Letter to ‘rock-bottom’ me

Louise,

I’m not going to sugar-coat this, your HBA1c is going to go up and up next year. Louise, you’re in for a long and bumpy ride between where you are now in November 2014, and when I’m writing this – January 2017. I know you’re not in a great place right now, but it’s going to be ok. Have patience with yourself.

2014 has been a big year for you – moving into your wonderful home, starting to look for a new job, depression creeping back in your life again. Remember when you had depression, last time? It made you feel like you couldn’t be happy for the good things in your life. Let Paul know that this isn’t you, but your depression. At the same time, tell everyone around you how much you love them and appreciate their support. Your true friends are going to be there for you.

Next year, you’re going to Canada and you’re going to have the time of your life. You’re going to meet so many wonderful people, you’re going to have a whole new family. That being said, the black dog is going to be a bitch and stick around. It’s here with me now, in fact. But don’t let it stop you.

2015 and 2016 are going to test you, physically and mentally. But you are stronger than you think. You really are. I won’t lie, certain things will make you feel like giving up at times during 15 and 16, but you will be ok. You will get through this, and you will be happy.

Right now, it feels like you’re never going to win. It feels like you’re stuck in your job, like you don’t have the motivation to do anything productive, like you’re never going to be the person you want to be. It’s going to take a while, but seriously, you’re going to get there.

How do I know? Well, this week I went to the doctors. No surprise there, right? The surprise is why I went. I went to ask the GP about coming off those anti-depressants that you’ve just started. For the past month or so I’ve felt a whole lot better than you’re feeling right now (sorry to rub it in), and I feel ready to brave life without medication. I know it won’t be easy, after being on these tablets for 2 years, but I’m ready to take that step. You were right to go to the doctors in the first instance, and now I hope I’m right about coming off them. It’s a slow process to come off the meds, but do it right and future ‘us’ will be doing great – a new job, getting married, big birthdays, friends having babies and wedding anniversaries, 2017 is our year, Louise. We’ve got this.

Hang in there, Lou. It’s a long journey but nothing lasts forever. We’re going to be ok.

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Diabetes numbers and figures

November was Diabetes Awareness Month and if I hadn’t been so busy, I would have liked to blog about what we go through, living with the condition. Sadly, there aren’t enough hours in my days, so this didn’t happen. I know I know, what’s the point in having a health blog, if you’re not going to blog about how you’re doing? Dang.

Ok, so how about an update? This time last year, I was in Canada with about 150 other young people who have diabetes. That by far, is one of my most memorable experiences to date. I love how through the power of the Internet, we’re still in touch. It’s heart warming to see how thousands of people around the world, are trying to improve the lives of others who have diabetes. Whether or not you’re involved, there is a huge family of people with diabetes, ready to welcome its new members!

Since August, I’ve tried to be strict with myself, in terms of managing my diabetes. I don’t know what led to it, but something clicked and I knew I had to set up a spreadsheet for my diabetes. I’ve had diabetes for just over 5 years and during that time, I’ve been pretty good at checking my levels, I’ve just not always been that great at doing something with those numbers.

So here lieth the spreadsheet, which maketh my life easier. It should. I hope. Please? I’ve gone back to college and set out my formulae, conditional formatting and so it looks pretty. Pretty confusing.

november

Maybe it’s just because I’m me, but the numbers don’t make sense. Here’s the thing. I’m confident that I have my background insulin down to a t – 5 units in the morning and 5 units in the evening. My 3am checks have given me the confidence to say that that’s ok. So now it’s time to work on my mealtime doses. Except, I don’t know where exactly to start.

Sometimes I correct and it does nothing. Other times, I correct and I seem to be spot on. Other times, I can inject one correction unit and it can send me down the ski slope. I haven’t quite managed to suss out when my body is most resistant to insulin, yet. I’m currently going along the train of thought that I’m most resistant after breakfast. That’s where the most red is, right? The solution – increase my breakfast dose. Simple. Not simple. And my pancreas isn’t sorry, either. No matter what I have for breakfast, how much insulin I take, or when, there will always be a spike after breakfast. Even when I have a carb free breakfast, I spike!

So that’s my current challenge. Being high after breakfast makes me want to crawl back into bed and sleep, until my levels come back down. Except that’s not going to happen, because I work full time and the people I work with don’t ‘get’ my diabetes, so wouldn’t look kindly to taking a nap at my desk.

So high, I could cry

This morning I was witness to a rare sight. A sugar level of 5.2. Yes, a miracle did come before me. What saintly action did I partake in yesterday, to be rewarded with a perfect sugar level? I haven’t had a reading anywhere near that in over a month – 23 September, to be precise – and that was a ‘hypo’. Before that, it was July. So yes, I felt like bragging (to myself).

Breakfast, when I eat it, my safe meal. Because of my IBS, I only really have a few options. This means that over time I have gained an accuracy, when it comes to calculating the amount of carbs in my breakfast. So, this morning I’m 95% sure I had 40g of carbs. This meant I gave myself 4 units of insulin. My meter told me to take less, because I was only 5.2. I used my judgement to stick with 4 units. Boy, am I glad I did.

Two hours later, I feel like absolute crap, to be honest. All I want is to close my eyes and sleep. I feel fuzzy and sick. I want to cry. I want to cry my eyes out. My blood meter has told me my sugar level is 16. 16. What went wrong? I didn’t have any more cereal than I usually have and I don’t recall seeing a gremlin tip sugar into my tea. So how have I rocketed so high, and so quickly? What am I doing wrong?

The other day, my sugars went up to 12 after breakfast. I decided not to correct, and by lunch time, I was a cosy little 6.9. If I had corrected, I may have had a hypo. The day before however, I was 9.9 after breakfast and risked a single correction unit. My sugar level didn’t budge. So you see my dilemma. Whether extra insulin on board works, is apparently random.

Back to that bitch of a 16. On the verge of breaking down in tears and embarrassing myself in front of my colleagues. 2 correction units injected. Hurry up and do something. Please!

Diabetes is a full time job. A full time job on top of my full time job. I’m not being paid to have diabetes. I’m not getting any reward right now, for having diabetes. It’s not worth the effort I put into managing it. All those calculations, those injections before I can eat, even when I feel ravished. I get no thanks for this diabetes and I only wish I could get rid of it.

No one in this office realises how I’m feeling. The guy next to me is trying to have a conversation with me about running. The words coming out of my mouth sound like I’m listening to him and that I’m interested. My mind is telling him to shut up. Shut up and let me get through this horrible feeling. I don’t want to diabetes, today.

My anxiety is my anxiety

Why do we like to torture ourselves? Whether it be consciously or inadvertently, I am constantly causing myself grief, and I have finally acknowledged that I need to stop. So many of use hard on ourselves, if we don’t get the results we want. I only got BCC in my A-Levels and to me, that wasn’t good enough – I wanted BBB. Sure, this didn’t affect my university choices, and I’ve been able to pursue a career in marketing, but it’s never been good enough, and it’s something I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself for, completely. Likewise, I was 2% away from a 2:1 in my degree. I want to kick myself every time I think about this.

Still, this is in the past and there’s not much I can do about it. However, it helps massively in demonstrating how we all kick ourselves for not being ‘better’. Skip forward to today, and I’m still beating myself up about things. Whether it be because I didn’t get that job, or I didn’t make that sale, I’m often dwelling on things that I don’t have much control over. I’ve always been a worrier, I have Mummy Douglas to thank for that. In recent years, I have tried to not worry so much, but quite frankly, I think I’m always going to worry about the silly things. I accept this.

What I don’t accept, and where I get annoyed, is when I worry about things, but can’t put my finger on what the actual issue is. My mind is unnecessarily worrying about things, and sending me into a state of high anxiety, but won’t let me into the reason why.

Take today for example. I’ve had a couple of things on my mind, but nothing major – the usual feeling like I need to do more, but knowing I can’t take on any more. There isn’t anything that I would be worrying about, enough to lead to an anxiety attack. And yet, an anxiety attack is just what I got, at lunch.

Stomach churning, feeling like I want to be sick. My head is banging and fuzzy, good job I’m just in my car at lunch. I have plenty of things to distract myself – I’ve just started a new book, and I’m becoming more and more obsessed with Pinterest. The perfect distraction. Except it didn’t work. Even now, back at work, I just want to close my eyes, curl into a ball and hibernate. How I wish I was a squirrel, on days like today.

I try not to use the phrase ‘anxiety attack’ as I don’t suffer with them very often, and they seem insignificant, compared to what other people go through. However, the speedy heart rate and inability to focus on my book isn’t normal. I feel anything but comfortable, and I can’t find a way to calm myself down. To me, this is my anxiety. Every person experiences different things, but each experience is horrible, there’s nothing worse than feeling out of control of your body.

I’ve never really thought about what anxiety feels like, but having written this post, it’s easy to see how much of a monster, anxiety is. What’s worse, is trying to disguise the monster. I work in a place in which there is a huge stigma attached to mental health. If I were to ever admit I had anxiety or depression, I fear I’d be laughed at. Let’s not go there.

So instead of discussing it out aloud, trying to put my emotions into words, is my therapy. It doesn’t replace talking face to face, but it sure as hell helps, when I don’t have that option.

Bad diabetes day

Diabetes is an invisible condition, yet it plays a significant part in every aspect of my life – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. It’s a condition that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. It requires so much energy and dedication to manage. Furthermore, no matter how much attention I pay to my diabetes, there is nothing to say that I won’t develop complications from it, in years to come.

For the most part, I have tried to not let diabetes rule my life, or define me. I’ve been given so many opportunities as a result of having diabetes. I’ve met some amazing people and I have a whole new family, thanks to it. On the whole, diabetes doesn’t affect me too much, psychologically.

Maybe for the first time since first being diagnosed, I’ve really been struggling today, with anxiety. Anxiety that has arisen as a result of my sugar levels not playing fair. I’ve been a bit run down lately with ear infections, colds, IBS, blah blah blah. These things don’t usually have much effect on my diabetes, but this week, they are.

This morning I came up against a 19.5. With this reading, I felt nauseous, I felt like I wanted to curl up in a ball and hibernate. Mostly, I just wanted to cry. Heard the phrase ‘sick and tired of being tired and sick’? That sums up how I feel right now.

Aside from the ‘hangover’ from my high levels, I’ve found myself feeling bad about myself, because my sugars have got so high. Why didn’t I remember to check my sugar levels before breakfast this morning? Why did I get what my levels were and just inject 1 correction dose? Did I remember my background insulin last night? I can’t remember.

My stomach is tied up in knots, my legs feel like jelly and I can’t focus on anything else right now. I want my sugar levels to drop. I want this ‘hyper hangover’ to be gone and I want my body to quit fighting, it’s wearing me out.

The one thing I’ve always hated about diabetes is the issue of correcting sugar levels. Being diagnosed as Type 1.5, I spent a year and a half on tablets. From there, I started insulin but appeared to be mega sensitive at times. One unit could bring me down as much as 4 or 5 sometimes, or it would barely move. Today, 2.5 units brought me down from 19 to 6. At the time, I was debating whether to inject 4 units, instead. I’m glad I didn’t. I can never predict how sensitive I’m going to be, so will generally only correct if I’m in my teens. I really hate the thought of injecting too much and swinging the other way. If that happens, the hangover feeling will prolong, and I’ll spend even longer feeling rubbish.

I’ve been trying for the past month to really keep track of my diabetes – I have a very colourful spreadsheet, full of formulae and conditional formatting – I impressed myself, creating it! So what can I see? What can I do? I don’t know, is the answer.

My spreadsheet is covered in red, and the average readings are between 8.8 and 12.6. Looking at it from a distance, I feel I need to up my ratios, but I’m reluctant. I feel uncomfortable with the idea that my body has become more resistant to insulin. Why can’t my body stay the same?

I’m always saying that no one should go through their diabetes on their own, there’s too much for us to think about, without going insane. I’ve spoken to so many people about their experience of diabetes, and everyone has their own worries and issues they try to overcome.

It’s ok to worry about that slice of apple pie you had for dessert. It’s ok to worry about what effect exercise will have on your sugar levels. It’s ok to worry about correcting a high sugar level.

These sorts of worries are often forgotten about, when addressing living with diabetes. This needs to change. We need to feel able to talk about our diabetes worries, not bottle them up because no one else is worrying. They’re not silly things to be worrying about, and you have no need to feel like you shouldn’t be worrying. It’s ok. Chances are, someone is worrying about the same thing, right now.

Today has been a bad diabetes day. I’ve nearly made it through the day so I’m going to stop beating myself up about that 19.5 – it’s just a number, right?  For now, I’m going to try to be brave and get those corrective doses in. Oh, and I’m going to stock up on jelly babies for the occasions that I over-treat!

 

 

Diabetes hangover

Hangover. What a horrible word. Just the thought of it makes me cringe with how pathetic I feel when I used to drink. I’m pretty much 5 feet of nothing, so it’s never taken long for me to feel the alcohol taking over my body. I have to confess that the main reason I don’t drink alcohol these days, is because of the fear of the HANGOVER. It doesn’t matter how bad the hangover is – whether it’s a slight headache, or a full blown 2 day hangover in which I feel like I’m dying. I loathe the effects of drinking. Thus why I’ve not had more than half a pint of wonderful cider, in the past seven months.

At least by giving up alcohol, I’ve freed my body from feeling it next day. However, I wish there was a way to avoid another type of hangover – the hangover from my diabetes. Ok so it isn’t a technical term, but I’ll bet my secret stash of jelly babies that if you have diabetes, you’ve heard of this phrase.

So you had a reading of 2.8 after dinner last night? Or are you feeling my 19.5 right now that just won’t budge? That fuzzy feeling in your head, the lethargy that’s taken over your whole body, and is making you have to put twice as much effort into everything you do. That there, is the diabetes hangover. Right now, I’m trying to read what I’ve written, not sure if it’ll make sense to the person who doesn’t have my hangover. My fingers are clammy and clumsy – it’s taken about 10 minutes to come up with this paragraph. Move faster, body and mind!

To everyone around me at the moment, I probably seem like I just haven’t woken up yet, this morning. It’s 9am and as I can’t drink coffee, I’ve only had a portion of caffeine in my cup of tea. I wouldn’t be surprised if my colleagues are cursing me for not working as fast and efficiently as they are. None of them have diabetes, so if I told them I have a diabetes hangover, they’d probably burst out laughing.

Trying to correct a stubborn sugar level is trying. Maybe my body has decided it just isn’t feeling today, and wants to go its own way. A couple of times over recent months, I’ve been told to say to Paul “think how bad the hangover will be”. Apparently, this is enough to stop him from drinking too much. I wish I could say this to my pancreas. “Think how bad the hangover is, when you let my sugar levels climb to 19. Do you really want to be hungover all day?”

What’s that, you know that feeling of a diabetes hangover? I’ll just slip another jelly baby into my mouth whilst the penny drops.

365 days of self care

It seems strange that I don’t have time to write more posts on here. My last post was in June and what have I done since then? Time has flown by so fast, that I’m not even sure. Nevertheless, I’m here now. Hoping it serves as my therapy for the day.

It’s been a tough few weeks, mentally. I’m tearing my hair out, still trying to be offered a job. Somewhere. Doing something. Anything. Anywhere. Yesterday was interview number sixteen and I’m crossing every finger, toe and body part, that I get the job. At the rate I’m going, I wouldn’t mind taking a job as a rubbish collector…

Let’s stop wallowing in pity for myself. Let’s talk. There’s a fantastic social media campaign at the moment that I think has just about kept me going. If you get a few minutes, go on Twitter or Instagram and find #365daysofselfcare – it’s been set up by the Blurt Foundation. The basis of it doing just one thing every day, to help care for yourself.

The idea behind the campaign is that dealing with mental health issues, is overwhelming. It’s tiring and affects every aspect of your life. If you can do one thing today, tomorrow, the next, to help yourself, then it might make dealing with anxiety, depression, OCD etc that bit easier.

I’m a marketing geek so I’ll put it in marketing terms. The Blurt Foundation has got their market segment down to a T. Everyone lives their life online, these days. It’s so easy to share with the world what you’re doing, what you’re eating, how you’re feeling. A picture is worth a 1000 words. Maybe this is why this campaign is working so well.

The Blurt Foundation wants people to do one thing every day, for 365 days. No matter what it is – going for a run, read a book, make a healthy lunch – posting a photo on social media for others to see, will be a way to capture your moments of self care.

So why is this campaign working so well? Thousands, maybe millions, of people live with mental health issues. Depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD, are just a few issues that we are living against. Many of us are living with these issues, but suffering in silence. Sadly, there’s still a huge stigma around mental health. I for one, live with depression. No one I work with knows that, and I secretly hope they never find out. In the real world, many people see mental illness as a weakness. The comments I’ve heard in my office make me feel sick. The jokes they make about suicide. The comments like “I haven’t got time for people who are depressed”. It makes me so angry, but I have to just take it all in.

The #365daysofselfcare campaign is helping those who are suffering with mental illness, realise that they’re not alone. Take it from someone who lives with the demons in her head, mental illness is a very lonely place, at times. When depression hits, I can feel lonely even if I’m surrounded by people who love me. Seeing someone else has spent the evening in bed, like I often do, or seeing that someone else has forced themselves to tidy their house, because their depression has tied them down, is a comfort.

It’s a comfort to know that I’m not the only one who sometimes feels like crying for no reason, knowing there are people who like me see it as reward-worthy having eaten three meals that day. It’s a comfort to know I’m not the only one.

Mental illness is a long and lonely path. It feels like that dark tunnel is never going to end. By doing just one thing a day to help my wellbeing, I am beginning to see the worth in taking little steps. It sometimes feels like depression is going to swallow me, whole. I’m beginning to see that I can prevent this. Even when it feels inevitable, I can do little things to make this horrible feeling seem not so scary.

The Blurt Foundation has kept me from breaking thus far, and I am so happy that this campaign is going so well for them. It’s great that so many people are getting involved, and I love this new community that has emerged. Thank you, thank you, thank you.