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Posts from the ‘Real Life Diabetes’ 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.

Word Choice.

“Mom, why do you wear that bracelet again?”

She knows why, but every few months, she asks again.  Why do I wear a medical alert bracelet?  Why is that thing as important to leaving the house as having my keys?

“I wear it because it says I have diabetes, just in case someone needs to know.”

“Why would they need to know?”

“In case I wasn’t able to say it myself.  Like if we happened to be in an accident or something, or if I was asleep.”

She thinks about this.

Medical alert bracelet #diabetes

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

“Is this why we have a house phone?”

“Yes.”  She knows the reason but asks anyway.  We decided to get a landline telephone in the event that there was a storm that knocked the power out, or if we had a babysitter and needed to call the house.  Or if my husband or children ever needed to call 911 on my behalf.  “We have a house phone on the waaaaay off chance that I’d have trouble waking up because of a low blood sugar.  You know, if I was passed out.”

I forget that the words we use matter.  That they are easily confused and conflated.  That she’s just a little kid.

“Passed out?!!”

“Yes, but that’s a very rare thing.  It hasn’t ever happened to me.  It probably won’t ever happen, but it’s smart to be prepared, just in case.”

“PASSED OUT?!!!”

It was then that I remember hearing her and her friend talking about her friend’s grandmother, who had recently passed away.

“OUT, honey.  Not AWAY.  Passed out means I would be having trouble waking my brain and body up and need extra help.  Not dead.  It’s very different,”  I scooped her up and held her close, aiming to hug the panic away from her as I listed all the reasons why passed out was different from passed away and also how it wouldn’t ever happen to me, right?  Right.

The reality of my own thoughts every night before bed stood in contrast to the confidence in my voice talking to Birdy.  The thought is fleeting, but also sharp and cuts through my mettle, reminding me that diabetes looks easy and seems quiet but exists with an undercurrent of worry.

And I’m learning that I’m not the only one who worries.

Digging Up Some Joy.

I have been trying to actively distance myself from the desire to dive deep into all the bad stuff that’s been going on lately.  Headlines get more and more distressing and humanity seems to have gone off the rails.  It feels gross to even watch the news because … well, the news is gross.  Everywhere.

Happy frigging holidays, right?

I’ve been in a little bit of a buzzkill cycle and I need to bust out of that in a hurry.  So I’m actively digging up some joy in order to remind myself that there is joy out there, and in here, and in me.

  • HAPPY! HAPPY! JOY! JOY!  – My son had his first sleepover at my mom’s house, which was a success.  And after I fell asleep on the couch at 9 pm and then moved upstairs to bed at midnight (after pumping and then freaking out briefly because I had almost forgotten to move the Elf – more on him in a second), I slept through until it was time to wake Birdy for school.  That’s a lot of sleep.  It helped make me feel like an adult human again.
  • HAPPY! HAPPY! JOY! JOY! My insulin pump took a hard hit against the bathroom tile yesterday and didn’t get injured at all.  Same goes for my cell phone, which was accidentally thrown across the room in a separate moment.  Props to durable devices.    
  • HAPPY! HAPPY! JOY! JOY! – Nothing says loving like a giant iced coffee.  Nothing.
  • HAPPY! HAPPY! JOY! JOY! – My son has just realized that his hands are attached to him and that they are delicious.  He also figured out how to manipulate said hands in order to grab squishy blocks or to pat my face.  After several months of doing the route infant circuit, the smiling and grinning and playfulness of this little boy is exciting and adorable and makes me so happy.  He is the smiliest of all the Guy Smilies.  I love watching him explore and expand his world.
  • HAPPY! HAPPY! JOY! JOY! – The Birdzone has also recently discovered the Elf on the Shelf, which means we have one in our house.  His name is Chippy.  I love him because she is so excited by his presence, but I kind of hate him, too.  Waking up at 1 am by inhaling all the oxygen in the room in a panicked “ohmygodthefuckingelfneedsmoving” moment is not optimal.  But her face when she sees where he’s moved to gives me intense happies.
  • HAPPY! HAPPY! JOY! JOY! –  My neighborhood is awash with holiday decorations and people hanging out.  I love this stuff.  Mostly because we live among some really wonderful people, but also because of cookies and holy shit are there some delicious cookies going on.
  • HAPPY! HAPPY! JOY! JOY!  Like these cookies.  Four ingredients, one of which is peanut butter so instant win.  I would live inside of a tin of these cookies, no problem.
  • HAPPY! HAPPY! JOY! JOY!  – Also, in terms of recipes that bring joy, check out these penguins.  I want to make a waddle of these little fellas and set them loose in the neighborhood.  (Note:  It feels so right that a group of penguins is also called a waddle.)
  • HAPPY! HAPPY! JOY! JOY!  Also, the cats are no longer experiencing feline PTSD (yes) as a result of the little Guy joining the family.  Siah’s hair isn’t falling out anymore and Loopy has stopped pawing relentlessly at the bedroom door.  (And now that they are back to being their normal cat selves, their nocturnal routines have returned in full.  Which means that Siah’s chubby ass going down the stairs happily at 3 am sounds like the heavy boot steps of someone who has broken into my house.  Cat burglar?)
  • HAPPY! HAPPY! JOY! JOY! – Exercising is also still going forward, albeit a little tangled up with my family’s constantly-shifting work schedule.  And that’s a plus, since I was feeling very sluggish and lazy these last few months.  Related:  The West Wing is a good show.  Currently a few episodes into the first season and am getting way into it.
  • HAPPY! HAPPY! JOY! JOY! – Also, I started using the Verio Flex (switched from my beloved Verio Sync) and that’s been a good experience, too.  The meter has less of an MS-DOS feeling than the Sync, and I’ve returned to uploading my meter results to the Reveal app.  Granted, I’m still not checking my blood sugar as frequently as I’d like to be (aiming for six times a day, still only clocking in around 3 – 4 times per day … but am wearing my Dexcom religiously, so that’s a plus), but the meter itself is a good upgrade from the Sync.
  • HAPPY! HAPPY! JOY! JOY! – And one thing that’s been consistently bringing good feelings to the forefront has been the diabetes community.  Seriously.  Every time I manage to log on and check out what people have been writing, it’s confirmation that people are in this to help one another.  From new voices in the DOC (like Today with Tubes and the posts on DOColors) to a whole list of benefits to life with diabetes (thanks, Catherine!) to policy efforts and #insulin4all and organizations aiming to improve lives for PWD, this community is still a huge source of good in my world.  I’ve always valued this space, but lately it’s been a bright spot in these times of crappy headlines.

Man, that felt good to list.  Channeling Ren and Stimpy entirely now.

Accountability.

We have a newly-minted kiddo.  That’s an established fact.  He is cleaned, fed, and loved all day long.

Here’s the problem:  I’m not cleaned, fed, or loved all day long.  It’s embarrassing to admit that, but it’s the truth.  I’m struggling hard with self-care.  And I also kind of buck up against even the admission of struggling with self-care, because parents in general are sometimes tsk, tsk‘d for putting their needs on the to do list at all.

But that oxygen mask metaphor that I used back when Birdy was born?  Applies to the little Guy, too.  I can’t take care of him, or her, or anyone if I’m off my own game.

Maybe I’m not off my game so much as I need to change the game.  Gone are the days of plotting and spreadsheeting fertility goals, and with them went the fastidious monitoring of blood sugars and doctor’s appointments.  It’s okay to loosen the reins a bit there, but I need to keep up some semblance of diabetes management.  Checking blood sugars?  On it.  Using the features of my insulin pump to my advantage, like inputting my blood sugar and carb intake and letting it calculate my insulin needs?  On it.  Keeping my CGM graph top of mind instead of succumbing to alarm fatigue?  I can do that, too.

But oh the exercise and food thing is a frigging quest.  Uphill.  In the snow.  With that Sisyphus ball thing.

I thrive when held accountable, and I need accountability in order to reignite some healthier habits.  There was a short discussion about this on Facebook last week, which led to the creation of a small Accountabilibetes group, where we’re trying to help one another stick with some kind of exercise program, and that camaraderie has been a big boost.  Even though the weather has been fuck all cold (snowed last night), I’ve been back on the treadmill the last few days, easing in with some interval training that’s heavy on the incline and gentler on the speed for now.  (I’ve started watching The West Wing, which I’ve never, ever seen even an episode of before.  Now I have seven seasons of Sorkin-saturated dialog to work through.  Should keep me entertained throughout the winter treadmill months.)  A fully-charged Fitbit helps, too, as I’ve avoided that thing for the last 12 months as well. As far as food goes, improved food choices usually follow exercise for me, so I know that I’ll battle food temptations less when I’m physically active.

So far, it’s only been a few days, but I’m hoping that a few more days will wet cement these habits.  Once that mental cement sets, I’ll be in my pre-pregnancy planning circuit and my health overall will improve.  Right?  RIIIIIIIIIIIGHT.

Before that cement dries, I need to stick my finger in it and write “It’s worth it.”  And maybe also draw a cat out of the word “cat.”

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