Type 1 teacher – a massive post for a massive six months!

I recently just finished my first semester of teaching. It’s been a wild ride – my first term especially has blurred into one giant mess of late nights, early mornings, and crying to my KLA leader in the Languages office. I’ve learnt so much, not only about my job, but how my diabetes reacts to being on my feet from 7.30-4.30!
There are three main things that I’ve learnt about my diabetes these past six months, and in true teacher fashion I will list them, because lists are my addiction and the best thing ever. 
1. Lower stress levels = lower blood sugar levels 
I don’t care what some research papers say (that our levels only go up due to stress eating or burnout), the fact remains that in the first month and around report time, my levels were absolutely nuts, regardless of what I ate! I’m doing my Masters at the same time as working (I know, I’m insane) and having three assignments due at the same time as 150 reports was NOT conducive to perfect diabetes control. Handy hint – if you want to increase your hba1c in a few weeks, writing reports, lesson plans, and 3000 word assignments at the same time is the way to do it.
2. Students surprise you.
The hardest part I’ve found so far about being a teacher with type 1 is having to be “on” the entire time, even when your blood sugar is plummeting and you can see your hands shaking as you write the date on the board. However, my fears of having a hypo while the kids destroyed the classroom and each other were quickly put to rest. It surprised me how understanding they were when I explained why we were doing a quiet writing activity. A quick “Guys, I’m diabetic and my blood sugar is really low, I need you to finish off this exercise quietly while I drink this juice” is usually all it took. The one or two students who acted up would quickly be peer pressured into behaving by the others because “Miss doesn’t feel well! Don’t be stupid!” I’m lucky to have a good relationship with my kids, and I’ve learnt to never assume their reaction to anything. They also can guess when I’m low – I teach French, and when I forget the word for “door” or “listen”, they know something is up! They’re not perfect angels by any means, but they’re respectful and great kids!
3. Diabetes prepares you for the classroom.
How does it prepare you? Teachers and diabetics both spend their days juggling about a million things at once – having five years experience of the constant diabetes internal monologue (“Am I low? Did I over bolus? Will I walk home? Should I set a temp basal now or later? What if it rains?”) prepares you for the teacher internal monologue that happens throughout your entire day. My brain during the school day now looks something like this: 

  
And sounds like this: 

“Leave room on the board for the brainstorm later”

“Ugh what is that smell”

“Is that blood on my top?!”

“Check in on that back row”

“Cold call Bob for the next question he’s getting too comfy over there ”

“Oh my god WHAT is that smell”

“Oh gosh this writing is sloping downwards, am I low?”

“No time no time we need to get through this today”

“Ok you just dropped the worksheets, you’re low”

“Peer learning time aka hypo treatment time!”
I’m still making so many mistakes but I’m learning! If there’s a Melbourne high school teacher out there with type 1, let’s grab coffee. 

#actuallydiabetic and art that stays with you.

This hashtag is one of millions on the blogging site tumblr, and it’s full of hundreds of type 1 young people, just sending our thoughts off into the internet, reblogging each other’s syringe and pump selfies, and basically supporting each other in a way that is uniquely our generation i.e. 90s babies.

While scrolling through the posts tonight, I happened upon these pictures that I LOVE.

fridge pumpfinalll

Credit: Erin Lux - erin-lux.tumblr.com http://www.inprnt.com/gallery/erinlux/

Credit: Erin Lux – erin-lux.com/insulin
http://www.inprnt.com/gallery/erinlux/

It’s created by Erin Lux  in a series called insulin. It’s simple, makes me feel something, and stays with me. Now, I’m not an art critic, but I think that’s what art is meant to do. The insulin in the butter compartment, my pump lying next to me as I sleep, testing in your own little bubble as the world carries on around you…these images are snapshots of my life with diabetes – simple, understated, and a constant.

Blessings, opportunities, and excitement!

This week I was invited to speak at a Parliamentary dinner in Canberra, representing the Young Leaders of Diabetes Australia. I know right, how lucky am I?

Being the political nerd that I am, I asked them to put me on an early flight so I had time to squeeze in as many different Canberra touristy things as I could before the dinner. I saw an old high school friend who’s a law student at ANU, went to the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, and squeezed in a tour of Old Parliament House, where the average age of the other participants was probably around 65. They may have given me an education on 70s technology as we walked through the old offices (“Wait what’s a word processor? Like Microsoft Word?”)

I have never been as nervous as I was last night. It’s very intimidating, making small talk with people who are the experts in their field. It puts different life stages into perspective, especially when they talk about flying out to the ADA Conference in Boston later this week and I was trying to contain my excitement about the complimentary wifi and chocolates at the hotel. Speaking in front of them? Terrifying.

(Guys, Bill Shorten was there. Leader of the Opposition. I got star struck and just thought about all the things I would like to say, most notably “Can you tell Tanya Plibersek that I’m her biggest fan”)

One of the people I was sitting next to said “Just pretend they’re your students”, which made it a little easier. In classic diabetes timing, I hypoed just before my speech and scoffed an entire bag of lolly frogs, to the amusement and concern of the people at my table, doing my speech at around 4.2. Hey, if I passed out from a low blood sugar, a function hosted by Diabetes Australia was the best place to do it! Diabetes always chooses the best times to rear its head. Big love to Renza who had a flight to catch but stayed until the last possible second to give me a good luck hug and watch most of my speech. Thank you, you fantastic human being!

I believe that my speech got my message across, as I had many conversations afterwards with people who were kind enough to congratulate and compliment me. I think it was filmed, which hopefully I never see because I am inherently critical of myself and no doubt will want to get up and do it again – English teacher at heart! I had incredibly exciting and stimulating conversations with a variety of people who were generous enough to ask me to contact them to get some projects rolling in regards to mental health and diabetes, especially in the online sphere.

I made some fantastic connections, and I’m just so excited to have been given this platform to talk to these people who are in positions that can help make my goals an actual reality. I’ve been plugging away at this since last year, but haven’t made a lot of outward progress as working, studying a Masters degree, and bad health are sort of a no productivity trifecta. We have a general plan, but between me and the other girls, bad health, university degrees, and a baby have all slowed things down (which it absolutely should – congratulations Lisa!).

I now have the opportunity to get the ball rolling again, and I am beyond excited.

Thank you to Renza for taking this photo! Also, a a shout-out to my Irish skin for being as pale as the white backdrop.

Thank you to Renza for taking this photo! Also, a shout-out to my Irish skin for being as pale as the white backdrop.

Food on Friday!

Taking a cue from Adam Brown’s recent post, write a post documenting what you eat in a day!  Feel free to add links to recommended recipes/shops/whatever.  Make it an ideal day or a come-as-you-are day – no judgments either way.

This topic reminds me of the “Day on a Plate” column in The Age newspaper. It’s usually has a celebrity’s daily meals, and has things like “Quinoa salad with a side of kale chips and cold pressed juice.” Well, I’m not a rich celebrity – I’m a pretty strapped-for-cash teacher who cooks and eats for one. My day on a plate? I’m going to be honest! My ‘good weeks’ and ‘bad weeks’ below simply mean how I’m feeling – sometimes I’m stressed as hell and eat nothing, sometimes my week is fabulous and I have motivation to spend time making delicious meals.

Breakfast: I usually skip it, because I prioritise sleep over food. I may grab an apple or banana on the way out the door to work. It’s bad I know! I’m just always so tired! My weekend breakfasts are pretty damn delicious though, I’m a big fan of the omelette, avocado smash, or rolled oats!

Lunch: A good week? Usually some sort of sandwich or bean salad with chicken. Bad week? Nothing, or a Cup-Of-Soup

Afternoon tea: Cheese and crackers,  fruit, or whatever is hanging around in the staffroom. Today it was lemon cake, baked by one of my mentors for my birthday! Such a sweetheart.

Dinner: A good week? Pasta bake, meat and veggies, stir fry – whatever I can throw together in less than half an hour? Bad week? Omelette, toast, or whatever my aunt or Mum is cooking. It’s so boring cooking for one!

My diet is pretty boring, so my difficulties with diabetes really lie in stress and exercise – I get stressed and anxious so easily, and my sugars react.

Change

Tell us what you’d most like to see change about diabetes, in any way.  This can be management tools, devices, medications, people’s perceptions, your own feelings – anything at all that you feel could use changing.

Changes – what would I like to see? Many other bloggers have focused on what changes they would like to see diabetes-wide, so I think I’m going to be a little bit selfish and focus on me. What changes do I want? I want my own feelings surrounding my diabetes to change.

Diabetes makes me feel weak. Note the inclusion of one word – it makes me FEEL weak, it doesn’t make me weak. But some days, that feels like the same thing.

I think that five years on I still haven’t really accepted that sometimes, diabetes makes you stop for a little bit. I see dragging myself through the day at 27.3 as weak and inefficient, when I really should give myself a pat on the back for continuing despite feeling like crap. I see asking my students to read silently while I lean against a wall and treat a hypo as lazy and disorganised, when I need to recognise it as doing the best I can under the circumstances. I feel like a child, like I need to be cared for – I am fiercely independent and like to be in control, and diabetes takes that away from me. I can’t control my body, but in my head I still think I can, and so I beat myself up for things that are not even my fault.

This needs to change. I would never say or believe these things about anyone else with diabetes, so why is it ok when it’s about me? I know what to think about diabetes, but often I just can’t make myself think it.

Clean It Out!

Yesterday we kept stuff in, so today let’s clear stuff out.  What is in your diabetic closet that needs to be cleaned out?  This can be an actual physical belonging, or it can be something you’re mentally or emotionally hanging on to.  Why are you keeping it and why do you need to get rid of it?

I am the definition of a messy and disorganised scatterbrain, and it definitely extends to my diabetes belongings – I hang onto expired supplies like a person from Hoarders (if you’ve never seen that show, it follows people who are such obsessive collectors that it overwhelms them and they basically die alone surrounded by trash. I’m really not far off it)

I have a diabetes drawer, like most of us do, but mine looks like a medical supply company threw up in it. I have the best of intentions to organise this drawer, but those intentions always fall by the wayside, as there are at least one hundred more things I would rather do than sit on my bedroom floor and sort through diabetes supplies.

What’s in this drawer? Old meters from diagnosis five years ago – never opened, never used, but I hold onto them in case one day all of my working meters suddenly rise up in revolt. I have heaps of test strips, for different meters and my current one, buried under scarves (they share the drawer with my winter woollies). There’s pump sites tangled in tights, and cartridges wedged between socks and hypo supplies.

My drawer isn’t the only victim. My diabetes supplies mark their territory everywhere. If you dare to delve into my trusty black bag, you may risk pricking yourself on rogue lancets or discovering a months old jellybean. I am TERRIBLE. My preparedness for every day involves trusting that I have, at some point, thrown some sugar and a spare inset into my bag.

I need to clean all of this out and start again, get a system going, but it’s overwhelming and I’d rather marathon Mad Men than go through everything I own and extract the diabetes supplies from under, in, or on top of them. Any tips? Who has a system?

Keep it to yourself!

What are some of the aspects of diabetes that you choose to keep private from the internet?  Or from your family and friends?  Why is it important to keep it to yourself?

Let’s be honest here, I’m not a very private person in general. I’m Generation Y, the internet is my second home and I have no qualms about sharing my experiences. Maybe it’s narcissistic, maybe I’m just being open, but what I choose to share, I share for a reason.

When I write raw and personal posts, I write them so people can relate, or so they can have some sort of idea about what living with diabetes is like. What would be the point of keeping a blog like mine otherwise?  I’m not saying one has to get down and personal every single post, but I think a bit of personal sharing is really valuable in the blogosphere – that one post might make one person feel better, and if it’s done that, your blog has done its job!

HOWEVER

I don’t share with my non diabetic family and friends much, if at all. A lot of the time, family and friends will mention something that they read on my blog but they’ve never heard me talk about. I just don’t like to share the ups and downs of diabetes with those around me in real life – we all know how varied each day can be, living with diabetes, what would happen if I let family and friends into my thought process every single day? Can you imagine getting all of these in SMS form?

6.30am – woke up at 17, why?
6.45am – oh lol guess who pulled out their cannula in the night.
6.50am – I feel so ill, think I’ll skip brekky this morning
9am – 7.2, yeah buddy, back in business
12pm – This focaccia is probably like what, 40g of carbs?
1pm – Why do I need to pee again.
1.45pm – No that focaccia was definitely not 40g, that’s why I need to pee again. 15.4, bummer. Correct.
4pm – I don’t want to test my blood sugar in the middle of this meeting, I wonder if I can make it look like I’m just looking at the handout?
4.02pm – No, that doesn’t work, now I have pinky finger blood all over “Literacy and Learning”. But I’m 5.4, woo.
7pm – I could smash some pasta. I’m even going to weigh this serving,  this carb counting will be so spot on.
9pm – 7.1 BOW DOWN I AM THE DIABETES MASTER
10pm – oh god it’s so cold, I’m so warm in bed and my meter is over in my bag…I’ll just leave it.
10.05pm – but what if I’m low
10.06pm – I’m not low
10.07pm – but what if I am
10.11pm – 6.2. That was so not worth it.

People around me know what they need to, and when I think it’s worth hearing, I’ll share. The thoughts above? They’re just for me. The thoughts I write about on this blog? They’re for everyone – diabetes is an intensely personal but also deeply relatable, and ultimately human, subject. I share what will make a difference, and leave the rest for me.