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Posts tagged ‘psychosocial health’

Guest Post: My Magical Disney Moment.

The power of peer-to-peer connections is not lost on the diabetes community.  While insulin remains our strongest medication tool, our mental and emotional health is nourished by connecting with like-pancreased people, making any diabetes burden that much lighter.

One of the most amazing peer support cultures in the diabetes community is found at Children with Diabetes’ Friends for Life conference.  As a board member, I’m extremely proud of the influence FFL has on families affected by diabetes.  Which is why stories like Noor’s are so powerful, because they illustrate how finding your tribe can make all the difference in your health.  

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Born and raised in the Middle East, in a culture where a lot of stigma is attached to people with medical conditions, growing up with T1D was very isolating, lonely and resentful. I was diagnosed at the age of 5, the first 8 years went by smoothly; my mom took on majority of my care load and those pesky hormones still hadn’t made their grand appearance. My doctors put me on a pedestal; I was their most “compliant” patient (yes that was a word that was actually used back then). Puberty kicked in and life as I knew it was over; the hormones took me on a never-ending whirlpool ride. I was embarrassed, tired, exhausted and done with diabetes. I was done with being different. I didn’t know how to explain that to my family and doctor. I felt like I was failing them and they wouldn’t understand, so I decided the easiest way to deal with it is to not deal with it at all. The next 3 years were a nightmare; I was in and out of the hospital more times than I can count. I was in severe DKA 3 times, once so severe the doctors said that I was going into cardiac arrest. I was in a coma for 5 days due to a hypo seizure. My a1c was 13%.

My parents did everything in their power to try and help; they tried soft love, tough love, grounding, reasoning, bribing, yelling, etc. but nothing worked, nothing fazed me. My doctor back home recommended attending the Friends For Life conference in Orlando; he thought it would be an encouraging experience. Little did he know it would save my life, LITERALLY. My parents dragged me kicking and screaming (maybe less kicking and more screaming); the last thing I wanted was to be in a room filled with “outcasts” and “weirdoes,” because you know as a teenager I was a “cool kid.”

The turning point of my life wasn’t when one of the amazing inspirational speakers talked about how he won the super bowl with T1D nor when a world renowned researcher talked about the effects of high and low blood sugars on our organs. It was on a Disney bus on the way to EPCOT with a group of teens who took me in and invited me to join. Kenny, a T1D teen, who was on top of his diabetes game, was checking his blood sugar using his forearm. I asked him the reason behind it and he casually answers, “In case I ever develop complications and need to read braille, I don’t want calluses on my fingertips.”

THAT was my wake-up call, THAT was my holy moly moment, THAT was all it took, THAT was my magical Disney moment.

Fast-forward 13 years; I haven’t missed a single conference, besides one because I was too busy having my twins (I know my priorities are off psht). I am not a mushy cheesy person; sarcasm is my language but brace yourself for this. These people have become my family, my friends for life and my squad. We have been through birthdays, relationships, breakups, marriages, childbirth, graduations, political turmoil (yes that’s a big one), highs and lows together. They inspire me everyday to do better and be better, not only with T1D but also with life in general. They made me comfortable in my own skin (after that summer I agreed to go on a pump after years of resistance); proud of the person I am with my diabetes and embrace it every day. When I’m having a screwed up T1D day, I know I can text them and they “get it.”

When I manage to workout and stay in perfect range they “get it” and understand what a huge deal that is. When I send them a screenshot of my dexcom with 2 arrows up after eating pizza, their “but that was worth it” response lets me know they “get it.” They have normalized this disease; suddenly I wasn’t alone, an outcast, or scared. They are nurses, doctors, advocates, athletes, chefs, photographers, businessmen/women and the list goes on. They proved to me that you can be anything you want to be and be amazing at it, in spite of the struggles.

That is the power of a community.  This is what they meant when they said “it takes a village.”

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Noor Alramahi has been living with diabetes since the age of 5 and since she wrote her own bio, I’m going to paste it here in full.  Mostly because she adds “had twins” as this NBD sort of thing when it is SUCH a BD.

“I’m a 28 year old curly brunette who’s in love with Tiramisu and Justin Timberlake. I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 5, since then I have learned to play piano, played varsity soccer, competed in horse jumping, travelled to more than 19 countries, had twins and can’t think of one thing that having diabetes has stopped me from doing. I am married to my best friend and have 2 year old boys. I have been part of  CWD FFL staff for the past 8 years, I also help run their social media platform. Five years ago CWD FFL inspired me to leave my corporate job and join the T1D nonprofit world and focus on helping people. I work as the community manager at Carb DM and am the co-founder of T1D females group in the family planning, pregnancy and post pregnancy phases called Sugar Mommas

Click to make a donation!

Thanks for sharing your story, Noor!

If you’re interested in seeing how Children with Diabetes can change your life, check out the website and consider coming to a conference.  If you already know how Children with Diabetes can change your life, please consider donating to support the organization.  And if you’d like to share your story about how the support of CWD has influenced your life, please email me at kerri (at) sixuntilme (dot) com.

Participate in Research: Peds to Adult Endo Care.

As an adult with type 1 diabetes who, a hundred years ago, transitioned from pediatric care to adult care, I have a ton of interest in how that process takes place. There are so many factors that play into making that transition effective.  Does the child have a chance to talk one-on-one with their doctor as they get older?  Is there room for group visits in the pediatric space to help transition to adult care?  Is independence and responsibility tossed to the kid all at once or is it a gradual process.  And hey, does the waiting room inspire confidence in peds while the waiting room in the adult clinic generates despair?  (Oooh that last one.)

Growing up with diabetes includes learning how to take the baton of self-care and run with it, and everyone does it differently.

Always working in pursuit of improved patient outcomes, Drs. Tamara and Sean Oser, along with their colleague Dr. Kanthi Krishna, are studying the process of transition from pediatric diabetes care to adult diabetes care. I cannot wait to see what comes of this study and I hope lots of SUM readers click through to see if they qualify to participate.

tl;dr: To see if you qualify and to participate in this study about the journey from peds endo care to adult endo care, you can access their survey here:

HERE IS THE SURVEY!  CLICK ON MEEEEEEE!

Feel free to share this survey with your PWD peers so we can help improve quality of life and health outcomes for our community.  And if you’d like a psychedelic Santa gif, you can have that, too.

Diabetes Blog Week: The Other Half of Diabetes.

The Other Half of Diabetes:  We think a lot about the physical component of diabetes, but the mental component is just as significant. How does diabetes affect you or your loved one mentally or emotionally? How have you learned to deal with the mental aspect of the condition? Any tips, positive phrases, mantras, or ideas to share on getting out of a diabetes funk? (If you are a caregiver to a person with diabetes, write about yourself or your loved one or both!)

(And for more on the topics of Diabetes Blog Week 2016, click here.)

“Just don’t eat sugar.”  “Take your pills.”
“Count your carbs.”  “Avoid most thrills.
“Be prepared.” ” Plan ahead.”

But this disease
Is in my head.

I can’t split up the thoughts around
My mental health and body sound.
Impossible to draw a line
Between “I’m sick” and feeling fine.
Just take my shot?  And avoid stress?
Beware of cake?  Test, don’t guess?
The list of things disease requires
Realigns my needs around desires.

“I need juice.”
“It might cause strife.”
But sometimes juice can save my life.

It’s hard to share
How much I see.
In every test,
Mortality.

Was seven then, when it arrived.
And since that day, I’ve stayed alive.
But not because
I’ve not had pie.
Or “just took shots.”
I try.
And try.

The mental health
I have achieved,
I fight for – harder? –
Than A1C.

The demands put on a chronic life
Exceed “just take your shot.”
We live beyond, we live out loud.
Mental health not an afterthought.

It’s not a disease where you just “just.”
It’s more than simply “do.”
But how I manage mental health
Will help me make it through.

Running the Gamut of Emotions.

In my diabetes life, emotions are right up there with insulin and food as influencers of blood sugar management.  And I wish it wasn’t so, because stress and excitement are hard to “plan.”  (Replace those actual quotation marks with finger quotes, because they fit the bill a bit better.)  And the emotions that come up as a result of diabetes crap?  Holy shit, they are a circus all their own.

The emotions of diabetes are a thing for me, and one that I need to work to manage as fastidiously as I work on my numbers.  Which is why my Animas column this month is about that exact thing:

“Diabetes is more than the lab work results and pricking fingers, taking insulin, counting carbs.  That’s the to-do list we have to check every day, but it doesn’t even begin to touch the other side of life with a chronic illness, and that’s the headspace part.  Some of my academic friends call it the psychosocial part; I think of it as the emotional portion of managing my diabetes, and in my life, managing my headspace is as important as managing my blood sugars.

There’s a whole range of emotions connected to diabetes that I run though on any given day.”

For the full article, click over to my columns at Animas.  And for more on emotions and diabetes, you can basically read anything I’ve ever written here on SUM.  🙂

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