Just last week I shared with a friend, with deep genuineness – “My diabetes is really running on autopilot. It’s not an issue that causes me any distress any more. I’m really at peace with it all!”
Ha! Did I tempt fate with that comment?!
Our health can and does change on a dime. Any of you with chronic illness, especially autoimmune conditions, understand how tenuously we walk alongside our conditions. Truly, after 25+ years, my Type 1 diabetes does not keep me awake at night with either worry or hypoglycemia, thanks to experience, perspective and amazing technological advancements I’m fortunate enough to use.
Long story short, I had trouble with this life-saving technology this week, on top of trouble with several other chronic issues I had thought were well under control. They weren’t this week. I had digestion issues, joint and tendon issues, energy issues. This was a week when all my issues had issues. Ever have one of those? Why did my diabetes technology have to choose this week to add insult to my issues?!
November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Every moment requires diabetes awareness for those of us living with it, but this month, some of the national attention (as split as it is with elections, Thanksgiving, and all the world issues that predominate) rests, even if for a moment!, on this condition that now affects 1 in 10 adults worldwide. Ten percent of our world! New figures from the 10th Edition of the IDF Diabetes Atlas reveal that 537 million adults around the world are living with diabetes. That’s a lot of people with blood sugar issues. And only half of that 537 million even know they have an issue. THAT is an issue in itself, which many dedicated professionals worldwide work tirelessly to change.
I’m extremely proud of how Healthy Connections supports our clients in the area of metabolic and blood sugar health and diabetes prevention. We advocate for early detection by testing Hemoglobin A1c (average of blood sugar levels over 3 months) and in high risk patients, testing fasting insulin levels (the earliest way to know if someone might be experiencing insulin resistance). Since my work at The Whittier Institute for Diabetes in the early 2000s, right after the Diabetes Prevention Program data was released, one of my passions has been education FOR prevention. Continuous glucose sensors like the Abbott Freestyle Libre make the personalization of nutrition and lifestyle guidance much clearer!
We understand that insulin – while absolutely necessary for survival – can be a very bad actor in high doses. High insulin levels (and elevated glucose levels) contribute to hypertension, high cholesterol, difficulty losing weight, and even to Alzheimer’s disease. If people can understand how insulin resistance can be reduced/reversed through nutrition and movement, this empowering information can literally save lives.
Like most things we do at Healthy Connections, we try to take as personalized an approach as possible to help our clients manage their blood sugars in a way that best suits their lifestyle and abilities here and now. Several weeks ago, a very intelligent client living with pre-diabetes (for the past 8 years…holding plenty of self judgment) told me our approach finally helped her understand why her other providers were telling her to “eat less and move more” for years. Love those lightbulb moments!!
As I write this on Sunday night, I’m relieved to note that most of my “issues” have calmed down a bit. “This Too.” I try to maintain equanimity (hard when I’m in pain) and practice all the Mindfulness techniques I know (hard when I’m grumpy and angry and in pain). I fail often. I begin again. Functional Medicine has taught me that my current state of health results from the interactions between my genes and my environment. Environment includes: food, stress, toxins, exercise, sleep, people, even my thoughts. What was too much and what was not enough that led to my AI flare, the GI dysfunction, etc? I’m still sorting it out, but just having those two Qs to ask has been so helpful. Of course, many factors contributed! Which means – many options to shift, many opportunities to exert positive environmental influence to support my sweet, aching, aging body that does SO MUCH good for me each micro-moment of each day.
This week, I’ll return to work with a renewed commitment to this work and to you all. And to my self-care, which has taken a back seat lately. Balancing care for others and self care seems harder than ever, yet more important than ever. I recognize and am humbled by my good fortune to have world class support, education, and access to care. This work at Healthy Connections is more than a job. We are building Community thanks to you all – A Community that recognizes that Health (just like Life) is complicated, personal, and ever changing. A Community that honors individual preferences while believing in worldwide interconnections and responsibilities towards each other. A Community that values curiosity and compassion, patience and persistence, humor and humility. A Community that knows our connections with ourselves, our loved ones, each other, and our beautiful Mother Earth ALL MATTER and all affect our health – mental, physical, emotional, spiritual.
When our issues have issues, it’s an invitation to turn towards ourselves. Be still . Ask those two questions. Make small, doable changes. Allow people to help us. Sleep. Sip tea. Slow it down. Say No to doing, Yes to being. Remember: Your body is you. It is not an enemy. It operates in all its complexities and mysteries following scientific principles. My immune system was cranked up. I was inflamed. Don’t fan the flames of your issues with more anger or denial or sugar or alcohol. Practice self love. It is indeed a practice. Your body says a quiet but powerful THANK YOU.
May this season ahead hold a healthy balance of “too much/not enough” and may you and your body savor moments of ease, peace, and love,
Heather Nielsen, LPC
Director of Clinic Health and Happiness