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!