Tips and Tricks

Let’s round out the week by sharing our best diabetes tips and diabetes tricks. From how you organise supplies to how you manage gear on the go/vacation (beach, or skiing, or whatever). From how you keep track of prescription numbers to how you remember to get your orders refilled. How about any “unconventional” diabetes practices, or ways to make diabetes work for YOU (not necessarily how the doctors say to do it!). There’s always something we can learn from each other. (Remember though, please no medical advice or dangerous suggestions.)

The tricks and tips you learn from people with diabetes are always going to be different to the ones you learn from HCPs. Ours are usually a little bit more…unorthodox.

If you want to learn things like how to keep on track with your prescriptions or remember if you’ve already taken insulin, I am the wrong person to ask. RUN. RUN AWAY NOW. MY FORGETFULNESS IS CONTAGIOUS. Seriously, my life regarding that aspect of my diabetes looks a little like this.

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STOP IT. TOO MANY THINGS TO REMEMBER. Thank god for the history function on my pump and Post-It notes. I’ll be reading every post on this topic to pick up some tips from everybody else!

However, there are a few things that I’ve picked up over the years, and they’re things that you’re not told at diagnosis, and wouldn’t expect to be. Best bras for pump wearing? The educators rightly have more important things on their mind! They’re little things, but there’s room for shallow advice in this space too. Sometimes it’s the little things that can really make a big difference. Disclaimer – everything I say here is advice from a 20 something type 1, and is intended as something to consider, not medical advice. Don’t take it as gospel and don’t be stupid about it, always be safe!

Tip #1: If you’re pumping, choose your bras carefully.
If you wear a bra and use an insulin pump, chances are your pump will end up in there 98% of the time, especially if you’re blessed (or cursed…) with a large chest like me. It’s so convenient, it just sits there so neatly…EXCEPT IT RUINS YOUR BRAS. I didn’t know this for years – I was told by diabetes friends only last year that the reason my underwire would always break through at the bridge/centre panel so quickly was because I clipped my pump there every single day. I just thought I was putting them on too enthusiastically…if you’re pumping, the best bra to buy is a well made one with a high bridge, so there is room to clip your pump and less chance of it a) breaking through and b) dangling down and giving you a weird shaped beeping growth in the middle of your chest. Buy the sexy low-bridge bras too, we all need some gorgeous lingerie,  just don’t expect to clip your pump there (but if you’re buying a sexy bra, the pump won’t be there for long anyway, am I right ladies?)

Tip #2: Don’t match your cartridge buying with your inset buying.
This tip also took me wayyyyyy too long to figure out! For those playing at home with a healthy pancreas, a cartridge is what the insulin is in inside your pump, and an inset is that cannula-y thing with the tube I insert into myself every three or four days. When I started pumping, I would fill up my insulin, insert my set, then once I was due for a set change I would throw away both of them. WHY?! Pump supplies cost a lot, I was throwing away money! When you finish your cartridge, keep it! Re-use it, fill it up again, chuck that sucker in, use, take out, and repeat. As a diabetes friend once said to me, “Keep going until it won’t!”. Re-using this cartridge means you can order multiple boxes of insets and only 1 box of cartridges, saving you a massive amount of money. Don’t think you need one box of cartridges to one box of sets! Obviously keep it sanitary though, don’t do a me and have a cartridge needle and cap rolling around at the bottom of your bag for weeks…

Tip #3: Be friends with a Physio – they have the best tape
I once texted a physio friend of mine to “Please bring tape! My site is falling out and cbf doing a site change!” before a night out, and she brought the wonder-tape. The tape to end all tapes. This tape is easy to rip and sticky as hell, and it’s always in my handbag in case my temperamental set thinks I’m getting too sweaty and tries to fall off. I have no idea what it’s called, but they use it on the wards and the best thing I’ve ever encountered. That’s another tip – tip #3.5: have tape with you. There is nothing worse than having to go home because your site peeled off. Stick that sucker down and don’t let it interrupt living your life!

Tip #4: Invest in a proper diabetes ‘clutch’ 

Before I bought my ‘Combi Clutch’,  I would be that person who went everywhere with a massive handbag. Honestly, it looked like I was a mother of five with a bag full of baby wipes and spare clothes. Buy a purse that you can take out with you and pretend that you’re one of those people who just has their keys and phone. Is your mind ready to be blown?

You have a purse like this…

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Nice right? Super cute! Wait, let me just get my card…

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BOOM! This baby carries your diabetes stuff, but also has places to put your cards, cash, and sneak in two hypo serves. This baby will change your life, you can just pop your purse on the table like a normal person and not worry about waiters tripping over your gigantic ‘Mum bag’. Mum bag no more. I’m not being paid by this company, I just really like their clutches (If you’d like to hire me to spruik your products, I’m your gal!)

Tip #5: If you’re getting burnt out, go back to basics
My DNE taught me this one, and it has served me well. If you’re sick of diabetes and want it go away, the next best thing to completely ignoring it (not recommended…) is to go back to basics. Set injections, set meals, and let it fade into the background as you piece yourself together again. This may not be for everyone, but this really helped me last year when I was completely burnt out. For a week, I just injected set doses, ate the same thing, and tested the minimal amount. It gave me time to get myself back in the right headspace – my eating habits were boring, sure, but by the end of that week I was rested enough to attempt to get back on the diabetes horse.

 

 

 

The Healthcare Experience

Most people who live with a chronic illness end up with a lot of experience when it comes to dealing with healthcare. How would you improve or change your healthcare experience? What would you like to see happening during medical visits with your healthcare team? How about when dealing with your health insurance companies? What’s your Healthcare Wish List or Biggest Frustration? Today is the day to share it all!

I’m not going to focus on healthcare professionals in this post – you guys do an incredible job, which I could never do. What I think really needs to be talked about is the accessibility of healthcare. Who can access it, and who cannot?

The word ‘accessibility’ covers a lot of ground – how do I travel to my healthcare provider? How do I get my meds? What treatment options are open to me? How do I get the best care? However, the most pertinent aspect for me (and the only one that I really know anything about, due to earning fuck all) is the financial question of accessibility.

Good healthcare should not revolve around your ability to pay. We are so lucky in Australia to have a public healthcare system, however this system is overstretched and under resourced, and I have a terrible feeling that it’s going to remain like that unless people start seeing the gift that is universal healthcare. People wait months to be seen, while those who can afford it skip the queue. This applies to diabetes as well, many people don’t see an educator or endo due to the fact that we can’t spare a couple of hundred dollars! We’re already stretched with paying a couple of hundred per month for diabetes supplies, add on healthcare costs and you’re stuck eating rice and frozen vegies for the next fortnight. I’m lucky enough to still be young enough to count as a ‘dependent’ on my parents private health insurance, even though I haven’t lived at home for years and pay them every month for that insurance. The pump works for me, and I shudder to think of the situation I’d be in if I had no PHI and couldn’t afford to treat my diabetes the way I need to.

I am SO blessed in my healthcare professionals – I see them though a clinic at The Alfred, and it is all bulk billed. My educator is an absolute treasure and I’m hoping to follow her until she retires, but when I want to have kids, I’ll need to see her privately. With the extra BGL supplies needed during a type 1 pregnancy, as well as all the extra scans and checks, will I have the money there and waiting for her?

It blows my mind that governments around the world are trying to rip up universal healthcare systems (I’m looking at you, conservative British and Australian governments!), when we already have a lovely dystopian preview of what a society that dictates care through ability to pay may look like (hi USA!). Healthcare needs to be accessible to EVERYONE, not just those who have the funds.

If I could choose one way to improve healthcare, it would be to mimic the best version of universal healthcare, worldwide. There shouldn’t be a need for organisations that send insulin to people that can’t afford it,and it’s an absolute tragedy that this even exists. However the sad fact is that there are still people living with a lower quality of life, or even dying, simply due to the fact that they can’t afford to manage their diabetes. We need to find a solution, and fast – because every time someone can’t access healthcare, humanity itself becomes a little less human.

 

Language and Diabetes

There is an old saying that states “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. I’m willing to bet we’ve all disagreed with this at some point, and especially when it comes to diabetes. Many advocate for the importance of using non-stigmatizing, inclusive and non-judgmental language when speaking about or to people with diabetes. For some, they don’t care, others care passionately. Where do you stand when it comes to “person with diabetes” versus “diabetic”, or “checking” blood sugar versus “testing”, or any of the tons of other examples? Let’s explore the power of words, but please remember to keep things respectful.

Language is so important, in all its forms. At risk of delving back into my Language Analysis lessons (if my Year 10s hear me say “…but how is that persuasive?” one more time they’ll probably stage an uprising), one word can change the entire meaning of a sentence, and can create incredibly strong emotions. In terms of diabetes,  I agree that there is a real need to use “non-stigmatizing, inclusive and non-judgmental language when speaking about or to people with diabetes”.  Check out the Diabetes Australia Language Position statement if you’re up for five pages of interesting reading – BUT I appreciate that not everyone is as language-nerdy as me (What do you mean, you don’t want to read a 500 page book about the power of language? What do you do for fun then?) SO instead I’m going to summarise my favourites really quickly for those of you who read my blog who don’t have diabetes. Think of this as a ‘go-to guide’ for talking about diabetes. For those of you who do have diabetes, where do you stand? Do you agree with the popular opinion on the type of language that should be used? Sometimes I don’t!

Before I start though, I want to make something very clear. Language is a personal choice. What works for one person with diabetes may not work for another. When in doubt, ask before speaking! If we call you out on your language – take it and learn from it. It’s not your place to dictate our condition and how people talk about it. 

Diabetic: Try person with diabetes instead . This word irks a lot of people with diabetes, as many people feel that it’s this massive label stuck on us – you’re a diabetic, and nothing else. However, I feel differently – sort of.  I refer to myself as a Type diabetic when I’m talking about ME, and nobody else. The only person allowed to refer to me as a diabetic is me. This is simply classic Australian linguistic laziness – who can be bothered with seven syllables when you can say it with five? I have started saying this less though, as I heard some nurses talking about ‘the diabetic in bed 5’ when I was last in hospital and it really bugged me. Am I a hypocrite? Absolutely, deal with it.

Testing: A test has negative connotations, and sometimes our life feels like a test that we’re constantly failing – “Why are your numbers all over the place? Aren’t you trying? You need to test more!” Trying hard does not correlate to perfect numbers with diabetes. I can try as hard as I want, but sometimes my pancreas just likes to get hectic and fuck things up. Try check, because that’s what it is. We’re just checking, dosing insulin, and getting on with life. You can’t pass or fail diabetes – you just live with it.

 Compliance:  OH MY GOD I HATE THIS ONE SO MUCH. A lot of my nurse friends use this one, so I’m guessing it must still be taught in university. STOP USING IT. WE CALL THIS THE “C” WORD. I’ve called a few of my friends out on this (some I’m still summoning up the courage to say it…), and I will not stop. Your relationship with someone who has diabetes is different, you are a team, not a parent telling a child what to do. A toddler refusing to go to bed is non-compliant, a 24 year old woman who is struggling to get her sugars under control is simply struggling. “Compliance” infers that we have no input into the decisions we make every day, when the complete opposite is true. How many people do you know that would make up to 100 decisions a day about their health? It also implies that we are uncooperative, and doing this on purpose. No one with diabetes wakes up in the morning and thinks “I’m going to screw up my body today!” – there is ALWAYS a reason that something is going on, so investigate! You are a team, so try inclusive and collaborative language – “She’s struggling mentally, so we decided to do minimal testing and go back to set dosing” instead of “She’s non-compliant and SO annoying, so I told her to just try testing 4 times a day with set doses.” This also goes for statements like “I’m treating this patient”…NO. You’re not stitching me up or inserting a port. You are working with me. This implies that I have no active say in my disease, which, as outlined above, is 100% false. I am an expert in my diabetes, and you are the HCP who I collaborate with to try and manage it as best as I can.

Poor control: This is judge-y as hell. “Poor control”, “good control”, “excellent control” – since when were blood sugars a moral judgement?  I still remember hearing the nurses at handover one night saying “She has terrible control”, and crying quietly to myself as they left. I’m not a terrible person, and I didn’t decide to have diabetes that refuses to play by the rules. What was hard about saying “She’s struggling with her management”? Language has so much more power than you think it does! What’s more, “diabetes control” in itself is an oxymoron. Diabetes is not something you can control, it’s something you can attempt to manage. As stated above, sometimes diabetes just likes to play dirty and there’s nothing you can do about it. Theoretically, ‘controlling’ blood sugars is great, but diabetes is never a simple equation of check, dose, go. If you set yourself up to control it, you will ALWAYS be disappointed, as it’s impossible. Just take every day as it comes, and try to manage or influence those pesky BGLs. 

 

Honestly, the most important thing to remember is that language is powerful, and language reveals attitudes. We are not being needlessly nit-picky – diabetes affects every single part of our life, and as human beings we deserve to be talked about with respect. If you don’t respect the person in bed 5, you don’t deserve to be working with them. Is that too strong a statement? Maybe (not really). But just as I would never use stigmatising or judgemental language about a student, I hope you would never use that language about me. The minute I find myself using this sort of language about my kids, is when I need to leave teaching, and I think that should go for anyone who works with people with a chronic illness as well. The way that someone talks about diabetes is important, and acknowledging our expertise in our own disease is the first step to developing the collaborative healthcare system that is so needed in the chronic illness area.

Of course language changes over time, that is the incredible thing about it! What was appropriate ten or twenty years ago may not be now, and it’s our responsibility as world citizens to ensure that we are respectful to each other as we possibly can be. If you reflect on your language, learn from us and respect us, we can work together to ensure that there is no more of this resentment between both parties. Take language seriously – it’s personal and so is diabetes.

The Other Half Of Diabetes

We think a lot about the physical component of diabetes, but the mental component is just as significant. How does diabetes affect you or your loved one mentally or emotionally? How have you learned to deal with the mental aspect of the condition? Any tips, positive phrases, mantras, or ideas to share on getting out of a diabetes funk?

If you’ve been following my blog for a while / know me in person, you’ll already know my opinion on this topic. Let me just get on my soapbox, give me one second…

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DIABETES FUCKS UP YOUR MENTAL HEALTH.

Just think about it – there has to be a reason that 50% of us are diagnosed with depression at some point. There’s a definite reason that one in three women with Type 1 are diagnosed with an eating disorder. Having any chronic illness is hard on your mental health, there’s no doubt about that. However, having an illness where you are constantly monitoring yourself, where your entire day revolves around numbers, and where you can be berated for things entirely out of your control means that keeping your mental health in check can sometimes feel like running through mud whilst having objects thrown at you from every direction.

Diabetes has a huge impact on my mental health. I try to not let it get in the way, but the fact remains that combined with other aspects that are uniquely me, my diabetes blows everything up and makes it harder for me to keep in a healthy mindset.

I’m not saying that having good mental health is impossible with diabetes – I know many people with diabetes whose emotional wellbeing is so incredibly healthy it would make anyone jealous. I just wish I knew how to get there, as my own mental health mimics my diabetes i.e. it is an unpredictable rollercoaster. Some days,  I’m happy as anyone could possibly be, and drive to work with the windows down and music blaring. Other days, I withdraw, don’t want to talk to anyone, and end up crying at the supermarket for no apparent reason.

What came first, the mood or the BGLs? Is it my high sugars that are making me sad, or am I sad because I can’t seem to control my sugars? There may be aspects I may not have investigated yet – maybe I haven’t fully accepted my diabetes, and I’m still struggling with it (let’s NOT open that door, just imagine the sheer amount of tissues and comfort food I’ll get through).  Maybe it’s that pesky thing called genetics, and the best hope I have is to just continuously try to keep on top of it and blame my family for blessing me with screwed-up neural pathways.

My mental health always seems to improve when I’m around my friends with diabetes. I gave one of my friends with diabetes a call when I got my latest hba1c – I was walking through the Alfred Hospital in tears, and intermittently sobbing “I don’t understand…I try so hard…why am I such a shit person”. After yelling through the phone “YOU’RE NOT SHIT YOU STUPID IDIOT”, this friend and I caught up for dinner where she not only listened to my fears, but gave me perspective and assured me that we all feel like this sometimes. Having someone else tell you that diabetes is fucking difficult at times and that trying your hardest is all you can do is incredibly comforting. There’s something uniquely reassuring about this coming from another person with a lazy pancreas, as opposed to a psychologist who takes a lunch break without a finger prick or insulin injection. Psychologists know their shit, but so do my friends with diabetes.

I guess that brings me to my one tip for getting out of a diabetes funk – even though taking advice from me about diabetes mental health is like taking advice from Donald Trump about international policy (ooooo snap).  Dealing with the mental aspect of this condition is made so much easier through talking about it, and talking about it with people who ‘get it’. This seems to already be a theme running throughout my DBlogWeek posts, but that’s probably because it’s so important to me. At this current stage in my life, I don’t have the mental energy to campaign and advocate to a world that seems hell bent on throwing me into a box. I’m spending my energy on trying to keep myself healthy and happy, and to do that I need my diabetes friends. To keep yourself happy, you surround yourself with people who love you – so why should keeping my diabetes half happy be any different? Don’t stay silent and suffer in silence – because I guarantee you that there is someone else out there who is feeling exactly the same as you. 

 

 

 

Message Monday

It’s Diabetes Blog Week 2016 this week, and even though I’m up to my ears in Masters work and marking assignments,  I wanted to take part again. Writing is therapeutic, as is reading the many blog posts that continue to stream in every day!

Let’s kick off the week by talking about why we are here, in the diabetes blog space. What is the most important diabetes awareness message to you? Why is that message important for you, and what are you trying to accomplish by sharing it on your blog?

A diabetes message?  There are so many messages about diabetes that I would love to announce from the rooftops, but I guess you just have to pick one right?

My blog says a lot of things. I try to write about things that are personal – not too personal, I don’t want my deepest darkest secrets out there for everyone to see – but personal enough so someone out there can empathise and realise “Hey, I’m not alone in this!” There is nothing more liberating when you have a chronic disease than the first time you realise that you’re not the only one who ‘does that’. Until I started to tweet and blog, I honestly thought I was the only person with diabetes who had numbers like mine, or who hated BGL testing with an absolute passion. In my limited experience, people tend to be more honest online, as they’re hiding behind a computer screen and don’t have that need to ‘feel better’ than anyone else. When you’re just a username and avatar, the dialogue that can happen is nothing short of illuminating.

If there is one message that needs to go out into our diabetes blogosphere, it is that you’re not alone. Type 1 diabetes can be such an isolating experience – I know nobody in my day-to-day life with type 1, and if I hadn’t reached out four years ago, I’d probably still be plodding along, dealing with t1d and all its associated crap by myself. That’s why I blog – I share things that have made an impact on me, or thoughts I need someone else to read, or rants that I just can’t repeat in the staffroom on a Wednesday lunchtime. We need a huge assortment of blogs, because there is a huge array of opinions and experiences out there. No one with diabetes is the same, so why should online diabetes media be any different? I want to share my experiences on this blog so that someone, somewhere, might read something while they’re flicking through the #dblog tag one night and think “Hey – I feel just like that! It’s not just me!” By providing a unique voice, I’m also providing a tiny sort of community. I’m sure I’m not the only 20-something Australian woman out there with type 1 diabetes and a reality TV addiction, so why pretend like I am?

It may be your diabetes, but we’re all in this together. 

 

We don’t need no education

Diabetes is an invisible illness, but it’s also very visible. There’s no subtle way to test your blood sugar or inject insulin, and it always results in questions. I love questions, I welcome them – but I’m always conscious of talking about it too much. I couldn’t put my finger on why I become anxious about talking all things diabetes until last night, when I was at a bevs and bonfire night. My pump was hanging off my jeans (easy access so I could bolus for that cheese and dips platter…), so it was more visible than usual. As I bolused for a dessert, a few people started to ask me questions about it.

“What is that?”

“So does that test your blood sugar?”

“Do you always have to wear that?”

I was having the BEST chat, and as we continued to talk and I showed them where my cannula was, I realised why I always steer the conversation away from my diabetes before this point.

People usually start to get rude.

These people were different. They were respectful of my knowledge. They were actively listening to me – they weren’t waiting to jump into the conversation with a story about their diabetic grandma, or how they’d ‘rather die’ than have diabetes. They were genuinely interested, and soaking up everything I was saying.

The difference between this conversation and others I usually have was staggering. By this point, I usually have a male man-splaining the finer points of his cousin’s great-aunt’s ‘diabeetus’ to me, or a woman dressed head to toe in Lulu Lemon lecturing me about the evils of sugar. People always tend to make the conversation revolve around them, and 90% of the time I end up sitting there listening to someone explain my own disease to me. I’m exhausted from trying to correct people – and when they’re that adamant, they don’t want to be educated anyway. I’m now a master at sculling my glass of wine and saying “Oh my drink is empty, please excuse me!” and avoiding them for the rest of the night.

This conversation was refreshing. Type 1 diabetes was the only thing these people wanted to know about, and were genuinely curious about my day-to-day life. The only comments they made were complimentary – things like “Wow! Your brain is crazy!” when I showed them how to carb count, and “You guys must be so resilient” when they realised that we inject ourselves all the time. To be honest, I walked out of the party feeling like a bit of a legend. Diabetes is my everyday, but I often forget that it’s actually a big deal. We ARE legends, we do so much everyday to keep ourselves alive and healthy, and it’s nice to be reminded of that sometimes. This is the kind of ‘educating’ I could do every day – to people that just want to understand. Education and listening has to go both ways.

Note to non-diabetics – if you don’t have diabetes, don’t explain it to me.

#IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes

Today is #IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes day – where people with diabetes use this hashtag to create and spread awareness about this disease, and give those of you with a healthy pancreas a little bit of an idea of what out day to day looks like.
#IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes is something that weighs upon me. Not in the front of my mind, more so like a pimple on my chin. You know it’s there, you’ve tried to deny it, hide it, and joke about it – but at the end of the day you just have to get on with life, knowing that the pimple is there for the foreseeable future.

However, unlike pimples, #IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes is here to stay, and requires constant monitoring. After six years, thinking about my diabetes is second nature, and I sometimes forget what was in my head before I got type 1. What did I even think about?!

#IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes gives you perspective. There is an answer to what I thought about before diabetes – unimportant shit! Diabetes allows you to take a step back and realise that, in the great scheme of things, forgetting to photocopy a test or saying something embarrassing at a party is a minuscule blip. Having to be your own pancreas, and literally keep yourself functioning day to day, makes it easier to be grateful for the little things.

When I sat down to supervise production rehearsal tonight, my pump alarmed loudly, screaming “NO BATTERY!” Curling up in the theatre, I quickly shoved my hand down my top (the students are used to that by now!), shut it down, and continued to coach year 7s on the finer points of a pirouette.

#IWishPeopleKnewThatDiabetes is something that, sometimes, you just don’t have time for. Let me teach my kids, let me live my life, and then I’ll deal with my lazy pancreas.

Numbers Shmumbers

For me, numbers are overwhelming. They started off great (I killed at times tables and geometry), but as I got older numbers started to take on a more sinister role. In the classroom numbers became confusing, and full of anxiety and terror. What is sin, cos and tan?  Why do I have to know how to do BIDMAS? WHY ARE ALL THE NUMBERS AND LETTERS MIXING TOGETHER IN MY HEAD?! WHAT DO THESE MEAN?! WHO AM I?

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When I was diagnosed, numbers became my nemesis.  Diabetes is full of numbers – it’s a 24/7 disease that has you constantly doing equations in your head. For a teenager who had trouble with figuring out ratios in jelly shots, this was not the best disease to have. Since diagnosis, numbers have been my downfall.  When a dietician tells me about a “a super easy equation to figure out your insulin units!”, I nod and panic inwardly. Will I need to use a calculator? How long will this take? Will this be triggering? Before I went on the pump, I used to do S. W.A.G boluses –   a scientific, wild-ass guess, where you use more instinct than data to bolus an unexpected or uncalculated meal. Why would I do that? THIS was my mind during every injection.

“Ok, so this meal is 50 grams…but I’m playing netball in an hour…but I’m also sick…so will 2 units be enough? Will that send me low? But I don’t want to play high…but then what if that exercise shoots me up then down?  What if…oh FUCK IT 3 units and jellybeans it is”

Would you like to do that every time you eat?

The pump has been my saviour, as it does some of the calculation for me, but it has also been my downfall. Pumping requires more BGL testing – and that’s where I crumple. Every time I see a number on my tester, I have an emotional reaction to it. When I see a number like 5.5, I feel so proud of myself, like it’s an A+ beaming up at me from the screen. When I test and I’m high, I feel terrible. I feel like I’ve failed an assignment – naughty pancreas! How dare you! I fed you a salad and this is how you treat me?!

Numbers judge me. Numbers yell at me and tell me that I’m a ‘bad diabetic’, that my efforts are worth nothing, that I’m a terrible person. An 18.7 feels like a punch in the face – like it’s screaming “This is your best effort?! This is all you’re capable of?” This is totally my issue, and many people with diabetes don’t see their BGLs like this. They see them as simply a number, nothing more. Objectively, I know blood sugar levels are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Blood sugar levels are just that – LEVELS. They’re not a grade, or a personal judgement, they’re simply a platform from which to take action. I will preach this to anyone who will listen, but somehow it won’t get through to my own brain.

My issue with numbers has led to me struggling. I’m avoiding testing as much as I should, because I’m terrified not knowing what the result going to be, and that I can’t prepare myself if it’s ‘bad’. I hate that I attach my value as a person to my BGL, but I’m finding it really hard to separate the two.

My diabetes is a part of me, and when it’s not under control, I feel out of control.

 

 

Let’s dia-beat-this

The theme of World Health Day is “Beat Diabetes”

I’m usually not a fan of people saying someone is ‘beating’ a disease. A very close friend of mine had cancer last year,  and it would drive me crazy when people said “Keep fighting! Beat cancer!” Like anyone with a disease wakes up in the morning and thinks “I’m going to let my body win today lol”.

What does “beat” mean? I’m assuming we’re not referring to physically beating diabetes, however satisfying that may be. Can you imagine kneeing diabetes in the groin?! Amazing!

Beating a disease can mean so many things. It can mean eradicating it all together, or putting up a good fight. It can simply mean living your life, with your disease right alongside you. I personally think anyone with a disease is ‘beating’ it, simply by having it. On a micro level, we’re all bloody amazing. With the help of meds, injections,  machines living in our bras etc., we beat it by living it.

On a macro level, do we need to beat diabetes? Abso-bloody-lutely. In 2012, diabetes was the direct cause of 1.5 million deaths. WHAT. More than 80% of diabetes deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, which makes it even more important that we beat diabetes. Having a disease shouldn’t beat you down, or prevent you from living the life you want to, but the depressing fact of the matter is that with so many varying levels of access to and affordability of diabetes supplies around the world, this disease CAN stop you. People are spending their entire earnings on keeping themselves alive! Check out T1International to save me ranting on this issue.

By beating diabetes i.e. eradicating diabetes, we can improve the lives of everyone living with diabetes around the world, especially those who are the most vulnerable. However, there’s something important about this goal that we all have to remember.

People with diabetes are not a burden.

Diabetes is a burden. People with diabetes are not.

When talking about beating this disease, let’s keep our focus on what’s important. No-one asks to get diabetes, of any type, and it’s imperative that we focus on kicking diabetes’ butt, and not the butts of those who have it.

 

 

 

 

My body is not a synonym for discipline

I’m a big fan of exercise. I love to feel my body move and sweat, the power in my legs as I jump, squat, and run,  and my muscles working to support my body. There is no better feeling than collapsing onto the floor after a super intense but super fun workout. I exercise every day – some days it may be yoga or Pilates, but I love to move my body.

Unfortunately, in a society such as ours, exercise seems to be synonymous with being skinny. I am fit, but I am also fat. I am a size 12-14, and I have a belly and a very large butt. My thighs rub together and my arms will always squish against my side, despite all my efforts to make them look smaller. As I wait outside the studio for a group fitness class, you would walk past me and most probably assume I am “beginning my fitness journey”, to quote every gym instructor ever.

This morning I took a combat class with an instructor I’d never seen before. He’s a “Master Trainer”, i.e. he trains other instructors, and he pushed us hard. I was loving it, punching and kicking my way through, until I heard him yell:

“Your body is a direct reflection of your self-discipline!”

Excuse me?!

“Punch harder, get smaller! Fat is unhappy!”

What?!

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My movements became smaller and less intense as I mulled over his words in my head, then became more powerful as I started to get angry and imagine his face with every roundhouse kick.

That is not ok. A small body does not mean that your self-discipline is perfect, and my muffin top does not mean that I lack discipline. Also, what is discipline? If it involves disordered eating and turning down experiences in favour of an extra workout or two, I’m happy not to have it. Furthermore, is there any sort of consideration for some of the issues that people in the class could have? For people that have an unhealthy relationship with their body, food, or exercise, a statement like this is reinforcing that self hatred, and crazy triggering if you have an eating disorder!!

As an aside, would he have any idea how difficult it is to juggle a condition like type 1 diabetes with exercise?! The fine balance of maintaining a blood sugar level that is not too high (so your workout is hard and/or harmful) or low (so you don’t pass out) is a never ending challenge, one that all of us are constantly refining. The lows that you sometimes cannot avoid mean that although the calories I’ve burnt in a workout may be redundant, my fitness is still improving every time. I look fat, but I’m fit as hell. My fat means that hypos follow me around, but it also means that I go out for dinner with friends, I sit around a table with my family and laugh, and I eat intuitively and naturally. I could show you my perfect blood work, but why should I need to?

You cannot tell my level of fitness, my diet, or my relationship with my body simply by looking at me and evaluating the amount of fat peeking over my leggings. 

I finished the class, taking inspiration from the multitude of different body shapes around me. Thin women, fat women, muscly women, gangly women, curvy women – all there  to get fit, have fun, and get endorphins pumping.

Go screw yourself, fat shaming instructor. Our bodies do not reflect discipline, the only thing they show is our humanity.