A letter to myself

Dear me,

I know you’re feeling like crap right now. All the good intentions and efforts you started this year out with, have sort of fizzled and gone up in smoke. You were very determined to make this work out as long as possible, but after 6 weeks that ended in a bit of a bust.

But it’s okay.

Remember that you’re still only 6 weeks into a new medication regime. Adjusting insulin and getting it all sorted, and sticking to it, takes time and experimentation.

Remember that you started your first period on insulin almost three weeks ago, and it’s still going. Insulin is a hormone, you have the hormonal birth control implant, this is not out of the ordinary that they affect one another but it is taking a toll on you. It’s no wonder you feel tired when you’ve bled nonstop for 18 days, while juggling everything else around it. That’s not your fault.

Remember that a few days into your period, you also came down with a cold. Now a cold is bad enough on its own to throw almost anyone out of their routine, but you know that a disruption of routine hits you especially hard. It lasted almost five days before you felt better. That’s not your fault.

Remember that insomnia is a real part of your health problems and that your best efforts don’t always work to get through it. You’ve had insomnia almost non-stop since your period started and this is killer on basically anyone. When you do get to sleep, you feel like a train hit you. That’s not your fault.

Somewhere along the way, for two days you didn’t give a flying fuck about your diabetes and just ate whatever with a few shots here and there. Your values were all over the place, but so was your mind and your ability to hang on through this shit storm. Nobody is perfect, and neither are you. What matters is that on the third day, you tested your waking up value, saw it was 9.7, and decided to fix it instead of despairing.

You’re still not fully on track, and your diet still sucks, but you’re taking your insulin properly and making the best effort you can at the moment. You’re still dealing with that motherfucking period, and that’s enough to enrage almost any woman and send her shrieking like a banshee through the streets, but the fact you’re taking it levelheaded as it comes is a good and admirable thing.

It’s impossible to control everything in life. Remember how we’ve vowed to live by that saying and not feel depressed about it? These are things that influence you which you can’t control, but what you can control is how you respond to and deal with them.

That includes doing the best you can with the foods you can afford. It’s important to remember you’re in a unique financial situation where your fixed income doesn’t offer much leeway. If you can’t afford to replace the staple whole carbs and the cheap processed box carbs with whole vegetables and proteins, then you can’t. Let’s be honest, a box of brown rice that costs eighty cents and feeds you for fifteen servings, beats a salad that costs twice as much and feeds you once hands down. That is reality. You did the math, you kept your body’s limitations in mind (don’t forget you also have IBS and a lot of vegetables cause very painful gas), and it doesn’t work out. You can’t be upset about that because being upset changes nothing. You’ve had many great days in your diabetes control with the diet you have right now, there’s no reason that with a tiny bit of extra effort you can’t keep that up.

You’re trying. You’re aware of what’s happening to you. You’ve made efforts to change that what you can change. You can’t do anything about that which you can’t change. Just keep doing what you’re doing, keep testing and taking your insulin, keep checking what and how much you’re eating, keep soldiering through this period; it’s bound to end sooner than later right about now.

Never forget that you have many people who love you dearly. Never forget that this disease isn’t easy to manage and takes a lot of care. Never forget that you are more than capable. Never forget it’s okay to falter sometimes, but it’s necessary to pick yourself back up afterwards.

You can do this. I believe in you. Keep rocking, Wonder Woman.

Sincerely,
Me.

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Riding highs and lows (but mostly lows)

Early this afternoon, I decided to pay my parents a visit. I needed to do some repairs and maintenance on my bike and I didn’t have the tools for the repairs, but my dad does! Before I left I checked my mailbox, and what do I find?

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The medical bracelet that I ordered arrived! As I am on my bike every time I have to go somewhere, and I can’t detect hypos well while I’m biking, this was something that I really felt I needed. To my understanding, medical personnel is trained to look for medical bracelets and jewelry in emergency situations. There are medications that insulin does not go together with (even if it’s unlikely I’ll ever need those meds, you never know) and if I am passed out from low blood sugar or get into an accident, a bracelet like this would give the EMTs a heads up to give me the proper treatment. I don’t fit the usual profile of a T1D to most people, so this helps a ton.

I wore it on my bike ride to my parents’ and felt really safe. They really liked the way it looked and the quality of the bracelet too. 🙂 It’s comfortable to wear, not rough, and I forgot I was wearing it half the time.

Some well deserved plugging: this bracelet and many others are sold by Cobra Band on Etsy. (I can’t leave a review until next week, so my blog post will have to do until then. 😉 ) The bracelet is handmade from woven paracord, and the metal plate is custom stamped with whatever text you want within their set limits. The quality is very high and the bracelet feels very sturdy. It’s secured with a strap buckle on the bottom and won’t come off until you want it to. Even with sweaty skin during bike rides, the cord doesn’t irritate my skin!

They have more than an excellent customer service, as they are quick to answer any inquiries and reassured me that they add about an inch of give to make the bracelet feel comfortable even on snug measurements. I’m not disappointed! They estimated production to 1-2 weeks, and my bracelet was shipped out on the 2 week mark. It arrived within 5 business days as promised! All in all, a very transparent process with friendly communication and a high quality product.

The best part is that the price is very affordable. I think I paid €12 or €13 for the bracelet plus shipping to the Netherlands (from the UK). Should I ever need a replacement they will be the first shop I’ll hit up!

If you’re diabetic, allergic, have epilepsy or any other conditions where a bracelet like this will be beneficial, I highly recommend you consider this shop and their bracelets. They make ICE (in case of emergency) bracelets for young children too!

With that addressed, I am proud of myself and mildly frustrated by my body today. My parents live 9km away from where I live, and there are many hills between us. Biking is no joke. I don’t mind, except for the last part where I am basically forced up a very steep hill and then have to ride it all the way back down, THEN BACK UP AGAIN because that’s how things just are around here in the Southern parts of the Netherlands. I don’t relate to my country as ‘flat’, that’s for sure! Those fellows up North and West have it easy with their flat roads.

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This added up to about 18km to and from my parents’ (which my phone didn’t track properly, god I wish I could afford a Fitbit) and took me about 1 hour and 45 minutes total. (The purple in the circle is some walking, the red is biking outdoors.) It wasn’t too hard, the hot sun was really the one thing that made it more difficult than it had to be, but overall I was handling it well.

I did have ridiculous low glucose levels throughout the afternoon though. I left my place at about 9.0, and when I got to my parents’ I was down to 5.9. Not too bad, but my levels consistently continue to drop after that kind of exercise, so I was snacking all afternoon to maintain that level. I didn’t manage to get up past 6.0 anymore despite the whole wheat crackers and biscuits with dried fruit, which was frustrating. My mom and I went on a brief grocery shopping trip and I bought more fruit biscuits and gummy candies mix (we call them Tum Tums, but as I understand it these are antacids in other parts of the world – I’m talking about straight up candy!). I shoveled a small handful down my gullet before I left to go back home, biked my ass off and managed not to drop below 5.2 as I walked into the door.

This is a good example of my low carb and I don’t mix. My body doesn’t want to listen! I had a lot of whole foods during the day, moderately low carb (40-60 grams for breakfast, about 30 for lunch) and the results are too many almost lows that I have to hastily fix with sugar bombs and more complex carbs just so I can stay on top of it. Slow (fiber heavy) carbs are included but they don’t prevent the lows, I’ve noticed.

That said, I did end up burning 800 calories on my bike rides today AND I avoided hypos throughout it all. Can I get a HELL YEAH? I may had to pull some dirty shots with the candy to stay on top, but I did it! 🙂 I’m waiting for my timer to go off to test my post meal values for my day curve, but I don’t expect anything terrible.

Low carb and me

I don’t do low carb. I try to on most days, but it’s not a lifestyle diet I can maintain right now.

I’ve connected with a lot of diabetics around the globe and one ‘helpful piece of advice’ that gets thrown at me all the time is “go low carb!”. Every time I have to politely tell them “That’s not an option for me right now, sorry” and hope that they won’t pester (bully) me into accepting this choice of diet.

Let me break it down in a few simple points.

  1. I am bound to a very tight budget. I have €30-40 a week to buy all the groceries I need, which is more than just food. Cat litter and cat food, toiletries, household items like cleaning supplies and anything else you can imagine that are needed on a weekly basis. It doesn’t get you a whole lot when everything is added up, and there are choices to make. Sometimes the carb rich junk food is cheaper than the fresh plants and proteins that are the better options. Meat isn’t cheap. I don’t eat pork so I’m down to chicken and beef – both expensive meats if you can’t get them on sale. I buy according to whatever is discounted most of the time, and the fresh, healthy alternatives are very often not included (or items that I can’t stomach). Healthy food is expensive where I live. (To illustrate, I can get two cheese or chicken burger that you reheat in the microwave, buns and cheese included, for just a little over €1 a pair. That €1 combo counts as two whole meals to me. Do the math when two pieces of chicken breast cost almost €4.)
  2. My diabetes doesn’t play nice. I caught my type LADA early, and my pancreas throws random insulin parties and I have to bring all the carby snacks because nobody else will. I can’t do without my basal insulin which my values and day curves are testimony to, along with my general sense of feeling healthier, and I can’t do without 40-60 grams of carbs in a meal when my glucose level decides to drop to 3.0 because of my body’s own insulin production. Low carbing is something I strive for on days that my glucose runs high, but as long as I am still riding my (very long) honeymoon wave, it’s not something I can faithfully and consistently pull off. And that should be okay. 

I understand the many benefits of the diet, but we’re all different. Everyone has unique needs and I’m so frustrated that, within a community where ‘individual needs’ are at the front of all treatment and diet methods, this is so easily disregarded when it comes to giving advice about low carbing.

When you have been T1D for 15+ years and your insulin production is zero, then low carbing means lower/less insulin injections are necessary to meet your body’s needs. That just doesn’t work for me. It will one day, but not right now. I am frustrated that my weight problems and dietary choices are somehow turned into a blame game of me not doing something right, when I’m doing the best I possibly can. I can’t inject less insulin and exercise without eating heaps of crackers because of the way my body works. If you’re the kind of person who advocates low carb, that’s alright, but please be considerate of who you advocate to. Understand that my issues happen to others as well.

Be less judgmental and less eager to preach, and take some more time to listen and consider in silence.