Monthly Archives: April 2016

#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.

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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.