Life in LADA land

Living Philippians 1:6 with type 1.5 diabetes

Knitting as my ‘cure’ for diabetes stress

We all need strategies for dealing with the stress that diabetes brings into our lives.  The highs and lows and sudden empty pumps and sites that malfunction and awkward questions that people ask and….well, you get the idea.  I have noticed recently that I am handling some of that stress better these days and I have been wondering why. Some of it has to do with a change in jobs and working fewer hours, so I have more energy left over to deal with the stress – because the level of stress from diabetes does NOT seem to let up. EVER.

In a conversation with a friend recently, I realized that knitting is one big way I cope with the daily ups and downs of living with T1D. I think that it is the ability to have control that makes knitting a great stress reliever. I can look at a pattern and know that (within certain limits) I can reproduce that object in a way that will bring me pleasure.  Knit, purl, yarn over, knit 2 together, these are regular, repeatable moves that result in the same thing every time.  That is not true for anything related to diabetes.  That kind of predictability is comforting and soothing.  Sure, I might have to rip out rows of knitting to fix a mistake, but even then, I know I will be happier having done so and I can always re-knit what I took out.  I can try any number of things to ‘fix’ a blood sugar ‘mistake’ and the results are far less  reliable.

So I knit. And knit some more.  I am soothed, I can relax and for a period of time, I can forget that diabetes is just lurking around the next corner, waiting to surprise me with some craziness.

How do you cope with diabetes-induced stress?

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It’s all in the numbers. Right?

I will admit it.  I am struggling.  I know that is probably not the best way to start a blog post after being absent from my blog for months, but it’s true.  I have been driven back to this place of honesty and acceptance to admit where I am and hopefully sort out how to move forward in this fog.

It’s all because of numbers.  Numbers drive diabetes.  A1C, current blood sugar, how many days have I worn this infusion site, this CGM sensor and how many days until I have to change them, how many carbs in this meal (over and over and over everyday)… get the picture.  But really only a couple of those numbers are persecuting me right now.  It’s the blood sugar number and the A1C.

At my last appointment with my doc, I got yelled at (it wasn’t really yelling – it was genuine concern for my well-being, but to me it felt like yelling) by 3 different people because my A1C was too LOW.  Yeah, you read that right.  And I totally understand why they are concerned – the low A1C is associated with too many low blood sugars and they are dangerous.  So, why if I know all of this did it still feel like they were yelling at me? Because that number is my judge. And I felt like the number was terrific. Yes, I agree with them that I am going low too often. But still, when they encouraged (no, that is too weak – they exhorted) me to allow my blood sugar to run higher in order to keep a safety margin, it felt like judgment and I was a failure.

And that relates to the second number that is causing me to struggle. I KNOW I need to let my blood sugars run higher to keep that safety margin, and that I will still likely have a very acceptable A1C next time around if I do.  But.  (That word should be removed from my vocabulary.)  I admit it. I don’t like seeing blood sugars in the 150s-180s. I would rather see 100-120.  The problem is, when I am running in that lower range, it only takes a trip through a grocery store, or some yard or housework to plunge me downward to the 60-70s.  Thus, I need a safety margin.  See? I know this in my head.  I KNOW this in my head.  So why can’t I just accept it and get on with it?

Because the numbers are my judge. And 160 is a guilty verdict.  You ate something you shouldn’t have.  You don’t have enough self-control.  You did it WRONG.

That’s my struggle.  I wish I had a neat answer for how I am going to get out of this.  I don’t.  Yet.  I know where my hope lies.  And it is NOT in me. I know that God is teaching me important lessons that I must learn. I know that He is wiser than I and that He loves me.  So I rest in that.  And struggle on. For now.


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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