Facing Monsters

I walk in the darkness and shy from the light
So that the monsters I fear are shielded from sight
The darkness is safe because it hides what I fear
It’s the light that’s scary for it makes them appear

These monsters don’t simply lurk beneath the bed
They are far worse because they mess with my head
They tell me that I’ll never be good enough
And that I should quit because life is too tough

I’m alone with them and they like it that way
I reach out to others but they’re pushed away
I don’t want to stay, I must find my way out
But the things that they said, have filled me with doubt

On shaky legs, I’m walking towards the light
Afraid of what I’ll face when everything’s bright
The light’s no longer scary, everything’s clear
I can face the monsters without any fear

I wrote this poem for my English class on the theme “Courage”. What does it mean to be courageous? I think as a diabetic, many of us are very courageous everyday.

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes I was afraid of sticking myself with needles. I spent two weeks in the hospital. I’m pretty sure that at least half of that time was spent on trying to convince my 12 year old self that she had to stick herself with said needles.

I vividly remember the orange that I practiced on and the teddy bear that had patches that indicated where you were supposed to inject.  As we all know, this wasn’t the same as injecting into your own skin. I was afraid that it would hurt, of the unknown and of trying something new. In those two weeks my life was changing rapidly. I went from being a regular, 12 year old who wasn’t feeling well to having the responsibility of  managing a chronic disease to which there is no a cure.

I wish I could say that i was the “perfect” diabetic and followed the rules to a tee. This was not the case. There’s a difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it. I knew how to manage my diabetes. I knew that I should frequently test my blood sugar, cover my meals and limit the amount of sweets that I had. I didn’t know how to keep my life “normal” and still manage my diabetes.

I didn’t want to test my blood sugar at the lunch table because I didn’t want the attention. Image was everything when you’re a teenager. I also didn’t want to inject myself in public and bathrooms were gross. I also wanted to eat what my friends were eating and laugh at their jokes. I pushed my diabetes management aside in order to fit in. This was causing me more harm than good as I was slowing hurting my health.

Eventually, I had to come to the realization that in order to be happy and healthy, I had to find a balance. The fear of rejection kept me in doubt. I wanted my diabetes to remain a secret because I was afraid of what others would think. It’s okay to be different, my real friends understood that I needed to test my sugar or take a shot. They preferred for me to be healthy and eventually my diabetes management became part of the new “normal”. Instead of asking, “How are you?” My friends started asking, “How is your sugar?” Many of them also became more aware of their own health and together we became healthier as a group.

Don’t be afraid to embrace the changes occurring in your life. Those “monsters” that you’re afraid of and want to keep hidden, may actually be gems in disguise.

 

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Dealing with the D police

Yesterday, I went to an adolescent support group for people with type 1 diabetes that my diabetes social worker recommended that I joined. One of the topics that came up was basically how your family could literally be making you sick. You are probably wondering what I mean by that. All I am saying is sometimes your family can realllly stress you out. Research has even shown a link between elevated levels of stress and illness as well as an increase in high blood sugars. Someone in the group even noted how their A1C has gone up due to being stressed out of home.

Society seems to paint a picture of people with diabetes as being lazy and of has caused it ourselves. It also seems that everyone either knows a diabetes horror story or had an old sick family member with couldn’t use sugar (which seems to make them an expert). What many don’t realize is that the way diabetes is treated today is totally different from 15, 10 or even 5 years ago. We can eat from the same pot as the rest of the family (not just protein and vegetables) once we count our carbs and bolus for the meal. We don’t have to run a 5K daily in order to keep our sugars controlled (even though exercising is important for everyone).

I personally don’t think that our family members are deliberately trying to make us sick or stress us out but misinformation can be a very frustrating thing. We all know what a hassle the diabetes police can be especially when you feel trapped and pressured by the people who should understand you (even if no one else does) and you feel like there is no hope or way of escape. At times it seems that nothing you do is right and every area of your life seems to be under a microscope.

On the other hand, having someone there to remind you to take your insulin or simply ask, “How are you doing?” could be beneficial. Many times we get so distracted by daily events happening in our lives that a missed test or dose can and often will happen. This then begs the question, where do you draw the line? How do you gain more independence? Is there a way re-educate your loved ones without them taking offense or should you just keep it all bottled in until you are finally old enough to live on your own and away from the dreaded “diabetes police”?  Will they ever see you as more than just a “diabetic” but as a young person capable of managing a very serious but very manageable disease on your own, who at times may make a few mistakes (as everyone does from time to time) but shouldn’t be criticized for those mistakes, instead applauded for the good job that they are doing and be trusted to know how to take care of themselves?

My last question is this: Is there a time to give your parents or other family members “the talk”?

Ten reasons I am glad that I have diabetes

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Happy World Diabetes Day! As a tribute to today I decided to talk about the plus side to living with diabetes. I have compiled the following list of ten positives to living with diabetes:

1 – Responsibility – Being diagnosed at age 11 meant that I had to learn about consequences that my actions
made from an early age. For example, if I ate something sweet and did not take my isulin, my blood sugar would go up and I would get sick.

2 -To be adaptable – There are days when i would do exactly the same thing and get totally different results. On days like these you learn how to WAG (Wild Ass Guess) it until you can SWAG (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) it. **Side note – WAGging it simply means you take a guess and hope all goes well while with a SWAG you have some calculations to help your guess such as carb-counting or a correction bolus guide)

3 – Strength – I learned I was stronger that I thought. I saw a t-shirt for T1 Diabetes that read “you don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have” and I totally agree. I was terrified of sticking myself, I didn’t mind others doing it but I refused to do it myself until my doctor at the time looked at me and said, “Steph, you’re mom isn’t going to be there all of the time and I can’t let you go home until you can.” It took about a week and some swollen oranges (I had to practice by injecting water into the orange lol) but I did it and have no problem doing it now.

4 – Health – There were some years that my diabetes made me frail and weak but I know when I am older that I will be ten times healthier than many of my friends. Even though there is nothing that I can’t eat, there are times that I choose not to. I know that diabetes puts me at a greater risk of developing other conditions and I do my best to avoid them by eating right and exercising.

5 – A New Language – I speak Diabetic! How many people do you know that include words like Endocrinologist, pancreas, Ketoacidosis, bolus or Dawn Phenomenon in their vocabulary? Not to mention that certain words and phrases (like number, swag and bs) have an entirely different meaning for a person with diabetes than it does for someone without.  When my mom asks me how I am doing I am more likely refer to my blood sugar readings than my actual day. We also have our own “diabetic” words like glucoaster and diaversary.

6 – Determination – There are those days when nothing seeems to go right, when diabetes just seems to get in the way and seems way to hard to deal with. Many diabetics go through what is termed as “Diabetes Burnout” from one time to another but most of us realise that giving up really isn’t an option and we keep on pushing on even through very difficult situations.

7 – Team Player – Behind every controlled diabetic is a support team of doctors, nurses, family and friends. When you are diagnosed, you become a part of a team that helps you to manage your diabetes. The only way to get the most from your team is through your willingness to become a part of it. You learn that the only way to really be able to manage is by working together, asking questions and sharing information.

8 – Management – Time plays an important role in the management of diabetes. We learn to keep a schedule of what time to test, inject, eat, exercise as well as fit in all of the other non-diabetes related stuff that we do everyday.

9 – Travel – There are so many places that I have had the oppurtunity to visit and experience because I had diabetes. Whether it be a trip to a diabetes camp in another country or a diabetes conference, I have the ability to that I have been there.

10 – Friends – I have met so many new friends and become much closer to my old ones because of my diabetes. I have a ton of local and on-line friends with diabetes now (many of whom I would have never met if not for diabetes) and my ‘normal’ friends and I have become much closer. They got my back lol. Yes, I did lose a few who didn’t want to understand but there is nothing like an illness to show you who your true friends are.

Introducing Mindy

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Mindy

Well my supplies from Barbados ran out and after a few days of trying endlessly to find my brand of test strips, I decided to buy a new meter. Say hello to Mindy (so named because of all the stuff she reminds me like whether the reading was pre or post meal and also to take my post meal tests)  She also has some style – no black meter case here, even the lancets are multi-colored (though I personally perfer my old lancing pen which I still use) The only thing I have to get used to is the readings being in mg/dl.

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Mindy's stylish purple case

Home

“And to those of you returning, welcome home!” were the words announced by the captain on my flight here to the US. It is a strange concept for me thinking of America as home since I have lived most of my life in Barbados. Everything is different here (you even drive on the wrong side of the road lol) but it is also filled with so much possibility. I have been here since late September and have been experiencing a bit of a culture shock ever since. Moving somewhere new is scary, challenging and exciting all at the same time and having diabetes just makes it more so.

There are a few things I have come to love about having diabetes in the US such as the variety of glucose friendly products that are availiable. Who knew there were so many flavors of diet soda, drink mixes and even fruit juice? In Barbados, we are stuck with diet sprite, pepsi or coke for sodas and unsweeten orange or apple juice. I also had sugarfree candy and cookies for holloween (but I don’t recommend sugarfree chocolate). Some of the menus here actually have nutritional information on them and if they don’t I can google the exact item and find out how many carbs I am eating. I also like the pharmacies here and the fact that I can buy my medication over the counter.

Now that brings me to the one thing I miss about Barbados – free healthcare. All of my supplies are at least twice the cost here than they were back there. I heard it is easier once you have insurance. However, my diabetes treatment options have never been so unlimited before. There is so much choice, from what kind of short or long acting insulin, to insulin pumps, patches, pens and ports, you even have the choice of what length needle you want.

There are other non-diabetes related stuff that I enjoy having like being able to track the bus on my phone, amusements parks, watching american football (go gators) and shopping at mall. Even though there are some pros and cons, I am glad to be able to call here home (I still miss Barbados especially the beaches lol).

My New Anthem

http://youtu.be/5DRs9lnKEEM

Well, Our Crop Over Carnival ended a couple of weeks ago and this was one of this year’s songs and it brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. So I am sharing it with you. To all of my diabetic friends out there – Show ya sweetness

Well, Our Crop Over Carnival ended a couple of weeks ago and this was one of this year’s songs and it brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. So I am sharing it with you. To all of my diabetic friends out there – Show ya sweetness

I Owe You An Apology

When I started this blog I wanted to be original and unique. I wanted to show the world Diabetes from my point of view but I got lost in other blogs and I no longer knew what I wanted the voice of my blog to be. I wasn’t sure how interesting my story was to others but then I realized that I the only one who can tell my story the way I would want it to be told.

My blog is going to be the honest musings of a sometimes crazy, a little sarcastic type 1 diabetic from America who lives in Barbados and has to deal with the daily battles high and low blood sugars, deciding between watching a movie or walking on the beach and avoiding a hurricane or two (I mean that both literally and figuratively lol).

I know I have probably lost all of my readers by not blogging often but to those of you that are still left, this is my apology and yes, I promise to blog more often.