Friday, April 15, 2011

Better Health Brightened My Day

Yesterday, it came to me like a suffocating wave--I NEED to know other diabetics.  The reality that no one close to me understands what I'm going through was weighing heavily on my mind.  Since I don't have the telephone number of any diabetics, I don't have anyone to talk to who can say "I understand what you mean."

Finally, in the midst of my thoughts, I remembered a recent visit to the eye doctor.  I saw a sign on the door advertising a 7-week program for diabetics held at Better Health. Although it was too late for me to participate, I snapped a picture of the flyer with my cell phone before leaving. I decided to call.

The friendly-sounding woman who answered the phone explained the 7-week program and provided the dates for the next one.  I felt like saying, I need assistance now, but I didn't.  I asked if they had other events.  To my surprise, the answer was "Yes."  She explained that they have weekly clinics.

I wasn't quite sure what a "clinic" was, but I told her that I'll be there tomorrow.  When I arrived, I saw a room full of diabetics talking amongst themselves, being jovial, and waiting for the clinic to begin.

"OMG," I thought. I joined the group at the table and sat down.  But, just being in that space (a room full of people who know what it's like to hear the words "You are a diabetic") was overwhelming.  I started crying.  I tried to conceal my emotions, but I couldn't.  When it was my turn to introduce myself, tears were the only reply I could offer.  And, the group offered compassion in return until I was able to regain my composure.

During the clinic, I learned more about diabetic medications, met a few people, got my glucose and blood pressure checked by a nurse, and had an awesome conversation with Melissa (the Health Education Coordinator).  To my amazement, these services were all free.  This diagnosis has not only been physically and emotionally taxing, but it's also been financially exhausting.  So, to know that there is a place that provides educational training for diabetics along with a few medical health services at no cost is a real blessing.

The most touching event of the night happened when a woman at the table asked, "When were you in the hospital?"  I told her two months ago.  She continued to say that she was there the day I was admitted.  She arrived before me (also suffering from high glucose), but the staff admitted me ahead of her because (as she said) "You were bad off that day."  While the picture from that day illustrates jut how ill I was--it takes things to a whole other level when a stranger remembers seeing me months later and can describe the seriousness of my affliction.  As she said, "You are blessed."  I nodded in appreciation and recognition that I am still blessed and her sharing that with me was living proof.
Today marks exactly two months since my diagnosis and I'm sure if at least one person had informed me about the services offered at Better Health, I would have been in a better emotional space.  But there's no since in crying over spilled milk (I have bigger things to cry over), discovering Better Health has been the perfect 2-month gift and I intend to visit again. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Week in France--So Emotional

The worrying started about a week before my departure, but the anxiety kicked in when my first flight had "maintenance issues."  The 4-hour delay caused me to miss the connections and changed my location for the PM shot of Byetta.  I had gotten comfortable with the idea of having to give myself a shot in the airplane's cramp toilet-room. I would pray that God calm the air waves (like He calmed a raging sea) long enough for me to give myself a shot in a turbulence-free environment.

But, when "shot time" came, I was standing in line with 60 other people hoping to get a seat on a new flight.  My options were 1) Get out of line, find a restroom or isolated area to give myself the shot and lose my place in line or 2) Give myself a shot right there in the line.

I chose option #2. I couldn't risk missing my place in line which could have meant missing the flight. I decided not to look around to see who was looking at me.  I just prepared my things, checked my glucose, administered Byetta, put the things away when it was over, and continued to focus on the more pressing issue--securing a seat on the flight. This could have been an empowering moment, but I was in survival mode and that meant an absence of shame.

The next trial came once I arrived in France and sat face-to-face with my first breakfast.
As you can see from the picture, EVERYTHING but the cup of coffee breaks down into sugar. The baguette and the croissant are  bread (which carbs turn into sugar), the orange juice is liquid sugar, and the jams are sugar.  So, I sat there alone in the restaurant staring at food I can't eat all at once and feeling my anxiety level rising.  It seemed like hours passed.

Finally, I said something in French that I struggle to say in English--"Je suis une diab├ętique."  I further communicated that I cannot  pour sugar into my coffee and the waitress offered me CANDREL. I felt so relieved to discover that she had a sweetener (I could at least drink the coffee and eat the croissant. I left the other items). I made sure to remember the name "Candrel" for rest of my trip.

Overall, I managed to get through the complications of being outside of my comfort zone and daily routine. I have been to Paris before, but never with this many restrictions, exceptions, and concerns.  I understand more now why diabetics suffer from depression and anxiety at alarming rates.  My mind never seems to rest.  I'm always thinking about what I've eaten, what I will eat, and what I am going to eat--how many carbs are in the dish(es), how will they effect my glucose, and where will I be when it's time to give myself the evening shot???

I've learned that this leads to "Diabetes Burnout: a common state of mind that can be triggered if you feel overwhelmed, scared, or discouraged by the demands of managing your health" (Outsmart Diabetes Prevention Guide). My goal is to avoid burnout, but I can tell already that this will not be an easy task.

Here's a picture of me and my new best friend--MY GLUCOMETER (Blood Glucose Monitoring System). I'm sure I'll have a nickname for it very soon.