Tuesday 27 January 2015

Control Freaky

This picture gives me the shivers. Not the butter compartment, well-known as the des res living accommodation of insulin, but the fact that this butter compartment is in a communal refrigerator of a public campsite inhabited by up to 100 people at any one time. 

I'm a self-confessed control freak about most things - no doubt a result of 28 years of having words like 'control', 'in-range' and 'compliant' (*shudders*) a part of my lexicon since diagnosis. But I'm especially control freaky about my diabetes. I feel safer that way. Anything I don't have control over with regards to my blood sugars, medications - even complications, unnerves me. 

In England, leaving your insulin at the whim of any would-be trouble-maker is a big no-no,  and I would rather leave my car open with a sat nav on display and a large sign saying 'take me', than leave my insulin out for the taking. 

That said, I am currently at the beginning of a eight-week trip around New Zealand, and while my Frio case is doing a good job at stopping my insulin from warming up, it doesn't feel as though it is keeping 'refrigerated' exactly. With its chemical stability comprised after 28 days, and my trip lasting 65, I am trying to keep mu insulin in as good a condition as possible and trying to keep it refrigerated. This means embracing the public fridge now and then, come what may. 

Let's hope New Zealand lives up to its name of being a safe place. And let's hope leaving my insulin on display is the turning over of a new relaxed leaf for me. 

Although there is a chance that the total control freak in me may also have 2 bottles stashed in my emergency, 'goes everywhere with me' travel bag, and one more cheeky bottle hidden in my handbag. I'm also insured up to the hilt and have an app which shows me all the nearest hospitals and doctor surgeries. You know, just in case. 

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Loans without interest

If Charlie has one cannula which lasts two days, a bottle of insulin which lasts 10 and a bottle of 50 test strips, how quickly will Charlie travel 15 miles on a train travelling at 60 miles per hour?

I finally understand the point of those seemingly inane classroom maths quizzes.

As we plan for the big trip, and the possibility of Armageddon, my brain turns to mush at the mind-melting mathematics I have to do in order to make sure I have all the equipment, insulin and general diabetes paraphernalia I am going to need to successfully navigate my way across the other side of the world for just two short months.  As I do so, it reminds me how vital each link in the diabetes armour I wear really is: without cannulas, the tubing is pointless; without tubing, the insulin is redundant; without the insulin, I can expect only to get to know the hospitals of New Zealand. If any one piece of this equipment fails, the rest is rendered obsolete.

But above all, none of the equipment has any use at all if my pump pops its little Animas-shaped clogs while down under.  Animas, like many pump companies, offer a loan pump service if you are going away for a while.  As I ticked the final boxes on my checklist of travelling to-dos, I called them up and ordered my loan pump.  I'd already ordered my pump insurance (mainly because loan pumps are covered on this ample policy), but on the off-chance that something should happen, I wanted to make sure I could just switch pumps and carry on enjoying the trip of a lifetime.

Once again Animas' customer service impressed me when they agreed to let me use a loan pump for two months, as opposed to the couple of weeks they normally offer one.  They did have to check this amount of time would be OK, and carried and a couple of checks to make sure their stocks were high enough to ensure other customers could also use a loan pump if needing to, but my spare pump, in New Zealand pink (other countries are available), arrived today, shiny and boxed up ready to go on a journey of its own.

It is worth remembering if you are going away to check that your pump company does offer this kind of service, and that an extended trip won't be a problem.  I'm also taking pens, insulin and needles with me just in case, but having this little safety-net on board while I'm away makes me feel even more safe while honeymooning in an unfamiliar land.  Thank you, Animas.

Monday 5 January 2015

Finding balance...

Sometimes life can move at 100 miles per hour.  At least, if I'm not keeping a close eye on things, I can easily let it.  With a fast-paced job and a love of the outdoors, I find myself moving, speaking and filling up my calendar at the speed of light.  And while those fun and frolics bring a certain aspect of joy to my life, the aftermath of repeated late nights, early mornings, lengthy days and not enough breaths in between, are hard to bury forever.

It's no secret to me that adrenaline and cortisol have their effects on my insulin resistance, and even the briefest bout of stress can have me notching up the basal levels on my pump 10%, 20% or 30% at a time in order to keep the diabetes beast under control.  And even though I can hide the effects of stress with a flexible approach to insulin for a while, the shallow breaths, bad skin and broken sleep give away what my body is trying to tell me, and it shouldn't need to scream before I listen. But finding balance can be a challenge.  Especially when the demands of life seem to be pulling me in more directions than I can navigate simultaneously.

Earlier this year a friend of my family reached out to me and told me about her work as a Craniosacral Therapist (CST).  My mother, who goes as often as she can, had told me about her 'wonderful sessions' with Louise, and the contented smile on her face and air of peace about her after she returned from therapy intrigued me more.  I'd already started exploring the idea of meditation, and had long known that when I get stressed one of the best (and quickest) ways to get things back on track was to strip back my diet and eat simplified basic meals.  The idea that I could find a new way to find some balance, had me taking Louise up on the offer of trying a few sessions, to see what effects it might have on my blood sugars and general well-being.

CST is designed to address a range of issues from emotional to physical, by creating a space within which to recognise the body's manifestations of what is wrong, and allow it the time, and peace, to heal.  It grew from osteopathy, but was developed by a practitioner who found that he gained the best results from his patients not by manipulating joints with force, but by using very light touch to relax his patients.  While relaxed, the therapist and patient can then work together to identify where in the body they feel pain or discomfort, and focus on addressing that using those light touches and guided sessions.

My sessions with Louise started with a conversation about my experiences of illness, pain, injuries and even birth! Because CST aims to address the person as a whole, not just the symptoms you show up with.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, diabetes played a significant role in this conversation, because the condition itself can leave lasting effects on the body, and the emotional demands of managing a long term chronic condition can leave me twisted up with the worry and weight of the constant grind.

Once Louise had an idea of the kinds of stressors that were, and are, in my life, we moved into the session.  Lying face-up on a table similar to massage table, the first part of the session was about 'settling down'.  This involves taking deep breaths while lying in a comfortable, peaceful room, and focussing on where in my body I felt good, and where I felt bad.  What became immediately noticeable to me during my first session was that my feet found it almost impossible to rest.  Constant twitching, fiddling and intense awareness of the light touches Louise was making, or bothered by the touch of the blanket on them.  It became clear to us both that my busy head was mirrored by my busy feet.  Over the next few weeks we concentrated on mastering the settling techniques, and focussed on relaxing my feet and legs.  By session 5, my legs had the most incredible sensation of relaxed 'heaviness' during the session, and that feeling of busyness and urgency had faded away.  

We worked on several symptoms over the next few weeks, from a tight chest to headaches and emotional stress, and each time I learned more about how to listen to what was going on in my body, and how to focus on allowing the space to breathe and focus on well-being.  But most of all, I found out how to stop...and take a breath... in a way which had escaped me until I tried Craniosacral Therapy.

Craniosacral therapy is now part of the way I do diabetes.  Sessions cost from £40 so aren't something I can afford every month.  But when life gets a little busy and I forget to take a breath, it's a tool I use to bring me back to the beginning; a great place to start from again. In the same way that stripping back my diet helps me find due North diabetically, CST helps me set my emotional and physical compass back in the right direction.  I've also since used the techniques from the sessions in calming me down on a turbulent flight, and on stressful days in the office when I'm feeling overwhelmed by the every-which-way instructions directions and demands of worklife around me.

In some cases Craniosacral Therapy can be prescribed on the NHS and while they won't recommend a specific therapist, they will recommend CST as a therapy for people dealing with emotional, psychological and physical complaints.  It is ideal during pregnancy and even with babies, or people struggling with fertility.  Out of interest it is since my sessions with Louise that I have fallen into a regular monthly routine - somthing I had never done in my life as an adult female. 

You can find more info here, for anyone who wants to explore the idea of a holistic approach to finding balance, and I could not recommend Louise highly enough.