Count them Carbs…maybe?

When it comes to food, you get out what you put in. I truly believe that unless you’re out for food and the place doesn’t give you carb information (some do these days, either in store or online) then you can find out what carbs something has.  Carb counting has changed my life so much and I truly believe I wouldn’t be holding on to the scraps of control I still have over my illness without it. The problem for those that do so is that a lot of the time it can be a first class pain to do so. Some things are easier than others because it becomes ingrained into a diabetic’s normal routine that they weigh things like cereal, pasta or rice to make sure they know exactly how much they have and can work out their insulin levels from that.  If you’re used to buying the same bread and rolls all the time with the information on the packaging, it can get tempting to start guessing when suddenly you are presented with a packet of rolls in your kitchen with no information in sight. The truth is, it isn’t that difficult or time consuming to weigh everyday items at it seems.

Weighing your roll may seem ridiculous but it takes a minute max and then you look up the weight against how much insulin you need. Simple, and stops any chance of a mishap just because you didn’t get your usual warburtons buns. A hell of a lot more carb information is online than diabetics, in my experiences, have every realised. Personally, I got my hands on http://www.carbsandcals.com/en-us  through a rather wonderful nurse at my hospital who perhaps wasn’t entirely allowed to slip me said book at my DAFNE course.  I adore it and with my carb counting notebook that I did get at my DAFNE course, it works wonders. Unlike some carb counting books of the past, like when they were called exchanges and generally controlled your life, these books have all the things ‘diabetics can’t have right?’ in them. I’m talking cakes, biscuits and buns and not a frown in site about it. Real food for real people and no limits. It even has takeaways.  It isn’t the only one around though and I’m sure others are just as good. This just happens to be the one in my bookshelf.

I’m very much against guessing because I’ve been on the receiving end of plates of food being presented with me where I ‘m told someone has weighed my food but really has guessed and then it all goes wrong.  Our scales are flat and sit in the corner of the kitchen unnoticed without being a fuss to anyone but they make a big difference in my life and that of my mother who also has type 1. I think it helped me get started that at the time I was doing a weight loss plan to try and help my health too and it also required me to weigh certain foods. That helped alleviate some of the feelings that it was another way diabetes was controlling things and being a nuisance.  Now it is habit, and doing it for every bowl of cereal means there can be no ‘that looks about right’ and no backlashes when it turns out that no actually it isn’t. Getting into the habit of it can be a challenge but once you are into it I personally find you don’t on it that much. Weighing my potatoes before they go on my plate is as automatic as then going to the fridge to get some butter for them. Lack of labelling is a pain but it is easy enough to get around. Google can very quickly tell you the carbs for many foods, whether that is a 70g roll or Jacob’s cracker. The smartphone era means there are apps galore on the subject too.

I wanted this blog up before Easter because besides Christmas I find this time of year the other big Chocolate Challenge for diabetics as it were. Luckily we seem mostly past the era of being denied the eggs in the first place and of having to deal with diabetic chocolate Easter eggs which yes were as bad as they sound I assure you. Being able to take more insulin has opened up doors for us type 1s when it comes to the Easter bunny and its presents but people still face roadblocks. I do love when eggs tell you the carb numbers for a quarter of a shell. How are you going to accurately measure that? Or it only gives you half a shell and what if it is a big egg and someone doesn’t want/isn’t allowed that much for whatever reason? In my earlier years, I did a lot of guessing and hoping and either running high or low as I misjudged things and the answer was there the whole time in front of me. Weigh the chocolate. Carb count. Unwrap that sucker in the kitchen, choose what you’re having and weigh it. Have what you want, not what you can calculate best, and still be reassured that you’ve got the numbers right. I’m not going to turn this into a carb counting lesson and bang on about CPs, but I do think that carb counting gets a bad name from many and seems like so much hard work and such a fuss when….it doesn’t have to be. Working out what carbohydrate is in something is not that big a deal for me. What people then do with that information varies among diabetics but I do think it is information worth having, and it has cut out a hell of a lot of highs and lows for me over the past 18 months that came from pure lack of judgement. ‘I think I have that amount of pasta and so will need this’. Yet I managed to be out by 30g and sent my levels through the ceiling and then felt sick for hours. I don’t even use other bowls cause I’m lazy. I put the pot on the scales and put my pasta in that way. But shoving them scales in there saves me a lot of grief and I love it.

I heard at DAFNE a lot of ‘I don’t have time for that’. Thing is, it really doesn’t take a lot of time.

You know I’m not sure what the purpose of this is. I guess it has many. I want to assure some that Easter isn’t a time to panic or think it will all go to pot so why not take the days off anyway and just have fun because that is how I used to think. I want to assure people that carb counting does have its rewards and nurses are not banging on about it for no reason. I want to take the terror out of carbohydrates. I want to help I guess.

the mental weight of diabetes

It is estimated that psychological conditions, such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders, occur in about 41 per cent of people with diabetes. In turn this is linked with poor blood glucose control and higher risks of developing serious problems. Facts like this terrify me and it is hard to admit that when you’re a diabetic. As more and more people become diabetic, people appear to fear it less. People understand that it doesn’t have to be a death sentence and seem to have taken this information and walked off to the other extreme. Now for many people ‘it is only diabetes’. For some that means they think all diabetics are type twos and don’t you just take a tablet for that? For others it is the more hurtful phrase of ‘hey, at least it isn’t cancer’.

It seems like many feel that we don’t have a right to feel frustrated or hurt or angry about things because at least we’re still alive right? For now. But I am frustrated, hurt and at times very angry about things. As much as the various medications I’m on help things I’m frustrated that they can’t solve it completely. I’m frustrated that I have to get up at 5am every morning to take novorapid because basal insulin doses won’t work and it is the best time and insulin to try and stem the blow of the dawn phenomenon. I’m furiously angry that even that doesn’t work and I still spend most of my day feeling nauseous and sick. It hurts that I’ve spent so many years doing well and trying hard and then something inside me just goes ‘nope’ and it all falls apart.

It is very difficult to share and express that though. There is a lot of pressure to feel and be strong at all times. ‘It could be worse’. Yeah, but it could be a lot better. If I have days where I’m sad and upset I’m ‘giving in’ to the depression in the eyes of others who don’t have to live with this. Diabetes is a horrible disease but it isn’t the only one I have and my diabetes isn’t following the rules. For a lot of people one unit of bolus insulin means they come down by 3. Not me. I have a list as long as my arm where the doctors say ‘well this should happen and for me it just doesn’t. But ‘they’ say I have to be strong, be grateful for what I have, not let it get to me. I am grateful for what I have but I’m upset too. ‘They’ just outnumber me. I have friends to support me but the ‘they’ shout very loudly. I have always loved the quot,

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

Sometimes it is just hard to hear the quiet voice over the rabble. It has been a long journey for me to realise that it is ok to have weak moments and days where I hate having these issues as long as I don’t let it consume me. Bottling it up inside because ‘they’ say I can’t feel it or let it out doesn’t help either. I can have my days where I feel I haven’t managed, as long as I try again tomorrow. That is all anyone has any right to ask of me, and more importantly all I can realistically ask of myself.

think

 

Some of us will outwardly express how we’re feeling at any given time. Many of us keep it in and people don’t realise that every moment of every day, diabetes is right there, just there. It sits just in the corner of your vision and waits, sits, hovers. It can be a constant noise in your head for those that work to keep on top of it and no matter how much you work, the voices are still there. BloodTestInsulinHypoShakeAmIOkWhereIsTheNearestPhoneDontPanic. Diabetes doesn’t sleep so diabetics don’t really rest. We’re just so used to the noise that sometimes we can make ourselves think that we do. Diabetes doesn’t have days off.

about the grem

I’m a 20something year old history nerd that has a love-hate relationship with my endocrine system. If we were a facebook status, we’d be ‘it’s complicated’. I’m sure that a lot of it does work but unfortunately I’m aware of a lot of it just not. I’m a type one diabetic and have been for sixeen years. My control has gone up and down over the years. Sometimes it was my fault and other times my diabetes has just defied the ‘rules’ and stumped my diabetic team. It likes to keep people on their toes, okay? I suffer from chronic dawn phenomenon. My body thinks we’re running a marathon at 5am every morning and starts releasing glucose like whoa. Aint nobody got time for that! The doctors and I have tried every insulin, every test, every trick and every theory going and I have the sleep deprivation to prove it. Currently awaiting a new start on an insulin pump so I can get back to university and back on track!

My thyroid also decided to pack in a couple of years ago and does a half ass job of things, meaning I’m constantly tired and cold. It took them a while to catch on to this as my diabetes masked a lot of ‘symptoms’ I put down to my ups and downs. Between these two charming endocrine issues I’ve fallen to chronic fatigue syndrome too. At my worst I slept most of the day and spent the rest of it hoping I could go back to sleep soon. I could barely walk the length of myself but I’ve dragged myself back to being able to walk my dog twice a day.

It isn’t just the hormones in my body that like to play around though, my brain also likes to get in on the act. I have social and general anxiety disorders which like to reek havoc with my diabetic control and the dreaded depression. All of my endocrine gremlins play off each other, mask each other’s symptoms, and make it hard for my medical team to decide what to try and tackle first. I live in constant cycles of questions. Am I anxious because my blood is high or is my blood high because I am anxious and I really could use a sit down and a fresh cuppa, you know?

I decided to start this blog because I need somewhere to vent a little, maybe gain some support, but more so because I don’t think many people realise how complex a person’s endocrine system is and how one condition can so detrimentally influence another. If I can raise some awareness about these issues then that would be fabulous!

Despite all of this, I am painfully shy and anxious about all of this so for now, call me Grem :3