T Minus Two Type Two Diabetes and Other Passions


Gone Fishing

I've always been a person whose interests were subject to change. However, I've also tended to return to interests of the past.

It's been four months since I last posted here. In that time, though I've had an idea here and there, there's been nothing (whether solemn or silly) that has really wanted to be written. Writing is too much work to force it, and I can't offhand remember any posts written just to post that have been worth the trouble.

My interests and passions are just elsewhere recently. Yeah, I could post about those things, but I'm not really qualified to, and I can't delude myself that many would be interested.

I'm certainly not closing this down - I just renewed with my hosting company a few weeks ago. My passion for this may well return, and I like having an outlet that I can use if I want it.And, I like to think that past posts may yet suit their original purpose for a few folks. I'm proud of much of what I've done here. I just don't know when I'll do more.

Thanks for stopping by.

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Depression as a Pre-Existing Condition

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)

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Really, Really Good

(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.

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I’m Missing

Shouldn't I see myself?

One of the aims of ethnic and racial diversity efforts is to have advertisements reflect the diversity of our society. Similarly, concern about societal messages about beauty and body image have led to some pressure on companies to feature a variety of body types in advertising.

Those issues are important. They are worthy of both attention and action. My concern tonight is not nearly as important, but it bothers me anyway.

Periodically, I go looking for information about exercise and similar topics. Though I can cite no studies, it seems that the photographs on most relevant websites feature either healthy-looking young women or heavily muscled men. Though there are doubtless many exceptions, I believe that my basic observation is valid. When I look at magazines with a focus on general health topics, the people on the covers fit those categories almost exclusively.

I'm not female. I'm not young. And I have no desire to look like Hercules.

I don't exactly blame the sites and magazines for this. My guess would be that their core audience mostly consists of folks that either fit those categories or WANT to fit those categories. I can't complain about this.

The pictures, and the tenor and content of many accompanying articles, show a split in how the fitness goals of men and women are perceived. Women, it is apparently believed, want to be generally healthy and/or sexy. Men are seen as wanting to look like bodybuilders.

I don't know that this is a problem. What I do know is that on many websites and in many magazines, I don't see me. I don't even see the person I'd like to be.

This post is not a call for action. I don't know that what I'm seeing is a bad thing.

All I know is that it makes me a little sad.

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Curbing Our Curiosity

Does being curious give a person a right to have that curiosity satisfied?


This spring, I wrote a post about rudeness that touched on rude questions. Several days ago, I wrote a post saying more about curiosity, but I didn’t like how it turned out, so I left it to marinate. The very next day, I read a post by my friend Jess (see http://www.meanddblog.com/2013/07/so-kids.html) that clarified things for me. The questions Jess and her husband were being asked would be intrusive from a family member. From someone outside the family, they strike me as astonishing.

I acknowledged that my take on the subject of personal questions is affected by my own tendency to be fairly private, and also being a little old-fashioned about some aspects of social relationships.

“Wait a minute!” you might be saying. “What do you mean, you’re fairly private? You blogged about your colonoscopy! You’ve blogged about PEE, for Pete’s sake!”

That’s true. But, in my blog, I’m writing with purpose. I hope - as most health bloggers do - to provide points of connection for my readers or to share a bit of perspective. I hope to ease readers’ burdens by reminding them that they are not alone or just by giving them a smile. I have written things here, where they are viewable by almost anybody, that I would not say to most close friends.

(I am also, in honesty, a bit of a ham. What can I say? People are complicated.)

This is not to say that I don’t have curiosity myself. I suspect I have as much as most people, maybe more. But I try to balance my curiosity with the feelings of others. A desire to know something is not the same thing as a need to know it. I don’t need to know what your tattoo means. I don’t need to know if you and your loved ones get along. I don’t need to know what you were in the hospital for. Curiosity, like some other human impulses, must be controlled to some extent in order to get along with others.

Quite some time ago, a person I was close to chose to take her own life. When I returned to work, a coworker (not a friend) asked me what had happened. I was not ready to talk about the suicide, so I just said that she had died, trying to use a tone that would end the conversation. But my coworker persisted, wanting to know how she had died. I’m not a person who holds grudges, but I’ve been mad at my coworker for fifteen years. (I’m not proud of this, but, as I say, people are complicated.)

Many of the people I connect with on Facebook, and almost everybody I connect with on Twitter, are either health bloggers themselves or read health blogs. Sometimes someone will share something that seems to leave much unsaid. Someone might share a sense of distress without sayings what the cause is. Someone else may indicate that they’ve been admitted to the hospital without explaining why. I’ve noticed something interesting: by and large, people in the community don’t often ask for details, at least publicly. They respond the best they can from the information offered. I think they assume, as I do, that the person posting has chosen how much to share, and that I should respect that.

This is not to say that we should never ask questions. There are all sorts of subjects that are unlikely to cause discomfort. And, as we grow close to someone, the range of questions we can tactfully ask grows.

But let’s be careful, okay?


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A Note to the Reader

I need to tell you all something. I have a quite a bit that I want to say about my walking program and my efforts to slowly add other kinds of exercise to it. But I'm a little worried about how this will be received. Although I feel good about my progress, I don't write about it to brag, or to act superior to anybody, or to tell anybody else that they should be doing the same thing. As a reader, I get pretty annoyed when I feel like a blogger writes as if they've Discovered The Truth, and I don't want to do that.

This is the most progress I've made in caring for my own health since my diagnosis, maybe in my whole life. I need to write about how I feel about it, both the feelings of success and the anxiety about the possibility of failing. I need to write about trying to complement the exercise with some progress on the food front. I need to talk about what the exercise is doing for me as well as what it's not doing for me.

I hope that you'll hang in with me and that there's value for you in reading about this new aspect of my diabetes journey. I also hope that you'll forgive me if I can't maintain my goals. I won't be writing about this every day, but I may do so fairly often for a while.

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Break Time

In early May, I committed to publishing new posts every week day. I've kept that, and a little more. But,for several reasons, I'm going to take a little bit of a break. I anticipate resuming my Monday-through-Friday schedule on Monday, July 15.

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Looking West

I live on the fifth floor of an apartment building west of downtown Kansas City. This building is thirty or forty yards from the edge of a very high bluff that leads down to the Kansas River. I don't at all know this to be true, but I've wondered if the first thing west of here at my elevation is in Colorado.

My apartment is in the northwest corner of my building. The views out my window are rather spectacular, especially at night: the part of Kansas City, Kansas I overlook is mostly warehouses and light industry, not all the attractive during the day. Nonetheless, I don't spend much time taking that view in.

This winter, there was for a time an exception to this. This year, rather than merely covering my window air conditioner to protect me from the pretty vigorous winds we get up here, my apartment maintenance folks removed it. This meant that I could actually look out the window as I sat watching television.

One night, late in the winter, I noticed that my view from my chair had one prominent feature, way out in the distance. It was a building much taller than anything around it and, lit up as it was, it was kind of beautiful. Then I noticed that a branch of the tree outside my window appeared to partially bisect the building, creating the illusion of a turreted castle. My imagination took hold of the idea that it was Camelot, the court of the legendary King Arthur, and I took to gazing at it, pondering without really thinking. I thought about what might have brought a person to travel to Camelot, and how they might have felt when they arrived.

This pondering eventually led to my writing this poem, which I'm rather proud of as an amateur effort. I initially felt a little awkward about the liberties I took with the legend, but I eventually decided that others had done far more violence to that storyline than I had.

Eventually, a more mundane curiosity overtook me, and a little research led me to conclude that my "Camelot" was the KCK/Wyandotte County city hall. That pretty much ended my romantic woolgathering, and a few weeks later it was ended completely by my air conditioner being restored to its rightful position. But it was fun while it lasted.

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Enriched by Time

Several years ago, I wrote a post (one that I'm rather proud of) about the people that come into our lives for just a brief time. For a couple of weeks now, I've been thinking about a different kind of relationship, those that while not close acquire warmth over an extended period.

(I'm not meaning romantic relationships, by the way. Looking back, my romantic relationships has been marked by my nearly complete failure to understand what was going on. Oh, well.)

One example of this is the coworker whose recent death left me with a grief that surprised me. I had a conversation with a different coworker last week that showed me a warmth that had grown between us from occasional collaborations over a number of years, though we certainly don't know each other well. The combination of a good working relationship and the passage of time has created a friendship worth having.

We don't even need to know someone's name to have a species of friendship with them. People in my apartment building, people that work in stores I shop at, even people I see on the street can become friends of a sort from a lot of greetings and snippets of simple conversation. Though these relationships are not deep, it's nice to have these people to bring a smile to my face.

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My Life as an Amateur

I find that an awful lot of what I do, I do as an amateur. Amateur is a word with a number of different meanings. Here, I only mean that I do them without ever really training to do them.

I have one profession that I trained for but never worked at. I've worked at two professions for which I never formally trained.

I'm an amateur blogger, as most bloggers are. (At least I had some college writing courses.) Goodness knows I'm an amateur when I'm audacious enough to post poetry. I'm an amateur cook, and when I write about cooking, I'm an amateur food writer. (One of the reasons I don't post more recipes, though it's down the list a ways, is my awareness I don't really know how to write a recipe that's really useful as a set of instructions.)

As a person with diabetes, I'm pretty much an amateur there, too: most of us are, pretty much by definition. Even if we've been to some classes, we have a lot of situations to face for which those classes didn't really prepare us.

Of course, when I say that I haven't been trained in diabetes or the most of the other things I mention above, I'm ignoring the obvious truth that formal training is only one way to acquire a body of knowledge or a set of skills. I've written about 'chops' before, using to word the refer to all the little skills we acquire over time. I am good at my job, even though there are certainly things about it I wish I'd learned in school. I'm still learning to cook, and could probably do so for the rest of my life, but there are a lot of things I know how to do. It's only with poetry and recipe writing that I really don't know what I'm doing and have to just hope it turns out okay.

As to diabetes, I certainly don't know everything I could. There are a lot of folks in our community that understand the science of our disease much, much better than I do. Plus, some more knowledge about nutrition could probably help me. But I also feel that I can take credit for what I have learned in the five years I've had this condition.

In that sense, I'm no amateur.

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