What’s Not on My Christmas Wish List

Hello, December. The silly season is in full swing, and no doubt almost every place, business or shop window you can think of will be adopting somewhat of a festive theme. In anticipation of all of the newsletters, articles, social media posts, well meaning relatives and other diabetes interactions that I’m likely to encounter over the coming weeks, I can already tell you what’s not on my Christmas wish list this year. Or any other year, for that matter.

I don’t need to be reminded that I have diabetes at this time of the year. That’s pretty much a fact that isn’t going to change until the cure arrives in another five years time. I do diabetes every other day of the year on my own through rain, hail and shine, so I hardly think that Christmas is worthy of any extra attention.

I don’t want to see any ‘helpful’ and highly unsolicited advice on how to manage my diabetes over the Christmas season, no matter how well intended it is. I don’t need suggestions of what I should and shouldn’t be eating throughout the festive season, or advice on how to keep my blood sugars in tow. If I require some assistance in that department, I’m more than capable of asking. Otherwise, please treat me like any other guest.

I don’t need to be shamed for any of the food choices that I may choose to indulge in on Christmas Day (or any other day of the year, for that matter). Please, resist the temptation to ask a person with diabetes how they manage their blood sugars at the dinner table. Rather, an acknowledgement that I do this on the other 364 nights of the year that I’m not eating dinner at your house would go a long, long way.

I don’t need insinuations that just because I tuck into the likes of chocolate, pavlova or potatoes, I’m not taking care of myself. I take a great deal of care in managing my diabetes year round, and to be honest I’m damn proud of those efforts. I refuse to be made to feel that guilty for numbers that may fall outside of my target range during a time where I just want to be Merry. Nor do I need to explain! Besides, what makes you think that a slice of pavlova is any less healthy for me than it is for you?

I really don’t care how the likes of diabetes organisations, diabetes websites, healthcare professionals, other people with diabetes, or support people for that matter, feel that I should be managing my diabetes over the festive season.

The way I choose to manage my diabetes is, quite frankly, nobody’s business but mine.

At the end of a long year, I look forward to Christmas and the ability to wind down after a long year and spend some quality time with my loved ones.

Diabetes is most definitely not the focus of that.

My Wish For the Diabetes Community In 2019

Let’s have more collaboration and less disconnect. Organisations, healthcare professionals, researchers, pharmaceuticals, industry, people with diabetes and people connected to diabetes. We are all doing amazing things. We all want the same thing, too! Imagine how much more we could achieve if we put our minds together and joined forces?

Let’s respect each other’s differences in the way that we choose to manage our diabetes. Two people will never be exactly the same, so why do we expect two people with diabetes to be? I don’t subscribe to the notion that one size fits all when it comes to managing diabetes. Whether that be pens, pumps, meters, sensors, needles, syringes, Twitter, Facebook, carbs or no carbs, we are all unique and can peacefully co-exist together.

Let’s remember that no one issue is more important than another. Whether that be insulin pricing, insulin for those less fortunate, funding for CGMs, funding for better healthcare services or greater awareness of diabetes. If it’s important to one person, then it’s important. Full stop. But by turning it into an ‘us against them’ scenario, we are marginalising other groups campaigning for equally worthy causes.

While I’m there, let’s put an end to the calls for greater distinction between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Yes, there are two (well actually, many more) types of diabetes. And yes, it’s important to know the differences between the two. But let’s also remember that nobody asks to get diabetes. This need to separate ourselves from people with other types of diabetes only serves to stigmatise people with different kinds of diabetes than us. We’re all in this together, right?

Let’s bring the voices of more people with diabetes to the table. Let’s see more people with diabetes talking to those in the industry. Let’s see organisations who are representing us, engaging with us. Let’s involve people with diabetes in all aspects of the research and development process, and not just at the launch phase. After all, how can people with diabetes not have a place in discussions that are about us?

Let’s celebrate the small victories (I’m the first to admit to being a glass half empty kind of guy…). Many of us don’t appreciate, for example, the research and development that goes into a product, or the advocacy that goes into securing funding from the government. Good things take time.

Let’s never give up on striving for more. Whether that be talking to your local Member of Parliament to advocate for better outcomes for people with diabetes, or challenging yourself to reach new goals in your own diabetes management. Energy spent complaining (and I’m the first to admit to being a serial whinger) is energy that we could be putting towards something productive.

Let’s never lose sight of why we all joined the diabetes community in the first place. To connect with other people just like us. To raise each other up on the tough days. To bask with us in the glory of our small victories. To know that we are never alone in what we are dealing with. Let’s continue to amplify the peer support that this community does best.

The Silly Season.

It’s nearly Christmas.

I guess everywhere I look at the moment, I feel like I’m seeing a lot of ‘rules’ that I need to be following as we head into the silly season. Undoubtedly followed by the barrage of New Year, New You stuff.

To be honest, I don’t really have much of a strategy heading into the next couple of days.

It’s Christmas, and to be honest, I want to celebrate Christmas like every other person around me. That will undoubtedly involve food that contains carbs, and drinks that contain alcohol. There will likely be chocolate. And shortbread. And bailey’s. And plenty of other good stuff.

As much as I would love for diabetes to shut up shop over Christmas and New Year, I will have to keep on keeping on. I will be monitoring my blood sugar with a little more ease thanks to the FreeStyle Libre sensor I’m wearing, and giving insulin doses my best guess with the help of my trusty insulin pump. I don’t expect it to turn out perfect, but then again diabetes never is.

The one thing that I will be avoiding when approaching the Christmas dinner table is the food coma that comes after it. Over the years I’ve learned that I don’t need to try everything from the smorgasbord, and would much rather just choose some of my favourites that I might not have so often. Waking up to high blood sugars, insulin resistance, extreme thirst and sweat in the middle of the night is definitely not pretty. This post sums up the experience quite nicely…

I guess one of the more challenging things at this time of the year is being asked questions around how I will manage my diabetes as I sit down to the Christmas dinner I’ve so been looking forward to. Super helpful, right? A few days ago, I was so happy to have a conversation with someone who wasn’t asking me if I had to be careful or if I had to check my blood sugar levels over dinner. Instead, I got to talk about my involvement in the diabetes community.

As I talked about some of the amazing things that have been happening around me this year, I couldn’t help but be reminded of just how much of a highlight continually connecting with people in the diabetes community really is.

To my diabetes family near and far, thanks for sticking around this year.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Diabetes Themed Christmas Gifts?

What do you want for Christmas? is one of the most difficult questions in the world for me to answer. Perhaps it’s because I’m extremely indecisive. Or because I’m simply lucky enough to have a lot of the stuff that I want already.

This week, I feel particularly proud of myself for having completed all of my Christmas shopping on December 4. I get to go home in the afternoons contemplating nothing further than a walk, and perhaps a trip to the beach on Friday.

Strolling through the shops at this time of year reminds me of how I honestly couldn’t think of any Christmas gift worse than a mug and cocoa set, a spice rack, jam jars, candles, toiletry sets, or character shaped tins of cheap biscuits.

So when it comes to the subject of a diabetes themed holiday gift, I actually don’t think it’s such a bad idea. There are so many awesome diabetes accessories online that I spend more time than I’d care to admit looking at – adhesives, stickers, bags, tees, jewellery, phone covers, mugs and so much more.

I totally get that a diabetes themed holiday gift won’t be for everyone. Not everyone wants to wear their diabetes loud and proud, or be reminded of their condition on Christmas morning. There are definitely diabetes themed gifts that would equally insult me (please don’t ever put a box of anything sugar free or ‘diabetic friendly’ inside my Christmas stocking. Unless you’re joking. But even I wouldn’t test me on that one). But equally, I’m sure there are people out there who would appreciate those gifts. So ultimately, knowing the person who you are buying for is key.

Diabetes is an extremely expensive condition to live with. I am forced to spend my hard earned money on supplies that I’d rather spend elsewhere. So for the most part, I can’t really justify spending money on cool accessories when looking at the bigger picture.

However it does make my task of answering that dreaded Christmas question much, much easier. Last year, I asked for a Myabetic bag. This year, I’ve requested FreeStyle Libre sensors. I’m planning to trade in my Christmas cash for some more Libre sensors. I also wouldn’t be offended by the likes of a diabetes book, t-shirt or other cool accessory.

Managing my diabetes is one of the most monotonous tasks in life. Every day I stare at the same devices, perform the same tasks and take the same actions with the aim of keeping my blood sugar levels in check. I don’t get a break over Christmas and New Year, nor at five o’clock or on the weekend.

I personally couldn’t think of a better Christmas gift than one that might help me to feel a little more enthusiastic, less burdened or reenergised in the daily grind.

If that doesn’t float your boat, I don’t think you could go wrong with a donation to one of these charities supporting people with diabetes in Australia and beyond.

‘Tis the Season.

I’m back.

November has been a crazy busy month, both online and off, and I have really just been spending the past week or so regrouping for this final stretch of the year.

Real Christmas trees have become somewhat of a tradition in our house, and last weekend was no exception as we went searching for the perfect tree on opening weekend at our local Christmas tree farm. It really is a mission to find one with a full top!

I spent a few afternoons last week putting up Christmas lights over our patio, and can now be found basking in the glow of my labour on these mild early Summer evenings.

I think it’s a crime that season three of The Crown wasn’t released in time for Christmas (and that Downton Abbey ended before that), however Victoria has been filling my Christmas period drama void quite nicely.

I spent my weekend trawling the internet for Christmas gift ideas. For the first time ever, I have surprised myself and completed all of my Christmas shopping with three weeks to spare!

I need a new iPhone case. My old one is cracking at the edges, and I just know that I’m bound to drop it one of these days.

One thing I’ve often been unconsciously muttering under my breath for a long time is I need a holiday. I’ve actually locked in some plans for early next year that involve no diabetes advocacy whatsoever, and I’m very much looking forward to that.

This little guy is also staying with us for the next couple of weeks while his owner is on holidays.

Diabetes awareness month might have ended on the 30th of November, but most of us affected by it will have to keep on keeping on during December. I tend to feel this moreso in these final stretches of the year, when I want nothing more than a break from the monotony of blood sugar checks, carb counting, glucose tabs, pump maintenance and just thinking about diabetes. 

Stephen at Happy Medium wrote a fantastic post a few weeks ago, and his sentiments really resonated with me. It’s these boring little things that are a part of my self care. All of these things help me to unwind, and remind me that I’m more than just my diabetes.

I also felt extremely validated in my self care efforts after hearing Carly Findlay present at the HealtheVoices conference last month (disclosures here) in her pyjamas, which is what she can be often be found wearing as she works from her bed. When we give up so much of our own time as health advocates, it’s equally important to know when to take a step back and take care of ourselves.

So, as we enter this crazy final stretch of the year, remember that it’s more than okay to stop and take a breath or to put your own needs before those of others.

People dealing with diabetes are awesome.

Don’t ever forget it.