Having any problem in your way should never hinder your ability to do what you want to in life. It may take more care or more forethought, but if you want to do something, Type 1 Diabetes should never be an excuse not to do it. However, it can be hard to overcome that desire to use such a hinderance as a crutch, and that is something that I contend with to this day.
My goal when I wake up each day is to do at least one thing that I have never done before or that will push me out of my comfort zone. Once you try most things you realize how unfounded your fears are. Most recently that choice was a big one: I was given the chance to travel to India for three weeks.
At first I was ecstatic and could not have been happier, but the more I thought about it the more I worried about everything that might go wrong. What if I cannot find food that is low on the glycemic index? What if I get sick and cannot keep food down? What if I cannot find a good source of sugar for when I go low? What if I run out of insulin, or needles, or test strips? What if my meter gets stolen?
How did I solve these issues? I prepared and packed for every contingency I could think of:
- Getting sick or not finding good food? Packed 48 Clif bars in my checked bag to last me two whole weeks if I needed them.
- Unable to find sugar? Packed small packets of candy each with ~15g of carbs to compensate as needed.
- Not enough supplies? I checked with my doctor before I went, got extra prescriptions, and packed 2 months worth of supplies for just a month long trip.
- Meter getting stolen? I brought an extra just in case and keep it in a separate bag so that if I lose one I have a backup.
- Security stopping me for my supplies? I asked for a signed doctors note before I left explaining what I needed and why.
- Getting sick while I was overseas? I received all my vaccines a couple weeks in advance.
- Glucose meter batteries die? I brought extra batteries.
- Checked baggage lost? I made sure to carry everything essential I would need onto the plane with me in case anything got lost from checked baggage.
When it comes down to it there is a definite need for self-reliance and self-management when it comes to any challenge in life. However, the conundrum is that we are social animals and live in an extremely social society, which makes it difficult to draw that line of what one should do completely by oneself and what one should ask others for help with.
When it comes to managing a disease such as Type 1 Diabetes, the situation is extremely complicated due to a natural desire to get help from others contrasted with the absolute necessity to completely understand one’s own condition and be able to handle any situation as it comes. I personally think that while a sufficient sense of self-reliance to the point of knowing how to deal with any situation is required just in case, for the day to day dealings it is necessary to at least partially rely on others for support and the occasional guidance.
The first place to turn when it comes to disease is naturally doctors. Doctors are helpful as a resource, and it is important to communicate well with them, asking questions, and getting feedback on how well you are doing. But doctors cannot always be there, and should not need to be as long as a commensurate information is given to the patient and understood. Therefore, if any reliance on others is to be pursued it has to be elsewhere.
So what is left? Friends and family. Friends and family are around the majority of the time and are generally more than willing to help. The first step is obviously letting others in on the fact that you have Type 1 Diabetes. But once that is over, assuming they are not doctors, what can others offer? Primarily support. But not just the “Keep at is bud!” or “Great job!” type of support. Rather, what has been much more helpful for me has been the support that shows genuine interest and reminds me of what is important. For example people asking me about why I’m eating a high carb muffin or juice. Yes, I may be low, in which case I explain that, but maybe I’m just not really thinking about it.
By no means should one rely on one’s friend to constantly question his or her actions and make sure they are right. However, as much as one may try to follow the mantra of “Stop. Breath in. Breath out.” there can still be momentary slips that aren’t realized until later (or not at all!). And it is those times that complete independence really needs to be set aside and others need to be allowed to help.
It has been a long time since I’ve written or posted on the site. Although tonight I finally made the resolution to get back into doing it regularly, only to log on and find out it had been hacked. Still in the process of recovering everything and fixing everything that was broken, but on the upside I’m now more excited than ever to revamp Zen Diabetes and write regularly again.
There will be a new design and a new look, and once I get everything back up and running I’ll start posting regularly again.
Controlling one’s blood sugars is paramount in maintaining health and keeping any complications at bay. However, low blood sugar due to too much insulin is a constant threat. Due to my late diagnosis in life I really experienced the slow transition for my body from perfectly normal blood sugars to ones that were either too high or too low.
During the first few months when I would go down to 70 mg/dL I would start to sweat and really feel the adrenaline being released as my body tried to bring my glucose levels back up. As time has gone on in these past few years that has become slowly less noticeable to me. Now I can sometimes hit 50 mg/dL without noticing. I do notice when I move around more easily as it is more difficult to balance, but if I’m just sitting doing work or writing it can be hard to notice, especially if I’m completely focused on something else.
During the time directly after my diagnosis it was also hard for me to go very high at all, a good thing, due to the fact that once I got above 140 mg/dL or any higher I would get horrible headaches and would either go for a quick jog or inject a bit of insulin to bring my blood sugar back into the normal range. Today, I can easily hit 200 mg/dL or even higher without a headache or any easily noticeable reaction on my body’s part.
So how do you deal with the natural responses being diminished? I check often. In fact I check before every meal, two hours after every meal (sometimes in between too if I’m feeling off), and then before and after any running or workout. This means I am pricking my finger up to twelve times per day sometimes. This also means that I inject insulin at least four times per day, and often more if I need to compensate for any highs.
So is there an ideal number of times to check per day? I don’t think so. There is a definite need to find a balance, but it is a balance that you must find based on your own routines, habits, and desires for what activities you want to participate in. I’ll be addressing some of the problems with such tight control in my upcoming posts.
One of the largest challenges in life is finding that necessary balance between all the different aspects of life: work, play, education, hobbies, health, etc. Living with Type 1 Diabetes complicates this balancing act by requiring constant attention, and heavily weighting the commitment required for maintaining the health portion of one’s life.
As much as it is true that when living with Type 1 Diabetes you can still do whatever you want to do, it is crucial that you also take the time to deal with all the daily responsibilities to maintain the best health possible. For me this has meant taking a break from writing recently to focus not only on my training for rugby but also my education and work.
Now that I’ve set a good baseline for both and gotten into a good rhythm I’ll be returning to writing here at Zen Diabetes regularly. I’ll be focusing not only on the topics of living day to day with diabetes, but also my own personal experiences in training for a demanding sport and maintaining blood sugar control and consistency along the way.