Foster dog and self-care

My family is a dog family. My whole life, we’ve always had a pet dog, the same breed actually- a soft coated wheaten terrier. But with a family pet, the responsibility was shared amongst everyone in the family, often mostly falling on my parents. Besides family vacations, you could always count on at least one person being around to take care of the dog. The care of a family dog rarely rested solely on one person.

Working full time at home, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to become a foster home for a dog. Basically I would be giving a dog a much needed break from the often stressful shelter, and in exchange, he would keep me company.

So this is Levi. And he’s been great! But this is the first time in my life that another living being is fully dependent on me and my care of him. He’s not a family pet, he’s solely my responsibility. And while he’s pretty low maintenance and independent and is still a dog and not a human baby for example, taking care of Levi has made me more aware of taking care of my own needs and my diabetes.

If you’ve ever been on a plane, you know that if in an emergency, you secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others, including children. When you’ve constantly put the needs of your children before your own, this may at first seem like a selfish act, but the truth is, you can’t be there for others if you don’t take care of yourself first.

So here’s the situation. Levi is anxious to get outside, it’s clear that he needs to go to the bathroom. I live upstairs so to take him out means bundling up for the cold, putting on the leash, and walking around the apartment complex until hes done his business. Sometimes this is a quick process, other times not so much. Levi is making his needs very clear and as his caretaker, he’s dependent on me. But at this exact moment, my blood sugar is crashing. I’m shaking, lightheaded, feeling weak. I quickly take some fruit snacks, but they still take 10-15 minutes to work before I feel better. Do I make Levi wait?

This situation is new to me. But I know it will be common place in my future when I have kids of my own. As a parent, you often put your children’s needs before your own. But as caring for Levi is showing me, sometimes you have to put your oxygen mask on first. So I made Levi wait until I felt well enough to walk outside with him. After all, how can I care for him if I pass out from low blood sugar?

Self-care isn’t selfish. This phrase first struck me because although I completely agree, I realized that we are often made to feel guilty for taking the time to take care of ourselves. It can be seen as indulgent or a luxury. But self-care is essential. When you don’t take the time to care for yourself and your own needs, what you do give to others is less than your best. You run on empty, emotionally and physically. When you take care of yourself, you are better able to take care of others.

As I write this post on #SelfCareSunday in the second week of January, a time when New Year’s resolutions are fresh in people’s minds, I encourage you to think about your own self-care, and what you can do for yourself that will in turn, help you better serve others.

Balancing bouquets and blood sugar

You know that feeling you get when you forget your phone? It’s that uncomfortable, anxious, itch that leaves you feeling like a little piece of you is missing. Well this past weekend, I experienced a similar feeling, but it wasn’t my phone that I was without, it was my all my diabetes supplies.

This past weekend was my first experience being a bridesmaid in my friends’ wedding. What an incredible experience it was! The wedding was so beautiful and I was honored to be a part of it. But one piece I did have to think and plan ahead of time was what I would do in the event that my blood sugar dropped low during the ceremony. You see, the 20-30 minute ceremony was the only part of the night where I wouldn’t have immediate access to my purse and thus my meter, CGM, and fruit snacks. I had no pockets or place that I could easily access to put my fruit snacks. And it’s not that I haven’t gone that amount of time being away from my supplies, it was more the fact that I would be standing in front of a crowded room of people, lined up among the bridesmaids. Granted, everyone would be looking at the bride and groom and not me if I did have to step away and treat a low, but I really didn’t want to cause any type of disruption or set myself apart from the rest of the bridal party. I wanted it to be perfect for my friends.

imageBut part of having type 1 diabetes is always being prepared for an emergency and always putting your health first. So I was determined to come up with a solution.  My plan was to keep my blood sugar a little elevated during the ceremony, just to be safe. However that did not work as planned. Instead, I was fighting sky high blood sugars all during the day, so there was a very real possibility that it could crash during the ceremony, despite my best efforts. I thought about hiding the fruit snacks in my bouquet, but the beautiful arrangement wasn’t able to adequately conceal them. The final solution: I took a plastic baggie and dumped the pack of fruit snacks in it. I knew the plastic bag would be less crinkly than the wrapper. Then I folded down the edges of the bag so I could easily reach in for a gummy. Finally, I scrunched the bag as small as I could and held it in my hand, hidden within my grip on my bouquet of flowers. You couldn’t see them, but I felt secure knowing my fruit snacks were with me if worse came to worse. After all, it’s probably better to sneak a fruit snack during the ceremony than to pass out from low blood sugar  ;-).

Luckily I did not need my fruit snacks and the ceremony went perfectly. They don’t tell you when you’re diagnosed that you’re going to end up doing a lot of creative problem solving to make your diabetes fit your life. But not matter the situation, diabetes may be an extra consideration, but it will never stop you from living the life you want.

A day in the life

Some days I’m surprised I get anything done with how preoccupied I am thinking about my blood sugar.

BGchart

A visit from Low Monster

I had a rough night last night.

Sometime in the middle of the night I could hear a loud beeeeep beeeeeep beeeeep coming from my purse, but I thought it was part of my dream. When I finally woke up and looked at GiGi, all it said was LOW, too low for the number to display. I immediately ate a pack of fruit snacks and tested my blood sugar. It was 42.

That’s when the hunger set in. This ravenous hunger, fueled by an evolutionary response to the body’s lack of sugar. In my half asleep, low state, I got up and headed for the kitchen.

Let me give you a glimpse into what was going through my head. At this point, my mind seemed to split into two distinct personalities: there was the irrational, hunger driven side, we’ll call it the Low Monster. Then there was the health-conscious, rational, concerned voice, we’ll call this side Reason.

The time: 1 am

The place: the kitchen

Low Monster: You’re low! Need sugar! There’s the cookie you hid from yourself. Find the cookie!

Reason: Well, I guess that’s okay, but just have half of it.

Low Monster: Takes a bite. Pauses. Eats other half of cookie.

cookie monster eating sesame street cookie

Reason: 

RuPaul's Drag Race no rupauls drag race what rupaul

Low Monster: I’m still hungry!! I need more!

Reason: Okay, okay. Skinny Pop popcorn, that’s pretty healthy and pretty low in carbs. I’ll find my smallest bowl and fill it up so I don’t go overboard.

Low Monster: Finds smallest bowl. Takes a handful of popcorn and puts it in the bowl. Takes another handful of popcorn and puts it directly in mouth. Adds another handful to the bowl while simultaneously eating another handful.  

eating orange is the new black oitnb stuffing susan fischer

What?? I filled the bowl…

Reason: Ughh really? Was that necessary? Are we done now?

ryan reynolds ugh annoyed eye roll

Low Monster: I’m really hot, why am I so hot? I think I just need a few frozen grapes to cool off.

Reason:

veep seriously dont

Low Monster: Too late.

oops dr house tvshow

Reason: Well I probably didn’t need all the extra food I just ate, I should give just a little bit of insulin so my blood sugar doesn’t sky rocket.

I finally made it back to bed and eventually fell back asleep. Three hours later I heard it again, beeeep beeeeep beeeep. Sure enough I was low again. I obviously didn’t need the extra insulin I had given. I treated that low with fruit snacks and tried to fall back asleep.

I’d like to say that this was the end of the lows for the day, but over the course of the next 12 hours, I would go low 5 times. Luckily, Low Monster seemed to have stayed asleep and these subsequent lows were treated with a little more Reason and decorum.

IMG_9067

Some days are good. Others not so much. But luckily tomorrow is a new day. Hopefully with a few less lows.

Yoga high…and low

I walked down Main street with my yoga bag slung across my shoulder, already sweating in the evening heat. About 6 weeks ago I started taking a weekly yoga class after work. I snuck a peek at my CGM, it read 153, a comfortable number to be starting to exercise. I arrived at my yoga studio and removed my sandals, stuffing my bag including my CGM into the small cubbby and grabbed a pack of fruit snacks just in case of a low.

While I’m not new to yoga (my mom is a certified yoga instructor), I have never had much of a consistent practice. My choice of exercise has always been more cardio based: tennis, bike riding, boot camp classes, cycling, etc. There’s always the chance of dropping low while exercising, and it’s happened during all those activities. But there’s enough movement and noise with those exercises that treating a low can often go unnoticed by those around me.

yogaI’m not embarrassed to treat a low. I do what I have to do. But at the same time, I don’t like to be disrupted or disrupt those around me. Every time that I made it through yoga without dropping low, I would breathe a secret sigh of relief. It’s just yoga is so quiet, so calm. I don’t want my CGM breaking the silence of a meditative moment or the crinkle of my wrapper interrupting someone’s flow.

In the tiny one room studio, mats and bodies lined the floor like sardines packed neatly in a can. I rolled out my mat, careful to leave a respectful distance between me and the woman lying next to me. I set my fruit snacks at the corner of my mat, giving into a brief moment of insecurity where I picture everyone wondering why I have candy out in class. “Just focus on yourself, don’t worry about anyone else.” This is a yoga class after all, let it go.

The class was a blend of different positions. Although not too strenuous, I could feel the sweat forming as I attempted to hold each posture with good form. After ending with some twists, we made our way to our backs for savasana, or corpse pose. My legs  and arms out straight, I closed my eyes, feeling the meditative chants of the music reverberating through my body. My breathing became deep and full as every muscle in my body slowly began to relax. Fleeting thoughts danced in and out of my consciousness. I started to feel this strange sensation in my body. I felt heavy, yet electrified. Something is happening. “This is it,” I thought. “I must be having a transcendent experience.” 

And then I heard it. Buzz Buzz Buzz. Beeeeeep Beeeeep Beeeeeep. That feeling I was experiencing was nothing other than a sneaky low blood sugar. The still silence of savasana was broken by my CGM buzzing and beeping in the background. Even though no one knew those sounds belonged to me, I could feel my cheeks flush with embarrassment. Thankfully just in that moment the instructor began to stir the class back to seated position to end the class. I got up and checked Gigi: 52. I opened and ate the fruit snacks.

So I ended up experiencing the diabetic low instead of a yogi high. But it was a good reminder to myself that it doesn’t matter if its the middle of a yoga class or a presentation at work, there are moments when your health is more important. Just as yoga teaches, it’s about accepting what you can’t change and letting go of what you can’t control and instead focusing your energy into living in the now and being your best self.

Namaste.

InsomniAHHH!

It’s truly amazing what our bodies can get used to. And for once, I’m not talking about diabetes…well not yet at least.

For the past 6 weeks I’ve been struggling with insomnia. I know that in the scheme of life, there are much, much worse things to have to deal with- tragedies, deaths, fatal illnesses, etc. I’m grateful that it’s nothing of the sort, but putting aside these more horrific life events, insomnia is probably next on my list of things I hoped I would never have to deal with.
You see I love my sleep. And for the past 26 years, I’ve been an superb sleeper. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep has always been incredibly important to me. I often prioritize my sleep over fun. It was a running joke among my roommates back in undergrad that when I couldn’t remember a particular crazy story that they were recounting they would say, “Oh, you were probably sleeping.” And it was true. My sleep was and still is that important to me.
And when I didn’t get my 8 hours, I suffered. I would feel foggy, dizzy, sometimes even shaky. I would get headaches and just overall feel slow and out of it. And I would feel this way with 7 hours of sleep. I know it’s crazy since that’s more sleep than most people get normally. But I was just so used to getting high quality sleep that anything less was noticeable.
Six weeks ago, I had a string of a couple bad nights. I would wake up at 5 am and not be able to fall back asleep. I would become anxious that I wasn’t sleeping and worrying about how miserable I’d be the next day and my body would start to feel electric. Pretty soon I got caught in a vicious cycle where even thinking about sleeping made me anxious. My normal oasis of a bed became associated with restless sleep. Now it would sometimes take me hours to fall asleep, or I’d wake up at 3 and not be able to fall back asleep. My 8 hours of sleep became 4 hours of sleep, to sometimes no sleep at all.
I wish I could tell you that I’m better now, that things are back to normal, but they’re not. After talking with a sleep disorder expert who happens to be in my family and taking online sleep programs, I have a plan and have been making progress, but I still have nights that I just can’t sleep.
While my diabetes isn’t directly related to these sleep problems, it hasn’t been making it any easier. It’s truly awful to have finally calmed down enough to start to doze off only to be jarred awake by the buzzing of my CGM or by the symptoms of a low. And while I know this isn’t a good solution, I’ve been letting my blood sugars run on the higher side at night just to avoid an extra middle of the night wake up. However, this plan has backfired when I wake up having to go to the bathroom from the high blood sugars instead.
This insomnia experience, although probably one of the more exhausting things I’ve had to deal with (haha, get it?), has also reminded me a lot of when I was first diagnosed with diabetes. I remember this feeling of being so overwhelmed, of wondering how I’d get through each day. I remember being constantly anxious of the unknown and worrying if I would be able to handle the challenges of the new diagnosis. But I did it, I got through each day. And I’m doing it now. As the weeks have gone by, I know that I can get through my work day on minimal sleep. It’s not ideal, but my body can handle it. I can handle it.
I know my insomnia, unlike my diabetes, is temporary (although hopefully a cure changes that too). But my diabetes has shown me that I can handle life’s challenges. That a bad day of blood sugars doesn’t mean that tomorrow will be bad too. A bad night of sleep doesn’t mean that I won’t be functional tomorrow. Our bodies are made to be resilient. We must choose if our minds will follow the example.

Feeling low

I buried my head in my pillow, the soft fabric muffling my frustrated screams. I hate it. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.

I was low. AGAIN. It seems to be the trend lately. My efforts to keep my blood sugars from spiking has resulted in more lows. Lows that seem unexpected because I really thought everything I was doing seemed right. Lows that have been incredibly disruptive, making me stop whatever activity I’m doing. Stubborn lows, that a couple glucose tablets don’t seem to solve. Lows that wake me up at night, lows that won’t go away, lows that leave me feeling awful. And upset. And frustrated.

I don’t want to treat the low. I’m tired of stuffing my face with sugar, not because I want it, but because I need it. I’m tired of working so hard in my workouts, only to have to later eat everything I burned off or sit out because I can’t continue with a low. I’m especially tired of eating when I’m not hungry and feeling awful while I wait for my blood sugar to stabilize.

I can see the extra weight creeping on, and I hate it. I hate that I don’t have a choice when I’m low. I hate that those forced extra 80 calories of my fruit snacks add up. I hate that insulin makes it harder to lose weight. I hate that these lows are often then leading to later highs, sending me on a blood sugar roller coaster. I hate not feeling my best.

I’ll talk to my doctor, I’ll make adjustments. We’ll work to get rid of these lows. But for now I just want to scream into my pillow and wish for the day when all of this will disappear. When sugar will just be sugar and not a substance that often feels like its controlling my life.

Some days, weeks, months are better than others. I’ll make it through this rut, I know I will, but today, right now, I really hate my diabetes.

Oh crepe!

When I was first diagnosed, I carried a little book around with me to look up the carbohydrates of everything I ate. Since I didn’t always have access to the packaging of the food, I would look up every food and add up all the carbs in my meal. Now, that same information is available right on your smartphone. However, after adding up the carbs for thousands of meals over the years, I’ve memorized the majority of the foods I eat and have gotten pretty good at estimating.Yes, there are times when I over or underestimate, but I generally feel pretty confident in my abilities.

In fact, one could say that I’ve gotten a little too confident and maybe even lazy when it comes to carb counting these days. And this attitude is dangerous. Because when I am significantly wrong in my counts, the results can be pretty catastrophic. The continued importance of being accurate in my carb counting was made abundantly clear to me last week over a meal of crepes.

I was excited to try a new crepe restaurant for dinner with a coworker. Although I knew what a crepe is, I greatly over estimated the number of carbs for the thin pancake like wrap. While a typical crepe is about 10 carbs, I had figured it was at least double, thinking of it as more of a tortilla.

Everything was fine for awhile and I figured that I had successfully calculated the meal. I drove home and decided that I was going to go for a run, never mind that I was still really full from dinner. After my second mile, I started to feel off. I figured it was just from running on such a full stomach. I headed home and showered. It wasn’t until after I finished my shower that I realized that the weird feeling was feeling more like a low blood sugar. I checked my blood sugar. 34!! Ohhh crepe!

I treated the low and eventually felt better, but the experience was definitely a reminder that even after all these years, it’s still important to look up foods that I’m not as familiar with. It’s easy to fall into old habits of guessing and being a little lazy, but I realize it’s definitely worth the extra time to look something up in the beginning than to deal with a low blood sugar later. Next crepe, I’ll be ready.

The boot camp bond

The sun burned brightly in the sky as sweat dripped down my face, falling on the concrete below. My legs burned as I jumped from one side of the block to the other.

“10 more on this side! Keep going!”
The instructor urged us on. It was halfway through the boot camp class, and today we were outside using stepping blocks, jumping up and down, side to side. 
My body was shaking, I was getting light headed. “It’s just the heat,” I thought, “Your body is just getting tired. Don’t give up now.” I encouraged myself, trying to push through. But this feeling wasn’t exhaustion, it was something different. 
As everyone continued with their workout, I pulled out my glucose meter and tested my finger. 52. Once I stopped, the low hit me full force. I rummaged through my bag looking for my fruit snacks. I couldn’t find them, but remembered I have a whole box in my car. I walked silently behind the class towards my car, ignoring the questioning looks. I grabbed a couple packets and poured the contents in my mouth as I headed back to my mat.
The instructor had moved on to the next exercise. I stood there awkwardly, waiting for my blood sugar to come back up so I could join back with the class. I don’t usually get self conscious while treating a low, but this time I did. I was sure everyone was wondering why I had suddenly stopped exercising, why I was standing there while everyone continued to jump around. When I tried to join back in, my body felt weak and dizzy. I couldn’t do it, I knew I would just have to wait it out. The class is only an hour, and I knew I would be wasting 10-15 minutes waiting to feel better. And while I know this is necessary, I was mad. I was mad that I was missing part of a workout that I wanted to do, that I paid to do. I was mad at how disruptive my diabetes can be. I was mad that I was being forced to eat sugar that I just worked so hard to burn off. And I was mad that my diabetes had singled me out once again.
I sat there as the instructor walked over to ask if I was okay. 
“I have type 1 diabetes and my blood sugar went low. I’m fine but I just have to wait for it to come back up.” My voice was full of emotion. I don’t know why, but this particular low had made me feel vulnerable. I was afraid that the instructor wouldn’t understand. I was fine, I just needed time, but I’m strong and capable. I didn’t want her to underestimate me.

But the instructor looked at me and said something that made me confident that she understood.

“My son has type 1 diabetes.”
I looked at her and smiled, instantly relieved. As a parent of a T1D, I knew she got it, and I knew I was in good hands.