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Posts from the ‘Diabetes and Emotions’ Category

Diabetes Blog Week: The Quiet Parts.

Feels weird, and slightly ironic, starting a blog post about the diabetes-related things I don’t share here on the diabetes blog I’ve written here on the open Internet about my personal experiences with the disease.  It’s been ten years of this – the idea that there’s crap I don’t talk about might seem like a big fat lie.

But there are plenty of things I have decided not to share, both in the realm of diabetes and in the regular flow of insulin-free life.  I’m an oddly private person, considering what I do professionally.  So what do I share, and what do I choose not to share, and why?

“You put it out there, so you’re inviting people to judge you.”
That’s true.  By putting our lives “out there,” we are giving people information to judge us, for better or for worse. Giving the specifics of my lab work results or my weight or my fasting blood sugar this morning provides people with a window into my health reality.  It lets people put me into a statistic, or a range, or an assumption.  Some people are comfortable with allowing that kind of access.  I have come to realize that I’m not that kind of person.  No, I won’t tell you my A1C, even if it’s stellar and in-range and covered in fucking glitter.  I work very hard to manage this disease, and I’ve come to realize that I’m not the kind of person who does well being judged for that specific number, especially when that judgment attempts to minimize my efforts.

Because (being totally honest), I cared very much about the critique for a few years.  There was a time when I posted about my A1C while preparing for pregnancy (it was higher than what my doctor’s recommended, and I was writing about my struggle in bringing it down to baby range), and the comments that came back about my number ranged in their tone and sentiment.  Invited, warranted, or not, I can handle critical commentary, but there is a fine line between “constructive criticism” and “cruelty.”  And once I stopped getting all twitchy about the unsupportive commentary (because it’s not all going to be supportive), I felt a lot better.  Getting older has made me care less about being judged and more comfortable and confident about my decisions, decisions like not sharing my personal lab data.  Or like decisions to write about diabetes online in the first place.

“Just because you give them a window doesn’t mean you have to give them a door.”
We are not obligated to share.  We chose to share.  I write this website, and will continue to write here, because of the connection to the diabetes community that sharing fosters.  I love that part of it.  It took me a long time to realize where my boundaries are, and to feel comfortable staying within them.

While I chronicled my pregnancy in a very detailed way, I didn’t share everything.  Before my daughter was even born, I decided to keep her name offline, and after sharing some of her baby stories, I decided to keep her offline, too.  And I share a lot of the silly things related to diabetes, and some of the complicated things, too, but there are thoughts I have about diabetes that are sometimes so terrifying and other times so fucking arrogant that I keep those in, too.  Diabetes is so personal and runs a pile of gamuts.  Sharing it all feels like too much, at times.  Sharing some, however, helps me deal with the emotional side of this chronic illness.

A window in our lives?  That sounds nice.  Opening the door and letting in everything, and everyone?  I can’t manage that kind of flow.  What if a bat flies into my living room?  Fuck bats.  So I’m sticking with the windows, with the screens firmly in place.

“So what kinds of stories will we never hear you tell?  And why won’t you tell them?”
I don’t share stories about my extended family without their permission.  I don’t post about where I live or where I work during the day.  I absolutely do not write about arguments with family.  I do not share things that make me sad while I’m going through them (but sometimes I will share once I’m on the other side of that kind of emotional upheaval, as is my comfort level).  This kind of paints life as though it is “perfect” and without struggle, but I think we all know that the stuff we read on the Internet is always written with specific bias and through a specific lens. (Though I do try to disclose my financial biases, and also, I will always like my kid more than I like your kid.  It’s a fact.  Unless you are my husband, in which case I like your kid as much as I like my kid, for obvious reasons.)

I won’t tell some of these stories because they sometimes hurt to go through, never mind the added pain of retelling them.  I won’t tell them because they are mine, and privacy is an often-underrated but essential part of a peaceful life.

What I will share are stories about how diabetes affects my life, and how it plays a part in shaping my experiences.  I will connect with others through these stories and those friendships will color my existence in a way that I am still understanding and always appreciating.  I will share in hopes that someone will feel less alone, just like I feel less alone every time I read a new blogger or find a new Twitter DOC connection or have an awkward interaction with someone in a bathroom.

Regardless of how much or how little you share, your voice is important, and our community flourishes as a result.

*   *   *

This is part of Diabetes Blog Week, where blog prompts help generate a series of posts by folks in the Diabetes Online Community.  Here’s today’s prompt:  “Many of us share lots of aspects of our diabetes lives online for the world to see.  What are some of the aspects of diabetes that you choose to keep private from the internet?  Or from your family and friends?  Why is it important to keep it to yourself?  (This is not an attempt to get you out of your comfort zone.  There is no need to elaborate or tell personal stories related to these aspects.  Simply let us know what kinds of stories we will never hear you tell, and why you won’t tell them.) (Thank you Scott E of Rolling in the D for this topic.)”

Diabetes Blog Week: I Can.

Decades ago, my body did whatever it did to reroute the purpose of my pancreas, and left me with a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes at the age of seven.

As a result, I can’t make insulin.

Diabetes was presented as a series of “You can’ts” to me, back in 1986.  You can’t eat that, you can’t do that, you can’t try that, you can’t be that.  It was an unsettling feeling, being a child and living by a series of perceived restrictions.  But not knowing any differently, I spent way too much time thinking that there were things I just could not do instead of recognizing and celebrating how capable my body remained.

It wasn’t that I didn’t make insulin.

It’s that I had to coax out the instinct to live beyond diabetes.

I had to relearn how to trust myself, which was a weird paradigm shift because I was used to not trusting my body.  (When your immune system unexpectedly turns on you, you might develop a trust issue or two.)  It’s a learning curve, even to this day.  I trust my body to run for miles and hold my daughter in one arm, grocery bags in the other, but there are hiccups thrown out by diabetes here and there.  Like last night, when my low alarm went off for an hour and a half because my blood sugar was cemented in the 50′s for that long and I had to put reason and restraint into practice by treating the low cautiously instead of devouring the contents of the fridge with reckless abandon.  I had to trust the food and trust myself to bring my blood sugar up enough but not too much, aiming for that balance without caving to frustration.

I don’t know how to achieve balance, but I do know how to remain in pursuit of it.  I’m still learning.  I’m always learning.  Diabetes is not a hole in me or the whole of me.  It’s a thing that requires thinging, and I’ll thing the hell out of it until my last breath.

But not at the cost of giving in to it.

I need to remember that I can do this.  I can conquer this.  I can design this and devour this and delight in this.

I can.  I fucking can.

*   *   *

This is part of Diabetes Blog Week, where blog prompts help generate a series of posts by folks in the Diabetes Online Community.  Here’s today’s prompt:  “In the UK, there was a diabetes blog theme of “I can…” that participants found wonderfully empowering. So lets kick things off this year by looking at the positive side of our lives with diabetes. What have you or your loved one accomplished, despite having diabetes, that you weren’t sure you could? Or what have you done that you’ve been particularly proud of? Or what good thing has diabetes brought into your life? (Thank you to the anonymous person who submitted this topic suggestion.)”

Click for the I Can – Monday 5/11 Link List.

Changing Behavior.

This week, I saw a Tweet from Close Concerns President Kelly Close about the idea of behavior and “behavior change,” which sparked some conversation on Twitter (and woke up the bats in my head):


Talking about diabetes in the context of behaviors makes sense to me, because it puts an appropriate balance in play between the influence of diabetes on our actions and the influence of our actions on our diabetes.

I have type 1 diabetes, so the need for synthetic insulin is something I cannot change at this point.  I’ve had the c-peptide test to prove that my insulin production is undetectable after almost 29 years with diabetes.  What I can change is how much insulin I take on the whole – which, for me, means choosing foods that are lower in carbohydrates and offsetting some of the higher carb meals with exercise.  Diabetes influences my behaviors in that way, making food and exercise feel like an actual science experiment at times.  My behaviors influence diabetes, because while there are things I can’t change about the way my body produces (read: doesn’t) insulin, the choices I make every day map how my blood sugars might play out.

I have way more control of diabetes than I think, but not nearly as much as I’d like.

It’s a strange dance.  Fine and not fine.  Influenced and influencing.  Can you actually control diabetes, or is does it become an analogy of lemons into lemonade?

Kelly is looking for some feedback on her question.  If you have opinions on behaviors, the ease/difficulty of changing behaviors, the definition of behaviors, an alternate spelling of “behaviors,” please share.  The diabetes community is not short on opinions and perspectives, so please share yours.

Slackadaisical.

Self-tracking isn’t limited to the number of steps I take in a day or mapping out the data of my blood sugar trends. In my life, tracking emotional health is important, as it influences my physical health. Yeah, even if I try to pretend it doesn’t.

Gripper socks are those socks that have the little bits of plastic on the bottom, designed to keep you from slipping and falling on your face. They help you gain your footing when you need it most.

Playing that metaphor out from a diabetes perspective, there are some things I do to keep from doing a horrible faceplant into apathy (which leads to less-than-optimal diabetes management, for me). Kind of like gripper socks for self-management, giving me traction instead of sending me into a free-fall of slackadaisical not-giving-a-shit.

This video is about recognizing my own apathy signs and signals and making attempts to wrangle them back under control.

Gripper socks!

Empathy and Diabetes.

An example of Cards for Humanity, T1D edition. #makehealth

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

This is the card one person at the meeting pulled. When their alarm went off, they got up out of their seat and dropped to the floor. Immediately, someone else sprang into action.

I watched from a distance while Michael drew up the glucagon injection and, with fumbling hands, injected it into the simulated “skin,” aka the rubber ball.

Michael’s reaction to having to following this exercise:

And this is what playing Cards FOR Humanity looked like at the meeting I attended this week.

Introducing "Cards FOR Humanity" at this #makehealth event, driving T1D empathy. #proudtobepart

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

For the last few months, I’ve been part of a design team for type 1 diabetes  (put together by the T1D Exchange and C3N – the disclosure is that I have been compensated for my time), and the team I am on decided that part of truly understanding diabetes means walking the walk.  It means understanding the subtleties and nuances of diabetes. 

It’s empathy.

“Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. Empathy is known to increase prosocial (helping) behaviors.” – from Psychology Today

To make an attempt at helping people better understand diabetes – helping them empathize – we created a card game of sorts. Based loosely on “Cards Against Humanity,” we took that concept for a spin and created a deck of cards with scenarios and accompanying questions to walk someone through a moment in a life with type 1 diabetes.

#empathyordie #makehealth

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

#makehealth #empathyordie

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

#makehealth #empathyordie

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

The discussions that grew from these cards was inspiring, and these discussions gave rise to new levels of understanding and innovation, simply because people in the room who didn’t have diabetes identified more with the people who did.

There’s no way to properly simulate “a day in the life with diabetes,” but a glimpse can be provided, and from that understanding, innovation will rise.

To download a free PDF of the discussion cards, visit Cards For Humanity.

Stress!!!! and Diabetes.

Do your blood sugars respond to food?  Of course.  How about to insulin?  And exercise?  A big “hell yes” to those, too.  Food, insulin, and exercise have tangible influence on my blood sugar levels.  But one influencer that I don’t often take into account is stress … which is a ridiculous variable for me to ignore because stress can make my blood sugars leap over tall basal rates in a single bound.

Oh look – a video!

How does stress change the mapping of your blood sugars?

Unraveling the UnConference.

Thanks to the vision, dedication, and determination of Christel Aprigliano, the first Diabetes UnConference came together in Las Vegas last weekend.

“Wait, what?  I didn’t see anything on Twitter or Facebook!”

And that’s because there was a social media blackout on the whole conference during the actual course of it.  No live-Tweeting, no live-blogging, no live-streaming.

As my daughter used to say: “nuffin.”

Which is something I admittedly didn’t agree with, at first.

I always view conferences, both professional ones like the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions and the more community-based ones like TCOYD and JDRF‘s TypeOneNation, as an enormous privilege to attend.  Travel, lodging, and time for conferences can be a huge barrier to attendance, and as someone who has had channels of support that make it possible for me to attend a lot of meetings throughout the year, I feel like it’s part of my “job” to report back on how things went.  And not in a wicked journalistic sense (because my tendency to curse remains what it is and sometimes I don’t take fastidious notes but instead drink copious amounts of coffee), but in a man-on-the-scene sort of sense, trying to help fill in some of the blanks for people who aren’t able to make that particular meeting.  It’s not right that everyone can’t be everywhere they’d like to be, and the diabetes community is good about paying things forward.

[And yes, this is where my disclosure comes in.  In an effort to open up more of Christel's conference budget for crucial things like scholarships, etc., Animas was asked to sponsor my attendance as a facilitator, and they thankfully jumped on board.  I'm grateful for my personal and professional relationship with Animas and the support they have shown to me and to the diabetes community as a whole over the past five years.  For more on my relationship with the company, you can read my disclosures.]

But having a social media blackout was a good thing for the UnConference, even though it kept the conference closed.  Why was that good?  Because there was a lot of vulnerability at this conference, and it wasn’t on display for people to comment on, or document, or send out to a slew of social media followers.  Some folks in attendance were meeting fellow people with diabetes for the first time ever, and others were reconnecting and enjoying established relationships.  People talked about how diabetes affected their lives, and the things that made them feel a slate of emotions – guilty, triumphant, and all the ones in between.  To let the discussion flow without feeling the need to document it was a nice change of pace, and personally kept me in the moment.

Which was helpful, because attendees didn’t share all their “sames.”  It wasn’t an exercise in group-think, where people all said they reacted similarly to diabetes scenarios.

For example, when we were talking about burnout, many people shared their personal experiences with diabetes-related burnout, and others said that they haven’t ever experienced burnout.  I thought that was a powerful moment, because while there might be majority opinions on certain topics, the whole point of the diabetes community is that we are strong in what unites us as well as what makes us different.  One size doesn’t fit all, and neither does one emotional response.  I loved these moments because they woke me up and reminded me of the diversity of our experiences.

While I wish there could have been more people in the actual room, I know that access to conferences like this will come in time.  To that same end, half of the people in attendance were people I hadn’t met before.  It wasn’t the “same crew,” which I thought was powerful and helped shake up some of the “same scene, same people” vibe that has a tendency to dominate at a lot of diabetes conferences.  But what really resonated for me is that people felt comfortable and confident during these discussions, and I think the social media “blackout” contributed to that comfort.  Scrutiny was at a minimum and people could concentrate on being present.

Which is why, at the end of the conference when we were asked to write one word on a 3×5 to describe how we felt about the sessions, the word I wrote was “heard.”

Blog posts about this UnConference might be scarce, but to me that scarcity makes sense.  It was about sharing in the moment, not recapping after the fact.  Maybe, for once, what happens in Vegas stays there in specifics and instead makes it back into the community in the form of increased discussion, support, and connection.

 

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