importantly, I felt heard by my allergist. She didn’t write off my concerns about the inhaled steroid, she took extra time during the appointment to run tests, and we had a back-and-forth dialogue in order to get to the bottom of things.
It was a stark contrast to the appointment I’d had with a nurse practitioner from my PCP’s office in which I was prescribed the inhaled steroid DESPITE having voiced my concerns, and the appointment was over within minutes.
It’s a bummer that not all medical professionals “get” diabetes, but it’s also a reminder that as patients, we can make a difference by continuing to advocate for ourselves until they do understand.
Hey, you! Mysterious person reading this blog post! I bet you’re just itching to know what exactly I did for days 8 and 9 of my 27 acts of kindness challenge, right?!
Okay, okay, so I get it…this challenge probably isn’t the most exciting part of your day like it is for me. And there’s a good chance that only like, two people even care to read about my challenge and its evolution over time. And that’s okay.
Because if just ONE of the two people who actually give a hoot about this whole thing gets inspired to do their own act(s) of kindness…then I’ve done my job. It’s exactly why I have this blog in the first place: I’m not trying or expecting to motivate every person with diabetes in the world (can you say “impossible”), I’m merely hoping that sharing my story will resonate with someone, in some way that is meaningful to that individual.
It’s about quality, not quantity.
Monday, 4/13 – Act of Kindness #8: Ordinarily, Mondays are my least favorite day of the week, but…we’re not living in ordinary times. Lately, Mondays get me back on track and keep me grounded. I have a work routine that I get into starting Monday mornings that lasts through Friday evening, and it helps in these crazy times to know that there’s some aspect of each week that I can rely on.
Plus, Monday nights have become yoga night for me! A few years ago, I attended a yoga class that lasted 8 weeks. I kept in touch with the instructor after the course ended in the hopes that I’d be able to take future classes with her. So I was thrilled when she emailed her roster of past and present students two weeks ago to let all of us know she’d be hosting free yoga sessions on Monday nights for the foreseeable future. At the end of her message, she told us that we should feel free to extend the invitation to anyone else who might be interested in joining. And thus, my idea for my next act of kindness was born. I know that I tend to feel amazing after a yoga session – my body welcomes the stretches and challenges associated with a good practice – so I figured I could reach out to friends who might also appreciate the mind and body benefits of yoga and tell them about the virtual class.
So I texted a bunch of people, explained how it worked, and promised to provide them the information they’d need to attend the class. My message was met with enthusiasm and a few people took me up on the offer. The beauty of this act of kindness is that it brings a bunch of people together (albeit online instead of in-person) so they can show an act of kindness to themselves by giving their bodies a little extra movement. Plus, the yoga classes are ongoing, so this very well may be a new, fun Monday night activity for myself and all class participants.
Tuesday, 4/14 – Act of Kindness #9: It occurred to me that none of my acts of kindness so far really had anything to do with diabetes, so I decided to change that yesterday. I wanted to shine a spotlight on members of the diabetes online community who are on Instagram and who run accounts that I really appreciate for various reasons. I did this by creating a template for my Instagram stories, tagging some of my favorite diabetes IG accounts, and encouraging anyone who viewed my story to copy a blank version of my template and paste it into their own stories to share even more fantastic accounts with their followers. And this idea worked better than I anticipated! Not only did the people who run the accounts that I tagged reach out to me and thank me for the shout-out, but there were a bunch of other accounts who took me up on my idea to share their own favorites using my template! I loved that with just a few taps on my phone screen, tons more people in the diabetes online community got instantly connected.
And let’s face it: It can be hard to put yourself out there online. The Internet is a scary, mean place. But doing something small like this, in which a little love and appreciation is put out there for all to see (instead of adding to negativity), makes the online environment brighter and friendlier, even if only for a 24-hour Instagram story window.
And that makes it worth it.
P.S. If you’re an active user on Instagram and want to follow some great diabetes accounts, check out these users (who I highlighted on my Instagram story yesterday):
@kamahkazee (this is my friend Kam’s account and she posts excellent content. She’s also a super-talented artist!)
@askmeaboutmytype1 (my buddy Walt runs this account for his podcast. He always posts the best intros to new episodes here!)
@insulin_and_tonic (Jillian’s diabetes memes are downright hysterical.)
@morkieness (Samantha decorates each new pod that she wears and they are STUNNING! She often uses stickers and glitter in her designs, so naturally, I’m a fan.)
@jesse.lavine_t1d (I’ve known Jesse for a few years now and besides being a wonderful friend, he also has an impressive Instagram feed filled with content that shows all aspects of life with diabetes.)
@lauren_bongiorno (a bit of an all-star in the diabetes community, Lauren is a diabetes health coach who posts helpful tips of all types for people living with diabetes.)
Sometimes, I feel like I’m 86 years old instead of 26 years old.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.