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Posts from the ‘Psychosocial Support’ Category

Birdy the Kid and Jerry the Bear.

“Jerry has diabetes, like you do, mom.  So I give him food and insulin and check his blood sugar and he likes to play archery.”

A brief pause as Birdy rand her hands over Jerry’s soft bear ears.

“Mom, what’s archery?”


A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

[Disclosure:  Jerry was a gift from Hannah to Birdy.  We did not purchase Jerry.]

Yesterday, Hannah Chung from Sproutel kindly visited Birdzone and I to drop off a new friend for my daughter:  Jerry the Bear.  Jerry is a stuffed animal bear who has type 1 diabetes, and part of snuggling him and playing with him can also include checking his blood sugar by pressing a button on his paw.  Developed to help kids make sense of their own diabetes diagnosis, Jerry helps normalize diabetes by being a kindred spirit who also needs insulin and glucose tabs. 

He’s a stuffed animal who happens to have diabetes.  Similar to how I’m a mom who happens to have diabetes.

And that’s exactly how I want my daughter to learn about life with diabetes, with the constant, comfortable caveat that diabetes provides a to-do list, but it can be done.  And it can be fun.

Birdy knows quite a bit about diabetes, but mostly the brass tacks sort of stuff.  She likes to press the button on my lancing device (though she’s always surprised when a drop of blood comes out – “Does that hurt, Mom?”  “No, kiddo.”  “Are you sure?  Because I see blood.”), she prides herself on selecting the spot for my insulin pump infusion set, and she has a solid grasp on the meaning of the sounds ringing out from my Dexcom.

What she and I have not discussed, however, is what so many of the numbers mean.  She knows that my glucose meter gives me numbers of some kind and that I respond to them with certain sets of actions, but the numbers aren’t in context.  165 means the same at 50 means the same as 433 … nothing.  They are just numbers, or at least they were, until yesterday.  Yesterday, through her interactions with Jerry, Birdy learned what “high” and “low” look like as glucose numbers.

“Jerry is high.  See?  His number is one-seven-six.  He has to pee.  I need to give him some water and some insulin,” she said to me yesterday and she and Jerry were coloring at the kitchen table.

“Oh yeah?  So what will you do, then?”

“Mom, I already said I will give him insulin.  And some water.  I know what I’m doing.”

“Okay then,” and I turned away so she couldn’t see me smirking.

Later in the afternoon, she asked me how many glucose tabs she needed to give to Jerry if his blood sugar was low.

“How many do I usually take?” I asked her.

“You stack them up on the counter.  You take four.  Is four right, mom?”

(And this is where she teaches me something  – I do stack up the glucose tabs on the counter before I eat them.  I take out a set number and make sure I eat precisely what I take out, to help avoid over-treating and to also help protect me from forgetting to eat enough in the flurry of a hypoglycemic episode.)

“Yes, four should do it.”

“Okay.”  She “feeds” Jerry four glucose tabs and checks his blood sugar.  “Oh, I fixed it.  He’s not low anymore.”  She smiles, satisfied.  “Hey, do you know that if I smush his fur down and draw my finger through it, I can make eyebrows for Jerry?”

I want her to continue to draw eyebrows on Jerry.  Just because his little stuffed pancreas doesn’t splutter the way it should doesn’t mean he should have weak eyebrow game, yeah?

As she learns, I want her to feel safe and feel protected, empowered to ask and to help.  Resources like Jerry aren’t just for kids with diabetes, but for kids touched by diabetes on all levels.  I want my daughter to learn about my diabetes absent discussions about complications, fear, and pity.  I want her to see type 1 diabetes in the context of my actual life, which is filled with joy and chaos unrelated to my health.  She should know about this health condition because it’s part of what I do every day, and part of what she does, too, after a fashion.

Because it’s not about diabetes; it’s about life.

#DayOfDiabetes Went a Little Rogue on Me.

I started the day strong, but after hours of a frustrating high blood sugar and seemingly bolusing saline instead of insulin (but it was insulin – I checked), I hit a big NOPE when it came to documenting the end of my #dayofdiabetes. I didn’t want to keep documenting my frustrations, not because I was ashamed of them, but because I was FRUSTRATED, you know?

Even though there isn’t a hashtag for my day today, I’m still here. I’m still doing this diabetes thing. And despite some frustrations, I remain fine.

Chronicle. (See also: #dayofdiabetes)

(Chronicle was a movie from a few years ago that I actually liked very much, even though it god a little crazypants towards the end.  Still, a quality film, IMO.)

But today’s post is not about that movie.  It’s about chronicling a day with a chronic condition.  For Diabetes Awareness Month, I’m taking diabetes awareness to task by documenting the daily duties of life with type 1, from site changes to emotional responses to blood sugar numbers … and all the non-diabetes-yet-still-diabetes crap in between.  A big advocacy “thank you!” to Chris Snider’s #dayofdiabetes campaign, and I think November is a perfect time to pop the bubble of diabetes awareness.  People living with diabetes know what diabetes is like.  Let’s show people who might not understand what a day in the life truly means.

Join in on Twitter using the hashtag #dayofdiabetes and share what strikes you about life with diabetes.  Then share that hashtag with your non-diabetes friends, family, coworkers, and Internet connections because Diabetes Awareness Month should be about educating outside of the DOC (Diabetes Online Community).

Show Me Your Pump … Or Not.

During a presentation in Duluth, MN last week, I was talking about my family and I used a photo in the slide deck that I’ve used many times before.  It’s one of Birdy, Chris, and I and we’re at some park on a sunny fall day, enjoying the sunshine.

“This is my family.  And right there – RIGHT THERE – is my diabetes.  Can’t miss it.  It’s just THERE and it’s always there.  I love this photo because it shows off my wonderful husband and the daughter I went to the ends of the earth and back for, and I couldn’t be prouder and more in love with my family.  But then there’s that reminder again, the reminder of diabetes and the intrusion it makes into my life.  Like I said, I love this photo.  But I want to Photoshop the hell out of that one part.”

Diabetes has not been a smooth ride for the last few weeks.  Unusual moments like a skunked bottle of insulin and two Dexcom sensors that rolled off my skin way too early, a few low blood sugars that fucked with my happiness a little bit … all stuff that sometimes happens, but lately it feels like it’s always something.

A relentless itchy patch left behind by a Dexcom sensor from weeks ago on my right thigh that, in the middle of the night itches so badly that I scrape at it while I’m sleeping, only to wake up and find blood underneath my fingernails sums up how I’ve felt lately.  (And holy run-on sentence!)  It’s not the actual diabetes moments – the actual low blood sugar, the actual itchy sensor, the actual hour lost to reinforcing to my insurance company that yes, insulin is necessary and should be covered – but the cumulative experience that’s a little more than meh of late.  I’m grateful for access, but having access gives me a perspective that allows for being wildly grumpy at times.  I’m worn out on the self-care crap.  I don’t have any choice but to continue to make the best efforts I can to take care of myself.  Diabetes without self-care becomes chaotic quickly, for me.

There’s no “but,” to that, no caveat.  There’s just a desire to take a sponge and wipe away all the traces of diabetes for just a few hours.

… that, and our coffee pot cracked this morning, so that’s probably not helping my mood.

 

What Does the DOC Mean to You?

Two weeks ago, the #dsma chat was centered on the how and why of people’s participation in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC), and after chat participants shared what brought them to the web for diabetes information, the last question of the night asked them what the DOC means to them.

The answers created a quilt of community and comfort that can’t be denied:

And for me?

Tune in to tonight’s #dsma chat at 9 pm EST. For information on how to get started with Twitter, jump back to this Diabetes and Twitter 101 post.

“Do you wish you didn’t have diabetes?”

“Hang on two more seconds, kiddo.  I need to check my blood sugar before we go.”

She watches me casually as she slides her arm through the sleeve of her sweatshirt.

“Mom, do you wish you didn’t have diabetes?”

She asks me this question all the time now.  While diabetes is not a secret in our house, it’s not a hot topic of conversation.  Instead, she sees what my pump looks like and knows what my Dexcom does, and she likes to push the button on my lancing device to deploy the needle when I need to check.  She knows that glucose tabs are for low blood sugars and that I apologize for being unreasonably grouchy when my blood sugar is frustratingly high.  A few times she’s seen me cry because I was low, but I try to explain to her that it feels bad in the moment but then I feel okay.  Most of this becomes threads in the fabric, but lately, she’s been asking me that one, specific question on repeat.

“Mom, do you wish you didn’t have diabetes?”

My answer is generally the same every time, because I don’t want to lie to her.  I am not filled with diabetes-loathing, and even though this disease is the single biggest negative issue I deal with every day, I don’t feel entirely devoured by it.  But I don’t fucking like this disease.  It’s a complicated half-way.  There are moments that are compromised, but my life as a whole is not.

“I don’t like having diabetes, but I’m fine.  I like having you.  And having Daddy.  And having Looper and Siah Sausage,” and then I deflect to something else because I don’t want to have long, drawn out discussions with my introspective daughter who has already queried me about how many birthdays people have left.

I think about how diabetes is something normal to her, and always has been.  Moms wear insulin pumps, and it furrowed her brow for years that my friends here at home don’t have a pump clipped to their hip.  Moms carry purses filled with crayons and hand wipes for kids, and then a jar of glucose tabs for when the car is hard to find in the parking lot.  Mom’s bike basket has a bottle of water and a Dexcom receiver in it.  Moms sometimes say, “Let me check my blood sugar first,” before going outside to play.  This is her normal, too.

“Mom, are you glad I don’t have diabetes?”

“I am glad you are exactly who you are.  If you ever get diabetes, we’ll handle it.  When it comes to cookies, we’re the toughest,” and I breathe out as slowly, slowly, slowly as I can.

Seeking PWD Peers.

Two weeks ago, I was in Vienna for the third annual European Animas Blogger Summit.  (I’m a blogger, and I have a working relationship with Animas.  Only missing the European part, and I can’t even pretend because I was once told that my attempt at a British accent was akin to Dick Van Dyke’s Mary Poppins attempt.  So, no.)  Other folks who were in attendance have written about their impressions and take-aways, but the discussions we had can’t be concisely covered in a blog post.  It would take several blog posts.

So, in keeping with that theme, this blog post is centered around one of the discussions that embedded itself into my head:  connecting with PWD who are living with type 2 diabetes.

It started with a conversation about the #walkwithd campaign.

“The Walk with D campaign is about showing people what diabetes is really like, peeling back the stigma and reinstating dignity.  We do this already through blogs and Twitter and Facebook updates and all of the photos we share with our community and society as a whole.  The hashtag is simply a way to link some of these discussions, and to share more.  But, in looking around the room, I see a lot of kindred spirits who are dealing with type 1 diabetes.  Where are the type 2 voices?”

I don’t know much at all about life with type 2 diabetes. Sure, I can look it up on dLife or WebMD or some other resource that gives a high-level definition of type 2 diabetes, but that doesn’t give me a sense of what it’s actually like to live with type 2 diabetes.

My lack of perspective used to be rooted in straight up ignorance.  Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child, I actively sought to separate myself from my type 2 peers because I didn’t want people thinking “I did this to myself.”  And I have to put that statement in quotes because it’s such a crummy one, now that I know so much more about the differences and similarities between all types of diabetes.

It’s difficult to talk about how I felt when people lumped type 1 and type 2 together.  I’m embarrassed to admit these things.  The diseases are different in their origin but so similar in how they map out physically, and more importantly, emotionally, and I wish I had known that earlier.  I wish I had been more supportive of my type 2 peers.  I wish I had known how they felt.

And that’s the part I truly want to better understand.  How does it FEEL to live with type 2?

Rachel at Refreshing D was one of the first people who had type 2 diabetes who I really got to know.  Through her columns at dLife, her blog, and through becoming friends, I had a reliable window into life with type 2 diabetes.  I don’t know if I can properly articulate how much she has taught me, or thank her for being brave enough to share her story.  With Rachel as my gateway to understanding type 2 diabetes, I connected to and learned from people like Travis, Sue, Kate, and Bob.  People who live with diabetes – just not the type I’m familiar with – but who I need to better understand in order to best understand this community.

“I wish more people with type 2 would raise their voices.  How can we encourage them to?  How can we empower them to?”

The discussion during the blogger summit was frustrating in that none of us had a clear answer, but we realized that the responsibility for creating an empowering and inviting environment was on the DOC, both globally and in our respective countries.  We, as people with type 1 diabetes, are smaller in number in society but we tend to dominate the Diabetes Online Community, and I think it’s up to us to help pave the way for people with type 2 diabetes to feel comfortable coming out of their diabetes cave and sharing their perspectives.  Stigma runs rampant regarding diabetes, but we can help change it from the inside by getting to know our peers.  Finding what unites us can help us better understand one another as people and can help us all feel like we’re part of a community that has our back.

If you’re living with type 2 diabetes and you’re reading this post, please share your journey.

I walk with diabetes, but I don’t walk alone.  And neither do you.

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