Category Archives: Out Of the Box

Welcome to March.

So, how’s your life these days?

I thought I would ask because we’re entering March. Typically, people who make New Year’s resolutions tend to drop most of their big yearly ambitions by the end of January. Even more do so by the end of February, even if there is an extra day in there. I’ve noticed it at the gym. Like clockwork, the number of people going to my gym reduces by about half between the start of the year and the first of March.

QuePasaBut here’s the thing, and you probably know where I’m going with this already: Diabetes doesn’t take a break. It doesn’t care if I’ve put in a lot of effort on it through the first two months of this year. Diabetes demands a full time, consistent approach to glucose management, and oh baby, is it needy.

Still, sometimes you think, ”Hey, I really don’t want to do this right now, I’m kinda burned out”. Diabetes doesn’t care about that. Diabetes won’t cut you any slack. Often, like a stubborn pest, if you try to ignore your diabetes, it will demand your attention even more.

I’m full of good news today, right?

Look, I realize I’ve written a bit lately about how we have to give ourselves a break now and then, and try not to be so damned perfect every moment of every day. But I also recognize that ignoring my diabetes entirely is not an option either.

My question to you is, how do you do that? How do you balance the two?

One of the things that people don’t realize, I think, is that even when you’re right on with your D-management, you can still burn out. Often, you can feel your resolve slipping the most when you’ve been at your most diligent for a while. Other times, no doubt it’s because we’ve worked so hard to achieve good numbers and we still deal with crazy highs or stupid lows. So how do we solve that?

I don’t know if I have a good answer to that last question. But I sure wish I did.

Burnout seems to me to be one of those last bastions of life with diabetes where we can never quite explain how it sets in, or why it happens, or its incredible impact, to people not living with diabetes themselves. We don’t seem to have any super therapies to deal with it effectively. And I know there’s nothing out there designed to prevent diabetes burnout.

Yet the stakes are enormously high.

We all know what the stakes are, so I won’t repeat them here. But as you can tell, I have a lot of questions. Burnout is dangerous, it leads to unintended and sometimes dire consequences, and there is not a one-size-fits-all means of effectively dealing with it that I know of. Of course, consequences could happen even if we never suffer from diabetes burnout.

These kinds of things are going on in my head right now. I don’t know why.

But I know that I’m better not alone, even if burnout is taking over the day. I know that others living with diabetes understand and have been there themselves. That’s something I know I can lean on, and it means the world to me.

If you’re dealing with diabetes burnout, or diabetes is just taking too much of your soul these days, don’t be afraid to reach out and seek that person who understands. Every single one of us has been where you are. And even if we don’t have a foolproof plan that will work for you every time, we can offer absolutely no judgement while you work your way through this. And we’ll be right there to prop you up and support you in the process. You count. You matter. Just as much as anyone else.
Never ever give up.

What does baseball have to do with diabetes?

I watched a lot of baseball over the weekend. Oh, I know there’s a lot of college and NFL football out there, and that’s okay, but I watch as much October baseball as I can. That’s partly due to the fact that the best of the best are playing against each other right now in the playoffs, coupled with the knowledge that we are now officially less than a month away from no more baseball for about six months.

I’ve watched a lot of baseball over the years. I mean, a lot. I’ve been watching baseball on television since the 1960s. I’ve been to hundreds of major league games in person, in (if I have this correct) Cincinnati, Cleveland, Chicago (Wrigley Field and the old Comiskey Park), Washington, New York (just the old Yankee Stadium), San Diego, and of course, Baltimore. I’ve been to, I think, 13 or 14 Opening Day games in Cincinnati, and a couple more in Baltimore. I even made Opening Day in both cities a few years ago.

And it’s not just the major leagues. The Great Spousal Unit can tell you that if we see a little league team playing in a park somewhere, I’ll want to stop the car and watch a few innings. And we’ve done that.

Now… what does all this have to do with diabetes?

Well, I get a lot of enjoyment from watching baseball. Always have, always will. A lot of the baseball I’ve seen in my time has been since my Type 1 diagnosis 24-plus years ago.

Joe Carter’s World Series winning homer in 1992… all those great Atlanta Braves teams in the 90s and 00s… the Florida Marlins’ improbable championship in 1997, and again in 2003… Madison Bumgarner almost single-handedly giving the Giants their third championship in five years last year.

What do I want to see? More baseball! It’s one of the many things in my life that doesn’t give me any value except great memories. Priceless memories. Like my father taking me to see the Reds against the Cardinals in 1971, when I was nine years old. Joe Torre (the National League MVP that year) hit two solo home runs, and Johnny Bench, the Reds catcher, picked off a runner at first base. I remember almost 40 years later, taking my father and father-in-law to see the Twins and the Dodgers in a spring training game in Fort Meyers. My dad caught a foul ball. I still have it. Don’t tell him… he might want it back.

The truth is, I have a hundred stories like that. I have a hundred memories like that. And I want a hundred more.

I’ve been able to enjoy a lot of those moments in my life thanks to insulin, my care team, and my family and friends. If I’m going to enjoy even more, it’s going to be because I learn, adapt to new techniques and ideas, and take advantage of the latest in technology and drugs.

I think what I’m trying to say is this: When you’re burned out, when you just don’t want to do that BG check, when you just want to unplug and walk away from diabetes, well, I get it. I feel the same way sometimes. Often, when I feel like that, I try to think of one really fantastic thing that I would miss if I couldn’t be around to enjoy it. The One Thing might change from time to time, but I try to get that focus on what’s important and permanent (memories), and off of what’s temporary and annoying (burnout).

Find your One Thing. I’m not saying it will make things so wonderful you’ll never ever get burned out again. But sometimes, remembering the good stuff helps bring us back and refocuses us so we can not only live to fight another day with diabetes… we can live to enjoy another day of piling up the best memories we can, against the worst thing that might ever happen to us.

What’s your one thing?

8 Things: Summer Edition.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted an 8 things list. Today, here is a list of things that are part of my world this summer:
1. Insulin worries. Every summer, it seems that every high number comes with a “Did my insulin get skunked in the heat?” question. Remember that insulin is best when stored and used at under 80 degrees. Anything above that and you’re playing with fire. Or potentially compromised insulin, which no one wants, especially in the heat.

2. Low BG/sweating worries. This is the flip side of the high number questioning. Since it can be so warm where I live (Maryland– nearly at sea level)… how can I say this? If I’m sweating, which can be often, the questions are: Am I low? Or am I just sweating? These questions are of particular concern when I’m operating potentially dangerous machinery, like when I’m driving or mowing the lawn.

3. Eating… better. How about something a little nicer? As in, fresh fruits and vegetables. So good, and so good for us. If I’m ever in danger of overdoing it on veggies, it’s at this time of year. Nothing wrong with that.

4. More exercise(?) It’s been a good summer in Baltimore weather-wise. Oh sure, we’ve had our share of stifling heat, muggy days with lots of humidity. But we’ve also had an occasional cool spell, where the high dips into the low 80s with less humidity. Those days are golden in the summer, and though (because of my knee) I haven’t been able to do bike rides or go for runs outside, I have been able to do a few extra walks here and there. Right now, those are golden too.

5. More controversy. Thanks to the CrossFit issue, People With Diabetes had more to feel stigma over, more to respond to, and yes, more ways to examine how we react to controversial statements about diabetes by ignorant individuals. I’m very glad that the Diabetes Online Community was quick to react to the shameful postings of CrossFit and their CEO. I just wish that some of those reactions were more inclusive of all People With Diabetes, instead of just saying “Sugar didn’t cause my type of diabetes”. Also…

6. Second hand news, second hand blues. Friends for Life… MasterLab… ADA Scientific Sessions…. and now the AADE convention this week. I haven’t been able to get to any of them this year. So all the news I’m getting from these events is second hand. Good thing the people that are giving me the updates from these gatherings are pretty good at reporting in the first place, or I might be totally in the dark.

7. Travel….? Travel? Really? See #4 above. Are you kidding? Travel? Good thing I was going places early in the year, because I’m not going anywhere right now. Mostly, it has to do with work. I’m needed right now, this year more than most years, so that’s put a crimp in the travel plans for a while. We did get away to Charlottesville a couple of weeks ago, but really, a day and a half extra doesn’t exactly a vacation make. I’m headed back to New Jersey next week, for training for my job. This year is a lot about what is needed, and not a lot about what is wanted.

8. One visit with the endocrinologist. My next appointment with the endo is in another couple of weeks, and I’ll be interested to find out how surgery and my lack of movement has affected my hemoglobin A1c. My last number was at an even 7.0, and I had been significantly under that for a while. Our goal was to bring it up from where it was, so 7.0 is not so bad. But I certainly don’t want to be any higher. To me, that would feel like a huge fail.
So there you have it. Eight ways that diabetes has factored into my life this summer. I hope your summer has been grand. How has diabetes fit into your life this year?

Dude, where’s my motivation?

I’ve got to tell you… I really hated writing this. I’m nervous about publishing this. I don’t enjoy thinking about this or talking about this.

I just have no motivation to accomplish anything related to diabetes right now.

Actually, that’s not true. I have had the motivation to do a number of things, but every time I get ready to do them, I just give up. I think to myself, “Well, maybe this isn’t a good idea, I don’t know if I should do this, maybe I should just think about doing this another time”. Or maybe never.

That’s not like me, generally. I’m more the guy who thinks, “So what? If I want to do something, I should just do it, hopefully I’ll help someone, and I can enjoy it as long as it lasts”. It’s the difference between things being fun, and things being competitive. I don’t do competitive anymore. I don’t like myself when I’m competitive, and I don’t usually do my best then either. When things are fun, I look forward to them, obviously, and yes, I seem to do my best work. Because it doesn’t seem like work. It’s just fun. And I feel a sense of purpose in what I’m doing, like there’s a greater meaning.

But it’s more than that. It’s really more a feeling that I am one step behind the curve, so to speak. Like those dreams where you’re running, but no matter how fast you run, you can’t run fast enough. I hate that feeling.

At the same time, my BGs are on the roller coaster more than they are off. My weight is at a very (for me, anyway) uncomfortable number. And as bad as it sounds, I’m really not interested in working to iron out the wrinkles in my diabetes at this point in time.

I don’t want to confuse lack of motivation, or lack of competitiveness, or a feeling of being behind the curve, with a diminished sense of advocacy. I’ll still fight for my rights as a Person With Diabetes, and for everyone living with diabetes, regardless of my state of mind. There is no time to lose. But there are some things I’ve started and stopped lately, and though they were never even given a chance to be failures, they still feel like failures. That’s bad medicine. It’s reflected in my BGs, how I look, and how I feel about literally everything.

Add to that a work schedule that has absolutely blown up over the past few months and promises to stay that way for the remainder of the year, and, oh yeah, knee surgery and the lack of chances to work out for a few months. I could really use a couple of days off, but nothing is on the horizon. And those workout-high endorphans, well… sometimes they’re just the right medicine. But that won’t be part of my regular routine for some time yet.

It feels utterly ridiculous to be whining about all of this right now. I’m not dealing with anything that anyone else doesn’t deal with, probably more often than I do. When it comes to having to live with diabetes, I’m one of the lucky few who has many options at his disposal to treat, get healthy, and keep on going. I’m just really tired right now, mentally more than physically, and being tired makes me feel less motivated to stay healthy, get stronger, and look for new stories to tell.

Ultimately, I need to downshift into suck-it-up mode and plow through. This is one of those times when I have to remind myself that I’m not doing great, but where would I be if I didn’t try at all?

Perspective: my problems are not really problems. They sure as hell don’t feel like opportunities right now, either. But, things usually go in cycles, and this is likely just a temporary bad cycle. Truly, things could be much worse.

I don’t have any predictions, promises, or insights to share today. I only have my continuing dedication to a better life for everyone living with and affected by this disease. However that happens, whenever that happens, I hope to contribute in any way I can. I want to help, and I want to do it with a sense of empowerment and a joy for life. I want it to be fun again.

Because, why not?

Rage against the healthcare machine.

This may shock you, but I have a confession to make:

I went ten years without visiting a dentist.

Back in December I mentioned briefly that I had been dealing with a dental issue. Well, now it’s over, and I’m a lot poorer dollar-wise. The dentist (Maureen’s dentist) was thorough and did a great job.

Prior to that, I didn’t visit any dentist at all for a decade. Why?

Well, ten years is a long time. So the reasons varied from time to time. I originally stopped going after another botched procedure from a really awful dentist. It turns out that botched procedure was on the same tooth that needed to be worked on this time. I’m confident that this new fix is much better, and will be good for years to come.

And that was my first problem. I have been to many dentists over the years. My count is 11. Of those, only three (this latest one included) were worth a damn. The rest were incompetent, prone to creating great amounts of pain without believing they were doing so, or just crooks who wanted my money but didn’t do anything about my problems. Or some combination of the three. The first good dentist I had, I had to leave because I moved out of the city he is in. The second good one became too busy and pushed me off to the other dentist in his practice, who was the one who performed the bad procedure that caused my present-day issue.

After that last one (the eighth horrible dentist I’ve encountered), I vowed to never again see a dentist unless the need was urgent. Oh, I know that dental hygiene is important for everyone, including People With Diabetes. I’m a diligent brusher, and a maniacally-obsessed flosser and mouth-washer. But the way I looked at it, I was experiencing more problems, and throwing more good money after bad on dental work that either wasn’t helping me or needed to be reworked later, that I figured I would be better off on my own.

So, now that I’ve found another good dentist (only the third in my entire life) who does good work, will I visit more often? Probably not. Only this time, it has more to do with money than anything.

I make a decent middle-income salary. But the sad fact is, like so many other things in our lives these days, there is really only enough money in the budget to take care of one set of teeth in my house, and that’s Maureen’s. The vast majority of our healthcare spending goes toward taking care of my diabetes, and so, when things get to where we realize we can afford something else for one but not both of us, most of the time that money goes for Maureen. It’s disgusting that in our country, healthcare costs are so crazy that someone with an income like mine (who has insurance) still has to make decisions about what medical procedure to pay for, and what to leave out. Even for my teeth. But that’s the way it is. And I shudder to think what someone with less has to decide on.

I’m not proud of how I’ve managed my dental health over the decades. But this is my reality. And the reality is that while I used to rant against dentists, now I’m ranting about the cost of the entire healthcare system. Even if I find someone I trust, there is no conceivable way for me to pay to fix everything in my mouth while still paying for the rest of my and my spouse’s overall healthcare. For now, this is what I have to deal with. I finally have a dentist to go to for urgent care, but not for preventive care.

And yeah, I’m a little pissed off about it.

%d bloggers like this: