This post is my response for today's prompt for Diabetes Blog Week (#dblogweek). I am responding to the wildcard topics "Tell Me A Story: " Write a short story personifying a diabetes tool you use on a daily basis. A meter, syringe, pump, pill, etc. Give it a personality and a name and let it speak through you. What would it be happy about, upset about, mad about? " The post below, originally published 2/11/10, seems to fill the bill.
March 14: Suddenly, I burst into consciousness. It seems that I am a test strip for a glucose meter, a small miracle of technology precisely engineered for an important task. Within minutes of my awakening, I find myself in a small plastic container with 24 of my compatriots. I am puzzled, however, because I am the only strip in my container that appears to be sentient. This is especially unfortunate in the case of the rather attractive strip right next to me - I could share some thoughts with her, if you catch my meaning!
April 7th: After weeks of sitting in warehouses and being bounced around in trucks, I have arrived in a pharmacy. I wonder how long the wait here will be?
May 2nd: I have been purchased. I confess to feeling a little swell of pride at the amount of money paid for me: I am easy, but not cheap.
May 14th: I chafe at the length of my wait. My compatriots have been disappearing one at a time, naturally, that cute strip next to me was the first to go. I must say, the rate at which we're being used is somewhat slower than what I understood to be optimal. Nonetheless, I feel a strong affection for the man who bought me, and look forward to playing my part in supporting his health care goals.
May 18th: The day for which I was created has at last arrived! The container is opened, and I am removed. I am placed into the meter: the fit is perfect. I am touched to a drop of blood, and I process it according to my engineering and deliver the good word to the meter, which promptly displays the result. (163? As a fasting reading for a meds-only T2? What did he EAT last night????)
My joy is complete, my destiny is fulfilled. The man whose very life I have helped preserve has left me in the meter, presumably to contemplate the excellence with which I have perfomed.
May 19th: I begin to wonder, now that my purpose is complete, what my future holds. This morning I was removed from the meter and replaced with another strip. Rather than being placed with dignity in the luxurious final resting place I expected and deserved, I was casually tossed into a pile of other strips that have given their all. It's dusty, too.
May 23rd: My existence gets worse and worse. This morning, the pile I was in was swept into a wastebasket. I, however, fell outside the basket onto the floor. A few minutes later I found myself adhering to the bottom of the man's foot and thus carried into his shower, where the water washed me off his foot and into the tub's drain strainer. The conditions here are unspeakable. How I wish I had entered the waste stream with my fellows, bound for the serenity of the landfill or perhaps even the blessed oblivion the incinerator offers.
May 25th: How long will it take this man to notice me here in the drain? I have come to hate him.
May 26th: At last, the tyrant notices me here in the drain. He plucks me off, and tosses me toward another wastebasket - and again he misses. (I hope his pancreas explodes.) So I lie here, right next to the toilet. I will say no more of my situation here. Oh, that this consciousness with which I was cursed might have an end.
June 3rd: Finally, finally, my blessed end is nigh. Again, I was thrown away, but this time actually made it into the basket. The last few days in the waste stream have been disgusting, but here I am on a moving belt, and I see the incinerator ahead. Oh lovely nothingness, I come!
This post (not a repost!) is my response for today's prompt for Diabetes Blog Week: "Diabetes Life Hacks -- Share the (non-medical) tips and tricks that help you in the day-to-day management of diabetes ... Please remember to give non-medical advice only!"
I have griped a time or two (okay, maybe closer to 300 times) about how much I hate sitting down to count out my medications each week, because doing so seems to be a real symbol of my diseases.
But, I really don't mind -taking- the medications. However, it took me several years to figure out how to take them as consistently as I need to. For way too long, I relied on trying to remember the three times a day I have pills to swallow. That just didn't work. Eventually, I had the insight that I needed to keep my meds in sight. (See what I did there?)
The morning meds live on the desk where I used to sit at my computer every morning. (The computer now lives elsewhere, but seeing the desk is reminder enough.) I have a phone-and-computer calendar reminder for the mid-afternoon, when I'm usually at work. And there's a little stand in my bathroom - which I'm sure to visit before I go to bed - that holds the sorter with the things I take at night.
I still manage to forget once in a while, but I'm pretty consistent.
It's simple, but it works for me.
This post, originally published on February, 2013, is my response for today's prompt for Diabetes Blog Week: "Yesterday we opened up about how diabetes can bring us down. Today let’s share what gets us through a hard day. Or more specifically, a hard diabetes day. Is there something positive you tell yourself? Are there mantras that you fall back on to get you through? Is there something specific you do when your mood needs a boost? Maybe we've done that and we can help others do it too?"
Before lunch today I found myself in an extremely grumpy mood, even for me. I felt very put upon and angry, even though nothing in particular had happened to leave me more than a little annoyed. i knew that I was not likely to get much done or have any enjoyment out of the day if I stayed in that mental state.
So, while at lunch, I decided to make a list of everything i could think of in my life that made me angry or annoyed. A few of my items would frustrate most people, and several more dealt with disappointment with myself. Most of the items, I think, were either inconsequential or really had nothing to do with me at all.
Having made my list, I decided to experiment with a little visualization. I've never had much luck doing visualizations, but I thought the situation merited making the attempt. What follows is not a daydream or a delusion, but a recreation of what I told myself to imagine, as if I was listening to a relaxation tape, except that I was making it up as I went.
I am alone in a room, one wall of which is covered with an enormous piece of newsprint paper covered with the list that I had made. I am tearing the paper off the wall and gathering this whole huge piece of paper into a big wad in my arms.
I can smell the newsprint and the felt tip Ink on the paper. I can feel the ball of paper pressing a little bit against my chest as I work with my hands and arms to compact the ball. i can feel the paper with my hands, and that I can hear the rustling of paper as i work to compress the ball of paper.
As i work, I feel my ball grow smaller and the paper itself grow thinner, so what I had at the end of my gathering is grapefruit sized ball of blue tissue paper. With my ball in my hands, I gently breathe a puff of positive energy into it, and I see it burst into a cool blue flame. Though i can feel the warmth of the fire it does not burn me, and I soon hold only.ashes. I blow again, harder this time, and i see the ashes fly into the air and turn into a cloud of silver glitter, which shimmers for a moment before disappearing.
When I reopened my eyes, I felt unburdened and nearly at peace. I won't say that I skipped joyfully back to my desk, but I did succeed it turning around a mood that had become toxic, and I had a productive afternoon. My exercise strike you as weird and New Age-y, and it feels like that to me, but it worked.
This post, originally published on September 10, 2010, is my response for today's prompt for Diabetes Blog Week: "May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and / or your loved one, and how do you cope? (Thanks go out to Scott of Strangely Diabetic for coordinating this topic.)"
Unfortunately, having diabetes is no protection against other conditions, and diabetes has no hesitation about coming to those already having other conditions.
I was recently having an exchange with Rachel Baumgartel on Twitter, and we were talking about depression. She made a comment to the effect that folks often don't consider the impact when diabetes comes to a person who has depression as a "pre-existing condition". I loved that phrase, because it enabled me to start crystallizing thoughts I've been having for a year or more.
Many, many people with diabetes also deal with depression or anxiety. This seems easy to understand: diabetes is a daily challenge that never, ever goes away. It affects our bodies, minds, and relationships. Many diabetics have a strong sense of guilt, whether it relates to stigmas falsely associated with the disease, perceived failures in managing it, or the effect of the disease on the people we love. The literal highs and lows bring fears about serious illness, even death.
And, of course, there may be something physiological about diabetes that creates fertile ground for depression or anxiety.
But does it go the other way? I've been a diabetic for about two and a half years. I've dealt with depression for nearly forty years. So, in my case, diabetes came to a person already pre-disposed to have problems with the psychological aspects of the disease. I had a pre-existing condition called depression.
(I've written elsewhere in some detail about my experience with depression. I won't do so here, at least not today.)
So, two questions to ponder:
1) What if diabetes comes to a person already suffering from depression or another disorder of the heart or mind?
2) What if diabetes comes to a person who does not yet have depression or another disorder of the heart or mindor another disorder of the heart or mind, but whose body or life already contains the seeds of such a condition?
The answer is going to vary tremendously from person to person. But two things seem pretty certain:
1) The heart/mind disorder is going to make managing the diabetes much more difficult.
2) The diabetes is going to make managing the heart/mind disorder much more difficult.
I'll tell you how it is for me. Depression is a great teller of lies: on not-so-good days, I believe those lies. I don't take as good care of myself because I don't feel worth the trouble. In those moments, healthy changes seem impossible for me, and complications feel inevitable. I don't sleep well, and feel physically weak, so exercise would be more difficult even if I could find the motivation. (There's a key irony here: exercise is fabulous therapy for depression. Do I remember that when I need it? Of course not.) Without really noticing, I feed the fatigue with increased caffeine. And food. And the food isn't free veggies.
On good days, I don't believe the lies, and do take care of myself. But if the not-so-good days have strung together, as sometimes happens, I've lost some previous progress and have some catching up to do.
All of this, good days and not-so-good days, occurs while I'm getting up, going to work, and being good at my job.
Of course, everyone with depression will experience it differently. And depression is only one of the things that can attack a person's mind or spirit, and diabetics with other conditions will have their own challenges.
It would be a wonderful thing if our care providers knew to watch for symptoms of depression and other maladies, and understood that those of us who already have them have extra challenges. But I suspect that most of us don't have such providers, and may need to be assertive in getting the care that we need.
Please, whatever your situation, be gentle with yourself. And, please be gentle with the rest of us.
(Originally posted to diabetesdaily.com)
This post, originally published on September 23, 2010, is my response for today's prompt for Diabetes Blog Week.
I wrote the below as relief from having written several rather earnest posts. I hope none of the below crosses the line from funny to offensive for you, and hope that you'll forgive me if they do.
My doctor had offered me kudos
On maintaining an excellent glucose
But I blew it away
On the way home that day
That sweet shop was entirely too close!
A 'betic in old Narragansett
Who hated to swap out her lancet,
Said, "I know that it's strange,
But it's annoying to change,
So I guess that I'll just have to chance it!"
My pharmacist showed an example
Of a test strip that took a small sample
"You don't need a quart,
I'm pleased to report,
A teensy bit ought to be ample!"
I've known for a long time that one of the most effective ways to deal with depression is to get interested in something. I believe that an important part of the way out of perhaps the worst episode of my life was the reading i did about rock music history.
I have always been a person that suddenly acquires an interest in something, be deeply involved in it for a few days or weeks or months, and then lose interest just as suddenly. While there are some interests I've come back to several times, most just disappear into the void. (This is part of why I'm not a scholar - I don't have the temperament for it. I wouldn't wager my career in something still interesting me in a week, let alone in thirty years.) Unfortunately, I can't choose to have an interest - enthusiasm is something that happens to me rather than something I do. But having a subject I'm excited about is an important part of feeling good for me.
Although I have been slowly climbing out of my winter trough since I last posted about it, it's been a period without an active enthusiasm. For a couple of years now, my interest in cooking has been fairly constant, but there have been gaps and I'm in one now. I can barely summon an interest in making dinner, let alone take on a kitchen project.
But I've now been bitten. For some time now I've been a little dismayed at how uninspiring my food photographs look, especially in contrast with the beautiful pictures taken by my friend Pearlsa. Then, over the weekend, I was admiring some of the fabulous nature shots taken by my friend Mike. As I did so, it occurred to me that maybe photography is one of those things that learning a little more could make an out-sized difference. Maybe I could learn enough not to be great but to be less cruddy. (You can find Pearlsa's Instagram account at http://www.instagram.com/pearlsa and Mike's new photography blog at www.sparrowtreephotography.com.)
I'm having fun with it. I've been reading about taking photographs with my smartphone, and I've been taking lots of pictures. (There are a lot of 19th and early-20th century commercial buildings in my area, and I'm finding that I love taking pictures of funky little architectural details.)
How long is this particular enthusiasm going to last? I have no idea. But, in the meantime, I'm going to ride it like the fellow in this picture (which I took this weekend) is riding his horse. Because I have an interest is feeling good.
(This post is being done in connection with the #DayOfLight initiative on Twitter and Facebook, dedicated to "bringing depression out of the dark". You can learn more about it here. I've only known about this for a few hours, but wanted to make my contribution.)
Although the primary focus of this blog has been diabetes, I've also often written about my struggles with depression and other aspects of mental health. (You can, if you choose, view those posts here.) Most recently, I wrote a post in which I compared my depression to a dragon and about fighting not to lose grip on some healthy changes I'd been making.
That last post turned out to be early on in what has proved to be a lengthy episode of depression. Though this is hardly measurable, it has felt both longer and deeper than I've experienced in several years. Over the last several weeks, I have watched as pieces of my ability to function have fallen away. My never-very-robust attention span is gone with no forwarding address. Making plans seems futile, because I don't know if I'm going to be able to meet my commitment to myself. Though I haven't gone too far in the wrong direction, there has been significant decay in my baby healthy habits. Being sociable (also not ever my strong point) has become difficult as well.
Perhaps telling the dragon about his bad breath was not so smart, huh?
Beyond the persistent sense of disappointment in myself, perhaps the worst aspect of an episode like this is a weird, unfocused sense of dread, that disaster is about to occur and that it will probably be about my fault. This morning, after a fairly successful exercise session, I was continuing to listen to my exercise playlist. As the Led Zeppelin song "When the Levee Breaks" came on, I could not get it turned off fast enough - the song's foreboding meshed so completely with my own, it was almost like a physical wound.
But, I have not lost perspective. I know it will get better. My internal life is pretty unpleasant right now, but I'm hanging in and will continue to do so. There were a couple of hopeful signs today, so maybe the mood is easing a bit. I also know that there have been times in the past that were much, much worse. And, even those episodes eventually eased.
It will get better.
The picture below, which is entitled "But I Repeat Myself", was my contribution to this past Monday's Diabetes Art Day.
For my mouth, some flavors are solitary and some are more social.
Take sour/savory, such as a pickled vegetable that's not too sweet. I can spear a piece of pickled red pepper from a jar, and it's delicious, and it's enough: that flavor is content to be alone. Salty (not salty-fat) is the same way for me: just a few nice olives can be a nice little snack, and my mouth feels that it has been treated well and is content. (Pretzels are an exception for me.)
Fatty flavors are more social: they want more of their own kind around. I've barely got a bite of a good hamburger swallowed before my tongue wants the next bite. The call for "more!" doesn't go away until I feel full or the food is gone .. whichever is later. Fatty/salty is even more so for many people - think potato chips or french fries. There are probably people who can eat one potato chip and fully enjoy it without reaching for the next one
Sweet is more social yet. A modestly-sized cookie wants to be joined by another, and another, and another. I have, on occasion, used mouthwash to try to stop the invitations from going out.
And fatty/sweet, like ice cream or milk chocolate? That's a flavor combo that wants to PAR-TAY, and how can it par-tay without mouthful after mouthful of the same flavor. (Chocolate does not really trigger me like that, but it seems to for many people. Ice cream very much triggers me like that.)
This is just an observation. I don't know if it works like this for others.
(In which I don't discuss health at all.)
The other night I remembered a scrap from a piece by an author pretty widely regarded as one of the greatest writers of English. You know, "great" as in leather-bound editions, academic conferences, the whole bit. I was inspired to look up the larger passage the scrap was from (thank you, Internet!), and I noticed something that struck me pretty forcibly:
The passage I was reading is good. Really, really good.
I then thought about other examples of stuff widely seen as "great" that I really enjoy. The things I thought about included a rock song and a couple of painting.
Of course, nothing works for everybody. I'm not mentioning the works I thought about to take specific examples out of the discussion.
I guess my point is this: sometimes something's reputation as "great" can oddly interfere with our own enjoyment of us. Somehow the acclaim gets in the way of how we might react to it if we came across it unawares.
So, as you may know, I've been able to make some healthy changes in the last few months. There's quite a bit of exercise, both walking and things I do in my *ahem* home gym. (The "home gym" is a living room cluttered with dumbbells and exercise bands.) I'm eating right, and recording what I eat. Emotional eating hasn't been a problem. The home gym exercises can be a challenge some evenings, and some days bring other kinds of challenges Still, I've had a lot of initiative, and it hasn't been killer-hard to keep going.
And then, over the last week or so, ever so slowly, I've been slipping. The home gym sessions got skipped or foreshortened. I had a couple of days when I ate over my calorie goals … then a couple of days when I'm pretty darned sure I did, but I can't be absolutely sure because I didn't bother to record it. The eating was starting to feel out-of-control and intended to feed my heart rather than my body.
I came into the weekend feeling the hot breath of failure on the back of my neck, and I had no idea what to do about it. Then, as I was desperately trying to think of how to turn it around, I remembered the dragon.
See, as far back as the eighth grade, I've struggled with episodes of depression. These episodes can come at any time, but the midwinter months are usually hard, and those episodes have sometimes been deep.
You'd think that, since I know all this, I'd start watching for the signs. But, at least for me, depression tends to arrive pretty quietly. This morning, I realized that my healthy changes were being drug down by the challenges of emotional health. As I thought about it, I came to think of the depression as like a dragon. (You can blame a movie ad for the image.)
My initial thoughts for how to make accommodation for the dragon's presence were along the lines of partial surrender. Perhaps I shouldn't even try to do the gym exercises. Maybe I should raise my calorie limits. Maybe I should….
And then I got mad.
"Why," I asked myself, "should I give in to this? Why should I let it make me a failure?" I then talked aloud, perhaps just to myself, perhaps to make dragon, feeling all smaug over there on his gold. (See what I did there?) I would not, I said, give in. I would maintain my standards. I am not (I continued) the same person I used to be, and I will choose what I eat and how I exercise. There were other things I said as well.
Of course, telling a dragon off is not the same thing as defeating him. The dragon is still here, and he will remain here until he decides to go sit on his treasure someplace else for a while. I'm going to have to be careful, for example, to know exactly what my exercise plan is for the day. And, though I will be tempted, this will not be the time to make ambitious additions to my goals. And, I do think it's appropriate to restart the gym work a little slowly. But I will do these things because I CHOOSE to – not because I feel that choice has been taken from me.
And I must never forget that the dragon is there: he is most dangerous when I'm unaware of him.
Take that, you nasty overgrown lizard. And do something about that breath.
This post was edited on 11/25/13 to rearrange a tiny bit and to improve the post's resemblance to English.