Tag Archives: motivation

Comparing emotions with D and CD #DblogWeek

Day 2 of #DblogWeek already !#DblogWeek already ! Today’s topic prompt is “The other half of diabetes”:

We think a lot about the physical component of diabetes, but the mental component is just as significant. How does diabetes affect you or your loved one mentally or emotionally? How have you learned to deal with the mental aspect of the condition? Any tips, positive phrases, mantras, or ideas to share on getting out of a diabetes funk?

When naming my blog, I knew that I would write more about life with diabetes than with celiac but I still wanted to acknowledge the impact that both diseases have on my life. What I have been surprised to observe over the last 2 years of sporadic writing here (today is the 2nd anniversary of my blog!!) is actually how little I had to say about life with CD.

What do I mean by that? Well, both diseases affect my life every.single.day. And yet, celiac does not take the emotional toll that diabetes does. Why is that? Well, maybe I should be more specific. It no longer takes the emotional toll that diabetes does.

When I was first diagnosed with each (a year and a half apart), my honest first emotional reaction each time was relief. Relief that what had been making me so sick had a definitive diagnosis, a name and a treatment (no matter how much that treatment happened to suck!). I also intelectualised quickly that while the CD determined what I ate (or didn’t eat, as the case may be), the diabetes influenced the timing and quantity of my meals. I suppose these are coping mechanisms.

Celiac is a more black and white disease. The treatment is a 100% gluten-free diet. That means not a crumb, not using the same toaster or the same serving utensils used for gluten foods, and in some cases, making sure that food has been processed in a gluten-free facility or at least a gluten free line. It’s a lot of knowledge to have about food ingredients and you have to stay current as manufacturing and ingredients lists can change.

It has a ridiculously steep learning curve both in things you need to know and ways to cope emotionally. You have to re-learn how to eat, how to shop, how to think about food, how to enjoy a meal with friends, how to trust someone else to cook for you, how to ask the right questions at restaurants, how to leave the house without the fear of being “glutened”… My diabetes managment all but disappeared during the first 8 months or so of dealing with celiac, and the connections that I wrote about yesterday were far more celiac than diabetes oriented during that time. Only once I had reached a plateau of sufficient knowlege and coping with CD, was I able to start dealing with both diseases.

An important aspect in the emotional toll for me, is that there is no self-judgement with celiac (the judgement is reserved for people who think I do this to follow a fad) and there isn’t any guilt. There can be sadness, especially at first, for what you have to give up. But personally, I am rarely touched emotionally by what I cannot eat. I don’t know if it’s knowing how sick I get when I am accidentally glutened or if it’s just that the whole 100% gluten-free thing is clear cut enough not to be questionned. And there are results. As long as I am gluten free, I have no symptoms and no clinical signs of the disease since the flattened villi in my intestines has grown back.

Diabetes, on the other hand is all about (striving for) balance. Some insulin, not too much, well calculated and at the right times. Some carbs, not too fast-acting, well calculated and at the right times. Some exercise, planned in advance, preferably the same amount at the same time each day… Learn how to handle the stress that life throws at you and stay vigilant to make sure your diabetes devices are always in perfect working order.

And even when I do follow all the “rules”, my blood sugar doesn’t necessarily follow through with the results I’m looking for.  I get a few appointments with a specialist each year which can feel like the quarterly judgement for all moments I haven’t been perfect. But even the medical professional judgement is nothing compared to the self-judgement that happens daily as blood sugar levels spike and fall.

Diabetes “results” are also a lot less tangible. Whether or not my overall diabetes management is on target and whether or not I’m coping well currently, my blood glucose levels still go high and still go low, which influence hormone levels in my body, which influence emotions, which influence blood glucose levels… and on and on.

So 19 and 18 years later respectively, diabetes takes up much more of my mental and emotional space than CD. Most of the time I manange to cope well but there are definitely times when other aspects of my life take precedence and coping with chronic illness no longer has enough head space to get dealt with. The only tip I have goes back to what I was saying yesterday. Sharing my story and hearing others’ stories – knowing that I am not alone in dealing with this – is the most powerful way for me to manage the emotional roller coaster.

#dblogweek 2015 – Favourites and Motivations

And for my second post of the day… to at least attempt to catch up on #dblogweek! The topic today is “Favourites and Motivations”. After only a year of blogging I had a hard time picking a favourite bit of my blog, so I’ll share with you some of my motivation for being here.

I have understood from the day of my diagnosis how important it would be to connect with other people with diabetes. It all started as I lay in the ICU with bruises up and down both arms from all the IVs and artery lines that the doctors had placed with difficulty, the night before. But I was already feeling better 18 hours after diagnosis and the symptoms of my DKA were clearing up quickly.  Only close family were allowed into intensive care but I was very glad to see my uncle, who had by then been living with type 1 for 37 years.

I saw his concern for me and his sadness that someone else in the family would have to live with diabetes from now on. But I also saw his relief at no longer being alone in this and felt a connection with him that we had never had before. I hadn’t been able to adequately describe to anyone until then exactly how horrible I had felt in DKA. How unbelievably dry my mouth was, for example. No, not like when you’re really thirsty, more like when there is no saliva left. At all. But I didn’t need to explain it to him. He knew. He had been there.

So it was never really a question in my mind. If I wanted to live well with this (and I did!), I knew that I had to find peers to share stories, to compare notes, to support and to be supported by.  I joined an online forum while I was away at university and when I got back to Toronto after a few years, I found a group of women through the local chapter of the Canadian Diabetes association who became my core support group for a number of years.

I continued to participate in a few online forums, especially the Delphi “Diabetic Mommy” group. That group has been a lifeline through preparing for pregnancy and dealing with diabetes through pregnancy and motherhood. I have met only a few women from that group in “real” life, but I consider a number of them to be good friends. I also was very active for a number of years on a Celiac disease forum. The learning curve is so insane when you first go gluten free, that I don’t know how anyone does it without some support online or off.

A few years later, as the first D-blogs started appearing, I became an avid reader. But I think what held me back at first from starting my own blog was that I don’t love to write. I knew could respond to forum posts with supportive and well-informed answers, but I think I was a little intimidated on some level to create my own content rather than responding to others. So for years I put it off. But I have come to realise that as a diabetes advocate, it is important to have a personal space on the web to be able to share ideas in a more open space than what you can find in a forum or Facebook group.

I still find it a little scary to put myself out there but knowing the support I have found and have been able to share over the years of connecting with other PWD, that is motivation enough to share my thoughts with all of you. Sharing my story certainly helps me deal with my own diabetes and celiac disease and if just one person finds comfort in what they read here, my effort is worth it. And that motivates me to continue.

I want to become a runner again

I discovered running at the age of 9 thanks to a wonderful coach who volunteered at my primary school. She was great at encouraging everyone, no matter what their natural talent was and empowered us to find our own strengths. I was never a fast runner but that didn’t matter. I learned to love running because it made me feel powerful. (Plus, the cross country team at school was the one team with out tryouts – everyone was welcome!) I ran less in my early university years because I was sick a lot (with what I now know was undiagnosed CD and then undiagnosed diabetes).

After my diabetes diagnosis, I got very serious about exercise and went to the gym 4-5 times a week. But I didn’t take up running again for about 3 years. I found running particularly tricky in terms of blood sugar balance. I really struggled with lows at first and trying to prevent those post-run lows was one of my main motivations to get an insulin pump. I wanted to have more control on my insulin doses to be able to run more often and longer distances without sacrificing stable glucose levels. In that first year on a pump, I ran my first 5k race (in a decade), my first 10k race and my first half marathon. I was hooked. Over the next 5 years I did several 5 and 10k races, 4 more half marathons and the big prize: one marathon.

I was super proud of my accomplishments and even prouder of how well I was managing to balance my running AND my diabetes. Then life got in the way of running. I was busy. Planned a wedding. Bought and renovated our home. Had two kids. Anyone who has done it can confirm that balancing pregnancy and diabetes is like a marathon in itself!  So during those years, my runs were sporadic at best.

After my second daughter was born, I wanted to get back at it but I had loads of excuses to delay. I breastfed for a long time and wasn’t sure how to handle the bouncing lactating boobs. My 2nd was not as great a sleeper as my 1st and I was chronically exhausted. When I went back to work, figuring out work/life balance was particularly stressful for me. All of these are probably reasons I should have used to start running again, but I let them work against my desire to lace up my shoes.

There was also one factor that was entirely diabetes related. When I was marathon training, I only had to worry about me and my diabetes. In the meantime, my family had become my top priority and it was hard trying to prioritise diabetes management and my own fitness into that mix. Plus, a new fear of exercise lows had wormed its way into my brain. I just didn’t want to have to deal with extra lows on top of everything else so the simplest solution was not to exercise!

But I had gained some kilos after having lost all of my pregnancy weight. And I know how good regular exercise is for physical and mental health and how good it can make you feel. So bit by bit I gathered the courage over the past year and started running again. Slow. Steady. Easy pace. I’m not out to win races, but then again, I never was. I gathered motivation where I could find it. I installed Run Keeper on my phone. I increased my goal for steps on my pedometer. My husband and planned our weeks so we knew who could run when. I tried running first thing in the morning before breakfast and was amazed at how stable blood glucose levels can be when exercising on an empty stomach and with no bolus-on-board.

But there is one thing that has recently boosted my confidence and my desire to actually become a runner again (because even though I’ve been running more on than off for the last 10 months I still haven’t quite reached a point where I feel “legit”).

Here in Paris we have a “Café Diabète” once a month. It’s a laid back support group for people with diabetes. Family and friends are welcome too. Each month there is a different theme and last month it was diabetes and sports – not just physical activity, but actually taking things to the next intensity level. Of the people who came, one did 5 marathons this year; another had recently attempted a 100+km trail race. I loved hearing theirs stories, their motivation, their tips on balancing food, exercise and blood sugar while putting their minds and bodies to the test.

I have never let diabetes hold me back from anything I wanted to accomplish. And I have run one marathon so I know I CAN do this. But sharing the goals, the struggles and the successes with others who are striving for similar things brings a whole new level of motivation. I’ve been running more consistently since our Café Diabète a few weeks ago and I feel really good about it. I’m not out to run 7500 km in 9 months or to become an IronMan (woman?). What I would like to do is solidify my exercise routine and I know that running is the sport for me based on how I feel after coming in from a run – even if it’s only 5 or 7 km. And I will make sure to surround myself with the support and motivation that comes from others who are in the same boat. I want to become a runner again for myself, but also for my daughters to grow up seeing the strength that comes with physical fitness.