Tag Archives: diabetes

It’s about time

It’s about time I told you my diagnosis story.

This isn’t coming out of the blue – National Diabetes Week is this week, and for the first time there is a part of the campaign exclusively focused on type 1 diabetes, and knowing the early signs of type 1. Their hashtags (well played Diabetes Australia, keep it up #hashtagsarelife) are #ItsAboutTime / #NDW2017 / #4Ts , and the first one jumped out at me.

It’s about time that we knew what the signs are – with all the resources available to us at the tips of our fingers, with HCPs having more qualifications and knowledge than ever before, why is this still being missed? Why am I still hearing stories on diabetes camp about kids and adults being dismissed as ‘dramatic’, ‘sensitive’, or ‘just a bit stressed?’

Alright, buckle in, make a cup of tea, and read up. This is long. You’re in for a tale and a rant on why #ItsAboutTime the symptoms of type 1 diabetes need to be known. #ItsAboutTime that we understand that diagnosis does not stop at the words “You have Type 1 Diabetes”, and that a diagnosis is multi-faceted. Treat the diabetes, but treat the tidal wave of emotion that comes along with it. 

January, 2010

I’m 17. I’ve just returned from an exchange trip to France, and I am buzzing with my newfound acquisition of the language, an obnoxious penchant for relating everything back to my trip (“That reminds me of this one time, in France, where…”), and a taste for French wine. I have a week before I start Year 12, and being the nerd that I am, I land in Melbourne and pick up my books the next day. We’re studying A Streetcar Named Desire and dear God, I will do all the pre-reading and extra reading if it kills me.

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17 year old me halfway up the Eiffel Tower. May have had a glass of pinot for déjeuner.

February 2010

Ok, so it’s starting to kill me. It’s been a few weeks since Term 1 has started, and I’m already feeling tired and burnt out. Each day seems like more of an obstacle, and I go from being full of beans at the start of term to sitting at the back of the classroom and willing my brain to concentrate on the words and data in front of me – and why is my vision kinda fuzzy? My school has three levels, and dragging myself up those stairs become like scaling a small mountain – as the weeks go on, I start to pause and lean against the wall to get myself to each floor. I’m also drinking, and therefore peeing, a LOT. I carry a 1.25 litre drink bottle around with me, and fill it up every chance I get. I’m constantly asking to go to the toilet, and my teachers are starting to get annoyed. I stop hanging around after class and run to the toilets every break that we get.

I’m losing weight, and I’m LOVING it. All of my friends are complaining about their “Year 12 padding”, yet whatever I eat, I seem to drop even more weight. I sit there smugly eating a Mars Bar while my friends complain – hey, I may be exhausted, and married to the toilet, but at least I’m losing the muffin top!

A week pre diagnosis. I’d lost more than 10kgs in two weeks, but unfortunately still thought a side fringe was a good idea and that Passion Pop was the height of house party elegance.

Mum notices that something is up, and even though I protest and say “I’m just stressed”, she basically frogmarches me to the car and takes me to the GP. She’s heard me peeing like a horse at least five times a night, and I’ve taken to sculling water ON the toilet – this thirst just won’t go away, however much I drink. Over the next couple of weeks we see three doctors in a row, all of which tell me that I’m stressed (“told you Mum”), working myself too hard, and may ‘have a small virus’. They do no tests, not even a simple blood prick, and raise their eyebrows if we push any further. So we don’t.

This is done way too often – people are brushed off, time and time again, as too dramatic, anxious, or sensitive. Often, it is mothers taking their kids to the doctor, and often it is mothers being told to ‘calm down’. Whether it is the mother or the patient, women are consistently discriminated against within the healthcare system – consciously or unconsciously, but the fact remains that it happens. I’m not saying that doctors misdiagnosing is exclusive to women, but I am saying that it is more common, and that it is embedded in the Western healthcare system. You can see this here and here (done as part WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health). If you’re still thinking “Classic Georgie, harping on with that feminist rubbish” do a quick peer-reviewed study search and you will be buried with research that shows, time and time again, women’s concerns are dismissed and/or delayed. Whether that woman is seeking treatment for herself, or a dependent, we are pushed away, told we are being dramatic, or that we’re too sensitive. One of my closest friends was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she was 22 – TWENTY TWO – and only got the ultrasound that ultimately diagnosed her cancer when her nurse mother pushed and persisted for it. We should not be advocating to get to the bottom of a problem, that’s our GPs job. 

MOVING ON

Labour Day Weekend, March 6th – 8th

I am beyond exhausted. My family is packing for a camping weekend away with my cousins, and because I like camping as much as a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, I’ve decided not to go (Why would you pay to sleep on the ground and shit in a hole?!). However, watching them prepare to leave makes me scared, and I make a last-minute decision to go with them. I’m scared because I can feel my heart beating through my chest, it takes energy to lift my head off the pillow, and my vision is a little fuzzy. To put it bluntly, I feel like death.

We’re camping with my cousins and some friends – and one of these friends has type 1 diabetes. He is my parents’ age, and when I mention my incredible ability to pee and drink at the same time, he furrows his brow and pointedly tells my aunt to “take her to the hospital, that’s not good”. The weather is terrible, so we shrug and I secretly revel in the fact that I only had to sleep in a tent for one night. We debate back at my aunt’s whether to take me to the local hospital then, or wait until tomorrow, but I’m so tired and comfy that I’m already sleeping and the point is moot. Unbeknownst to me, my aunt checks my breath that night – her friend told her that if I had type 1, my breath should smell sweet. It did. Lucky me.

Before heading to the hospital, I google my symptoms and everything points to type 1 diabetes. “Hey guys – Google says I have type 1 diabetes! Haha oh god can you imagine, I’m so bad with needles.” Idiot.

March 7th

We get to the hospital, and my mother lists all the symptoms that I have, and we’re rushed right through. I’m leaning against my aunt, nestling my head on her shoulder and trying to regulate my breathing. My chest is hurting, and I feel like my whole body is full of lead. The nurse pulls out a finger pricker, takes my blood, looks at the meter, and my aunt looks over and says “Oh SHIT”.

From there, I’m hooked up to a million drips, and I start to cry. I hate needles, I don’t know what’s happening, and my mum and aunt are on either side of me trying to calm me down. At some point, a doctor walks in, tells me my blood sugar levels were ‘dangerously high’, that I have type 1 diabetes, and she walks right out again. At this, I feel like I’ve been punched in the face. Type 1 diabetes? What the hell is that? Is this my fault? Is it all the Mars Bars that I ate?

Aftermath

I spent around a week in hospital, but I can’t really remember a lot of it. I do remember crying my heart out that first night, and I’ve never felt grief like it. The sobs seemed to come from within my very bones, and reverberated through my body as I cried under the blanket, fist curled around my hair and my arm hugging the pillow. I didn’t know anyone with this, and all I had heard from people around me was how diabetics died early, how they went blind, and how they had to inject themselves all the time. The insulin being put back into my system swelled me up, and I panicked – I was getting fatter AND I had a lifelong illness?! There was no consideration for my earlier medical history – my mental health, my history with eating disorders – behind the scenes there may have been, but from where I stood I was told to ‘deal with it’ whenever I brought up my feelings. As soon as I was physically balanced, they led me out of the ward, with a handout on carb counting and injecting and instructions to ‘find yourself an educator in Melbourne’.

2010 was a hard year. I often started crying for no reason, and I was resentful of this new part of my life. I was angry, and upset, and confused – and alone. Nobody in my life knew what it was like, and I had no idea where to find people that did.

Not only is it about time that we know the early signs, it’s about time we make diagnosis easier. Diagnosis is always going to be rough – but you know what makes it easier? Know the #4Ts, get people diagnosed before they reach this stage, and once they’re diagnosed?

Hold their hand a little. We may be adults, but we’re just starting out with diabetes. Slip a support group pamphlet into our hand, welcome peer support volunteers into your hospitals, and for the love of God – stop telling teenagers that they’re going to go blind and die as you teach them to carb count. 

Type 1 diabetes strikes anyone, regardless of age or lifestyle. Know the 4Ts – Thirsty, Tired, Toilet, Thinner – and if you’re worried, ask for a finger prick. It only takes a minute, and could mean an introduction to this world that is calm and positive, not one that is scary and lonely. Diagnosis needs to be holistic and considered – remember you’re dealing with a human that is dealing with this forever, not a medical textbook case study. Help us find our tribe!



 

Relief 

Guess who hadn’t had an eye test for three years because she’s scared of anything going in or near her eye?*

This girl.

Guess who has nightmares about waking up and going blind because her first endo told her that it was basically inevitable she’d end up on dialysis with no legs and no sight? 

This girl.

Guess who finally built up the courage to go and get them tested and has PERFECT eyes?!

THIS GIRL! ​

I went today because I was assured this optometrist was good with eye sooks like me – and this is why it’s so important to work with your patients. If I feel judged or patronised, there is no way I’m heading back. Sometimes I’ll go somewhere else, but often I’ll withdraw altogether. Treat your clients as equals, and we’ll be loyal and back every time 👌🏻 

*stop sniggering, I hear you

Have faith in others.  

I slid down against the wall, checked the train timetable, and sat back. I felt a little funny, but today had been a weird day. A small fire at uni, that had us joking in the corridor but then mildly freaking out as we realised we were stuck on the first level due to the single stairwell being blocked. Then news from Bourke St, that a person had mowed down pedestrians and left a trail of carnage behind him…today had not been a good day, I was ready to get home and build myself a doona and pillow fort.

Suddenly, I couldn’t control my limbs. I looked down at my thighs twitching, and inwardly screamed at them to STOP! Before I knew it, this twitching made its way up my entire body and I wasn’t able to see through my blurred vision. I started fitting -I couldn’t control my limbs or my head, it was like the screaming in my brain to stop was blocked by each jerk against the tiles. I could hear voices around me, feel hands touching my head and the sweat in every pore, but I couldn’t pause it. Being awake in your own body while you fit and watch people around you freak out is not something I’m keen to repeat.

 

I spat out “diabetes” as the convulsions became less strong and a nurse (found that out later, at this point she is an angel) pulled a coke out of her handbag and grabbed my shoulders as she forced it down my throat. Looking back, it must have looked very Steel Magnolias – DRINK THE JUICE SHELBY!

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Some beautiful women called Donna and Kate helped me onto my train, and let me cry at them until my stop, where a woman called Sal sat with me until my blood sugar reached the sixes. She fed me all the hypo food I had left while telling me about her niece with type 1, and how hypos are “such a pain!” You’re not wrong Sal, you’re not wrong.

Times like these act as a reminder that I’m not invincible. That however much I tell my body not to drop, to hold on, to keep it together, that sometimes I lose all semblance of control.

I forget that the majority of humans are inherently good. 99% of us want to help each other, and have empathy in spades. I felt so looked after by these three strangers, and they were so caring and genuinely worried that I nearly started crying again. Throw that together with my friend listening to me freak out on the end of the phone for a solid 10 minutes, and my diabetes crew assuring me that it’s happened to some of them…

Scary things can happen to those of us with diabetes, and I really think the only way to tackle it is by trusting that we will be ok. That people around us genuinely care, and that being vulnerable and letting yourself be helped (both physically and mentally) is really the only way to acknowledge those scary feelings and keep on living your life. We can’t let diabetes stop us altogether, but sometimes we have to let it stop us for a little while – stop us and force us to acknowledge that we are not invincible.

PCD

What’s PCD? Post Camp Depression. After each diabetes camp, I come home, do a solo BIG time (Blood Insulin Glucose), and spontaneously burst into tears. I keep racking my brains as to why I’m so sad after each diabetes camp that I do – why do I love these people so much, and what is so special about them?

The people that go on these camps are incredible. We are all there because we love the work – there’s a reason most of us are nurses, HPs, or teachers. There is such an instant bond on these camps with the kids, for many of them it’s the first time they’ve met someone else with type 1, and to see them grow and develop in just one week is amazing.

The conversations you overhear between the campers, and the things that they achieve is fantastic – it’s like one of those great days at work where there’s a lightbulb moment with a student, but those lightbulbs are flashing constantly, for five days, with each new discovery, achievement, and conversation. That’s the thing I missed this year, as my first year as a coordinator….I wasn’t able to have those conversations with the campers, and instead plonked myself on a table with the campers whenever I was able to, to soak up their awesomeness.

Camp is about the campers, but the leaders on there are my family. My camp family love me for me – I don’t have to be anyone but myself; it’s a place where people aren’t suggesting or complaining that my diabetes is a burden. I don’t have a lot of people in my life who understand diabetes, and to have people like Mel test me at night as she gets up to pee because she ‘felt like it’ is weirdly comforting and normal. I don’t have to explain myself on camp – I’m low, we laugh at how I just dropped a burger on myself, someone throws me a hypo treatment, and we move on with our stupid conversation. I feel so loved and cared for, and so normal with these people. I’ve found my tribe and my family.

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Insulin

I’ve been focusing on including poetry in my classroom this term, as a different way of approaching texts and understanding concepts, themes, and issues. It’s been working well for my students, so I thought why not give it a try? They’ll write poems about the issues stemming from Hamlet, I’ll write one about the issues stemming from the syringe in my handbag.
If you’re up for an angst-laden poem, read on my friend.

 

Insulin

Insulin

Clinical, Cold

Stinging, Dripping, Living

Safe, secure; unpredictable, dangerous

Diving, Rising,  Guessing

Well, whole,

Life

 

Insulin

Intrusive, Foreign

This liquid gold turns to golden fat

A lifesaver turned to a life not worth living

A life lived in the mould of ‘perfection’

There’s only so much perfection that fits before

You start to slice off the parts that you can’t hide.

 

Guilt permeates me to the core.

I am lucky. I am blessed. I am insulin.

 

“Think of those less fortunate”

A faceless peer kilometres away does not take away the fear of

Living in a body too big to accept.

 

There is no one type of Type 1

I am my type.

My type is vulnerable.

Vulnerable to the whims of my blood

Vulnerable to the judgements of others

 

My type is fragile

My type slowly builds a wall

Of fat to keep out the looks and flood

Of concern – “It’s not about fat, you’ll feel better”

 

Better? What is better?

Does my mind not rate a mention

While my thighs rub red and raw?

Does my smile go unnoticed

If my belly dares to escape?

Does laughter seem irrelevant

When my arms wobble as I grab my sides in joy?

 

Insulin

 

Three syllables

Two pens

Too much.

 

 

Brain fog

I’ve been absent for a little while, in more ways than one.

My head feels foggy – I can just see where I’m heading, but it takes all my effort to push past it. Diabetes has taken a back seat in the past month or two as I try to use my brain for university assignments, professional development plans, and getting to places on time and with pants on. I’ve started to forget to bolus, because my brain is going one million miles an hour. Is this what getting older is like? I need quiet, I need rest, and I need space to be able to make decisions without diabetes butting in with an incessant hypo.

This  brain fog means my management has been as up and down as my moods. As my educator pored over my upload this morning, she furrowed her brow in confusion. Sunday? Perfect numbers, great ratios, model student. Monday? Manual boluses, no tests.

“What’s going on honey?”
I shrugged, and mumbled “When I have bad days, so does my diabetes”.

I was hoping the new pump I got this morning would help to melt away some of the fog, and give me a bit of a jump start into focusing on my diabetes. But it didn’t, and I shouldn’t expect it to. At the end of the day, a pump is a fancy and expensive syringe. A pump cannot clear the fog from my head, or the confusion from my brain. A pump cannot count carbs, or take away responsibility for me.

I have to focus on my head first, and leave room for diabetes in there. There’s no point burying myself in uni readings and trying to create interventions when my blood sugar is 25 and I’m studying on the toilet. Why bother focusing on a literacy-centred lesson when the likelihood is that I’ll struggle to teach it anyway, having forgotten to  bolus again?

To get rid of the fog, I need to slacken the reins, and bring diabetes back into the running. The fanciest meter or pump won’t do it for me – I’m the only one that can.

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Libre – yes or no?

A few months ago I was in a big diabetes burnout funk, with Masters work plus being in my second year of teaching and trying to not turn into a studying, exam-marking hermit putting diabetes at the very bottom of my ‘can I be bothered’ list.

However, about a month ago, I was able to try the FreeStyle Libre at DX2 Sydney*. I spent two days at this event, meeting people from Abbott Diabetes as well as finally putting names to faces of other Australian diabetes bloggers. Essentially we were there to learn about the FreeStyle Libre – and we were lucky enough to get to try it for free. There’s been a lot written about this in the Aussie diabetes blogosphere lately, but I blame writing reports and Masters assignments for my tardiness. Once you’ve written “Student X demonstrates sound grammatical knowledge” seventy-five times, any non-compulsory writing makes you want to cry.

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What is it?

This little glucose sensor is about the size of a 20 cent coin, and is inserted into the back of your arm. To check your levels, all you have to do is scan the sensor with the accompanying meter (you literally just hold it near the sensor) and the number will appear almost instantly. We had very knowledgable scientists talk to us about the science behind it (which went right over my head), but rest assured that the research and testing of this tiny little device is amazing. Essentially, the Libre measures the glucose in your interstitial fluid. Do you know what that is? Me neither. Do I know now? No, I can’t even pronounce it, but I do know that after giving it around 12 hours to settle in, my readings were nearly the same as my blood sugar meter. If my blood sugar meter was 6.5, my Libre was 6.7 or vice-versa. It lasts for a fortnight (and no, you can’t trick it into continuing – more on that later).

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One hour into using the sensor – PSA, taking a selfie with the Libre is REALLY HARD.

 

What I loved about it

  • The accuracy – after the settling in period (I would recommend inserting it before you go to bed) it was bang on.
  • The trends – when it reads your blood sugar, it will give you a glucose trend arrow, saying whether you’re trending up, down, or steady. You also get an eight-hour trend history with the meter, so for the visual learners amongst us you can get a fantastic image of what your blood sugar has been doing. The only thing I really liked about the CGM was that ability to see what your sugars are doing, and a trend graph, and the Libre does that without sticking out like a weird growth or alarming at me constantly.
  • The convenience – I can test anywhere. At a red light in my car, during a sport game, at work…it was AMAZING for work – being able to check in 3 seconds and continue teaching was invaluable. I felt safer at work, as I’m developing hypo unawareness and I could check every 5 minutes without interrupting the flow of the lesson. Additionally, I had a wild night a few days after inserting the Libre, and people around me were able to check my BGLs and force feed me sugar while I hypo-yelled at them to stop. Convenience for everyone!
  • The low-maintenance – insert it, and forget about it. I’ve been in burnout and being able to give my fingers a break for two weeks was exactly what I needed to get back on the diabetes wagon. I’ve noticed since coming off the Libre that I’m testing more often, which can only be a good thing. I was testing up to 30 times a day on the Libre, and now I’m up to around 6 times a day back on my old finger pricker. Progress!!
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I tested six times during a netball game and prevented a hypo. Success! (We still lost though)

Considerations

  • the cost – I know it can’t be avoided, and it is amazing technology which comes at a price, but at this point in my life on a para-professional wage I can’t afford to have it full time. In a few years when my pay rise comes, I’ll be a regular customer, but for now I’ll be using it as a “get Georgie out of burnout” tool
  • not a CGM – this is really important to remember. The Libre is not a CGM. It is a different system, with different positives and negatives, and what may work for one person with the Libre may not work for another. It’s Flash Glucose Monitoring, so it’s intended to replace finger pricks. It doesn’t have the inbuilt alarms or communication to your pump that a CGM does, because it’s not a CGM. If you’re someone that loves the CGM alarms and integration (I don’t), the Libre may not be worth your time.
  • reliability – there were a few times that I’d go to test and it wouldn’t work. After talking to a few others, it seems as though this happens when you’re super hot or you’ve had a big change in body temperature. It would only be grumpy for a minute or so though, so not a big factor for me.
  • stickiness – Are you like me and sweat like a middle-aged marathon runner every time you engage in any physical activity? If so, and you like the sound of the Libre, invest in some Rockadex, or at least physio tape. I sweat A LOT, and after ten days my Libre started to peel off and I had to ask my housemate to stick it down with tape for me. I went around for the next four days looking like I’d sustained a perfectly circular upper arm injury.
  • non-hackiness – You can’t trick the Libre into continuing past the 14 days expiry like you can with the CGM (my DNE always covers her ears when any PWD talks about this!). Trust me, I’ve tried. Once the fortnight is up, that’s it.

Top tips!

Placement – only the upper arm has been approved, and when I insert my second Libre I will go much more towards the underside of my arm. There’s less risk of you bumping it when it’s tucked securely under your arm. It hasn’t been approved for anywhere else, but if you were hypothetically going to try another place, I have hypothetically heard that it works well there too. Hypothetically. 

Insertion – it doesn’t hurt at all!! I’m a sook with pump site insertions and I was nervous, but I felt nothing. I would advise inserting it before bed, so it has time to warm up and you can start your day with accurate BGLs!

Verdict?

I love it. For someone like me whose main barrier to management is testing, the Libre makes it so easy. Again, for my lifestyle, which involves a lot of exercise and activity, the trends are invaluable. I love that it’s small, I love that it’s easy – I just don’t love that the price is a barrier for me and many others. Hopefully future Georgie will be able to afford it, and for now I’ll dig into my savings every few months when I need some bionic blood test help.

 

*Disclosure (taken straight from Renza’s blog as I’m too lazy to write my own and it sums it up perfectly).

DX2Sydney was being coordinated and run by Abbott Diabetes Care. The costs for me to attend the two day event (travel, accommodation, meals and transfers) were covered by Abbott. All attendees received Freestyle Libre products (one scanner and two sensors) so we could trial the new device. 

There was no expectation that I would write about the event or my thoughts of the device. Abbott may have paid for me to attend, but they did not pay for my words on this blog, social media activity or anywhere else. I like to share, so that’s why I decided to write about my experience. 

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 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. 

 

 

 

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.