What’s the point?

Last night, I made a bag of microwave kettle corn popcorn, measured out 3 cups into a bowl, rolled up the rest of the bag, and put it away. 

I don’t think you guys realize how big of an accomplishment this was for me. I LOVE popcorn. And I don’t have a ton of willpower and discipline when it comes to cutting back on my snacking. It’s not that my snacking is out of control, but I am trying to drop a few pounds that have crept on, and the snacking and portion sizes are where I know I need to focus my efforts. 

I enjoyed every last kernel of that popcorn. But that’s when the thoughts started. You know them, the kind of thoughts that try to convince you that you really should go finish the other half of that bag. Man, are these thoughts cunning. “You had a healthy dinner, you can afford those few extra calories.” “Today was leg day, you earned that popcorn girl!” “That bag is still hot, it’s not going to be nearly as good tomorrow, you should enjoy it now.” “Oh come on, it’s not like you have dessert every night, treat yourself.”

These thoughts were persistent! But I held my ground. To make a change, I had to change. I can’t give in to these kinds of thoughts and expect to make progress. I got up and made myself a cup of tea instead. And you know what, I was really proud of myself. I know that each decision like this and small amounts of calories that I don’t eat will add up over time. 

But then it happened. A low blood sugar. And not just a small one, it was one of those crippling lows. The kind that you lay there feeling awful…and hungry. Of course this would happen tonight. So I treated the low with some fruit snacks and I waited. But the feeling wasn’t getting better and the arrows on my CGM continued to point downward. So I ate a few more fruit snacks. Eventually my blood sugar started to go back up, but that awful low feeling continued to linger. 

How do you go through that and not feel defeated, and cheated, and mad?! I turned down that half a bag of popcorn, only to have that effort completely undermined by the need to treat a low blood sugar. And this happens all the time. I’ll be honest, sometimes it’s hard not to just give up because what’s the point? So often when I’m trying to cut back, I end up having to eat those calories to treat an unexpected low blood sugar. I feel like I’m having to fight double the battles any time I want to lose weight: the normal fight of making healthy food and portion choices, but also the fight against my diabetes and how it continues to make everything more difficult. And deep down, I’m not sure I’m strong enough to overcome both. 

Between my daily inspirational calendar and the inspiring words of Autumn Calabrese during the workout program I’ve been doing, it’s hard not to internalize some of the quotes. “Nothing worth having comes easy.” “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” The message is clear, you can’t give up, even when things are hard. And if I have double the battles, I just have to work twice as hard. 

I know what I have to do, now it’s just putting those words and thoughts into action…Easier said than done.

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

On the floor

It was Saturday afternoon. My boyfriend was on a mission to make banana bread with the ripened bananas that he had been collecting. I had finished a 27 mile charity bike ride a couple hours earlier and really just felt like lying on the couch relaxing, but I agreed to be in charge of mashing the bananas. It felt like a job I could handle.

imageI sat down at the table with my bowl of bananas. Suddenly something didn’t feel right. I got up from the table and sat down in the reclining chair. I checked my CGM, it still said 80 but I knew that couldn’t be right. I tested my finger: 63. Hm yea that made more sense.

I ate a pack of fruit snacks, assuming all would be fine soon.

But I was wrong.

Rather than starting to feel better, I felt myself plummeting downward. The walls started to feel like they were closing in on me. My body felt heavy, my brain foggy.

“Are you okay?” my boyfriend asked from the kitchen.

“I need to lay on the floor.” I figured I should probably give him a heads up so he wouldn’t look over and see me on the floor and think that I had passed out.

I tested my blood sugar again. This time it said 42.

I got down on the floor, laying flat on the carpet. I know it’s weird, but with really bad lows, there’s something comforting about laying on the ground. I closed my eyes, willing this low to go away and my body to start feeling better.

My boyfriend got down on the floor next to me, putting his arm around me.

“This is a bad one.” I could hear the concern in his voice.

When I answered, my tongue was heavy and my words slurred together.

“Sometimes I forget that you’re diabetic.”

I was confused by this statement. “What? How? I talk about it all the time.” I managed to mumble back.

“Yea, but it’s just become so normal.”

It was an interesting and thought-provoking statement. A year ago, my boyfriend knew virtually nothing about type 1 diabetes. Today, my “normal” life has become part of his “normal” life, so much so that it took such a drastic and out of the ordinary low to remind him that I still do have a chronic disease that at times can be dangerous.

After about 15 minutes I started to feel better, my blood sugar hovering around 70. I got up off the floor.

“That was scary. I don’t like seeing you like that.”

“Yea. Me either.”

I’m glad that such a low is out of the ordinary, that fortunately I don’t experience many that are quite that bad. But lows like that are jarring shake back to reality, a reality where scary situations like that are not entirely outside of the realm of my “normal”. Even if sometimes I, and those close to me, forget that they are.

I went back to mashing bananas for the banana bread, doing my best to return to “normal”.

Diabetes Blog Week Day 6- Favorites

Diabetes Blog Week

I have a lot of posts that I like, but this one from January 2013 might just be my favorite. It attempts to explain the complicated relationship that I have with sugar…

If my relationship with Sugar were on Facebook, it would say “It’s Complicated”.

I’m not sure when Sugar and I first met, it seems like we’ve known each other forever. I hadn’t really paid too much attention to him when I was young, but I was always happy when he made an appearance. Sugar, or Sug for short, didn’t really come around too often. I think he was intimidated by my dentist dad and health conscious mom. He did however show up at birthday parties, holidays, and other special occasions. He and I always had a good time together, especially eating candy at the movies, cotton candy at the fair, and ice cream in the summer.

When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, my relationship with Sugar began to change, and has been evolving ever since. I think that was the first time I really took notice of him. He had that certain mix of sweet, yet dangerous. He’d make you feel good, but left you wanting more.

I couldn’t stay away.

Sug and I began to spend a lot of time together. When we weren’t together, he was constantly on my mind. There seemed to be two sides to him. On the one hand, he could always make me feel better when I was feeling low. I needed him, and he was always there for me. But on the other hand, when I spent too much time with him, he’d make me feel sick.

I know that Sug can be trouble. In the past few years he’s started showing up at the bar where I’d be hanging out with my friends.“He’s coming over,” my friends would tell me, “and he looks good!” He would approach the table with an invitation that is hard to refuse. Tripple sec, sour, orange juice, and cranberry juice. He was coming on strong tonight! He’d clearly already worked his magic on my friends, sometimes he could be so sweet that it was hard to say no to him. I eyed my other options, water, beer, vodka soda, but his smell was intoxicating. The thing about Sug is that you always have a good time with him, it isn’t until later that you begin to regret your decisions.

We often get into arguments. I tell him that I don’t want to hang out all the time with him and his friend Cal O’Rie, that the two of them are trouble when they are together. He accuses me of cheating on him with Complex Carbs, even though he knows it’s not the same. In the end though, we always apologize, we both know that we need each other.

My friends and family often try to tell me that he is bad for me. “Look at how he makes you feel, your relationship with him just isn’t healthy.” Sometimes they are right, he is bad for me. But even though our relationship is complicated, sometimes they seem so hypocritical. “How can you say that to me? I know you guys hung out last weekend. I saw the candy wrappers in the trash!” I would say. When they would tell me that I was better off without him, it just made me want to prove them wrong. “You don’t know what you are talking about, we just shared that piece of cake together and everything is fine!” At least I wanted it to be. It truly is a roller coaster when we are together, but we face those highs and lows together.

I know my friends and family just want what’s best for me, but they don’t know him the way I do! Sure Sug comes over to their houses disguised as a tub of ice cream or chocolate, and they say he helps them through their hard times and pain, but it’s not the same. No one can make me feel better the way he does, no one can take away my lows as fast, no one knows what it’s like to need Sugar that badly sometimes.

It’s hard to say if Sugar and I should be together or not. I know that he helps me, but he has the potential to hurt me as well. We have one of those relationships that other people might not understand and may not always be perfect, but in the end, it’s pretty sweet.

This post is part of Diabetes Blog Week. Today’s topic: If you have been blogging for a while, what is your favorite sentence or blogpost that you have ever written?  Is it diabetes related or just life related?  

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.

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.

Oh the Irony

I have this ritual. Almost every time that I go for a long grocery shopping trip, I treat myself to a cold bottle of diet A&W root beer on my way out. I don’t drink a ton of pop and root beer has always been one of my favorites. Having performed this ritual enough times, I’ve come to recognize the diet bottle just from the color of it. I was finishing up a particularly epic grocery shopping trip and grabbed the A&W from the cooler as I got in line to pay, confident that it was the right one.

Parched from my long shopping excursion, I got into my car and immediately cracked open the pop and starting chugging, relishing the cool and refreshing taste. With half the bottle gone, I glanced down at the bottle. Something was off. I didn’t see the “Diet” sign anywhere! Shit.

Two thoughts immediately crossed my mind. Well technically first I silently cursed myself. But then my first thought was “What a waste of calories!!” followed by, “Holy crap that’s a lot of sugar!” A bottle of regular A&W root beer is a whopping 80 carbs! And here I had just drank close to half.

I took out my insulin pump and immediately started figuring out how much insulin to give. It looked like I drank half, but the top half of the bottle is skinnier than the bottom half, so maybe its not actually 40 carbs. I decided to subtract some to account for bottle shape and gave myself some insulin.

Within 5 minutes Gigi (my CGM) was already buzzing, displaying the two upward arrows showing that my blood sugar was rising quickly. I cursed again. Maybe I should give a little more insulin. I could just picture my blood sugar rocketing to the 300’s. I was pissed. What a stupid, careless mistake. Really I was thinking that if I was going to have that many calories and sugar, I would have preferred ice cream or at least a root beer float!

I went about my afternoon and tried to put the incident behind me. That is until about an hour and a half later.

Something wasn’t right. Gigi was being quiet, but all of the sudden I did not feel well. I got out my glucose meter and tested my finger. 37. Ummm what?! The low caught me off guard, as I was sure that I had given the appropriate amount of insulin according to the label. I needed sugar, and fast.

The bottle that only an hour earlier I was cursing, was now my salvation.

Ohhh the irony.

Diabetes Blog Week- Day 2



“This year, Diabetes Blog Week and TuDiabetes are teaming up to bring out the poet in you! Write a poem, rhyme, ballad, haiku, or any other form of poetry about diabetes.”

CGM, Go To Bed

An ode to my continuous glucose monitor


10:30 pm:

I put you on my nightstand, I lay you down to rest,
In case I don’t feel well, my blood sugar you will test.

My blood sugar is steady, not too high and not too low,
That ice cream after dinner, I hope you will not show.

An undisturbed night of sleep is what I really need,
A steady line on your graph in the morning, I truly hope to read.

Slumber is upon me, I’m drifting off to sleep,
I beg you CGM, a quiet night without a peep.

1 am: Buzz buzz buzz

Double arrows pointing up I awaken with a start to find,
Of all the arrows, up and down, you’re my least favorite kind.

Not much I can do, laying here with insulin on its way,
Groggily back to sleep I go, and hoping this time to stay.

2 am: Buzz buzz buzz

My eyes spring open, you caught me quite off guard,
My bg’s now over 180, you just had to make this hard.

My number is too high now, but I’m hoping not for long,
It may start to drop too fast, but hopefully I’m wrong.

4:30 am: Beeeeeep Beeeeep Beeeeeep

From my nightstand I hear your sound, which can only mean one thing,
“You’ve dropped below 55, wake up, wake up!” your beeps eagerly sing.

I take my fruit snacks and into my mouth I dump them all,
For the last time tonight, please back to sleep I hope I fall.

4:45 am: Buzz buzz buzz

Now you say I’m under 80, well at least I’m on the rise,
Maybe giving insulin for that high wasn’t all too wise.

Please CGM, let this be all, I’m really very sleepy,
If you wake me up one more time I may get a little weepy!

7:30 Ringgg Ringgg Ringgg

You’ve got to be kidding me, what is it now? You haven’t had enough?
With all the ups and downs this night, my sleep has been quite rough.

It’s my alarm! Time to get up; to work I must get ready and go.
Oh what’s that on the graph? A perfect number NOW you decide to show!

Diabetes Art Day 2013

Today is Diabetes Art Day, and my first time participating. I’m so glad that I learned about this opportunity as I am quite excited to be combining my creativity and love of art with such an important part of my life, my diabetes.

Taken from the website, here is a description of the initiative:

Diabetes Art Day is a web-based initiative for the Diabetes Online Community to “tell a story” about life with diabetes though creative visual expression. It’s a way for us to tell our stories so we can connect and share with each other and with our loved ones. It’s a way to generate diabetes awareness outside of the DOC (diabetes online community) by sharing artwork on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and community websites…Diabetes Art Day is for you to show the world what it’s like to live with diabetes in that “a picture is worth 1000 words” kind of way.”

I’ve never really been one to sketch out my work before I begin. I always just start and see where the picture takes me. And that’s exactly what I did. Here is the final result:

 
Depicted in my artwork are three fishlike creatures, representing the dark and mysterious unknowns of diabetes in general and of the daily management of it. These ominous creatures are always swimming and lurking, whether in darkness or in light. They feed on the blood sugars, shown here as a school of CGM arrows. The varying directions of the arrows shows the ups and downs of my blood sugar, as they swim through and around difficulties and obstacles. The repetitiveness of the arrows also signify the repetitive nature of the disease: blood sugar testing, carb counting, bolusing, blood sugar testing, carb counting, bolusing, etc. The light and colorful background is in stark contrast to the dark creatures, showing that hope and light can and does still exist. Finally, the intermittent patches of tape say that even though there are unknowns and moments of darkness and fear, I will stick with it and take care of myself and my diabetes.
Working on this artwork was a truly positive experience. It allowed me to take some time to reflect on what it is I wanted to share about living with diabetes and how I wanted to accomplish that visually. It had been a while since I had done anything artistic and I appreciated having such a positive purpose behind my work.
I hope that you will take some time to look at some of the other wonderful pieces submitted by people living with diabetes, found on the Diabetes Art Day website.