Tag Archives: Self-Reflection

Stubborn lows at inopportune moments

THIS IS TYPE 1 DIABETES…

I was tired and wanted to go to bed. The problem: stubborn lows prevented me from going to bed.

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This happened twice last week.

Although these incidences were outwardly similar, my reactions were significantly different.

Whereas, during the first incident I reacted stoically, during the second I reacted with a cocktail of self-pity, anger, and other negative emotions. During the former, I felt no need to express myself; during the later, I felt the need to rant on twitter.

Despite reacting differently while they were happening, I felt the same way the day after. It is difficult for me to explain exactly how I felt, but it was not a bad feeling.

(I do not believe in taking a half-assed approach. Therefore, I am going to at least try to express how I felt…)

True…I felt tired; however, tiredness did not dominate.

I felt proud…a sense of accomplishment…triumphant.

Although I felt the same after each of these instances, my thoughts differed.

After the first incident, my diabetes-related thoughts centered around how I was emotionally impervious to the problems that diabetes had thrown at me the night before. I thought about how emotionally mature I was in handling it.

After the second incident, my diabetes-related thoughts centered around how, even when diabetes causes me to stumble, I will continue marching forward.

Context:

  • For the last few weeks I have been getting a decent amount of sleep (given my repeated “bouts” of insomnia, I often go through long periods of limited sleep);
  • My sister was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on April 1st;
  • I have recently been experiencing more hypoglycemia;
  • Since mid-April I have felt immensely proud of myself;
  • Generally speaking, I have felt pleased with my blood sugars;
  • I have not been exercising frequently;
  • I have not been meditating regularly;
  • have been reading quite a bit;
  • have been writing prolifically;
  • There have been no major sources of stress in my life recently;
  • I was not aware of feeling stressed out.

 

Personal(ity) Problems

Openness is a particularly strong aspect of my personality. My appetite for knowledge knows no bounds. My imagination has been a close companion of mine from an early age. I need intellectual stimulation.

I have my parents to thank for this. Thanks to my dad – who’s a professor – I’ve become a well-spoken, independent-minded, and highly intelligent young man. Thanks to my mom – who exposed me to fine art and classical music from a tender age – I’ve come to have a deep appreciation for and/or interest in art, music, literature, architecture, etc. Despite being somewhat simplistic, this characterization of parental influences upon the development of my personality is, for the purposes of this post, adequately true.

In addition to being a prominent factor of my personality, openness to experience is a pertinent part of my self-identity. I, admittedly, take pride in it. Despite this pride, however, I’ve come to recognize that there’s a downside to it.

Upon defeating my unskilful diabetes management habits I was struck by discontent. Having been seized by such an uncomfortable feeling, I was compelled to introspect. New insight was the result.

This is what I’ve come to realize:

  • My struggles with managing my diabetes adequately engaged my intellect. Setting objectives and developing a general strategy on how I was going to accomplish them was intellectually stimulating;
  • In December, I felt as if this diabetes blog provided me with an adequate outfit for my creativity. Since mid-January, however, I’ve felt less creative. My writing has left me feeling less satisfied.

Looking back at other periods where I’ve felt discontent (there have been quite a few), I’ve observed this universal pattern:

  • I wasn’t engaged in studying anything that I found intellectually stimulating;
  • I lacked a creative outlet.

From my observations, I’ve concluded that being engaged intellectually and having a creative outlet at all times is essential for my happiness.

Even if my memory serves me wrong (a distinct possibility), this conclusion still makes sense due to my extremely high levels of openness.

Going forward, I’m going to make a conscious effort to make sure that I always have a source of intellectual stimulation and an outlet for my creativity.

What are my standards of success?

How do I define success? By which standards do I judge my actions? I’m vexed.

Until recently, I wholeheartedly believed that I had overcome my perfectionistic tendencies. All too often, self-perception is self-deception.

For four long years I struggled valiantly to rid myself of perfectionism. Did I struggle in vain?

For four long years I struggled vainly to rid myself of perfectionism. Did my unskillful approach sabotage my valiant efforts?

My thought’s are a series of questions and question marks… Uncertainty abounds… Shards of glass encircle me.

Despite all of this, I feel at home. Peace. Serenity. Freedom. These three are my closest confidants.

Despite all of this, I don’t feel lost. Shock. Anxiety. Paralysis. These three know nothing of me.

Creative destruction. A certain self-perception has been destroyed. In its place, a blank piece of paper has appeared. Creativity can now blossom.

I thought I had overcome perfectionism. I had overcome perfectionism in the realm of thought alone, and my judgement was clouded.

My thinking was wishful, but clarity’s been restored.

While pondering a post that I’d written recently, I realized that my perfectionism had merely changed forms.

By objective standards, the lapse in adequate diabetes management that I wrote about in the aforementioned post was insignificant. The problem was subjective. It was due to my interpretation of events, and my projections of the future.

I interpreted this incident as being problematic because it disrupted the story I told myself about my recovery from diabetes burnout. It shattered the myth of a perfect recovery.

In my myth, I was perfectly strong and, therefore, able to effortlessly overcome any obstacle. I didn’t expect myself to stumble so early in the story. When I did stumble, frustration struck me.

I’m grateful for how things transpired…

Going forward, I need to be more realistic. I need to make a less inflated estimation of my own strength. I need to account for setbacks… I still need to reconcile with my fallibility.

Creative destruction. An old story has been destroyed. In its place, I can create a new, more realistic one.

Holiday Confession Time

It’s an inevitability…

Whenever I attend family gatherings, that dreaded question is apt to get asked: “is your diabetes under control?” To which I invariably respond with a lie: “Yes.”

Sure, sometimes I do in fact mean it, but my intentions don’t wipe away the dishonesty of my reply. The dishonesty is multiplied.

Lately I have been doing better; however, despite this year being my best year on record, the lowest my A1C has been in 2013 is (if I recall correctly) 7.9% – not nearly as deathly as 14, but there could still be some improvement.

Before proceeding, I must clarify something: I am not ashamed of these facts, nor am I defensive about my past. What has been done has been done, and no amount of shame will wipe the past away, nor will trying to defend it do me any good in the future. My past is a resource: it’s there for me in the present as a treasure trove of wisdom as I wonder onwards into the future.

Continuing…

Once upon a time (2001-2003), when I was on an anachronistic (and oppressively strict) meal plan and was testosterone deficient, perhaps I could have honestly given an affirmative reply. Like my beta cells, those years have irrevocably gone away.

When I transitioned from MDI to the insulin pump in 2003 (a blue Deltec Cosmo), I was handed an unprecedented level freedom. There’s, of course, nothing wrong with freedom. Freedom rocks…but, as the cliche goes, with freedom comes great responsibility. Unfortunately, as a youngling with undiagnosed ADHD, responsibility wasn’t my strong suit.

I abused my freedom. I used my insulin pump as a free pass to eating whatever the hell I wanted when I wanted. This was the start of my not-so-helpful habit of ignoring my diet as a factor in managing to live with type 1 diabetes.

Then puberty hit, and extreme insulin resistance set it – on top of an amplification of my already rebellious spirit. It was during these years that I rebelled against diabetes.

In the ensuing years, I ignored diabetes. I tried to compartmentalize the incompartmentalizable. As a result of my efforts, my A1C peaked at around 14. Even worse was the effect that it had on others.

Given my desire to expunge all “unnecessary” thoughts of diabetes, I never attempted to help other people with type 1 diabetes. I never considered taking part in a diabetes walk. I didn’t seek to be a part of a diabetes community. I had isolated myself.

In retrospect, I was in denial; however, it was a softer form of denialism. I was in denial about the impact diabetes can have on the rest of our lives. I was in denial about my dependence on others in dealing with diabetes.

This gloomy period didn’t last forever.

Around the time I was 16, my A1C naturally started to lower on it’s own. My type 1 diabetes remained an evil that I tried to ignore.

Ultimately, reaching adulthood was the turning point for me. It was only then that I started to take my health more seriously. It was only then that I began confronting my bad habits which had accumulated over the years.

All of this is in my past.

I confess these things not as an end in itself, but as a means. I am, through this post, taking a step towards cultivating a more skillful disposition. In recollecting my imperfect past, I’m preparing myself to flourish in the future.

Mugged by Diabetes Burnout

Diabetes burnout feels like being mugged. It comes up behind you, seemingly out of nowhere, and robs you of any positive (or neutral) feelings towards diabetes that you may have had. In its aftermath, you are left feeling vulnerable and discouraged… temporarily stunned and immobile… And, although there’s nothing wrong with these feelings (in fact, something’s probably wrong with you if you don’t feel them), there come’s a time when you must get up and take action, despite how you’re feeling. You must report the crime to the police, and put your trust in them. You must accept that you’ve done all that you can, for now.

I was recently mugged. It seemingly came out of nowhere. My most recent A1C was the best it had been in 9 years, I was testing as often as I needed to, and I was exercising almost every day. Things were looking up! I was proud. The days (years) of not paying close attention to my type 1 diabetes were behind me…so I thought.

Something happened. My attention became lax, and, gradually, all my progress became unraveled. What once came naturally had turned into a disgusting chore. All of this happened right under my nose.

That’s the thing about diabetes burnout: it seemingly hits you out of nowhere, and it takes time to register what has just happened to you. Although it might be obvious to an outsider that all is not going well for us in dealing with diabetes, it isn’t immediately clear to us. Awareness comes in time. We’re not often immediately cognizant of diabetes burnout. It appears gradually; once it appears, our awareness of it is also gradual.

During my most recent encounter with diabetes burnout, it took me a good month to become aware that I had fallen. Until then, life seemingly went on as it had before.

Self-awareness slowly established itself. Initially, I was only aware that I wasn’t feeling as well as I had when I was testing more, exercising, etc. Then I put two and two together. Being aware of this, however, wasn’t enough lift me out of diabetes burnout.

Then things took a turn for the worse. I ended up – somehow – in the unenviable position of having to live my life while almost constantly being over 200. Numbers in the upper 300s, and even the 400s, had become a regular occurrence. Although, by then, I was painfully aware of my burnout, that awareness wasn’t enough to lift my out of the whole I’d fallen into and spur me to action. If anything, in the short term, my awareness only succeeded at torturing me.

At this point I knew that I had fallen into a deep hole. I was painfully aware that my ever-present hyperglycemia was slowly killing me. None of this helped. It only fueled the flames of negativity that hyperglycemia had started. It only succeeded at increasing my feelings of dread. I dreaded all of the habits I’d have to reestablish. I dreaded the thought of having to experience more hypoglycemia. My self-awareness still left me stuck in inaction. However, there are no eternal nights; this mental state did not remain for long.

What helped me begin the process of lifting myself up out of the hole I had fallen into? Honest self-expression. I didn’t let my pride get in the way of me expressing how I felt on tumblr. I didn’t let fear over what other people might think dictate what I published. I allowed my mask of strength to fall off, and showed my vulnerability by expressing my feelings of disgust, disappointment, and despair. Unlike in the past, I did’t let these feelings fester in me. By being willing to “stare into the abyss,” and express what stared back at me, I opened up the opportunity to take the necessary actions to restore myself to full health.

Where I stand now, I’m taking things one step at a time. Through my experiences of dealing with diabetes burnout,  I’ve been taught the dangers of being over zealous. By rushing to improve things too quickly, we often set ourselves up for failure. Life with diabetes is all about balance. I have yet to find the proper balance, but I have faith that I eventually will, so long as I persevere.

I am doing what I can do, rather than focusing on what is out of my control. I can’t always control what my numbers will be, but I do have the power to get into the habit of doing the things that are necessary to get back on track. In short, my focus will be on the concrete actions that are needed to be healthier, rather than the abstract goal of “better health.” If I stick to this approach, I shall return to my former glory in no time 😉