Life in LADA land

Living Philippians 1:6 with type 1.5 diabetes

My sanity saving hobby

The morning-after socks

The morning-after socks

I have been knitting a lot lately.  Socks and scarves,  and tonight, I’m starting a class at my favorite knitting shop to make a sweater.  It has made me wonder why it is that I am finding so much satisfaction in this lovely hobby.  Sure, there’s the joy of taking a beautiful, soft ball of yarn and turning it into something you can actually wear. Socks are particularly satisfying in this way.  Someone once commented on a pair of socks that I was wearing for the first time that “they look just like regular socks!”. Well, yeah. That’s the idea.  They really aren’t that hard once you get the cast on stitches joined up without twisting them. After that, it’s smooth sailing!

Anyway, my recent near-obsession with knitting has me wondering. “Why knitting?”.  Why not sewing, or quilting, or stamp collecting (and I have tried 2 of the 3 of these – I’ll leave you to guess which ones).  Maybe all of these hobbies would serve the purpose.  But maybe not.  Knitting is repetitive. Very repetitive.  And predictable.  If you follow directions, measure carefully and use the right materials and tools, you can turn out a predictable product.  I have made several pairs of socks recently, and I have found the right combination of needle size, stitch numbers, increases, decreases, and toe shaping that will make a sock that is perfect for my foot.  I have found the same to be true of sweaters.  Take the time to knit a gauge swatch, test out different size needles until you get it right, be honest about the size pattern to follow and lo and behold: out comes a sweater I can wear!

And that’s why knitting is so consoling:  Knitting is predictable and controllable.  Diabetes is NEITHER of those things. I have great tools for managing diabetes  – a pump, a CGM, as many test strips as I need, glucose tablets when I need a quick rescue, and health coverage to pay for it all (at least for now).  I’m reasonably intelligent and even have an advanced degree in Human Nutrition.  With knitting, my knit and purl stitches always turn out the same.  With diabetes, I can do the same thing two days in a row – or two HOURS in row, and nothing will turn out the same, even with all the great tools and information I have.  That unpredictability is probably the most frustrating thing about diabetes.  Yeah, sure, lows are a pain and highs make you feel really awful, but if diabetes behaved as predictably as a knitting pattern, I would never have to suffer through them!

So knitting is my defense against the continuously changing battle with blood sugar.  Even as I write, my BG is soaring upward for no apparent reason. (I have to break off here for a while…I’ll finish later.)

Later:  My BG continued to soar upwards until I finally checked my CGM during my knitting class. It read somewhere in the upper 200s, so I tested.  329. WHAT?  I dosed with insulin, texted my CDE/friend/confidant and got good and calm advice (which was most welcome since I wanted to throw some diabetes equipment against a wall about then) about what to do to deal with this very sticky high (I”d been high now for about 5 hours…).  I continued on with my class after a brief break to deal with this mess.  It made me realize that yet again, knitting saved me from becoming totally obsessed with the high, and gave me a little bit more patience in waiting for it to come down by distracting me with something I enjoyed a lot more than dealing with my blood sugar. It stayed high for a few more hours until it finally starting coming down a little before 10:00pm. At least I could go to bed knowing the worst was over.

But, of course that is NOT the way it turned out. I was up pretty much every hour and a half all night dealing with – you guessed it – very LOW blood sugars.  I won’t go into details, but you can imagine that my morning was none  too cheerful.  The only saving grace was that I put on a pair of socks that I just finished knitting, and it feels very special. I know, totally weird. But knitting is a way I can be in control and produce something useful and pretty.  I am thankful to know that diabetes does not have to interfere with every part of my life, whether it is work, play or hobbies.  Sometimes it feels like diabetes beats me down.  Knitting is one way I can work my way up out of the doldrums. So bring on the yarn!

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Not-so-sweet cravings

For the past week or so I have had the worst cravings for sweets that I can remember.  And don’t tell my doc or CDE, but I have indulged WAY too many of those cravings.  My insulin use is way up.  I tell myself it’s because I’ve been sick, and that the cravings will go away. I’m not sure I believe it, but it makes me feel a little less guilty.

But it has made me realize how easy it is to get caught up in a vicious cycle of behavior/guilt/excuses/despair when you are diabetic.  Food becomes part of my treatment plan rather than something I can just enjoy without thinking.  I’m not really ok with that.  I realize that overall, I am eating in a healthier way than before I had this scourge called diabetes, but nonetheless, it’s a pain.  I guess this is a fresh wound since during the Christmas holiday season, there has been SO much good stuff to eat that I perceive as ‘forbidden fruit’, or others perceive it that way for me.  Theoretically, I can eat anything as long as I dose for it and account for it as part of my whole day’s food intake.  But darn it, I just want to eat stuff without having to dose for it, or calculate how many carbs are in it, or whether or not I have had too much junk that day.  To put it simply, I miss just being able to eat without all the preparation diabetes requires.  And that sense of injustice makes it easier to give in to the cravings, since I can rationalize to myself that in some weird way, I deserve it.

When I do indulge, as I have this week, I see the high blood glucose levels and berate myself for giving in. I know the roller coaster blood sugars are not good for me, physically or emotionally.  That’s when the guilt sets in, and I end up beating myself up for being so weak.  Unfortunately, this cycle isn’t very productive, and I don’t come out of it with some new resolve to eat only those foods that don’t cause my BG to spike.

Having gotten this off my chest makes me feel a little bit better.  The craving is still there for the cookies that I know are lying in wait for me in the kitchen.  Even the knowledge that I will pay for indulging the craving with ridiculously high blood glucose levels for hours doesn’t take the edge off of the craving.  It take discipline, which is in short supply right now.  I’m hoping desperately it’s because I’m fighting this cough that I cannot curb the cravings.  Perhaps my body can’t fight two battles at once.  This gives me hope, because the cough can’t last forever, right?

But deep down I know there’s more to it.  Giving in to cravings is about putting myself first.  That’s not how I want to live.  I’m NOT the center of the universe. I do not live simply to indulge my own pleasure. That’s the bigger picture I need to keep in mind as I battle the cravings that I know are not good for me.  God is the center of the universe and it is His pleasure and glory I seek.  The good news is that He is also the source of the discipline I need.  Not an instant fix. But I know that life in Him is far more satisfying than even that M&M cookie on the shelf. That’s the first step in conquering the cravings and putting aside the guilt. One step at a time.

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