Monday, April 9, 2018

Emotions in my Ocean

Emotions. Being someone who is studying to become a counselor you would think I would be comfortable with them.
Except I am not. At least not my own emotions. They scare me. 

And lately they have been coming fast and furious. Life with chronic illness is like swimming through a ocean. Sometimes things are good and you swim past some beautiful coral. Other moments you spot a shark and it attacks you right on your path. Recently, I have been seeing lots of sharks. Diabetes has been behaving itself quite well, but other things have been popping up all over my ocean like an evil algae that just won’t stop. Other medical struggles and the stress of dealing with so much adulting have got me feeling sad. 

I don’t like dwelling on things I cannot change but in my heart I know my frustrations are valid. I know it’s ok to wish my body could cooperate more. To dream of not having Diabetes and everything that comes with it weighing down my anchor. But we cannot change the ocean we have been given. I must embrace the beauty around me and become friends with my sharks. Because they are not leaving. No matter how angry, sad, or frustrated I get with them. They are here to teach me lessons. To give strength, to foster joy, to teach perseverance.  Just keep swimming, forever and always...

Friday, September 22, 2017

Sadness is not Weakness

         I am currently studying clinical mental health counseling and have been learning so much about the mind-body connection and how it affects one’s mental health. All of this new knowledge has brought me back to the days of my T1D diagnosis and some education that I feel may be missing during those first few critical days and months following diagnosis. 
When I was first diagnosed, the number one thing I remember the doctor and nurses continually telling me was that I could do everything anyone else does, it just takes a few extra steps. And while this is a very true statement, it minimizes the true day to day impact that Diabetes has on all our lives. Because sometimes those few extra steps feels like a steep mountain to climb. And when you are faced with climbing several of these mountains each day and even throughout the night, it can get burdensome, tiring, and just plain annoying real quick. And sometimes it is necessary to stop that climbing and feel that burden. Feel that sadness and let your body sit in it for a while. In our world’s culture, happiness often seems to be the only acceptable emotion to have. But all the emotions, whether that be sadness, anger, jealousy, fear, or happiness, are meant to be felt. And as T1D warriors we do not need to put on a brave face all the time. 
It is ok to get sad, to get stuck in the mud that is life with Diabetes and lay there for a moment. It is ok to cry in the middle of the night during a low over the loss of that ‘simple’ life and wish things were different. It is ok to be scared to go to sleep at night with fear of not waking up. It is ok to get angry when your carb counting does not work out and you end up high and miserable. And it is darn ok to not be ok. Because Diabetes is hard. And the mountains will not stop. But we will not stop either. Because we are fighters, and we are brave, and we got this! 
    So when you are having one of those days, let the sadness come and stay for just a little while. And then as the sadness begins to pass, surround yourself with those who lift you up. And continue to walk with them in this crazy journey that we call life. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

When Diabetes leaves home, you can't do it alone: Getting along with a little help from your friends!

* I apologize for my lack of updates on this blog. Life has been so crazy but so good in the past year! It has involved me beginning my graduate studies and moving! The following is a part of this new journey...* 
On my Own! 

               Last August I embarked on a new journey in my life, graduate school. Not only was I starting a new chapter in my educational journey, but I was also leaving my parents nest for the very first time to live in a different state in an apartment all by myself. Going in, I only had minimal connections to people in the area. With Type 1 Diabetes along for the ride, I knew there would be some extra confusion, sleepless nights, and stress, but I was ready for this new adventure and to spread my wings. I knew I was in for a major adjustment, but at the time I never realize how life changing the experience would be!       
             The first few weeks living on my own were full of new things that kept me going and distracted me from my new reality. Diabetes was cooperating as well as could be expected allowing me to adjust to my new environment, classes, and cooking all of my own meals. But as the newness of my new journey began to wear off, my diabetes management began to slip slightly. In October my Dexcom sensor died early and I simply stopped wearing it. I couldn't bring myself to call it in and get a replacement. I just wanted my diabetes to go away and I could not bear to continually face the numbers and alerts coming from my phone. During this time, I experienced many hypoglycemic episodes in the night. I do not feel my lows at all, so many mornings I would wake up to a bg in the 50's and immediately go for fruit snacks and juice boxes to bring it up. Looking back, I realize how dangerous these situations could have became but at the time I was determined to do everything for myself. 

              This continued for several months until I had an appointment with my new amazing Endocrinologist in May. He is a fellow T1D so he immediately made me feel at ease. During that appointment we talked a lot about living on my own and what plans I had in case anything were to happen. And the honest truth is that there was no plan. He suggested that I get hooked back up to my Dexcom, use Dexcom share with friends nearby, and give them keys to my apartment just in case. That seemed like an amazing idea in theory, but it scared me to death to ask a friend to follow me on Dexcom share because I didn't want to be a burden or an annoyance to anyone. I wanted to be independent and do it all myself. 

           Around this time, I began to build closer friendships with my classmates as I continued to settle into my new life. And after watching me struggle through a challenging diabetes day, a dear friend asked me if there was ever anything she could do to help just to let her know. I was amazed by her kindness because so often people are frightened about the realities of diabetes and do not want to be involved. After about 2 weeks of rough diabetes nights and scary lows, I took the plunge and asked her if she would be willing to follow my dexcom and be alerted to urgent lows and
Friends who paint pods with you are special people <3 
she agreed! Since that day, this sweet girl has called me multiple times in the wee hours of the morning to wake me up and is always creeping on my dexcom graph to make sure all is well. The peace of mind of knowing I have a friend living 5 minutes away checking on me is incredible. Having people in your life to help lift the burden that diabetes brings is a indescribable gift. I am abundantly blessed human to have the most caring people in my life. 

         So if there is one piece of advice I could provide to a T1D about to embark on a life of independence and living alone, I would encourage them to be open with their friends and not to hide diabetes. Being vulnerable is a scary feeling, but going low alone in the middle of the night is even worse and can result in serious consequences. So start small, educate your friends about diabetes and see what happens. You may be surprised by their responses and willingness to help. Diabetes a marathon not a sprint, and having a team of supporters behind you to help makes the journey a whole lot easier! 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Another Year, Same Magic

Airport Buddies
 In the beginning of July I attended my 2nd CWD Friends For Life Conference. After last year's incredible experience, I wondered if the magic could be recreated a second year. Would I feel the same joy? Would I learn as much? Would I make meaningful connections? All those doubts were erased the moment I arrived at my airport gate to board my flight. Sitting there was a FFL, Mike. From then on, I knew I was in for another amazing trip.
    This year, I was lucky enough to make some sweet friends through the DOC (Diabetes Online community) and meeting them in person was like reconnecting with old pals that you have known for 10 years. The connections with FFls is an instant bond. We all "get it" and knowing that makes it so much easier to be yourself. By the end of first night, I found myself cracking jokes and watching fireworks on a hotel balcony with friends I had met for the first time just a few hours earlier.
   Besides, the instant friendships and wonderful camaraderie, the educational value and emotional support available at the conference is top notch. The keynote speaker this year was the magnificent Dr. Ed Damiano. I was once again blown away with the technology he and his team at Beta Bionics continue to come up with. The progress that has been made with the bihormonal bionic pancreas, iLet, is incredible. The freedom and precision this device will offer people living with T1D is incredible and I am excited to see it come on the market as early as 2018!
   Like last year, my favorite sessions were the open ended discussions among fellow T1Ds about topics such as complications and diabetes burnout. I am able to learn so much through the experiences of those who have lived the D-life for much longer than I have. Scott, Kerri, and Sean do amazing job leading these discussions keeping the mood light and filled with laughter.
    This conference is so much more than I could ever write about in a blog post. It's the ease of having all foods carb counted. It's a feeling of togetherness. It's the amazing people, both those with green bracelets (T1Ds) and orange bracelets (those who love someone with T1D). After you experience this, you will never be the same again and I wish everyone with T1D could attend this conference at least once in their lifetime. Special thanks to the Diabetes Scholars Foundation for once again making this trip possible for me!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The other half of Diabetes

        This week I am participating in the 7th annual Diabetes Blog Week. Each day there is a designated prompt that is meant to advocate about the different issues surrounding diabetes. Today's topic is mental healthWe 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?
      When I was diagnosed with T1D, I was completely focused on the physical aspects of the condition. Learning to carb count and bolus using insulin injections, along with correcting for sporadic highs and lows  took up all of my time. I honestly didn't have the time or the energy to worry at that point. But as time went on and caring for my diabetes became more 'normal', the mental and emotional effects became more obvious and really take their toll.
    Now, 5.5 years in this journey I can honestly say that mental component of the condition is 100% more difficult than the physical aspects. Each day is filled with different emotions. Some days, I am just sad and do not want to get out of bed because all the extra tasks I must complete everyday. I miss the days when I did not have to worry about these things. But on other days I feel unstoppable and want to prove to everyone that people with T1D can do anything they set their minds to. 
   What I struggle with most is anxiety. Anxiety about highs and lows, bad A1Cs, and everything in between. Much of this anxiety stems from my Christmas eve incident when I went unconscious while sleeping due to a low bg of 33. Sometimes I lay in bed paralyzed with fear of it happening again, causing me not to sleep. Using a Dexcom cgm has helped me catch the lows and also removed the magnitude of my fear, yet it is always there is some capacity. In the future, I have dreams of getting a Diabetic Alert Dog to put me even more at ease. 
   Interacting with others with T1D has been another beneficial way for me to realize I am never alone in this crazy life with D. The online community has helped me from the start as I began to discover blogs and videos of others. Traveling to the CWD Friends for Life conference was also a big break through as I was able to actually meet and interact with others and knowing that their are others living the same life is indescribable and allows any fears to melt away. 
  A tip I would give to anyone that is living with T1D or any other chronic illness is to give yourself Permission to Miss Out (PTMO). If you are having a rough day and do not feel like doing anything but hiding in bed and watching Netflix that is ok. I am not saying it is acceptable to do this every single day, but every once in a while it is important to step back and take a breath. We are not super heroes and cannot be expected to do everything all the time. Managing Diabetes is a never ending job and a very tiring one. So, it is natural to need extra rest at times. And tomorrow is always a new day to go and conquer the world :) 
  My experiences with diabetes have led me realize just how much mental health plays into the lives of those living with Type 1 Diabetes and other chronic illnesses. That has sparked my interest in mental health counseling and I am very excited to begin my graduate studies this August, I am excited to begin this new journey and help others living with T1D learn ways to cope with the ups and downs of this disease and make the most of every moment! 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

T1D Looks like...

Type 1 Diabetes looks like family. 
T1D does not only effect the person with the condition but also their loved ones. During the first few months after my diagnosis, I remember how on edge my mom was. She was worried about my numbers, cooking proper meals for me, and how I was coping with this new lifestyle. Over the years, the worry has lessened but it will never cease to be there. When times get rough, I know my family is always there to support me in any capacity required.

Type 1 Diabetes looks like highs. 

These highs are not a sign of weakness or that a person is not taking care of himself or herself. The fluctuations are influenced by stress, insulin, activity level, sickness, and a thousand of other random factors that a person living with T1D has no control over.

Type Diabetes looks like supplies. 
Medical supplies are not optional for people with Type 1 Diabetes, they are a requirement to live. In just 1 month a person with T1D checks their blood glucose a minimum of 150 times and takes 120 shots ( or inserts 10 infusion sets if using an insulin pump). That's a minimum of 1,800 FINGER POKES PER YEAR! And these supplies are not cheap. People with T1D struggle constantly to pay for these necessary supplies, even with help from insurance.

Type 1 Diabetes looks like the lows. 
Low blood sugar can occurs when too much insulin is given, meals are skipped, or when one exercises more than usual. Most of the time though, low bg happens randomly at very inconvenient times and for no logical reason. Low blood sugar makes a person feel shaky, dizzy, out of energy, hungry, irritable, and incoherent. Sugar is required to return to a prefered state of being.

Type 1 Diabetes looks like emergency room visits.
When sickness strikes the body of a T1D, it wrecks more havoc than it does a non-diabetic. It is hard enough to deal with the normal flu symptoms but add to that trying to control erratic blood sugars and ketones. In many cases, a trip to the ER is in order to help with dehydration, nausea, and either extreme highs or lows. 

 Type 1 Diabetes looks like friends. 
But when times get tough, friends are always there to pull you through, I am so lucky to have a wonderful group of friends that always support me, some who also happen to live with T1D. They are always there for me to vent to and help me focus on the good of every situation. 

Type 1 Diabetes looks like me. 
It is a part of my life, but it is not all of my life. I am first and foremost a daughter, a sister,  a follower of Jesus, a friend, a teacher, and a figure skater who just also happens to have Type 1 Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes looks like me but it could also look like YOU. Type 1 Diabetes can strike any person regardless of age, lifestyle, body type, and family history. So if you ever suspect it, please do not brush it off as an impossibility and plan a trip to the doctor. Know the warning signs, it could save a life. 

Warning signs of Type 1 Diabetes: 
  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination/bedwetting 
  • Nausea/Vomiting 
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy/drowsiness 
  • Itchy skin 
  • Labored breathing 
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Increased appetite 
  • Sudden vision changes 
  • Fruity odor on breathe 
  • Confusion/unconsciousness 
  • Tingling hands 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Happy Podding

                 It's so funny how fast life can change. Just over a month ago I was using my medtronic minimed pump and had no immediate plans to switch. Then came the CWD Friends for Life where I was exposed to so much wonderful technology and began to realize that there may be a better way for me to manage my own specific diabetes needs. After returning home I spent hours researching on the internet and settled on the omnipod. Now less than 40 days later, I am all hooked up with my pod and loving it!                                                                       Physically, the minimed pump and the pod perform all the same procedures and successfully deliver lifesaving insulin into my body. But mentally, I feel an enormous shift. I am so free and less constricted with the pods. I feel more like 'Morgan' and less like 'Morgan and Diabetes'. I never realized how much I hated being connected to tubing 24/7 and how self-conscious I was about it. Having the ability to virtually hide the pod under my clothes and forget about the D-monster for a bit is so nice!
               I am only 8 days into my podding adventure, but so far so good. This device has helped me relax and become more at ease which can only help both my physical and emotional health.