A Strong “C”

Frank. 60%. C.

Miss, what do I need to do to get a B?

You need to work harder.

English wasn’t exactly my strong suit in high school.

I mean, I always studied English at the highest level. I always passed. My Year 12 English teacher praised my strong “C” at almost every opportunity she had.

Yet at the same time, this always irritated me. It felt like she was placing me in a box. Pigeonholing me. Telling me what I was, and what I always would be.

English is one of those subjects that is so tricky to master. You’re either really good at it, or you’re not. It wasn’t like a maths equation, where your answer is either right or wrong. It came down to my ability to analyse texts, and grasp the hidden symbols and messages. Sometimes it seemed to be more about writing what my teacher wanted to read, instead of what I thought.

I wanted to do better at English. I needed to do better. I worked so hard at it. I used to get so frustrated seeing my friend achieve scores higher than mine, without even studying for his exams. I had to move away from those 50s and into the more safer 60s, because graduating year 12 was dependent on passing English. 

English is the most important subject. My teacher’s words still ring clear in my head today. The pressure was on.

Managing my diabetes today actually feels a lot like Year 12 English. It’s about making sense of things like numbers, food, exercise and any day to day activity that I undertake. I’m constantly analysing, trying to figure out the best response to each of these variables. A pre bolus? A temporary basal rate? A carbohydrate nudge? A delayed bolus? Some time out? A good night’s sleep? It takes a great deal of hard work to figure out what the best response will be for every situation. There’s a lot of frustration, because I don’t always achieve the results I want.

It’s taken me six years to get to what I would consider a strong “C” in managing my diabetes. I walked away from my endo appointment on Wednesday afternoon with a hba1c result that I have pretty much maintained since November. I confidently talked about everything that was going on with my diabetes. I checked off all of the issues I had on my list. We had a few good laughs about not over bolusing for my meals, which is where most of my hypos are coming from.

I’ve worked so damn hard for that strong C, and I certainly don’t overlook it. That strong C isn’t just an achievement of numbers, either. It’s things like remembering to travel prepared. Making observations in my diary. Learning from my mistakes. Not hiding from my diabetes in real life. Sharing my story. Connecting with others. And, being a human being outside of the diabetes! 

I’m damn proud of that strong C. 

I hope that this strong C can be a foundation for getting my diabetes management into the Bs.

Starting the Conversation

A few weeks ago, my friend Bec over at Sweet and Sour Diabetes wrote this post about starting the conversation around mental health. To quote Bec’s words:

“Mental health is a touchy subject. Despite increased awareness we still whisper about it. We still pretend it doesn’t exist. We hide it, and treat it like it’s something wrong to discuss. Fact is, you or someone you love have likely experienced some form of mental illness/disorder. The word sounds scary doesn’t it? Like it means you’re crazy, or unstable in some way. Interesting when you consider that earlier fact. If everyone has been touched by mental illness, why are we so touchy about it?”

I’ve been mulling over how to best put this into words in the context of myself. While I may not have a mental health condition, having diabetes certainly does have a big impact on my mental health and wellbeing.

Sometimes, I can be a real micro manager.

There, I said it.

Carefully weighing and precisely calculating every gram of carbohydrate in my coffee and slice of toast. Carefully adding up every gram of protein in that milky coffee, slice of toast, ham and hard boiled egg. On days like these, I really strive for perfection. Yet my blood sugar level doesn’t always translate to perfection in the hours that follow. I get frustrated. I scrutinise over what I did and where I went wrong. So much so that I can’t concentrate on the TV show I’m watching in the evening. Sometimes this is enough of an excuse to throw in the towel for the rest of the day.

In the complete opposite of situations, I can still be a real micro manager.

Yesterday, for instance, was just one of those days where I couldn’t be bothered bringing my lunch from home. I ended up buying a Pizza from Bakers Delight and a slice of Apple Strudel from Miss Maud next door. I swag bolused, and of course became obsessed with the graph on my Libre as I watched my blood sugar levels climb. The higher they rose, the more compulsive I became. Checking every 5 or 10 minutes. Compulsively shovelling in insulin doses of 5 or 10 units every hour because my blood sugar level simply wouldn’t come down. When they finally did begin falling at dinnertime, I had a very scary 20-something units of insulin on board that sent me into a panic. 

It’s easy to feel different, alone or isolated when I’m living with an often invisible condition that nobody else around me has. There are days where I feel like an absolute basket case, or a roller coaster of emotions. It’s easy to tell myself that those around me won’t care or understand.

So, how does one deal with all of this?

Try to lean on the people around you. This won’t automatically happen overnight, but I’ve slowly learned to lean on my family where my diabetes is concerned. I feel like I can occasionally say that I’ve had a shit night or that my blood sugars are really high, and sometimes that just makes all the difference. I find that this has given me a great deal more confidence when dealing with diabetes around others. I no longer hesitate to pull out my pump or check my blood sugar for fear of diabetes questions. I have found my voice, which helps me to get what I want for my diabetes each and every day.

Thinking about how I can relieve the frustration and anxiety. For me, taking breaks from the technology has been invaluable. Taking time out for myself. Getting some rest, going for walks, watching a good tv show, and simply taking the time to breathe. It’s easy to forget the simple things.

Trying not to sound too cliche here, but trying not to think of an unfavourable outcome as a failure. Think about what I can do differently next time. Remembering that I don’t want to eat my way out of 20 units of insulin next time my blood sugar is frustratingly high. Remembering that a string of other things could have affected my post meal blood sugar, rather than my carb counting skills. 

I’m not sure if any of this is serious enough to qualify as mental health, or if any of it makes any sense. But all of the above has been in my head at some point or another in the past six years of life with diabetes. I’m hoping that by sharing some of my deepest thoughts, someone else reading this won’t feel so alone or afraid.

It’s okay to talk about mental health.

An E-Mail To My Electoral Candidate

To my Electoral Candidate,

Just a quick response to the e-mail you sent about your campaign for the upcoming State Election. 

I wanted to tell you about something special happening in my life. Something so special, it happens every single minute, of every single hour, of every single day. In fact, it’s so special, that I get to keep it for the rest of my life. 

Exciting, right?

Six years ago, my pancreas did something unprecedented. Something very grassroots. It decided to call it quits, and handed over the reigns to me. A commoner, would you believe it? All of a sudden, I was in charge of trying to mimic a working pancreas. This meant giving insulin to match the foods I eat. Adjusting insulin delivery based on the carbohydrate, fat, protein or glycemic index of my meal. Matching insulin delivery to any physical activity I undertake throughout the day. Keeping my blood sugar level above 4 mmol/L, in order to keep my brain functioning and remain conscious. Keeping my blood sugar below 8 mmol/L for as much of the time as possible, so that I can maximise my chances of living a long and healthy life. 

Sounds like a tough gig with extremely high stakes, right?

I live with a condition called type 1 diabetes. A condition that is often unpredictable, operating with a mind of its own. To stay on top of this, I can often be found pricking my finger. Sometimes, as often as 20 times per day.

Sounds intrusive, right? 

I’ve received care through a public hospital diabetes clinic for many years, but it’s hardly been adequate. Patient numbers continue to grow, while resources continue to be stretched thin. I reached a point where I felt I was no longer getting the personalised support I deserve to help me manage my chronic condition to the best of my ability. This means forking out my hard earned money to receive the support I deserve.

I sometimes wear a device that continuously monitors my blood sugar. A device that keeps me safe from the lows and the highs. A device that gives me a great deal of convenience, allowing me to more quickly respond to the lows and the highs. I’d like to wear it full time. I’d like to try other Continuous Glucose Monitoring devices that are on the market. Yet this device, and others like it, are not currently subsidised in Australia. It costs me a fortune to wear. This is on top of all of the other life challenges facing young adults in Australia, that I am sure you would be well aware of.

You are campaigning for a man who will be a Premier for every West Australian. In my books, a man who truly is a premier for every West Australian, would not let me live through such injustices.

Warmest regards from the bottom of my broken pancreas,