Monday, June 28, 2010

Acupuncturist says relax!

I’m at the tail-end of an unplanned three-day health and wellness jaunt.

It all began on Saturday when I went for a first consultation with an acupuncturist. After giving her my health history, and she looked at my tongue and felt my pulse, she deduced me as being: Sensitive. In need of balance (seems typical for all diabetics) And a worrier. I’d say she’s right on all counts.

Here’s the clincher: She told me to relax more. I don’t know about you, but telling me to relax stresses me out!

So feeling a pressing need to relax, I was inspired to go to a stress reduction yoga class on Sunday at the Princeton Center for Yoga and Health. Gentle yoga poses with breathing and meditation.

Our instructor began the class with a story of how yoga permeated into his everyday life just the day before: “I went to Howell Living History Farm with my son,” He told us, “I was drinking a cup of tea with honey on my way there and thinking about how that cup of tea had to be just about the best cup of tea I’d ever had.

When we arrived at the farm, my son and I were walking on the path. I was in my sandals, and a bee stung my foot! I sat there for a moment, amazed, and realized that this is a real lesson in non-judgment.”

I didn’t quite get his statement at first. The experience sounded more like karma, or irony, to me.

He continued, “Everyone’s yoga experience is different. Practice with non-judgment. Keep your eyes shut, and experience your yoga from within.”

Again, I didn’t quite get it. I mean, I do get that I shouldn’t judge myself or others. I’ve meditated before, and learned the lessons of non-judgment before as well. But the bee, the honey, yoga, huh? How exactly is this reducing my stress? And how am I supposed to do yoga with my eyes shut???

We began by breathing in cross-legged stance, stretching arms up, to the side, and back. I was more focused on the pain I was feeling in my hip though. Twisting and turning. To the side. To the back. Breathing up and down. I had to stretch my legs. My hip was killing me.

I opened my eyes to see if the instructor noticed. His eyes were closed as he instructed us to raise our arms overhead and stretch. I couldn’t help but look at the people around me. So flexible. Able to twist and turn much deeper than me, bend down further, balance stronger.

And there it was. I judged. Myself and others. Good or bad. Anticipating others judging me as well.

I closed my eyes again. I am aware. Breathing. Twisting. Turning. Raising arms. Stretching. After about ten minutes, I realized that the pain in my left hip had dissolved away. I smiled from within as I noticed the change.

As we segued into standing poses and inversions, bending over with the blood rushing to my head, viewing the world from upside down, I let out a big internal epiphany: Oh, I get it! The bee!

Our instructor judged the tea as being the best he’d ever had. And then sure enough, something bad happened. He was stung by a bee. I had forgotten that judging things as good or even the best is, well, also a form of judgment. So the Universe showed him, miraculously enough through a bee, that nothing on this planet is either good or bad. Everything is just that. What it is. Nothing is permanent. Everything changes.

“Judgment is external. Forget the external world. Focus on your body within.”

The ego-driven, external world judges. Black or white. Right or wrong. But really few things in this world are black or white. Our true selves, our essence, where everything is truly perfect, comes from within us, and when we are attuned to it, life flows.

I left yoga feeling exhilarated, at peace, and yes, less stressed out. A bit of yoga and meditation goes a long way in relieving stress. But really, feeling inspired to live each moment without judgment helps me relax. With that state of mind, I’m not trying to prove anything, no comparisons, or striving toward perfection. Instead, I’m just learning to live life from my true self.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Trial and error: Me and my new Medtronic Revel insulin pump

It all started with a phone call one evening after a long day at work, a sales call actually, from a Medtronic representative. “You are eligible for an upgrade,” she said, “You’ve had your pump for over four years. Medtronic has come out with the new Revel, an upgrade from the Minimed.”

The second generation hath cometh.

Sigh. I was totally zoning out in front of the TV, and I kicked myself to pay attention. I was so not in the mood to speak with sales associates at that moment. I asked the necessary questions, and then told her that I wanted to look into it. I’d get back to her.

I remember the confusion when I first went on the pump in 2006. Which pump do I choose? Back then, I was debating between the Minimed Paradigm and the Animas, a waterproof model where you can store hundreds of carbohydrate food amounts and not have to research or remember how many carbs are in a carrot or a piece of chocolate cake.

And yet, I chose the Minimed Paradigm 522. They were on the cutting edge of technological advancements, had just come out with a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM), which monitors your blood sugar levels every five minutes and then communicates them with your pump.

The only integrated system on the diabetes market.

So I chose technology over what I deemed as convenience. And I always wondered...did I make the right choice? I went through the CGM training. But I never really got into it.

My confession: I don’t use the CGM. The needle is too big and painful for my taste. The CGM also sounds alarms every time sugars drop or rise above a certain range. That’s fine, actually that’s good, but I would often find that the numbers weren’t accurate after doing a manual glucose check. So I would be awakened at 3 am with a supposed 240 BG, when actually my BG was more like 86.

This drove me mad, bonkers, frustrated! I packed the CGM in a box, still sitting in my closet, always wondering if I should just suck it up and put the darned thing on.

Opportunity had arisen once again. I can make the switch. Freedom from CGM pressure! Maybe I can go in a pool with a pump! Now, there’s the OmniPod, the Animas Ping, and who knows what else? I know nothing about them!

And I still don’t!

Instead, I began by researching the Revel. I called Dr. W and asked for his opinion. He gave it a thumbs up. I read on-line reviews. Thank you, Amy of Diabetes Mine, who posted a review by Techie Type 1 blogger Scott Hanselman. I learned about new features such as better charting and alarms, showing active insulin more often to help eliminate insulin stacking, and the ability to bolus in .025 increments, an improvement over the Minimed’s .05 increments.

And I asked for a brochure, which the sales representative sent right over via e-mail. And there it was, on a PDF, that darned integrated system again: “The 3 Key Elements of Effective Diabetes Management”.

1) Insulin Delivery
2) Continuous Glucose Monitoring
3) Therapy Adjustment

Sigh. It sells me every time. The responsible thing to do. Be as effective as I can be to monitor and adjust, trial and error, living and learning. That’s what the Revel is all about. And quite frankly, that’s how I live my life.

Living and learning. Trial and error. Monitor and adjust. It’s called living a self-aware life – and then doing something about it – to make your life better.

I started my new Revel pump on Saturday after an hour and a half Medtronic webinar and audio teleconference training for experienced pump users. The words trial and error came up at least five times. Now I can capture events like exercise or eating pizza, download it to my computer, and then see how it affects my blood sugars and make adjustments accordingly.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that with life too? Capture the events in our lives, download them to our computer into graphs and charts, and see how we would do it differently next time, or keep it all the same because whatever we did actually worked? An integrated system for living a self-aware life? Catching our patterns on screen and then being able to adjust with a few clicks of a button?

Perhaps the Revel can teach all of us how to revel in life - by being aware of our patterns and using that information to take action? Because it's all a matter of trial and error.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Back from vacation, back to the grindstone

I’m back from an absolutely fantastic vacation. Lior and I went to New Orleans for five days. New Orleans is a great city. The people are friendly and easy going. And the city is filled with an incredible amount of creative energy – writers, artists, musicians – and chefs. Oh yes, lots of great food. Really fattening food. Alcohol. Temptations.

New Orleans is not the healthiest city to be a tourist with diabetes and celiac – an allergy to wheat, rye, and barley. I also don’t eat pork products and only eat certain kinds of shellfish. So needless to say, finding the right kind of foods was challenging for me.

Lior and I combed the French Quarter both on-line before the trip and while there via guidebook and on foot in search of meals that fit at least most of my requirements. And when we did, the food was positively delicious. But it wasn’t easy.

And my blood sugars suffered. I went as high as 300 on one occasion and had a terrible low of 44 in the airport on the way home. I cursed every fattening, starchy meal I ate while sitting on a bench at the Philadelphia airport in a groggy haze recovering from that hazardous low sugar. Thankfully, Lior was there to pick up the suitcase. I was a mess.

The blood sugar roller coaster ride is exhausting. Physically draining. Frustrating. And I felt guilty. I’ll be honest. Despite all of the fun we definitely had, food, diabetes, and celiac was a sore point of the vacation for me.

But of course, I try to live life finding the lesson in my diabetic experiences and then use that lesson so that I can thrive with diabetes. I use this blog as a forum for doing that.

To do that, I need to be honest. I need to back track a bit. I knew ahead of time that I would be steering off of my healthy eating course on this vacation. When we first decided to go to New Orleans, Lior and I researched restaurants trying to find a place with just the right balance of vegetables, healthy grains, and nutritious options. But what I found was an array of exciting restaurants to explore - with lots of unhealthy choices.

So I rationalized: I’m not in New Orleans every day. My whole life’s motto is to live life to the fullest and take advantage of every moment.

And so I decided that food would be part of the experience:

Wednesday night at GW Fins, I ate a very succulent tilefish with shrimp etouffee, mashed potatoes, and lobster butter sauce, and I had blackberry and mango sorbet for dessert. Lior and I both agreed that GW Fins was our second favorite meal of the whole trip. I drank a beautiful glass of Riesling later at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse while Lior drank who knows what. But lots of it.

Thursday night at Desire Oyster Bar, I ate blackened snapper with crabmeat on top of sautéed green beans, peppers, and capers, and a baked potato. The meal was good. I also tried a bite of oyster for the first time in my life. Delicious but a bit chewy for my taste. I did love the atmosphere though. The restaurant‘s windows opened out onto Bourbon Street, and the ceiling fans, lights, and tile floor reminded me of the oyster bar in Grand Central Station in New York (which is most likely a copy of the ones in New Orleans).

On Friday night we ate at Arnaud’s Jazz Bistro. The band played classic jazz while I dined on mushrooms Veronique, salad, chicken in béarnaise sauce, Brabant potatoes covered in hollandaise sauce, and I had caramel custard for dessert. The food was okay, not great. But the experience was worth it. We then returned to Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse and listened to Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown on his trumpet (or perhaps it was a trombone, can’t remember) while Lior drank five martinis. I drank juice. The guilt trip started that night.

And on Saturday night, we rode the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar to Brigtsen’s, a James Beard Award winning restaurant. As you can imagine, I ate the most delectable, unforgettable meal ever: Blackened tuna with smoked corn sauce, red bean salsa, & roasted red pepper sour cream, mashed potatoes, sautéed green beans, and the most incredible café au lait crème brulee for dessert.

I gained two or three pounds while I was away, had crazy blood sugars, and I think there may have been some gluten in one or two of those meals. I felt sick to my stomach from all of that crazy food that Sunday at the airport, and actually that entire day, and you know what?

It was worth it.

I know I’m supposed to write about eating healthy all the time, exercising, and taking good care of your health. But you know what? It’s true. It’s not a rationalization. I’m not in New Orleans every day. And I love delicious food. I tried my best to maintain a gluten-free diet. I tried to eat vegetables whenever I could. I walked every day, and even went to the hotel fitness center one day and did some yoga every other day while I was there. And I had a great time.

I did feel guilty when I got back home though. But you know what? That’s okay too! It means I care about my health, and was fully aware that I was breaking the rules.

The guilt has also pushed me to focus on healthy living again now that I’ve returned. I decided to start counting calories and intensify my work-outs some more. (I had gotten a bit lazy before going away on vacation.) I have already lost the two or three pounds I gained while in New Orleans. And am on my way to losing some more.

I have actually found that being a little bit sinful and letting loose once in a while has been a great motivator to push forward now that I’ve returned to the grindstone.

What’s the diabetic lesson I’ve learned? We all need a break sometimes. I know I did. And I am willing to turn those guilt trips into acceptance, have some fun, and then transform all of that energy I used on feeling guilty into pushing forward and making even better and healthier choices once the vacation is over.

Will I feel guilty on my next vacation? Probably, but maybe that’s a good thing after all?