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Posts from the ‘Diabetes and Emotions’ Category

From NOPE to Yes.

My friend Susan is a huge part of the Postpartum Progress group, and on her Facebook feed I saw an article that she had shared.  I like to see what my friends are working in and sharing in and out of the diabetes space, so I clicked.

Reading through the postpartum depression list had me nodding a little bit.  But the postpartum anxiety list had me leaning forward, nervous that I was finding myself in almost every bullet point.

This one in particular:

You are worried. Really worried. All. The. Time. Am I doing this right? Will my husband come home from his trip? Will the baby wake up? Is the baby eating enough? Is there something wrong with my baby that I’m missing? No matter what anyone says to reassure you, it doesn’t help.

After my daughter was born, I did not worry all the time.  I worried in a way that felt normal, about her eating patterns and my ability to meet them, or whether I buckled her in the carseat the right way … that sort of thing.  The worrying started right after she was born and was background noise by the time she was six months old.

With my son, everything was worry.  I worried the whole time I was pregnant, reluctant to get too excited or attached.  I kept thinking the pregnancy was ending, even though I saw his dancing little self on the ultrasound screen every few weeks.  My friends and family wanted to throw a baby shower and I avoiding committing to the idea for weeks, nervous that celebrating his soon-to-be arrival date would somehow make him not come.

After he was born, I worried incessantly about my health, and his.  My second c-section wasn’t as easy as my first, and I recovered slowly.  My son had swallowed some amniotic fluid during birth and he spent the first three days choking slightly and needing to have the fluid cleared from his mouth and through via suction.  We knew he needed assistance when he would gag and cough and then flap his arms because he couldn’t breathe.  The nurses in the hospital told us to push the call button immediately if he did this, so they could come in and help.

“This is normal.  It’s common for babies to experience this the first few days after birth.  He will clear the fluid out and be fine; don’t worry.”

Except I worried.  Like professional grade worry.  I was afraid to leave his side because I thought he was going to choke to death in his sleep.

No one on my medical team was panicking about anything at all, yet I was panicking about everything.  When my son settled into a pattern of waking up every 20 minutes for the first 11 weeks of his life, exhaustion and anxiety dominated my mind.  I wasn’t myself for the first three months.  Which makes sense, considering the little bits of chaos we were managing, on so little sleep.

But around the 3 1/2 month mark, he started to sleep.  And my incision was healing.  And blood sugars were becoming more predictable, even with exclusive breastfeeding. Things should have been feeling better, but I had some trouble appreciating the things that were going right as I was already halfway down the anxiety slide at all times.  I had horrible thoughts all the time, born out of innocuous moments.

Like I’d be pushing the stroller around the neighborhood and mentally picture the stroller tipping over and my son’s body crushed.  Or a big hawk would fly overhead and I’d immediately picture the bird coming down and jamming its beak into my son’s leg.  (Fucking bird.  I had this particular thought often.  Weird shit, the mind.)  The thoughts would come ramming into my brain and I’d immediately banish them, saying, “Nope.  Nope, nope, nope,” to myself and physically shaking them free from my head, but I was feeling anxious regardless.  I had zero desire/thought to hurt myself or my child, but I kept picturing some scenario where he’d get hurt.

I felt like I was in fight-or-flight mode at all times.

Reading that list of symptoms jolted something inside of me.  I showed the list to Chris to see if that list put words to any concerns that he had.

“Seeing this all written down, I do see a lot of these in you,” he admitted.

I called my OB/GYN that afternoon and made an appointment.  After a screening process and a discussion about my concerns (including telling her that I called mainly because a list of symptoms had me nodding “Yes” to almost every single one) my OB agreed that there was some kind of postpartum thing going on.

“You have experienced a few things that would influence this kind of response, like infertility for several years.  And pregnancy after loss.  And then a complicated pregnancy due to diabetes.  And then deciding on permanent sterilization.  And then the sleep issues after birth.  One of those things might be enough to warrant intervention; all of those things definitely might.”

I felt weird that I was experiencing this stuff five months out instead of immediately after birth.  She reassured me that it happens often enough this way.  She made a recommendation for medication, I told her I wanted to try therapy before medication, and she deferred to my requested treatment.

“While you wait on your therapy appointment, I’d suggest that you get outside.  Often. And don’t stay holed up in your house; see your neighbors, call your friends, be as social as you can in efforts to help keep you from feeling so overwhelmed by the worries.  It might help.  And if you feel worse in any way at all, you need to call us,” she said, handing me a card with the therapist group’s number on it.  “This team will call you today or tomorrow.”

It felt oddly comforting to identify what was going on in my mind as something that could be addressed.  That I wasn’t stuck feeling this way forever.  That others have felt this way, too.  That there’s a light at the end of this sometimes dark tunnel that has made me feel so very much unlike my normal self.

And now?  I’m trying to ask for help instead of feeling like I have to shoulder the anxiety and chaos on my own.  My mother has been instrumental in helping me maintain my mental health, coming by regularly to spend a few hours with the baby and help with laundry.  My son is currently at my aunt’s house while I work from a coffee shop down the street.  My husband is quick to step in and make it possible for me to exercise daily.  And my friends in the neighborhood and beyond are vital to my mental health checklist, serving as people I can see throughout the week so that I don’t feel confined to my house. (Working from home with the baby makes for very long and lonely days without much grown-up interaction.)

There’s a network of people I can lean on, helping whittle some of the anxiety off me and reminding me that I’m still here, underneath all these worries.  That it’ll be okay.

And that?  That gets a big Yes, yes, YES.

 

Imagining Life Diabetes-Free.

I read an article today – Imagining Life Diabetes-Free.  This quote gave me pause:  “She said her mom equates living with diabetes to being ‘like a duck on a pond: it looks graceful and calm just swimming along, but below the surface, you don’t see the paddling, and all the work it’s doing to keep moving forward.”

What would it be like to not be paddling so furiously?  I tried to give that thought pattern a go.


I pictured waking up in the morning and leaning into the baby’s crib to give him a smooch, then rubbing the sleep from my eyes while shuffling into the bathroom to brush my teeth.  No checking my Dexcom graph immediately upon waking, no pricking my finger and challenging myself to put toothpaste on the toothbrush before the result comes up on the glucose meter.

I would put the little Guy on my hip and go wake up Birdy, not worrying if I was impaling my son’s buttcheek on my insulin pump.  No low blood sugar would keep me from bringing my kids downstairs in time to eat breakfast before the school bus came roaring by.

Super wet diapers or requests for more than one glass of water at dinner would not make my stomach drop and my heart feel heavy.

My day would consist of emails that had nothing to do with diabetes and video calls where I didn’t keep a juice box just out of sight.  I’d breastfeed my son without concerns about going low afterwards.

I’d go for a run with only my car keys and my phone – no glucose tabs.

Lunch would be a meal instead of a math problem (If my blood sugar is 103 mg/dL and I’m eating 15 grams of carbs and I pre-bolus 1u of insulin, will two trains leaving at the same time from New Haven have enough glucose tabs on board to bring me up, should I start to tumble?).  I’d plan my meals around what people wanted to eat and when they wanted to eat it.

I’d think Steel Magnolias was a really sad movie and that Sally Field is a tremendous actress instead of wondering for decades if it was going to be me.

My body would be absent the scaly, itchy rash that comes up as a result of my diabetes device adhesive allergy.  My fingertips would be smooth and unblemished.  If I had a brief millisecond of clouded vision, I’d think, “Meh – something in my eye,” instead of “DO I HAVE DIABETES IN MY EYE?!”

I would think dresses with pockets are cool instead of finding a cute dress with pockets and buying that same dress in every frigging color available.

I’d only have one pump at my house.

Bank account balances would ebb and flow as a result of non-diabetes purchases and responsibilities, without that nagging need to have a clot of cash for constant copays, premiums, and out-of-pocket medical expenses.  That need for medical insurance would be a source of stress but not a point of panic.

I’d see cupcakes and giggle about how they’re “diabetes on a plate,” blissfully unaware of how fucking ignorant “diabetes on a plate” sounds.

I’d worry about the future like everyone else instead of worrying like everyone else and then adding the unscratchable need to have three year’s worth of insulin and syringes in my house at all times.

I’d fall asleep at night and expect to wake up in the morning, without issue.

I’d have a family and friends and would travel and write and experience things that are scary and exciting and a mush of both …

… wait a fucking second.  I have a family and friends.  And I travel.  And write. And I experience things that are scary and exciting and a mush of both.  Diabetes does not keep me from living the life I want.  It’s an enormous pain in the ass at times and I have uneasy feelings about what it will look and feel like twenty years from now, but I am still here.

Imagining life without diabetes sounds nice and I can’t wait to find out what it will be like.  But I’m holding my own either way.  Paddling on.

My Third Child.

Diabetes’s needs are incessant.  WAAH I need to have my blood sugar checked WAAH I need a snack WAAH the Dexcom sensor needs swapping WAAH what do you mean, reorder insulin WAAH chronic illness is forever WAAAAAAAAAAH.  This disease whines and cajoles for attention all day long.

Over the weekend, I stood at the bathroom counter changing my infusion set while Birdy brushed her teeth and the little guy sat singing in his bouncy chair.  A loud burst of noise not unlike an industrial-sized coffee carafe percolating came from the bouncy chair, which prompted Birdy to announce (through a mouthful of toothpaste suds), “He needs a diaper change for sure.”

True.  (And ew.  Ew-true.)

Diabetes always needs a diaper change, too.  But diabetes is not cute.  And while it also wakes me up in the middle of the night for feedings, it doesn’t reward me with a toothless smile or a snuggle.  These days, diabetes management feels thankless, frustrating, and very ARGHH would you just go AWAY?!  Getting into the swing of things with two kids is still an adjustment and I’d like very much if diabetes would go quiet for a spell.

Unlike with my daughter, I am not deep into diabetes burnout this postpartum cycle, but I’m not a big fan of all the diabetes crap that’s still on tap.  Small victories keep me going at the moment, like keeping up with inputting the data into my pump (so it can properly calculate my insulin doses instead of me SWAG’ing things) and trying to treat lows conservatively.  But I have blood work orders in my wallet that I still haven’t followed through on (they’ve been in my billfold for three weeks now).  My fasting BG checks are sometimes taking place two hours after I’m woken up by Guy Smiley.  I’m wearing the Dexcom but there are hours worth of highs that ride for too long.  I reorder my supplies on time but mostly because I’ve reached my deductible.

I need to shake this settled snow globe of apathy that my diabetes has become.

Oh hey, awesome turtleneck-wearing cat in a snow globe.

I have an appointment with a new, local endocrinology team at the end of the month and I’m actually looking forward to it.  This appointment will be a paradigm shift in my care, taking a break after 30 years at Joslin. Like hitting the reset button, bringing my care hyperlocal and giving the visits a facelift.

Until then, I’m trying to parent all three “kids” in my house and keep them all safe, sound, and freshly-diapered.

Muted.

Ahh bullet points.  Ye be the only(e) way I can process things at the moment.

  • I don’t have a lot to say over here lately, and there are a dozen different reasons for that.  One is that the new baby kiddo keeps me extremely busy, what with his cluster feeding and chatty ways, and also the fact that he is still not much of a nighttime sleeper, with his sleepless nights becoming my sleepless nights.  Which translates into not a lot of creative brain power during the daylight hours.
  • (But holy fuck am I creative at night.  I make up songs on the fly, can produce ounces of breastmilk without a second thought, and have taken to texting writing ideas to myself with one hand while hugging Guy Smiley with the other.  The problem is executing on these ideas once the sun rises, because it’s then that I fall apart.)
  • The baby is getting much bigger, though, and even though we’ve had some issues getting him to gain weight (not a problem now – more on that tomorrow or Friday), he’s thriving perfectly now.  He has also entered that super smiley/finally giving feedback stage, which I love.  The baby grins and gurgles are my favorite.  He sounds so much like his sister at this stage, and yet he’s so distinctly himself.  His smile lights up the room, even when he’s spitting up into my freshly washed hair.
  • My kids are my focus these days, which keeps my heart full but my blog kind of empty-ish.
  • I’m also reluctant to get political in public, mostly because the diabetes community is united by busted pancreases and political discussions have the potential to cut our crucial community in half, but the election did not go the way I had hoped and I have grave concerns about health insurance, safety, and social issues these days.  This is contributing to the maelstrom of thoughts in my head, and the CGM frowns on my desire for Tylenol.
  • The election circus also sort of sucked the wind out of my sails in terms of diabetes awareness month activities, as well.  I’m having a difficult time focusing on the diabetes community when the country as a whole seems to be imploding to a certain extent.  I wear my blue circle pin when I’m out and I gave a presentation at a local hospital system last night, but for the most part, I’ve felt quieter than normal these days.
  • And another reason for my silence is that diabetes isn’t fun to talk about lately.  Back when I first started blogging, I would share a lot of the minutiae because I’d never had the chance to get that sort of stuff off my chest before.  Talking about a rogue low blood sugar that hit while I was in the shower?  That story came out easily.  But all of those diabetes moments feel redundant lately.  Yes, I was low.  I was high.  I was frustrated.  I was burnt out.  I was empowered.  I made steps forward in some areas, backwards in others.  It isn’t interesting to me at the moment.  When I think about diabetes, it’s this hamster wheel of the same tasks and the same emotions earning similar outcomes.  I’m still living with this disease, still trying to manage it, still having good and bad days.  Documenting those moments isn’t coming as easily to me anymore.
  • Maybe it’s because of my increased desire to keep more things private, even in the health space.  I looked back at some of my past blogs and saw that I’d chronicled a lot more of my pregnancy with Birdy than I did with my son.  I definitely blame infertility and fear of losing another pregnancy for that silence, but even now that my son is out and safe, I’m still reluctant to share a whole bunch about him.  I have a monthly letter than I’ve been writing to him (there’s two done already and a third one is in my mental queue … maybe I’ll feel up to sharing that third one here sometime) but I like keeping those in his email account (password to be given to him when he’s older).
  • Maybe this privacy surge is a result of being older.  Or tired.  (Or maybe being tired is a result of being older.  See also: non-sleepy cute infant person)
  • I love the diabetes community – truly love it – and I remain a big fan of blogging,  but maybe long form blogging is starting to shift a little bit.  Lots of activity on Instagram and Twitter (never got into Snapchat – my luck, the cat would walk by and puke while I was recording a video or something), but the long and winding blog posts are harder to find these days.  Do they require more effort to read?  I keep seeing things on Medium marked as “long reads” that are also marked as “8 minutes” and that sends me into “get off my lawn” mode because is eight minutes really a long read?  Does that means all books are becoming pamphlets and Jodi Picoult will suddenly start writing her tomes in tiny tattoo form?
  • I think I’m a little tired, overall.  Tired of diabetes (post-pregnancy burnout in full swing, thank you very much) and tired from adjusting to the arrival, chaos, and joy of a newborn baby. (I think there’s some guilt half-baked into that, because I wanted my son so much that I feel a little guilty about some of the exhausted frustration I’ve felt.  I could not possibly love him more, and I simultaneously could not need a nap more.)

Things will settle down.  I’ll post here as time allows and as inspiration strikes.  Diabetes will always be here, right?  It’s okay to take a breather from talking incessantly about it.

90% of my day is this snuggly.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Thanks, Diabetes!

Feeling bummed about the bullshit of diabetes?  Me, too.  I needed to find a few things to appreciate about this disease before I tried to throw it off the deck.  So here we go.  A quick round of “Thanks, Diabetes!

  • I had to get my flu shot two weeks ago.  The needle was big and went right into my shoulder muscle but I did not care as I do needles all the time.  NBD.  Thanks, Diabetes!
  • I mentally smirk every time I get on the highway and see the speed limit sign:  65.  Always makes me want to throw glucose tabs at the pavement.  Giggle well spent.  Thanks, Diabetes!
  • I had a long, drawn out phone call with someone at my insurance company’s office, all in pursuit of confirming coverage for some high-risk related ultrasounds when I was pregnant.  The woman who had to deal with me was extremely nice and helpful, and she made me laugh out loud more than once.  Were it not for my stupid disease, I never would have chatted with this awesome lady.  Thanks, Diabetes!
  • I was able to efficiently remove a splinter using a steady hand and a sharp lancet.  Thanks, Diabetes!
  • This week, I’ll have a chance to hang out with friends who might not make insulin but who definitely make the world a better place.  Thanks, Diabetes!
  • The charging cord for my t:slim pump happens to fit the charging port for the bluetooth speaker whose charging cord recently up and disappeared.  Thanks, Diabetes!
  • I forced myself to join some friends for a walk this morning in pursuit of bringing my blood sugar down just a little bit.  Had I not put blood sugars into the top priority bucket, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to spend a little quality time outside in the sunshine with friends.  Thanks, Diabetes!
  • I bought two bags of candy corn and completely considered them a “medically necessary expense.”  Thanks, Diabetes!
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