Monday, June 13, 2016

On Grief

"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Benjamin Franklin 

Over the past 5 months I have had a lot of time to myself, in addition to a lot of time thinking about the big themes in life. I have never thought I would be someone who would have time to ever sit down and challenge how I thought about life, death, and certainly taxes (or other debts.) For me to come out and say the past 5 months were easy, and an enjoyable time off work would be an utter lie. It has been difficult in many ways. 


Grief in Job Loss

When you go through a job loss in a large lay off at the hands of an organization you care deeply for, it's painful. It's a painful loss in my life to feel disconnected from where I thought I was heading, and to feel automatically severed from relationships I was building in hopes to make even bigger changes in the world of chronic illness. I had very good days (my wedding fell right in the middle of this insanity- and that was the best day of my life this far) and I have had very dark days. There was never a rhyme or reason as to when the darkness would hit. Over the past few weeks the dark days are spaced out farther. Dealing with the grief of loss of place, the grief of feeling like a burden on my newly formed family, the curve ball in our future plans has made me realize how connected I am to my need to make change. Every day I sit down and think about what direction I should be taking, and almost every day I come up with a different answer. 

When I hear about all of these people that knew what they wanted to do since they were children, and are doing it or pursuing it....I am envious. I don't have just one thing that drives me in a choice for a career. I know that I want to keep writing, but I can do that without it driving my career. What I know I want out of a career is the ability to continuously learn and keep pushing myself, and the ability to advance so I don't feel stagnant. I think that leaves me pretty open in my life, I hope that the choices I make in the near future are right for me so I don't have to be where I am again. 


Grief in Family Death


Last week, my uncle passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack. He and I weren't extremely close, but I think when it comes to family that isn't necessary to feel the loss. My mother, her siblings, and especially my grandmother are hurting-and it is always so hard to see family in pain. In pain, comes emotions and ways to channel those emotions that you would never choose if your brain was in its normal place receiving its normal messages. 


I learned over the past weekend that my uncle was extremely special to many, many people. He trained and raced horses, he worked with the school board and he touched many lives. He was a friendly guy with a great sense of humour and he was fiercely loyal to his family and friends.


My grandmother remains to be one of the strongest women I know, in these times of grief-of which she has known many- she remains rock solid. Over the weekend, during a wake and a catholic funeral mass, I was shocked at her ability to remain solid for her other children. She has nine children, 8 who are still alive 2 of whom were unable to be at the funeral, but they were all there with her some how. She is clearly a good mother who had tough choices to make as she raised her kids, tended to her home and cared for her (now passed) husband. My mother and her siblings are some of the toughest people I know. Every day I feel lucky to be a part of a family with such a powerful and respected matriarch model. I respect that part of family; we are all very diverse and while we all have very different belief systems, we all tend to get to the same end place-and I respect that.


Grief in The World


In the wake of yet another senseless tragedy in the United States, I feel a deep sense of grief. It may be that I am coming off a weekend spent grieving with my family, or months spent grieving my sense of self. But this mass shooting on Orlando, where a gunman opened fire in a nightclub...aimed at gay people....it just...doesn't make sense to me. I don't understand how one person can have so much hate towards a whole group of people who have absolutely nothing to do with him. This person is the lowest of the low. The scum of the earth are those that hate with no reason, and try and validate that hate with religion or some other higher level of knowledge. Hate is hate and it has no place. None.


Dealing With Grief


Grief is one of those things that we all deal with very differently. I don't think two people grieve the same, and that is fine and welcome. I have learned over the past few months that I use humour to feel light in my darkest of times. I make jokes, I try and find the simple humour in everyday sadness. This doesn't work well or sit well with everyone (I apologize to anyone who heard me refer to the basin of holy water in the catholic church as an undersized hot tub and didn't see the humour in that that I did...), it's how I deal. I don't talk about feeling sad or depressed, not because I am trying to bury my feelings or hide them, but because I deal with these things in my own way and talking about them doesn't help me, it hinders me. I, of course, shed tears at times. Sometimes they are the only thing that works when processing feelings of sadness and grief. Even if it's 25 years after being diagnosed with diabetes, or 2 days after a funeral of a loved one. 

I think Washington Irving spoke so eloquently about crying and grief:


""There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love."


I like to keep this quote in mind any time I feel the need to cry a bit. I like to share this with anyone who may be grieving over anything.


We are often told that the reasons why we are grieving are not as substantial as others. In our world of living with diabetes we are often told "at least it's not cancer", at least it wasn't more people murdered, at least the death was quick and painless. I find these things odd, like we are searching for deeper meaning to what has happened, instead of accepting that bad things have happened, and as humans we need to accept that this is a part of life. We create our circles of friends, we engage our circle of family always with the knowledge that at some point that circle with break and reform with a jagged edge where someone else or something else once was. That is life, it doesn't mean it is easy, in fact the breaking and re-mending of that circle is the hardest part of living. Accepting that, and knowing that every single time that circle breaks is extremely hard no matter what the circumstances, makes the grief process easier. 


You don't need an excuse to grieve loss, no matter what. And there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

In grief there is always power gained, because surpassing immediate grief takes strength that you grow and muster during the process.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Other Half of Diabetes

This is my day 2 post for Diabetes Blog Week. You can see the list of other posts on this topic here.

Today's prompt is:

"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!)"

I think this prompt comes at a pretty interesting time, as I said yesterday I am currently in a funk about diabetes. I am taking care of my physical self the best I can, my blood sugars are pretty under control and I am exercising and eating lots of plants. I feel ever so slightly disconnected with it all. I am doing the motions but feeling like I am floating a bit. Normally I read and read and read about diabetes, research, and everything about the disease, but I find myself distancing from it lately. Maybe because my former job laying me off has left a bad taste in my mouth.

I think the best way to deal with being burnt out on care is two fold: remember the motions and do them, and lean on friends and family. If you are reading this blog, and are aware of DBlogWeek, then you know that you have an entire community standing behind you to support and help you through whatever there is.

Yesterday, when I confessed why I haven't been around much, I had so many people reach out to me privately to just chat it reminded me why I am here. If you need help getting through a rough patch of the annoyingly mundane task of staying alive, just reach out.

Leave a message on a blog of someone you admire, they want to hear you.
Send a tweet.
Join a Facebook discussion.

Be proactive for yourself, being able to speak about your experiences is important in dealing with chronic illness.

It's important to recognize that you probably will burn out eventually, and that's ok too. You don't always have to be "on". I am learning that quickly, when I was able to help others through some dark and stormy times in the past, those same people are able to help me now.

This thing is an ebb and flow. We give when we can, and we take when we need to. It's how our community survives and thrives and grows.

Be a part of it. You will be better for it.

Monday, May 16, 2016

DBlog Week: Day 1: Why Are We Here

This week is DBlog week, a week where bloggers use prompts to write about their experiences for whatever reason.

You can check out the prompts here.

Today's topic: Message Monday: "lets kick off the week by talking about why we are here, in the diabetes blog space. What is the most important diabetes awareness message to you? Why is that message important for you, and what are you trying to accomplish by sharing it on your blog?"


It's odd that this was today's topic. As I was opening my laptop to check out what the prompt was, I thought "I don't know why I am doing this." Honestly.

I don't think I have a particularly interesting voice to add to our community, and lately I haven't felt the drive to write like I used to. This is a very, very saturated blog market, as you will find out while browsing blog week posts. There are a lot of really fantastic voices in it, and I respect and read them all the time. 

This is not to say that I don't think that all of our experiences are interesting and needed, I think they are. I just think that taking the time to blog, for me, has been a trying effort. I have no less than 25 posts started and not finished in my queue because I get part way through and I ask myself "why am I doing this?"

Maybe it's because I am in a professional funk, after being part of a national lay-off in February, and not having a job offer yet, I have spent a lot of time wondering what I want to do with my career. The market is so saturated in my area, it is kind of similar to the diabetes blogosphere. 

That's why I haven't been posting as much. I guess I feel like it's a lot of energy, time and emotion poured in to something that just....is there. 

So I don't have an answer for this first prompt. I am still wondering the same thing.

I do, however, believe I will use my voice as a powerful advocacy tool. I have been speaking to members of government and other advocacy specialists on a few various topics, trying to get things moving.

But it's hard.

I am finding it hard to be motivated to do anything other than find gainful, permanent employment right now. I need a job that will give me some security because the employment insurance program I have been granted has been absolutely piddly and can hardly pay for my extremely expensive burden of student loans debt. It's a deep, dark cloud over my life right now and it's hard to be a light for others when that is my reality.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Corn Salad Recipe

Before I even start here, I know that corn isn't low carb, and it probably won't be celebrated as the next best vegetable for people with diabetes. However it has nutrients, it's healthier than many side dishes and gives you much needed colour to your plate.

Mmmm.


Recipe as follows:

-1 bag frozen corn (I use peaches and cream)
-1 tsp (or more or less for your taste) of cayenne powder
-1/4 cup of fresh chopped mint (2 tbs of dry) (you can also use cilantro, but cilantro is terrible)
-1 tsp of thyme
-2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
-1 Medium onion chopped
-Salt to taste
-Grapeseed oil (or another high heat oil)
-Lime wedges for garlic


Directions:
-In a hot pan with a table spoon of grape seed oil, stir fry the chopped onion until translucent (~2 mins)
-Add garlic and stir for 1 min
-If you're using dry herbs, add them after garlic and stir until aromatic
-Add corn, cayenne and salt and stir for 5-7 minutes. You will know it is ready when the corn turns a deep yellow and the onions take on a bit of colour.
-Serve with a wedge of lime for garnish

I make this for potlucks and BBQs often. It's one of our favourite side-dishes. I usually make it super spicy with extra cayenne. 

Here's the approximate nutrition info per serving (~150 grams)

Calories: 127
Carbs: 26g
Fiber: 5g
Fat: 1g
Protein: 3g

Let me know if you try it out!

Monday, April 11, 2016

twenty-six

Dear Diabetes,


Over the past twenty-six years we have become one. Sometimes we struggle to differentiate our intricacies from one another. I, the person, the whole human, will often try very hard to separate my thoughts, my feelings, my emotions and my actions, from you, the chronic illness.

Twenty-six years ago you robbed my parents of the wind in their sails of having a perfectly healthy daughter. Over the course of the past twenty-six years you presented yourself in ways that affected more than blood sugar swings. Your ability to weave yourself around every. single. moment without ever showing your ugly face, is truly admirable for something that to many is simply a word.

Twenty-six years ago, you decided that my challenges in life would be interwoven with a consistent underlying question of "was it the diabetes?" You changed every relationship I ever have had, including the one I had with my very own body.

It's hard, you see, to love a body that, some days, feels utterly broken and non-responsive. As the autoimmune illness rears its ugly head, and throws us around every corner; I feel a sense of epic accomplishment when at the end of the day I can sink in to my bed knowing that I survived again.

I do well, pretending like you aren't there. Some days, if it weren't for my insulin pump, others may never know you are woven through every cell in my body. Some days, I don't even let newcomers in to my life know that you exist. That must rile you, and churn you. Some days though, some days over the past twenty-six years you stepped in to my light and overtook me. You have landed me in the hospital, on the sidelines, and on the couch. I never let you win, you won't ever win, but some days you're stronger than me.

Twenty-six years of scars line my abdomen, legs and arms. Sometimes in the shower I look down and at the very same moment feel a sense of pride that I am winning, and a sense is sadness that your evidence is always there. My speckled finger tips, and pock-marked skin are a constant reminder that despite how wonderful I am at knocking you on your ass, you will always fight back.

Twenty-six years ago you changed how I would proceed in the future. I didn't know it then, but damn...you made me a fighter. I don't think I would be who I am today without having the knowledge that I can never take no for an answer. I became a feisty, fearlessly independent woman at the tender age of 7. I matured quickly, faster than I should have. I learned as a child that in order to succeed in life I needed to first kick your ass in to place, and proceed with fury. For twenty-six years I have been doing just that.

The connections I have made with other friends battling the diabetes demon are incredibly deep. I have woven these friendships in the deepest part of my soul, a part of me you can never touch, no matter how hard you try.

For twenty-six years, you have tried your hardest to win.

You will never win.

I am forever victorious, thanks to you.

Happy twenty-sixth birthday. I am sure you will be around for many more, so sit down and buckle up because I am not done keeping you in your place.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

World Health Day: Diabetes

Today is World Health Day as recognized by the World Health Organization. This year, the organization has decided to focus on the diabetes pandemic happening worldwide. I think that the WHO is recognizing diabetes is a big step, and as the day unfolds, I will be watching keenly for the messaging surrounding the disease.

I think the infographic displayed here is....ok. It's pretty dumbed down, and heavily focuses on the external risk factors that can lead to Type 2 Diabetes, rather than indicating that this disease can be terrible on the patient and their families.

I don't think we will make much of a change in the mindset of treating, researching, and fixing this pandemic if we keep regurgitating the same messages. Didn't someone very smart once say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

I think it's fabulous that the WHO is getting the word out, and helping focus the lens on the severity of the disease spreading over the world. I think the messaging and marketing could be better, the message they're using is a bit tired, and hasn't worked in the past.

There's are the two things that I wish the WHO would focus on:

-The fact that insulin is incredibly difficult to obtain in developing countries. If you are interested in reading more about this, check out the hashtag #Insulin4All on Twitter or visit T1International.com. You can also visit Partners For Diabetes Change, and learn about Spare a Rose.

-The psychosocial burden of chronic illness on a family is far, far more devastating than any of the medications, blood monitoring etc. This is outlined in the DAWN program, which you can read about here, and here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Complications are complicated

There is an ongoing discussion in the diabetes community about complications, and I think our conversation needs to change dramatically.

Last night I popped in to the #dcde chat about complications, and I was utterly shocked at the way the conversation was being steered.

I feel like this blog post may bring on a firestorm, but the conversation was hijacked by a follower of Dr. Bernstein. I will be the first to say that I have nothing against anyone's personal choices in how they manage their diabetes, or in how they choose to eat. I think if you choose to follow Dr. Bernstein's advice, all power to you. However, there is always a line that can be crossed when you are discussing your personal treatment choices. When that line is crossed in a conversation about complications, I want to spit fire.

The discussion section I caught was in regards to neuropathy. I caught a Dr. Bernstein (self proclaimed in her twitter profile) groupie claim that people who follow the low-carb diet have successfully reversed neuropathy. I thought this was 1) outrageous and 2) just another way for people who feel they know better than anyone else can shame people living with complications.

I can not stand the smug air of superiority when people claim that one exact lifestyle choice is a blanket cure for anything, so naturally I questioned someone using twitter as @thediabetesdoc. He claims to be a doctor, so I asked for clarification of this claim. Naturally, no answer was given. I do believe he is a doctor, but I wish that he would come down solid on the clarification of language.



So, being the person I am, I sleuthed a bit on the Internet for actual scientific articles about reversal of neuropathy.

Here is a link to scholarly articles about "reversing" diabetic neuropathy.

There was no article that said that you can totally reverse neuropathy. Everything I found the symptoms are alleviated with tighter control, and sometimes some people choose a low carb lifestyle in combination with their insulin regimen to achieve these goals. However, there's always a caveat, it's never that simple. You can't just put down the carbs and magically have healed nerves. The same way you can't just put down the sugar and reverse your diabetes.

These conversations revolving around complications need to be more delicate. I fear that this mother may feel an epic downfall if her child, who she has put on the Dr. Bernstein diet, maybe one day will have neuropathy despite best efforts. Unfortunately, this disease is a beast. It happens, I wish it wouldn't. I will fight for it to not be that way for anyone. We need to have a broader conversation about this. We need to be able to comfortably open up about our experiences and not fear a member of our very own community tries to one up us with information that is available to everyone.

I can't tolerate it any more.