4 Ways Diabetes Motivates Me

Life with diabetes can be inconvenient, unpredictable, and downright frustrating. But it’s not all bad. In fact, after living with it for more than 23 years now, I’ve actually identified a few different ways in which it helps motivate me.

And what, exactly, are those ways? Well…

#1: It’s constantly challenging me to strive for the better: Better “control” over my blood sugar levels, better management of my diet and exercise regimen, and better care of my entire body, in general. While it involves a lot of work, it’s extremely motivating because I know that anything I do for the better of my diabetes and my body now will pay dividends in the future.

#2: Diabetes encourages me to ask questions. I think that my diabetes is the reason why I’ve learned to be curious. It pushes me to want to know the who, what, when, where, why, and how of various scenarios, both relating to and not relating to diabetes. It’s natural for human beings to be inquisitive, but they don’t always do something to pursue answers to questions. My diabetes pushes me to do that, with varying degrees of success, and that’s something I’m grateful for.

After having diabetes for more than 23 years, I’ve realized that it can be highly motivating.

#3: It pushes me to prove people wrong. There’s so much stigma surrounding diabetes…”You can’t eat that! You can’t do this! You can’t do that!” are exclamations that I’ve heard my entire life from different people. Rather than nodding and smiling politely at these poor, misinformed individuals, I strive to show them exactly why they’re wrong. Whether it’s explaining the facts or going out and doing the very thing they said I wouldn’t be able to do because of diabetes, it’s empowering for me to smash down diabetes misconceptions.

#4: Diabetes inspires me to seek more out of life. This goes hand-in-hand with point number 3, but it counts as a separate notion because this is all about how I view my life with diabetes. I didn’t fully accept my diabetes until I was a teenager. That acceptance represented a turning point for me during which I realized that just because I was dealt this card in life, it doesn’t mean that it should stop me from accomplishing my hopes and dreams. Over the years, my diabetes has made me want more: opportunities, experiences, relationships…you name it and I’m hungry for it.

Sure, diabetes can be my biggest headache…but it can also be my greatest motivator, and I think it’s important for me to embrace the beauty of that.

The Best Time for Me and My Diabetes to Exercise

I am a phony morning person.

By that I mean that I pretend that I like getting up early in the mornings, but truth be told…I hate it. Oh how I long for the days that I could sleep in as late as I wanted and shun my very few responsibilities…

Even though I clearly don’t love waking up early, there is one benefit to it that truly lasts all day long. And that is getting my workouts done within the first hour or so of my day.

Listen, I’m not a fitness freak. I don’t have a ripped bod. More often than not, I’m working out so I can eat and drink the things that I like without feeling as terrible about it (only light sarcasm used in that previous sentence). But I do like exercising and try to do so every single day because, well, it’s good for me and definitely helps me to produce better blood sugars.

Exercising is a thousand times harder than it needs to be, though, when my blood sugar crashes halfway through a routine – which happened a lot more than I wanted it to when I was working out in the afternoons or evenings.

Fed up with the lows, I changed up my routine and that’s when I discovered the beauty of fasting morning workouts.

I am definitely not as flexible as this cartoon lady.

I learned that if I work out soon after I wake up in the morning and wait until after I’m done to eat breakfast, then lows almost never happen. It’s like magic. I’m able to get through my exercise routine (which is usually a half hour circuit of some sort) without having to modify my basal rates whatsoever. Since I don’t have any insulin on board (because I haven’t eaten any food yet), I’m only working out with my basal rate running in the background, so there’s a much lower chance that my blood sugar will really fluctuate when I’m exercising. Of course, mornings that I wake up with a low or a high blood sugar are a little more challenging, seeing as I either have to bring it back up to a good level for working out or get some insulin pumping in my system, but I wake up most mornings with my blood sugar in a range that makes me feel comfortable working out in.

All the diabetes business aside, I gotta say…my other favorite part of working out first thing is that it’s over with and done for the day. Ba-da bing, ba-da boom. It’s not looming over my head for the remainder of the day, and that’s a really nice feeling.

A.M. exercise is A-O.K. to my diabetes and me.

A Postponed Physical and the Resulting Questions

“Molly, we’re calling to inform you that your 10 A.M. appointment for this Thursday has been canceled. We still aren’t taking patients in the office and we won’t be rescheduling you until April. Please give us a call back so we can set up a new appointment time.”

I listened to the voicemail twice before it sank in that my primary care doctor’s office was calling me to postpone my annual physical.

Why, exactly, did it get postponed? And how do I feel about it?

My doctor’s office called me two days before I was scheduled to come in…leaving me to also wonder why such short notice of the cancellation?

Well, I can only theorize the answer to the first question. I’m certain that my doctor’s office is absolutely overwhelmed with phone calls and appointments…and they’ve probably been like that for the past year or so. I’m guessing that they’re only keeping appointments with higher-priority patients that absolutely need to be seen…someone like me, a pretty healthy (discounting my diabetes) and younger individual, is likely not very high on the list of patients they want to see. Plus, even though I know they’re doing virtual appointments for medical questions as they come up, there probably is no purpose in doing a virtual physical because there’s only so much they can do via video call. So I get the postponement, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

My annual physical is the doctor’s appointment for me, the one that I have each year that I know won’t be a total waste of time. Each year, I get my blood work and urinalysis completed at this appointment, as well as an EKG to monitor my heart. I also get to go over any general health concerns I have with my PCP, who is very thorough when explaining things to me. During this particular visit, I’d hoped to talk about (what I believe to be) the stress-induced hives I’ve experienced in the last month, but now it sounds like I won’t have the chance to do that until April.

But I’m also wondering…when I go to the appointment in April, will I receive my COVID vaccine then, too?

I messaged the doctor’s office to find out and learned…nothing helpful:

I believe by that time you should qualify for the vaccine so you should be able to get it. This of course depends on if the state has given us the vaccine. We will know soon about that and will be sending information to all our patients. 

Uhh…according to the multi-phase vaccine plan outlined by the state of Massachusetts, I should be eligible for the vaccine prior to April. (But quite frankly, the whole phase plan has been a bit of a hot mess. I’m just glad to have 2 out of 4 immediate family members vaccinated at this point.) And the “if” there? Definitely unsettling.

I have so many questions: Can they postpone again in April? When will they be able to tell us more information about the vaccine? Do they think that it’s safer to wait in April because there will hopefully be more vaccinated individuals overall then? Or are they actually worried about vaccine distribution and don’t want to clue anyone into that?

So I feel not-so-awesome about having to wait three more months to check in with my PCP. I take my overall health very seriously, not just my diabetes. One thing has everything to do with the other. However, I do have a virtual appointment with my endocrinologist in a few weeks…maybe that will be the health check-in that I’m desiring?

I’m not banking on it, but I’m hopeful.

How Keeping Constantly Busy Helps (and Hurts) My Diabetes

I don’t fare well when I have too much idle time.

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.

How Keeping Constantly Busy Helps (and Hurts) My Diabetes
Who DOESN’T love the satisfying feeling of checking items off from a to-do list?!

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.

How a Broken Bone Affects my ‘Betes

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.

How a Broken Bone Affects my 'Betes
Can anyone else spot the lone strand of fur, courtesy of my dog, stuck to my brace?!

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.

 

 

 

 

Doctors Who Just “Get It”

Doctors who just “get” diabetes are the best.

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.

Doctors Who Just _Get It_
It’s really nice when my doctors don’t question my authority on my own diabetes.

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.

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.

Red Valentine Countdown Social Media Post
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.

621660CD-E223-479A-8639-6E6287D78D7B
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.