PART I — THE NEWS
So it turns out I’m now officially diabetic. It’s been a long time coming — I’ve been hovering at almost diabetic for over 7 years. Lately, though — since this latest 2-month long round of serious TMJ issues with my jaw, I’ve been living on soft things and liquids and things I could put in the blender. Lots of juice, smoothies, rice, pasta, mashed potatoes/sweet potatoes, sodas, milk, cottage cheese, pudding, scrambled eggs, milkshakes, custard, overcooked veggies, and soup…. All my meal choices were determined by how much it hurt to eat.
My jaw still isn’t completely healed, but it is better. As long as I don’t try to chew hard stuff.
The result, though, is that my blood tests showed a final rollover into diabetes.
Because our old doctor retired, I found a new doctor — and she assumed I’d been diagnosed as diabetic before — even though it wasn’t anywhere in my medical records — so she just started talking like I knew what she was talking about. When she backed up and started explaining to my newbie-ness, it all made sense. I’d been having some tell-tale signs for most of the summer — extreme thirst, and frequent trips to the bathroom being the most obvious.
PART II — THE CLICK
But here’s the really wonderful part: In the 10 minutes it took her to do her “Intro to Blood Sugar” talk, my brain did something that is best described as – “clicking onto a different channel.”
It was fast — and once it happened, everything was different inside my head. There was no question about how much sugar because sugar was just off the list. There was no question about anything. The list of rules and favorites and habits just flipped into a new list.
I went home and bought the Mayo Clinic’s book on diabetes and read it. I got the latest edition of the American Diabetes Assoc. Comfort Food Cookbook and I read it to see what they were doing. I’ve got the basics. More tweaking will help — but even though this is NOT a “no brainer,” it’s pretty straight forward. The goal is to keep my blood glucose / sugar at as close to an even level as possible throughout the day by eating a really varied diet that balances protein, carbs and fats. Avoid spikes Avoid eating too much at any given time because it will overload the whole system. Avoid going too long without eating.
I started keeping track of what I was eating and when with the app “My Fitness Pal” — which shows me a constant breakdown of what I’m eating — sugars, fiber, carbs, protein, sodium, cholesterol, calories, calcium etc. I can also log in exercise and how much water I’m drinking. It gives me a report at the end of the day — or averages what I’ve been eating over any number of days — plus a pie chart of macro-nutrients — % of calories from protein/fat/carbs.
Apps are a good thing. It takes most of the math out of this. It will even let me enter my own recipes and calculate the nutrition on those — and let me tweak any recipe to make them more balanced.
And so the new channel in place — and hasn’t budged an inch –with no exceptions or slip-ups. I have an appointment with a diabetic dietician/nutritionist and I’m sure I’ll get more details —
I know — you say a week or two is easy — wait until you’ve been doing this for a 6 months and tell the truth about it.
But here’s the thing…
PART IV — THE PROOF
Almost 10 years ago, I had a killer migraine that lasted almost 3 weeks. I’d had migraines all my adult life — usually 5-6 days out of every week. I was taking the most common drugs for them and while it helped a little — it was still a constant thing. And this 3-week trip to hell was so bad that I was having thoughts about just getting out for good. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t sleep. I threw up most everything I tried to eat. I hurt at a 9 out of 10 all day and all night. My doctor finally gave me enough opiates to knock me out and “reset” everything.
I had about a weeks worth of hangover to get back up to human, and so I was home watching TV, just in time to see a doctor from Johns Hopkins plugging his new book: Heal Your Headache. Sounds like a snake oil title, doesn’t it? Except he was a headache expert from Johns Hopkins — and he was saying things I’d never heard about migraines and headaches. So — in my “I’ll try anything to keep this from happening again” – mode, I bought his book. I did EVERYTHING he said to do. EVERY last detail. And it was hard.
I mean, it was REALLY hard.
But after 6 months — I was down to fewer than 2 days a week of headache on average — and the headaches were much less severe.
The book’s last step was to see a neurologist/headache specialist if there were still a few headaches — which I did — and sure enough, those guys have some pharmaceutical tricks up their sleeves! He gave me 3 prescriptions to use for the hangers-on-headaches, depending on whether they were environmentally caused, hormone based, or stress induced.
And — for 10+ years — headaches are a “maybe 1 per month” problem. And I’ve never had another of those killer headaches. I read every food label. I talk to restaurants about what’s on their menu. I adjusted recipes.
Yes, it meant giving up any foods that contained the ingredients that were poisonous to me. Out of the book’s list of over 100 potentially migraine-causing foods/additives, my personal list was only about 2 dozen. And I just don’t eat ANYTHING on that list.
Ever. No matter how much I used to love it — no matter how convenient — and no matter how good it tastes.
IT’S NOT WORTH THE PAIN and it’s certainly not worth dying over.
The take-away here is — switching channels isn’t easy, but I’ve done it before.
I’ve got proof.
I am amazed by how this all works — but the click in my head at the doctor’s office was the same click I had with the migraines. It’s a new channel. Everything is viewed through a different lens. Everything switched over. POP!
PART V — THE DREAM
On the third night after I found out about the diabetes, and after I’d already read the Mayo Clinic book, I had a dream. It was one of those serial dreams that is actually little episodic variations on a theme, with players and settings that carry over from one sleep cycle to the next.
The dream began watching a female cardinal building a nest, high in the upper branches of a very large tree. She would swoop down and gather as much material as she could carry from the ground nearby — then she found the abandoned nest of some other bird family, and started trying to pull bits and pieces of that old nest apart for re-use.
But it was hard to pull apart. So a little otter gambled over to where she was trying to pull at the nest, and I couldn’t see clearly what the otter did, but it had a pair of scissors and was somehow using them to cut bits of nest off so the cardinal could carry them.
My observing mind thought — “wow! Look at that! an otter using tools — to help another animal!”
But when the otter turned to face me, it wasn’t holding the scissors in its little paws — they had been imbedded in the otter’s muzzle. Like an industrial accident in the woods had left the otter with a horrible injury, and as the little otter grew up, it’s face just healed around the scissors so that when it opened and closed its mouth, the scissors worked and could cut things.
It wasn’t bloody or messy — though it was pretty shocking and scarey to look at. And the otter had evidently found ways to work around it and survive.
I followed the otter and it made its way back to the edge of a stream where it had come from. A stream and a field of some kind of garden veggies. And the otter was playing and rolling in the water, mud and grasses with a little baby hedgehog. The hedgehog was working like crazy (between playing) to find something to gather a little house of leaves and twigs, and moss — and to eat — and the otter was helping.
When a fox tried to run through the grasses and brush to grab the little hedgehog, the otter fought it and jabbed at it with its scissors until the fox ran away — then the otter went right back to playing and tumbling about in the water.
But being the nosy and meddling do-gooder that I am, I very carefully scooped up the otter and took it to the vet to see if they could do anything to help it.
When I got back to the field and stream, the hedgehog had been joined by a friend hedgehog and they were playing, rolling about, and trying to find food.
But there was the fox, lurking in the tall grass.
The fox leaped out and grabbed the hedgehog’s friend, and it screamed and squealed — and then was gone. The first little hedgehog was hurt, and cried after its friend, but it was all over. It burrowed down into the pile of leaves and twigs it had gathered, and I could hear it snuffling. And there was nobody there to protect the hedgehog, or play, or hunt for food any more because I’d successfully taken away the otter.
And the fox was coming back. I could see him. I had to save the hedgehog. I could take it home. I could nurse it until it was better. I could protect it. I could get a big box or crate for it to live in and fill it with straw and leaves and stuff.
The fox leaped at the hedgehog and I reached out to scoop it up at the same time. The fox almost had it — but missed the mark when it dove into the leafy house, and flung the hedgehog and the pile of mulchy stuff up into the air and the little hedgehog flew into my shoulder and I caught it.
And I woke up!
With a question:
What do hedgehogs eat?
PART VI — THE METAPHORS WE MAKE
There aren’t many things I know for sure, but one thing I know is that the unconscious mind speaks fluent metaphor.
And when our minds are working out problems, some of the working-out spills into our dreams. That is, at least in part, what dreams and sleep are all about. We’ve got a helluva big computer running night and day to keep life in manageable chunks that we can handle, and dreams are part of the infinite Improbability Drive that keeps us sane, healthy, and stable.
So in this dream, I have some very sweet animals. A female cardinal building a home. A little hedgehog building a home. A seriously wounded and deformed — but very content and well-adjusted otter helping out wherever it can — and able to defend against a pretty vicious enemy.
And as far as I can tell, all of these are metaphorically parts of ME. The cardinal part of me needed the help of the wounded and deformed otter part of me. The playful and happy baby hedgehog part of me needed the otter, too. And somewhere in me there’s a cunning fox that just plays its part — albeit the food chain part of my life. And then there’s the meddling and well-intentioned Lynn that will try to clean up the mess she made by interfering with nature.
So — if the cardinal is my female/mother part that raised a son…
And, if the grossly wounded but happy otter is the autistic, dyslexic, asthmatic survivor part…
And the vet part (or the exterior vet) is doing everything that can be done to help the otter (and probably the baby hedgehog, too) including quite possibly just leaving it alone….
And, if the baby hedgehog is the newly born diabetic part, just beginning to learn its way around — and figuring out what’s what….
WHAT DO YOU FEED A HEDGEHOG?
That is the question, after all.
As it turns out — I did some reading about hedgehogs, and they eat just about anything. They are omnivores. Bugs. carrion. plants. fruits and veg. grains. Even smaller animals. Everything, anything — they have one of the most varied diets of all the smaller mammals.
Which, as it turns out — is pretty close to what I read in the Mayo Clinic book about diabetes. Eat a really varied diet that balances grains, proteins, fats, veg, and fruit!
And best of all, hedgehogs have a noteworthy self-defense mechanism that doesn’t include scissors.
It’s a little disturbing that some part of me has scissors where my mouth should be (I’ve been accused of that several times in my life) — but if that’s the part of me that’s the most compassionate and helpful and playful — well…. I guess it’s an old wound. And I evidently only get scary when it’s necessary. So — maybe I’ll just back up slowly and leave that part alone. I’ve taken it to the vet — metaphorically speaking, I’d guess that’s all that time I spent with Dan Mitchell in therapy, and these 14 years I’ve been married to Jim — and it’s much better than it was in my youth.
PART VII — THE CHOICES WE MAKE
I’ve only known a handful of people with diabetes. Most of them ran a constant awareness of what they were eating and just fit that into their lives and went about their business.
But a 15 years ago, a man I worked with was diagnosed as diabetic and he became depressed and possibly suicidal. In most ways he was a strong, decisive, and smart guy — but the level of “woe is me” and “I’d rather just die than live like this…” was so high, we really all thought he was going to kill himself over a piece of pecan pie. And it lasted for months. Years, even.
Similarly, my mother (who had a sweet tooth so extreme it bordered on fetishism) was diagnosed diabetic when she was in her sixties. I don’t know exactly when in her sixties because she never told us. She kept it a secret. She stopped going to her doctor because she didn’t want to hear what he had to say. She bought cakes and candy and pies and all kinds of things and hid them — and would sit and eat 3, 4, 5 servings or more late at night in the dark. She made chocolate cakes with more icing than cake. She wouldn’t take medication. She wouldn’t test her blood. She wanted her icing, her fruitcake, and Godiva chocolates.
And she died a really slow, painful, miserable death.
So I thought maybe I was missing something about diabetes that should make me depressed or angry or afraid.
But that’s not it. My mother was a spoiled brat with more neuroses than brains. And the man I worked with was a hedonist and an ass. And a crybaby.
And I’m not.
So — click.
And a deep and heartfelt “thank you” to my autistic brain, for being able to do absolutes like my life depends on it.
Click here to read Post 2 — The Honeymoon Phase of learning to live with Type-2 Diabetes.