Saturday, November 26, 2011

Your Diabetic Feng Shui

Stop and smell the flowers...
Stop and smell the flowers...
She stood proudly, next to the small, Thanksgiving pie table, and announced to the world that "This is Liz. She's a diabetic, and every year, this is the ONE time she will allow herself a piece of pie." Great, thanks, lady. Thanks for outing me like that in front of everyone... I really needed a roomful of eyes peering down on me the moment I decide to have a second slice. 
My best friend's mother in law really means well. She does. She, herself, is diabetic, albeit she is a lot more liberal with her food intake than I am. I don't think she has a great understanding of what's going on in her body, or that perhaps how her body handles food shouldn't be, entirely, left up to the pills she takes... but at least she tests, and pays attention. At least, that's what I like to tell myself, anyway. She's in her late 70s, has a lot of very serious health problems, a big time smoker, and not at a place where she's open to making many changes. But the fact that she tests as often as she does is really quite great, considering how little information doctors give older folks with Diabetes, and how Medicare curtails test strips. I'm not sure how well she uses the information, though...  But she DOES test, and she DOES mean well. Maybe I can credit Wilford Brimley with that.

This whole mess is my fault, really.

When I was diagnosed, I was running HARD on tight control. Two years ago, I didn't really give myself much time to sit through and think on things. The stark images of the last few years of my father's life quickly came to the surface, along with fear, anger, and resentment. I believe it was that same week, and I got a phone call from my best friend's husband asking us to come over for pizza. Kind of embarrassed, I really didn't know quite what to say... except "I have diabetes." They had already planned out this expensive meal, all home made, in exchange for asking my husband to come over and look at their computer, and router. I really didn't want to make anyone feel bad, so I tried to muddle through the meal, tried to manage my numbers, failed miserably, and then explained to my friend that I couldn't have that many carbohydrates, to please try to help me with things like salads, etc., or other low carb alternatives to meals.  What's wrong with that, right?

Well, at face value, not much... BUT...

(and there's always a but, with Diabetes... It should be called Diabut, really... or Diabutt in some circles. heh Or just plain ol' PainInDiaButt...)

There can be LOTS wrong with it... If you are newly diagnosed.

For Starters, Diabetes Needs Grieving... 

A part of who we are, is really, GONE, and that needs to be acknowledged.

We may not know who or what we are, at that time, but we know that we will NEVER be the same again. We need some processing time to help dig ourselves out of the deep emotions we might be experiencing so that they don't end up marring the GOOD that's STILL in our lives, by being accidentally misinterpreted by others... We don't want, for example, to instill FEAR in others that they can no longer hang out with us, or have us over for dinner. We can be in control, really! Even if it doesn't seem like it at that time... :) My friends love me, but they are quite hesitant to have me over for dinner, and when they do, they bulk up on low carb everything... lol  (Thanks, by the way...) Lots of folks WILL ask stupid questions, too; it's the nature of the beast. We need to be able to go outside, without weeping uncontrollably... or murdering people.  Once we've had some time to settle down... we can try the experience again, from a place of self awareness.

Diabetes Needs Feng Shui...

Now, I don't really care for new age views very much... (nor about most things, really...) but the notion of Feng Shui is helpful for this exercise. Before you go to the library and start reading up on Eastern philosophy, let me explain a little bit... According to, Feng Shui is an ancient art and science developed over 3,000 years ago in China. It is a complex body of knowledge that reveals how to balance the energies of any given space to assure the health and good fortune for people inhabiting it.

Now... I don't need to be an old Chinese philosopher, to know that Diabetes IS an art and a science; that it is a complex body of knowledge that can reveal how to balance our body's energy (literally, glucose), and our health, and can give us 'good fortune,' for our bodies which we inhabit, IF we take care of ourselves well (most of the time). Each one of us, just like each dwelling, is different and needs to be 'balanced' accordingly. Each one of us needs to find ways to deal with the positive, and negative aspects of our lives... Each one of us needs to learn that in order to be healthy, we need to cheat, and in order to cheat Diabetes, we need to be healthy. That's our Diabetic Yin Yang. And just like it supposedly takes years and years to master Feng Shui, it can take years and years to master Diabetes.

What is Balance, Though? 

Here's the problem...
There are a MILLION experts on how you should live your first year of Diabetes, and how to get started, but there are NOT many on how to finish.   
Diabetes Needs Realistic Expectations

The balance of Diabetes is in pacing ourselves; in understanding that Diabetes is NOT a punishment, or a call to perfection. In fact, we are perfect in that we are IMPERFECT. We can't show others how to effectively live with this disease until we have a few knee scrapes to show for it.

It's not a NOT a sprint. We say that all the time, but it truly doesn't hit home for many until after a few years have passed trying to actively manage the disease.

If you keep running, and running hard, you'll find Diabetes is EXHAUSTING. For me, this "simple" diet and exercise thing to try to mimic a perfect pancreas might have seemed 'easy' at first, but it takes SO MUCH THOUGHT, and trickery... Yes, trickery. It's like I'm some kind of witch doctor; my mind is FRIED from all the overthinking of simple meals... and all the crappy supplements (and medications for other conditions) to keep things in gear.

You have your spaghetti, as usual... I have it after 12 hours of sitting in the fridge so it can develop resistant starch. You have your spaghetti, with bread sticks... I measure mine dry, before boiling, and only consume 1 serving, balanced with at least 3-4 servings of vegetables blended in.

We take care of ourselves more than ANYONE I know. Aside from athletes, I really don't know many people who are healthier than a diabetic. Constant monitoring, eating well, balancing carbohydrates, proteins and fats, constantly thinking about what we put in our bodies... new ways of making or preparing meals which will cut back on, or eliminate spikes. Constantly working hard toward intangible goals.

Let's be clear here. I believe YOU can do this. I believe WE ALL can do this.  It's hard, it takes work, and dedication, but we can do it... But when I say Diabetes needs to be realistic, I don't believe for a second that people don't have it in them to take good care of themselves. This is NOT about not trying hard enough. I don't believe ANY of us is lazy.

But if you have been living with Diabetes for less than a year, there are some things you need to know:

  • You are NOT Diabetes; 
  • You are NOT grounded, or in "time out," for your previous eating habits (whatever they were); 
  • Your NON diabetic friends are JUST as important as your diabetic friends;
  • You are NOT your A1C; 
  • You are NOT your glucose meter readings;
  • You are NOT perfect, BUT you are NOT out of control;
  • You are NOT your weight; 
  • You are NOT your diabetes management method; 
  • You  are CREATIVE, and you can MANAGE, without the need to deprive; 
  • You are HUMAN, and HUMANS live, and most importantly... 
  • NO ONE diets on Thanksgiving. 
Everyone who shops Black Friday knows that balancing a checkbook religiously does not mean you can't splurge on occasion, for a Big Screen TV. Neither that splurge will bankrupt you, nor that extra piece of pie at Thanksgiving is going to make your foot fall off, or make you gain 5 lbs overnight.

So, my advise to you... on your second, or third year... is to loosen up. You were in a scary, close call of a health situation, but you're in a place of control now.  It's now time to start finding your balance... the happy medium that doesn't cripple you emotionally, but doesn't cripple you physically, either... your Diabetic Feng Shui. Your Diabetic Yin Yang. Oh, and if someone comes and tries to guilt trip you for drinking diet soda, or for not making "fat free" pie, or stuffing... tell them to fuck off.  


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