A Transformational Approach to Type 1 Diabetes

I believe that we are here, on this planet, as human beings, to transform ourselves.  Transform means to change in form, appearance, structure, character.  I think this thing called life is set up like a game.  I don’t mean to trivialize it by comparing it to a a game but, nevertheless, I see it as a game.  Every game has an objective.  Every game has rules.  There are strategies involved.  Having continual increasing knowledge about the game helps.  There are skills involved and many who participate in games practice to hone their skills.  There is a way to measure outcomes; to keep score.  I think that the objective in the game of life is to transform.  To change.  Specifically, I believe that, in all areas of life, it is a transformation from a desire to receive for the self alone to the the desire to receive for the sake of sharing with others.  This is a Kabbalistic (From Kabbalah) concept.  But there is a problem.  In order to be here, to experience and engage in life we must have certain needs fulfilled in certain time periods.  A lot of these needs are, most of the time, fulfilled automatically without us even being conscious of it.  When one of these needs fails to be fulfilled then we become conscious of it and it becomes a desire, often times a burning desire.  Most of these needs are physical in nature.  There are a lot that are not depending on the awareness level of the individual.  A few examples perhaps:  We need to breathe, often.  Our bodies are set up in a way that allows oxygen in either through the nose or the mouth.  We have a throat that acts as a tunnel for oxygen to travel to the lungs.  The lungs do their thing and oxygen is transferred into the blood cells and is carried through the veins and vessels to each individual cell and they stay alive and carry on with what they do.  In the absence of oxygen, a blockage in the nose, mouth, throat, a problem with the lungs or a disruption or block in the veins and vessels then this system that fulfills a critical need ceases to work and we quickly become conscious of it, if in fact we are able to stay conscious. Suddenly, this unconscious fulfilled need becomes a burning desire and we will not be very interested in transforming ourselves into a sharing being.  No, we will be pretty focused on getting air and will probably kill another if that would help at all to provide us with even a slight chance of fulfilling our desire to breathe.

Well, this whole Type 1 Diabetes thing can been seen in the same way.  Allow me to elaborate.  If you are a Type 1 Diabetic then one day in the past you learned that you “got” it.  Not a good day.  Not a day easily forgotten and not one that most of us like to revisit.  It was the day that you became conscious that a very critical need stopped being fulfilled; a need that parallels the importance of breathing, albeit with a 3 to 4 month time period prior to fatal malfunction as opposed to a 3 to perhaps, 10 minute time period to solve the breathing thing.  The process involved in Type 1 diabetes is very similar to the process of breathing.  Instead of oxygen being sent to the cells it is glucose. And instead of the lungs being the organ involved it is the pancreas.  Both glucose and oxygen are sent via the blood cells to all of the other cells.  Instead of breathing it involves eating.  And just like if you could not get oxygen to the cells the body will die so it is with not getting nourishment ( in the form of glucose ) to the cells.   An analysis of the situation yields four things to contemplate, in my opinion as someone who was diagnosed 31 years ago.  First, an understanding in the breakdown of the process that resulted in having to address this need.  Second, what is it that needs to get done in order to get the glucose to the cells in the most effective way.  Third, what is the desire that is associated with this situation.  And finally, for extra credit, how do I transform this desire from a desire to receive for the self alone to a desire to receive for the sake sharing with others? Continue reading A Transformational Approach to Type 1 Diabetes

Are You a Victim of Type 1 Diabetes?

About 20 years ago I went through a personal development course called Lifestream.  It was very profound at the time and provided me with a lot of tools.  The other day while going through some papers I stumbled upon this “poem.”.  It got me thinking about how I have dealt with my diabetes and my life.  Be compassionate to yourself as you read it and as you review your past, and perhaps current, approach.  There is great wisdom in the words.

The Difference Between Leaders and Victims

Leaders make mistakes and say, “I made a mistake,” and make up for it.  Victims make mistakes and say, “I’m sorry,” and do the same thing the next time.

Leaders say “I’m good, but not as good as I can be, yet.”

Victims say “I’m not as bad as a lot of other people.”

Leaders affect others.

Victims are affected by others.

Leaders would rather be admired than liked, and wind up having an abundance of both.

Victims would rather be liked than admired, and wind up having little of either.

Leaders respect others and try to learn something from them.

Victims resent others and try to find their faults.

Leaders stand for something and are willing to to fight for it if necessary.

Victims stand for nothing and either fight about everything, or nothing.

“There are essentially two categories of people in the world…leaders and victims.  Leaders are those whose purpose seems to be to inspire and motivate victims until they become leaders.  Victims are those whose purpose seems to be to criticize and resist leaders until they become victims.”

Ross Quinn

A diagnosis of diabetes can easily lead one to the path of being a victim.  Make no mistake, there is great pain, self pity, depression, resentment, anger, fear that comes with being diagnosed with a chronic illness that you did not ask for and did nothing to get.  So, if you fall in the category of being a victim do not be too hard on yourself.  Instead, be grateful to the people around you who have inspired you and who have helped to motivate you to at least be a survivor.  Life is not black and white.  Yes, you either fall in the category of victim or leader but because you are here you have the makings of a leader.  The universe would not have given you a chance if you didn’t.  So, don’t give up.  Keep searching for the ladder that leads you out of victimhood and you will begin to get a glimpse of the light of leadership.  I am still climbing…………One step at a time.  And to you leaders out there.  Thank you and forgive us victims for our parasitic nature.   We are in debt to you.

Type 1 Diabetics….You can live a normal life…….Rrrigggghhhhttt…

I was diagnosed over 31 years ago.  I was 14.  The message that the doctors and nurses gave me was that you can live a normal life.  All you have to do is take your insulin, eat good and test.  At the time I got it there were no blood sugar monitors.  No, I peed on a strip to see how much sugar I was “spilling.”  I wanted to believe the doctors and nurses.  My family and the people around me who cared for me wanted to believe them to.  The diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes is a shock to the system. It is a massive body blow that knocks the wind right out of you.  Nobody wants it.  Everyone wants to minimize its impact.  So, when there is a message that you can be normal you want to believe it.  Sorry.  I am here to tell you that you cannot live a normal life.  Not possible.  Not going to happen.  If you try you will be denying yourself the taste of truth.  And without the taste of truth life is bitter.  So get it out of your mind that you can live a normal life.  Normal is out.  However, you can live an excellent life.  You can live a happy life.  You can live a productive life.  You can live a meaningful life.  Give up the desire to be normal.  This has been a lifelong lesson for me.  You see I got the freakin disease when I was 14.  I was captain of my soccer team and hockey team and an A student.  I was popular at school and I had a lot going for me.  The one thing I wanted to be was normal.  I was the standard for normal.  Anything not normal to a 14 year old is abnormal or weird.  Normal is out.  Thank God….

The Insulin Pump

If you have been reading these blogs you know that I have had Type 1 Diabetes for over 31 years now.  I was diagnosed at age 14 and am about to turn 46.  I have only been on the insulin pump for 2 years.  Prior to going on the pump I struggled to attain A1C results below 8.  Now my A1C’s are between 6.1 and 6.4.   And I don’t have very many low blood sugars.  I was surprised to find out recently that not all people with the pump are getting A1C’s below 7.    I was also surprised to learn that 90% of Type 1’s are not on the pump.  I really should not be surprised.  I mean it took me 29 years to get there.  Nobody wants to be hooked to a pump.  Especially if it is not going to make a significant difference in one’s life.  I am here to tell you that from extensive experience with the disease and a really hard look at some of the significant issues that lead to balancing blood sugars that no other insulin delivery system comes close to the pump.  I want to outline these issues with the goal of persuading you to consider the insulin pump for your insulin delivery system.  The closest alternative to the pump is injecting one dose of Lantus combined with several injections of a short acting insulin (humalog or novolog) to cover meals and make insulin corrections.  Lantus is used as the basal and the short acting insulin is considered the boluses.  There are other insulins like Humulin N but these are dark age therapies.  The Lantus approach is called the “Poor Man’s” pump because it seeks to simulate the pump through multiple injections.  But it is so inferior to the pump that there is almost no comparison.  The thing is that the pump itself is not the answer.  Insulin dosage and delivery is but one aspect of controlling blood sugars.  I am sure that there are plenty of people on “The Poor Man’s” pump that are doing better than people on the pump because they have a better handle of the other aspects.  These other things are food intake, exercise, general health (especially one’s weight) and most important perhaps, one’s attitude toward the disease.  The last two years I have experienced a transformation that I have been seeking since diagnosis.  I struggled with understanding how to control my blood sugars.  I became depressed and reached times of wanting to give up believing that I had a limited impact on my success.  This created feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.  Looking back I see that I really never did give up and through the blessings of good fortune and support from others I have made it to today.  And today I am thriving.  I am in the best health of my life and I feel better than ever.  The insulin pump was the tool I needed to get over the hump.

I would like to put forward one perspective of many I have been contemplating.  All of my working career I have been involved in systems and procedure assessment and development along with the corresponding Training protocols to support the system utilized.  I am using my work experience and applying it to Diabetes management.  As a trainer I have learned a few things.  First, you can train 3 things;  you can impart knowledge, you can develop skills and you can enhance attitude or the optimal thought context approach to be applied to the task(s) at hand.  Second, it is critical to have a clear understanding of the primary objective of the system.  And third, we learn most effectively via metaphor or analogy.  The knowledge and skills that must be internalized and mastered to have success in the management of the disease are not overbearing but seem to be illusive without the proper thought context.  And the optimal thought context is only achievable with courage, discipline and a desire to excel.  Difficult characteristics to foster when one is knocked hard across the head with a diagnosis as serious as Type 1 Diabetes.  It took me 29 years to get there so I know.

The primary objective with Type 1 diabetes is a desired range of blood sugar readings.  My range is 80 to 120.  Of course, I am not there all the time but that is where I want to be.  If I am not in that range I take action to get back in there.  There are several metaphors and analogies I am working on.  To conclude this posting I would like to share one of them with you and show you why the insulin pump is superior.Think of yourself as an Automobile.  There are several types of Automobiles.  There are big ones and small ones.  There are fast ones and not so fast ones.  There are fuel efficient ones and there are gas guzzlers.  There are new ones and there are old ones.  Your body is the Automobile.  If you have Type 1 Diabetes there has been a malfunction.  Sorry, but that is the truth.  Specifically, the malfunction has occurred  with the accelerator.  The cells in the body responsible for the production of insulin have been destroyed.  The immune system has decided that they are foreign invaders and has attacked and killed them.  This malfunction is a fatal flaw.  Without insulin the body will die.  Without the accelerator the automobile is immobile.  It can’t get the fuel to the engine.  Insulin is the accelerator.  The food we eat is the fuel.  Your general health will determine whether or not you are a sports car or a beat up old Chevy truck.

So how do we use this analogy to understand and better handle our diabetes?  First and foremost, get yourself in the best shape you can.  Get to a weight that is ideal for you.  Exercise vigorously.  Drink water.  Take vitamins and supplements.  Get your lab tests every three months.  Second, use premium fuel.  Eat well.  If you drive a sports car you have to put premium gas into it.  It won’t run properly without it.  Third, fix the accelerator as best you can and learn how to use it.  This is where the pump comes in.  Remember, Insulin delivery is the accelerator.  The pump allows you to create an accelerator that is dynamic and state of the art.  You can adjust it any second of the day as opposed to “The Poor Man’s Pump” where you can press on it once with the Lantus injection and perhaps up to 8 more times with short acting insulin.  Last thought in this posting………….When you are driving you are constantly looking at the speedometer to check and make sure you are pressing the accelerator properly.  Check your blood sugar at least 8-10 times per day.  Your blood sugar readings are your speedometer.  You want to stay in a specific, predetermined range.  You are driving blind if you don’t check.

Type 1 Diabetes: A Spiritual Perspective

I am not going to get into an esoteric discussion of religion or spirituality here.  No, that seems to have been going on since the invention of humanity itself.  There is this camp and that camp and there is a growing movement that believes it is all poppy cock.  I am not part of that movement but I am watching it with curiosity and amusement.  What I am going to do is provide you with a sliver of perspective regarding type 1 diabetes.

I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 14 in 1976.  I had not been brought up with any real model of how the world works except that it revolved around me and my immediate family.  I soon came to realize that this model was not very workable and started to explore other possible ways of understanding “how it works.”  In college I studied the great philosophers and the great religions and have continued to study, explore and experiment throughout my life.  I have never been able to buy into any particular way of looking at our existence (like a religion or a cult) and have managed to stay in a low grade fever of existential crisis pretty much all of my life.  The acquisition of Type 1 Diabetes was a shock and it focused my attention on my mortality perhaps quicker than most get to think about it.  However, all of my study and exploration has not been for not.  I have come to a foundational understanding of the human condition that I believe is true and accurate and is supported by the latest science and popular ways of thinking that are expressed in books like “The Secret” and the movie “What the Bleep do we Know.”  I believe that the foundation of spirituality is found in the interplay between Fulfillment and Desire.  Two apparent polar opposites.  Our world is full of polar opposites.  And Fulfillment vs. Desire is the Grand Daddy of them all.   Continue reading Type 1 Diabetes: A Spiritual Perspective