One evening this week I made pizza scima, a flatbread from Abruzzo.

Baking bread became a pandemic hobby for me. I love it, but the process takes time. Time to knead and time to rise. Time to punch down before the second rise. It’s a slow and calming practice that I have learned to appreciate. Baking bread became abeautiful way to mark the hours of a lockdown afternoon and I delighted in stopping in between work calls to take a peek under the cloth that was covering the dough, as it was snuggled – and getting ever more snuggly – in a bowl by the heater (in winter) or sunny window (in warmer weather). The oven would heat up the kitchen and as we sat down to dinner, a golden, crunchy loaf would emerge, ready to accompany whatever was being served up. 

But days are returning to somewhat (new) normal here and there is less time. No lockdown means a different pace during the day, because I now inevitably rush out during lunch hours to run errands or stop off for a quick visit to the fruit and veg market before work gets started. Or I’m slowly venturing back into the office for a day here or there. All this means that those minutes that lent themselves to slow food activities now run into each other again: time is not as leisurely as it was, and suddenly it’s dinner time without time to make a loaf of bread. 

But on this day, I wanted bread; fresh, homemade, just out of the oven, bread. 

And so, I made pizza scima! It’s a five-minute process where all the ingredients: 00 flour, olive oil, salt, bicarb soda and white wine get tossed into a bowl, mixed together and then flattened on a tray. The dough is scored, and the oven does the rest. No kneading, no proofing, no resting, no rising.

Half an hour later, a stunning crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside flatbread emerged and honestly, it is the best bread hack there is to know. (Plus, the recipe calls for only a little wine in the dough meaning you have something to drink with dinner!) Viva gl’Abruzzesi!

There’s nothing like adding a sneaky little shortcut to your repertoire – whatever that may be. I think that often people with diabetes become super smart at finding these sorts of little techniques that become a snappy solution to a diabetes problem. 

Yesterday, I learnt a new diabetes hack thanks to Kelly Kunik, DOC old-timer who writes at Diabetesaliciousness. Here is what she shared via a collaboration with Ascenisa*:

This reminded me of one of the topics for Diabetes Blog Week. For newer folks to the DOC, DBlogWeek was an initiative of Karen Graffeo who used to write at Bitter~Sweet Diabetes (seriously, check out all these people and their blogs). Each year, Karen would coordinate this monster effort, coming up with different writing prompts and then setting up a platform for them to all be collated in one space. 

Back in 2014, one of the topics was diabetes hacks and ninety-five diabetes bloggers all wrote posts sharing tips and tricks they have discovered that goes towards making their diabetes a little easier. Here’s what I wrote. I’m so pleased to find that all the other contributions are still all together on this link, and I’ve just spent a delightful hour scrolling through and re-reading some of them, getting a refresher on some super ideas from super people!

Call them hacks, call it inspired improvisation, but MacGyvering the fuck out of diabetes is a talent worth cultivating, because you never know when a diabetes moment will call for it. 

DISCLAIMER

I am on the Editorial Board for Ascensia Diabetes. I am paid for the pieces I write that appear on their blog. Kelly is also on the Ed Board. Sharing this for no other reason than it blew my mind!

There is so much about diabetes that can’t be simply explained or managed. And even if we understand the mechanism behind why something happens, we can’t necessarily fix it!

The intersection between diabetes and anxiety is certainly one of those things. When I am anxious, I go high. That’s the way it is. If I am extremely anxious and have a panic attack, the adrenalin rush sends me to insanely high glucose levels that I know I can’t treat by just bolusing insulin, because there will a swift, aggressive crash at some point and any excess insulin will make it worse. Much worse, because nausea often accompanies how I am feeling in the moment, so the thought of an ‘eat-the-kitchen’ hypo is not great at all. 

I was feeling pretty anxious yesterday. It was a medium level hum that at times swelled to a loud banging noise, and I could sense that there was a topple on effect with my glucose levels. Except there wasn’t. At least not one that could be detected on my CGM graph, which was chugging along in range, albeit at the slightly higher end of that range.

But Loop was working hard to keep it that way. Micro changes to basal insulin showed a Loop graph of constantly changing dosing throughout the morning – at the same time I was feeling loud-banging-noise-anxious. At the moment there was a surge in anxiety levels – and I can pinpoint that moment – there was an accompanying surge in my insulin dose, but only for a little while. Because as my anxiety ebbed and flowed, so did my insulin dosing. All with me doing nothing.

Living with anxiety is one of the things that makes diabetes super difficult. I mean, there are so many things, but anxiety is a next level issue because the very idea of thinking about dealing with diabetes while dealing with an intense moment of anxiety is, quite simply, impossible. But even if I could, there is no way that I would be able to predict just how my glucose levels would respond, or the timing of that response, to act effectively. 

As ever when writing and thinking about automated insulin delivery it comes with a very honest understanding, and acknowledgement of my privilege and knowing that I am extraordinarily fortunate to have at my disposal the technology that can help me in this way. I’ve written and spoken about this a number of times, and I am always acutely aware of the advantage of having a system that takes away so much of the brain power needed to manage such a complex health condition. I say this not as an afterthought – it is an ever-present thought. 

But also ever-present is the gratitude that there is something with me that is providing such incredible insight into just how my diabetes behaves, operates and reacts to different situations. That is, of course, what CGM does. But it’s Loop gives an extra layer of insight – it shows me what my body would have been doing if my beta cells hadn’t gone on a permanent ‘tools down’ almost twenty-three years ago. And gives me an appreciation, and a reminder, of just how difficult diabetes is, and how incredibly challenging it is to attempt to perform the function of a highly sophisticated and evolved body organ!

Anxiety is unpleasant. What it does to diabetes is unpleasant. But having the tools to help manage its impacts on diabetes does help. It’s one less thing to worry about at a moment when it feels that I am being engulfed in a whole world of darkness and worry which is how I felt yesterday.

Now if someone could just magic up a DIY tool to stop the anxiety happening in the first place, that would be just dandy!

Seems as good a way as any…

Here’s some stuff I’ve seen in the diabetes online world that I think is pretty cool. And I also think you might like it too if you’ve missed it. 

If nothing else, this serves as a reminder that there are some super talented, smart, funny, productive, and downright awesome folks who are doing some super brilliant things and I am always happy to share that around. (I’m forever grateful when others in the DOC have shared my posts and other work. Building each other up is always a lovely thing to do!)

Vaccine in Australia (finally)

We may be a little behind the curve, but Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has finally started! Some links that might be useful to folks with diabetes:

  1.  THIS statement from Diabetes Australia (disclaimer: I work there), the Australian Diabetes Society and the Australian Diabetes Educators Association
  2. THIS piece from Diabetes Mine
  3. THIS eligibility calculator from the Australian Government which will give you an idea of when you can expect to get your jab. 

And THIS message from me (and science):

Diabetes poetry to make you laugh and cry

Kerri Sparling has just released her book of diabetes poetry. It’s called Rage Bolus and it is all shades of wonderful. It’s a gorgeous collection of words that will have you nodding, laughing (chortling) and crying, and is a must on the shelves of all folks with diabetes. 

You can get your own copy here. 

A new diabetes podcast to check out

Chelcie Rice has been around the DOC for a long time now and frequently provides thoughtful commentary on what’s going on in the diabetes world. And so, I’m thrilled to see that he has just launched a new podcast, ‘The Soul of Diabetes’. 

The launch episode can be heard here, and then you should subscribe!

Also, Chelcie shared a video of his thoughts on the recent Dexcom Superbowl advertisement and it’s definitely worth a look. 

Clare Diabetes Group meeting

More than a little honoured to have been invited to speak at the upcoming meeting of the Clare Diabetes Group in Ireland. You can register here.

Not an easy read…

Phyllisa Deroze remains one of the most incredible voices in the diabetes community. I have been lucky enough to hear her speak (she is such an engaging speaker!), and read everything she writes because I know it will get me thinking. On Valentine’s Day she wrote about her diagnosis story, which is not an easy read, but it is a very important one. 

Phyllisa’s blog is called ‘Diagnosed Not Defeated’ and I don’t think that has ever been more accurate or relevant than in this post. Read it here.

CORONADO Study

Just today DiabTribe has published this great piece breaking down the findings from the latest findings of the CORONADO Study which looks at people with diabetes hospitalised with COVID-19 in a number of centres across France. 

Read their article here (and there is a link to the full study there).

Totally not relative to anything diabetes wise, but why?

I’m just going to leave this here…

Can you see it??

Check out this advertisement from Bonds Australia for a bit of diabetes technology on show! A little representation can go a long way! (You’ll have to watch carefully…but check out the 36/37 second mark.)

Keep wearing a mask…

…because the science says they work. And share this with anyone without diabetes who is complaining about just how inconvenient it is to have to carry around a bit of fabric with them when they head out to the supermarket!

Spare a Rose final push

And finally, February is dwindling and that means that the 2021 Spare a Rose campaign is coming to its end. So far, an amazing USD$40,000 has come in from the community – that is, donations from people with diabetes and others affected by or associated with diabetes. There will also be corporate donations added to the final tally. 

If you’ve not yet donated, or even if you have and would like to donate again, there is still time to make your contribution count towards the final tally.  Every single donation makes a difference to the life of a child with diabetes. 

Donations can be made here.

I found myself in A&E in the early hours of Saturday morning, and for the first time in more than two decades, that visit was not because of diabetes. I make it sound as though I am a frequent guest at local emergency departments, but that is not the case. I can’t remember the last time I was there, but I do know it was thanks to the unholy trio of diabetes, gastro and ketones. That would be the only reason I’ve visited in the last two decades. 

But before that – back in my pre-diabetes days – the reason was something different. I used to have seizures in my sleep. And at 2am on Saturday morning, I woke up realising I’d just had a seizure.

The first thing I did as I was coming to was check my CGM trace. A neat line that had barely wavered between 4.2mmol/L and 5.6mmol/L. This wasn’t diabetes related. 

The last time I’d had a seizure in my sleep was 16 years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter. But that one was because I was low. I knew what to do, I knew why it had happened, I knew that it was just one of those things, I knew it was a pregnancy low that I had read about.

This one had nothing to do with diabetes and that left me in a very confused space. I wasn’t sure what to do. Did I need to go to the hospital? That’s what used to happen. But was that still the drill? We made a few calls and we decided that it would be best for me to go into A&E and take it from there. 

There is no good time to need to go to A&E. There are just bad times and worse times. Turns out this was a worse time. I arrived at 2.30am, exactly two hours and 31 minutes after Melbourne went into lockdown after a COVID-19 outbreak. Aaron wasn’t allowed to come in with me because new restrictions were in place, so he left me at the door. The waiting room was filed with people who appeared a little worse for wear after their last hurrah before lockdown went askew. 

The triage nurse saw me straight away and I explained why I was there. She looked up after asking me if I had any other conditions and I said ‘Yes, I have type 1 diabetes.’ I waited for her next question, jumping in after it didn’t come for a couple of beats. ‘I wasn’t hypo. My glucose levels were steady and between 4 and 6 the whole night. I wear a CGM. It wasn’t from hypoglycaemia.’ She typed that into her computer and then told me to take a seat and someone would be with me. She smiled at me, ‘It’s foul tonight. You’ll be here for a while.’ 

This is where things diverged from my last A&E visits. I was sent back to sit down and wait. And wait, and wait. There are few upsides to living with diabetes, but one of them is that when it’s the reason for a visit to an emergency department, you are given the VIP treatment and seen straight away. At least, that’s been my experience. Ketones are not to be messed with and as soon as I’ve ever mentioned the word, I have been whisked away behind the locked door and seen straight away. 

But not this time. This time I was with the ketone-typical people, and sat quietly until, about two hours later, it was my turn. Blood was drawn, a CT scan was ordered and done, a consult with a neurology registrar happened. I was asked by everyone I saw if I was having a hypo when I had the seizure, but other than that, no one paid any attention to my diabetes. Which was just fine, because Loop was taking care of that for me and I didn’t really feel like having to do a DIYAPS tutorial to explain why I didn’t want anyone managing my diabetes for me while I was there. 

After a couple of hours of outstanding care and attention, I was able to leave the hospital and go home with instructions of what to do next, an appointment for an MRI and EEG scheduled for the next couple of weeks, and a subsequent consult with a neurologist. And with a slightly fuzzy head … and a heavy sense of dread forming in my chest. 

It’s a couple of days later, and I’m feeling less fuzzy. The only physical remnants I have are achy ribs from the actual seizing. Emotionally I’m more than a little wrecked, and in a state of uncertainty which is never good. I’m terrified of going low and checking my CGM trace every 23 seconds, stupidly jumping at anything that hints that I could be heading into hypo territory – even though Loop is more than capable of taking care of it. 

I’m scared that this is not a one off, and instead the start of something else that is chronic and going to take up energy. I’m worried that my usual scatterbrain and forgetting words is actually something more sinister. These are the thoughts that have been going through my head from the moment I woke after the seizure.

On Saturday morning I walked out of the hospital to meet Aaron, the sun was rising, and Melbourne was starting to wake up. I climbed into the car feeling grateful to be going home. And sad. I thought about how over the last three years I’ve managed to get my diabetes to a place that requires little effort and with that managed to claw back so much mental effort that I’d needed to dedicate to my broken body. Was that all about to be redirected to something else? Was I going to have to learn a whole new language for a whole new part of the health system that I am already sick of having to use? Was this my broken body reminding me that I don’t get to feel comfortable in it? That while I may have thought I’d found the magic key to putting diabetes in its place, other things could and would pop up. Not diabetes. But there could always be something else…

Apparently, diabetes blogs are dead. At least, that’s the proclamation that seems to made every month or so. You should very much consider my bias when I say that I don’t agree with that sentiment at all. I mean, I have a shitload of content on this here site – including new and re-visited posts that for me have some relevance to my diabetes life in the moment. 

Newer and shinier platforms are here now, so surely that means it’s time to retire WordPress and Blogger. Or is it? Newer and shinier platforms are great, so I’m not here to claim that that they’re a waste of time. Podcasts and vlogs are great tools for sharing diabetes information. YouTube and Reddit are great places to learn. And then there is Tik Tok, but I am too old to be allowed to even log into that platform. (Not true, and I have loved some of what’s been shared there. It can be a brilliant storytelling and info-sharing format!)

I’m here to say that every single platform for sharing a diabetes tale has its place. And blogs are still very relevant: the long-form post is not dead. Not yet anyway. 

It is from blogs that I learnt, and continue to learn from others with diabetes. I revisit old posts I’ve read because they remain relevant today, and have many bookmarked and saved because the information shared is so spot on! I use them as research for pieces I’m writing and presentations I’m giving. I send links to old (and new) blog posts to others with diabetes when they ask questions that I know someone has answered so beautifully. And I send posts to HCPs to give them an insight into real life diabetes that they may otherwise have not understood – a glimpse into the things we are hesitant to share with them – and how our interactions with them can leave a lasting impression: both good and bad. 

Blogs are also where we hear from those who are adjacent to actually living with diabetes. Reading posts from parents of kids with diabetes and partners of loved ones gives me a perspective that I simply don’t have firsthand.

Advocacy and awareness efforts have been described and fought through blog posts. I’ve used this blog to advocate increased funding for products, research and healthcare. It helps get the message out to people, with simple calls to action so they can get involved too. And the first time I ever heard about Spare a Rose was via this post (the links in the post are not current), and from there so many in the diabetes blogosphere – myself included – jumped on the bandwagon to support this important campaign. We knew that while donating was important, getting the word out was critical too. Since 2013, dozens and dozens of posts have been shared, raising awareness about how this ‘by the community, for the community’ grassroots initiative. 

Blogs are where some of those deep and scary issues that we only whisper about or hide away are discussed. It was in blog posts that I first read about just how diabetes impacts on mental health. Experiences about diabetes-related eating disorders were shared without judgement and shame. It was through my writing about infertility and diabetes that I connected with so many other people going through the same thing. 

Diabetes blog posts – old and new – are a patchwork quilt of lived experience gold, with the common thread that no one’s diabetes story is more valuable or important, but that everyone has a story to share that is worthwhile. 

Some believe that blogs posts are just a way for people to ramble and navel gaze and seek attention. Well to them, I say please enjoy (or don’t) exhibit A – the 1100+ posts here that may be navel gazing to some, but paint a picture of my 22 years of diabetes. It’s not everyone’s experience; it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. And I’m okay with that! If you don’t like the blog format, move on. No one is forcing anyone to read a blog post. Or to get on any other format for that matter. Because, of course, your preferred diabetes info mode may vary (#YPDIMMV).

Someone said to me that reading new blog posts these days is boring because there is nothing new – it’s already been said. And you know what? That could well be true. Diabetes is boring and even though everyone’s diabetes is different, many of us write about similar situations. But actually, that’’s okay. Because for some people, it may be the first time they see or read a post about a particular topic – even if there are five million others! – or perhaps there is a different outlook in there. 

I think that people write for different reasons. I write for a creative outlet and writing provides me with a way to explore different ideas about not only my own diabetes, but the diabetes landscape. But mostly, I write to connect with others. I don’t think anything I have to say is particularly erudite or mind blowing. I don’t have any revelations that will help someone else’s diabetes make sense. My own diabetes makes no sense to me, so the chance of it making sense to someone else is very unlikely. 

I found most diabetes blogs because their writer shared them on Twitter or on Facebook. Or, others in the community shared them, which is one of the truly wonderful things about the DOC – the way some people elevate others in the community. There used to be an annual event called #DBlogWeek which was a brilliant opportunity to learn about others writing about diabetes. Diabetes Mine’s monthly blogosphere wrap up keeps me updated with some wonderful pieces. (And for German speakers, here you can find a curated collection of blog posts by Bastian from deDOC : I run posts through Google translate to understand them.) 

And so, here are some of the brilliant pieces written by PWD I’ve read in recent times. I hope that you enjoy them too.

Corinna Cornejo writes at Type 2 Musings, and is also a contributor to the Ascensia Editorial Board (disclosure: I am too and am paid for my contributions). This great piece about power imbalance in the clinic room.

One of my favourite Aussie bloggers, Frank Sita, wrote this insightful piece about taking a pump break over the festive season: 

Diabetes and pregnancy and baby blogs have always been a favourite of mine. I cannot tell you how many I read back when I was at that stage of my life! New mamma Ashley has shared this gorgeous post while (literally) awaiting the arrival of her baby girl. 

 I loved Dave Sowerby’s 2020 look back in this post.

Kerri Sparling may have retired her blog a couple of years ago, but I was so grateful for this new post on September last year while Melbourne was in the depths of lockdown. I’m sharing it here for others who are locked down at the moment. (And Kerri’s fourteen years of posts are still available at SixUntilMe.com)

Tim Street’s blogs are not for the faint hearted! They are often super technical, but non-techies (my hand is raised) will definitely get a heap out of them. His latest blog post from just a couple of days ago has me thinking about what I need to do to jiggle my basal rates a bit. 

I haven’t watched the video that accompanies this blog post from Jen Grieves, but the words expressing how she is feeling in the midst of lockdown resonated so beautifully. 

Holly Allen’s post from the end of 2020 about imposter syndrome hit a little too close to for comfort! It’s a recurring theme from some diabetes advocates (and my hand is raised for this one too!) 

This from Molly at Hugging the Cactus had me aching as I read it. I miss my diabetes mates so hard and mourn all the opportunities we’ve missed to catch up.  

And finally, I’ve not been able to stop thinking about this piece from Cherise Shockley that she wrote for diaTribe recently, and the idea of a carb glass ceiling. I realise that I have a very similar way of thinking when it comes to counting carbs and I love how she has explored the psychology behind why people may think this way. 

Each February since 2013, the global Diabetes Online Community has supported the charity Life for a Child through the Spare a Rose, Save a Child campaign. For anyone new to the DOC, or to this blog, Spare a Rose is a super simple campaign with its climax on Valentine’s Day. The idea is for people to send 11 rather than 12 roses to their loved one, and donate the money saved from that one rose to Spare a Rose. That one rose will provide a child with diabetes in an under resourced country insulin for a month. One rose equals one month. Easy!

No one owns Spare a Rose. It was created by a group of diabetes advocates from the US diabetes community and quickly spread to other countries. It is the definition of ‘by people with diabetes, for people with diabetes’ and is a beautiful and perfect illustration about what the DOC can be about when egos, arguments and debates are put aside. There have always been champions who have done an outstanding job sharing the campaign to their networks, but every single person in the DOC is part of the Spare a Rose community. Most people just go about contributing quietly, not needing to shout to the world how much they have donated, because that’s not really in the spirit of the campaign. Every single dollar, euro or pound donated is important and makes a difference.

But here is something worth shouting about: In the eight years the campaign has run, a grand total of USD$261,733 has been raised. Put in Spare a Rose terms, that’s 52,347 roses, which means that a whole year’s worth of insulin has been provided to almost 4,400 children and young people with diabetes in under-resourced countries. I still get goosebumps just thinking about that!

The most amazing thing about Spare a Rose is that it has been picked up in some really wonderful and creative ways. As well as blogs and posts across pretty much evert social media platform imaginable, there have been tweet chats, podcasts and vlogs dedicated to raising awareness and raising funds for the campaign. Talented artists in the DOC have created beautiful artwork and designs to promote the campaign. There have workplace giving campaigns. These efforts have come from every corner of the community, and have resulted in some truly astonishing fundraising totals – especially over the last couple of years.

Spare a Rose 2021 might be a little different. The effects of COVID-19 means that a lot of people who have donated in previous years may not be in a position to do so this year, which is completely understandable. ATTD has been postponed to June which means Spare a Rose can’t piggyback off this year’s conference. The last few years it’s been great to use the focus of a major diabetes conference – and its audience of a huge number of diabetes advocates – to whip up a frenzy of interest and excitement about the campaign, and to introduce it to a whole heap of PWD who may otherwise not have heard about it. We’ve been unashamedly opportunistic by running cheeky adjunct campaigns like Spare a Frown, that raised over $10,000 in just a few days. And we’ve absolutely taken advantage of being right in the face of diabetes device and pharma companies, and asked them to contribute. Which they willingly have.

And so, there may be fewer opportunities to get people to reach into their pockets to donate.

But also, we all know that diabetes doesn’t stop just because there is a global pandemic. And we know that it is people already disproportionately affected by diabetes who are doing it even tougher in times of COVID-19.

Today is the big kick off for Spare A Rose, Save a Child for 2021. It’s another chance for the diabetes community to come together and show just what it can do to support those who are living in places where diabetes is more difficult to afford and to manage; where access to healthcare, medications and diabetes consumables is a daily challenge. If you are lucky enough to live in a country where there is universal healthcare, or to have insurance that helps you afford living with diabetes, and are in a position to make a donation, please, please do.

And share! Word of mouth is important for Spare a Rose. Seeing the DOC flooded with images of roses and links to the donation page helps no end. So, here you go…click on the image below to be taken straight to the donation page. Let’s see what we can do for others in the community.

Follow Spare a Rose on Twitter.

And on Facebook.

And on Instagram.

Last year, a lot of the work I did centred around mental health and diabetes. It’s funny how things happen – we had always planned for it to be the focus for our National Diabetes Week campaign at Diabetes Australia (disclosure: I work there), and then COVID-19 happened, and it seemed all the more important to make sure that we were flagging just how much people with diabetes’ mental health was being impacted by the pandemic. Spoiler alert – the answer was, and still is, a lot.

Last year also happened to be the year that my own anxiety went from being something I’d dealt with mostly in the past to something that became very much in the present and a bigger issue for me than living with diabetes. I had a few panic attacks that terrified me and had the domino effect of adding to my anxiety as I’d wait for the next one to strike. But it wasn’t just those acute moments that made me feel anxious. It was a low-grade hum that became the soundtrack to every waking moment, sometimes exploding into a roar.

Of course, COVID-19 contributed to it all, because how could it not? But I also knew that these feelings of disquiet and unease had started well before the pandemic was firmly on my radar, before our first lockdown, and before Melbourne’s second lockdown – the longest and strictest is the world. 

Trying to keep it all in check was tough but at the time I thought that the fact that there was just so much going on with work was a good thing. I simply couldn’t examine too closely what was going on with my mental health because work was just so, so intense, and anyway, of course I was feeling fretful and anxious because who wasn’t?! Hindsight, of course, suggests that it probably would have been better to stop for a moment and address that hum rather than try to explain it away or drown it out with more and more noise that actually only made it worse. 

And so, I started putting words to what I was feeling because that was a first step to acknowledging that I needed to do something. And that I needed help. I started to check in on my anxiety levels each morning. Or when something significant, (or even not all that significant) happened, I’d stop and ask myself how anxious I felt. Starting to be able to name how I was feeling, and rate it, meant I could do something about it. 

I had occasional telehealth appointments with a psychologist, to work through and to help develop strategies for coping. And to spend time working out where this anxiety had stemmed from. This is something that has always been important for me to do. When I have had periods of extreme anxiety before, there has been no coming out of it without being able to pinpoint where, when and how it started. 

Sometimes that’s not all that easy to do, other times it’s glaringly obvious. When diabetes has been acknowledged as the cause of my increased anxiety, it’s never enough to just say ‘diabetes’ – it’s usually something more nuanced and specific. And so down the rabbit hole I go as I try to pinpoint exactly what I need to work through to start feel better. 

But this time, it was clear. It wasn’t having diabetes; it was being in diabetes. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it makes sense to anyone who has ever worked in a diabetes-related job, or spent a lot of time in the diabetes community. It was the latter that was making me very, very anxious. I’d already been aware that I was experiencing diabetes advocacy burnout, but anxiety is different to burnout. It was more than just the sense of feeling overwhelmed and nervous every time I raised my head above the parapet (which is a lot because of my job and advocacy work). So, I had a head start on what needed attention even before speaking with the psychologist, but we did work at narrowing down just what the triggers were for me that increased my anxiety levels, how to avoid them and how to cope if I couldn’t.  

I learnt to ‘catch the fall’. That’s why checking in became important to me. When I could start to verbalise how I was feeling, and isolate when anxiety levels were increasing, I could do something. Breathing exercises, grabbing a book – any book – from the bookshelf and focusing on a page of words, going for a walk around the old laneways of our old neighbourhood. These all acted as circuit breakers, allowing me to catch the fall before I started to feel really, really anxious. And managed to catch most panic attacks. In fact, the rare times I actually did have something resembling a panic attack was a trigger that hit me in the face without warning. It happens – those triggers pop up despite best efforts to avoid them.

I’ve just returned to work from almost five weeks of holidays. It had been twelve months since I’d taken any time off, and (again: hindsight) I should have been smarter and taken a break when my anxiety was really starting to affect my day-to-day existence. Because right now, of course I feel like I can breathe freely and as though my head is clear. The dread I’d wake up with – a pressing down feeling that came at me from every angle – slowly lifted. It wasn’t just work that I took the break from. I removed myself from social media completely. Actually, that’s a lie. I doom scrolled my way through Twitter for about two weeks following what was going on in the US, but I had every single diabetes term, hashtag and phrase muted.  

I am still anxious. I still do my regular check ins to see just how anxious I am feeling about different situations (the one I did yesterday morning where I asked myself I how I was feeling about actually going into my office for the first time in almost a year resulted in tears, so I rated that as ‘quite anxious’, but I was easily about to understand where that was coming from! COVID-19 is still here, even in Melbourne.)

Unsurprisingly for me, the most anxious I felt (rating: really, really, really anxious right now and can I please crawl under a blanket on the sofa with a doggo at my feet) was when I checked in after spending an hour on Twitter after unmuting the word diabetes. I muted it again, because baby steps and still steps. 

And so, this rambling, messy post exploring just how I’ve been feeling in my head has no answers or solutions or ideas. Except I know that 2020 was tough. And I know that I am not alone in having felt that way. I also know that in the scheme of things, despite anxiety, despite COVID-19 and despite…well…everything, I’m mostly okay. And I’m starting 2021 in a place of some clarity and freshness, which I hope means that if that anxiety hum starts to get louder again, I’ll be able to hear that happen. And catch the fall before it’s too late.

My email autoreply is on and I have a glorious four weeks of holidays to look forward to. The last time I took any time off was back in January when my family travelled to NYC. There is no travelling this year. We have a new, beautifully landscaped back garden to camp out in over the next month instead. (By ‘camp out’ I mean sit comfortably on a sun lounger and drink Pimm’s.)

My plans are simple – do as little as possible. I’ve rallied against taking any time off this year because I’ve not seen the point. Why would I take time off to simply stay within the walls that I’ve stayed within for most of the year? 

That was a mistake. I should have taken some time off. I should have stepped away from the computer and from work – even if it were just for a couple of days. 

And so, I’m going to truly try to log off, to not stare at my computer, or open my laptop to just write a quick thing, revise something I’ve been working on, message a friend. I’m going to remove SoMe apps from my phone so that it’s not all that simple to quickly check for an update of what is going on in the Twitterverse or the world of Facebook and Instagram. 

I wanted to finish the year on a positive by highlighting some of the people who have made the DOC truly remarkable. So, this is a little Interweb Jumble of the folks in the DOC who have made the place safe, happy and continue to truly be about community. Check them out if you already don’t. Expanding your view of the DOC is important if you want to learn about more than just your part of the world. 

Cherise Shockley has a new podcast…

…and you should subscribe! It’s called ‘Don’t Keep it to Yourself’ and it’s my favourite new diabetes podcast which is completely not about diabetes! Instead, Cherise is pushing people outside their comfort zones and asking them to share things that others may not know about them. I’ve loved hearing the episodes she’s already shared and had an absolute ball chatting with her. 

The thing about Cherise is that she IS community. Even though her podcast is not about diabetes, it is still about people supporting and looking out for each other. Because that is who this woman is! Subscribe and listen from wherever you subscribe and listen to podcasts. 

DOC friends who have made me uncomfortable – but in a good way.

First up is wonderful Steffi from Pep Me Up whose Instagram stories challenged me to look at what was going on in the world in different ways. She has been absolutely relentless in her efforts to elevate the stories of people who are forgotten or left behind and highlight the bias we inherently have. You can find Steffi on Instagram here.  

And secondly, the also wonderful Tine who you can find on Twitter at @SayTine. We’ve known each other for a number of years now and we bonded over a mutual love of food. We have been allies in the language matters movement. Tine’s feminism has always been aligned with my own, but she has introduced me to different people and ideas that have made me consider some of my own ideas. 

Accessible Dtech information…

…from the always enthusiastic and excited Nerdabetic. I met Kamil for the first time a year or so ago and discovered that he is every bit as awesome and lovely in real life as he is online. I love the way he makes the latest in diabetes tech accessible and relevant to tech-imbeciles like me while also making it relevant to people whose interest in and understanding of technology generally makes my brain synapsis short circuit. It’s great to see Kamil appearing in the global DOC more with appearances on diaTribe. Kamil’s YouTube channel is here.

Brilliant photography…

…from a DOC stalwart. Mike Durbin was one of the first people I noticed in the DOC when I started participating in DSMA tweetchats over ten years ago. I’ve never met him, but am always interested in what he has to say, and his thoughtful takes on the diabetes world. Mike appears in every single presentation I give about diabetes peer support and the DOC because I always share this picture. It speaks community to me. 

On top of being such an integral and wonderful part of the DOC, Mike is a truly outstanding photographer and this year, I have found myself absolutely obsessed with what he has shared. You can see his work on Twitter here.

More Clever creatives

I adore the gorgeous artwork Nicole Buchanan shares on her Instagram. She absolutely nails diabetes moments with stunning designs and clever captions. I’ve shared so many of her posts because it’s like she has climbed into my head and then perfectly explained the mess in there with a beautiful illustration. You can follow her on Instagram here

Another favourite diabetes creative is Katie Lamb, another talented illustrator who manages to capture diabetes in her lush drawings. She’ll even draw you for a small fee! Find her here.

Aussie Jenna Cantamessa continues to share beautiful drawings on her Instagram here, and she has just opened an Etsy store so you can own one of her beautiful pictures. 

Special mention to dedoc for keeping PWD at conferences…

…because it would have been all too easy for us to have been forgotten with conferences going online. Bastian has done a stellar job getting DEDOC Voices up and running, offering scholarships to PWD to be part of ATTD (the only IRL large-scale conference this year), EASD and ISPAD. 

CWD keeping people connected

Children with Diabetes did a herculean job of not only running hugely successful Friends for Life conferences online, but also churned out relevant content all year, and seemed to run a bazillion meetups to keep people connected. In case you missed the fireside chat hosted by Kerri Sparling about #LanguageMatters, you can play catch up here. 

Spare a Rose…

…will be back next year, but I just wanted to mention the amazing efforts of the community this year as we smashed all previous records and delivered a magnificent USD$73,748 straight to Life for a Child. How remarkable is it when the DOC stops looking inwards??

The offline DOC friends who kept me going…

…are the reason that I have reached this stage of this year with some sense of balance. A huge thank you to the squad of four friends from the US & UK who have shared their lives with me throughout this clusterfuck of a year in an endless message thread that has kept me going. And the IRL friends too – with special mentions to Georgie and Jo. I am so grateful we live close to each other. 

And don’t forget…

please do consider making a donation to Insulin for Life’s Secret Santa Campaign.

Finally…

…that’s all from me for 2020. I’ll be back in the new year, but for now I am switching off and doing everything in my power to be less busy, less online and less engaged. Probably the only downside I see with Loop is how reliant it is on being close to my iPhone at all times, because honestly, I would like to let my phone battery run flat and not charge it up again until the end of January! But I am making a concerted effort to turn off and ignore notifications and be more present with the people I am so, so lucky to spend my life with. To those celebrating, have a wonderful festive season. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by. See you in 2021. 

I know…it’s almost Christmas. And if you are anything like me and mine, you’ve left the run of gift buying a little late. Or you’ve wound up in lockdown. Or the thought of battling crowds is not something that you are all that keen on because there are too many un-masked bandits in the shops.

And so, here’s another little reminder that there is no need to panic because Insulin for Life is doing Secret Santa and your can absolutely buy the BEST. PRESENT. EVER. with heaps of time to spare. All without hitting pause on your Netflix binge!

It only takes $5/€5/£5 to make a real difference to a person with diabetes in an under-resourced country. That small amount will provide a week’s worth of insulin and diabetes supplies to someone who otherwise might not have them.

My family made the decision this year that in lieu of gifts for my cousins’ kids, we’d make donations instead. We absolutely adore these kids, but know that they probably won’t miss the book or book voucher we usually give them. And we also know that making a donation in their names literally means saving a life. That seems like a pretty good trade.

Without a doubt, 2020 has been horrid for many, and those doing it toughest were already likely doing it tough even before a year-long pandemic. If you are in the position to make a donation to this cause, please do. If you can share the link to the donation page with friends, colleagues and loved ones, please do.

I know that the diabetes community comes together to support our own beautifully. We’ve seen it in a million different ways. I’m hoping that in the lead up to Christmas that support will look like people making donations to Insulin for Life…and encouraging others to do the same. Please do help if you can.

Easy, impactful and nailing your Christmas shopping just by clicking on the picture above!

It seems that my life has been all about hypoglycaemia lately. Not because I have been scrambling about with low glucose levels, but because it has been taking up a considerable number of my work hours and focus.

Diabetes Australia (disclosure below) has been running The Lowdown 2020, and I’ve been hosting a podcast (to be released in 2021) for HypoRESOLVE (also disclosed below). 

The difference between the two projects is mostly the people I have been speaking with. For the Diabetes Australia campaign, we have had a very strong focus on the lived experience, and hearing directly from PWD about their own hypo stories with an emphasis on how hypos affect our emotional wellbeing and mental health.  

For the HypoRESOLVE podcast, I’ve mostly been interviewing HCPs, researchers and academics, and talking about the specifics of the different work packages that make up the very large project. 

Sometimes, that gap is quite stark. Having said that, however, it is so refreshing to hear HCPs acknowledge just how challenging hypoglycaemia can be to live with, and how their knowledge base is not always in line with the lived experience and practicalities of a real-life low. Perhaps one of my favourite episodes we recorded for the HR podcast was a wonderfully open and engaging conversation with Simon O’Neil (from Diabetes UK) and Simon Heller (diabetes specialist and researcher from Sheffield in the UK). Together, we spoke about our own experiences – Simon O and me with our own hypo tales, and Simon H spoke about what he has come to learn from PWD. 

Together, the conversation showed just how to bridge that gap – a lot of it is with understanding and listening to the lived experience, and recognising the expertise of the PWD. 

Hypoglycaemia remains a significant issue of concern and source of anxiety for many people with diabetes. For those of us who are fortunate to have access to DIYAPS or other hybrid-closed loop systems, we may have found that our hypo experiences have changed, and the number of hypos has diminished. I am one of those people who now actually feels as though I am nailing the number of ‘accepted’ hypos in a week, rather than being an overachiever. And a special thanks to Frank Sita for mentioning this specific issue in the Diabetes Australia Facebook Live chat the other night. Being told that we should be averaging two or three hypos a week can be absolutely soul destroying. Especially when I’m yet to hear a never-fail (or even only-sometimes-fail) strategy for addressing it. I’ve said this before, but the idea of saying ‘Try to avoid hypos’ doesn’t make sense. If we could do that, we would be! And it suggests that we are making them happen on purpose. Same as suggesting we ‘Run a bit higher, like maybe 10mmol/l’. That’s the same as saying ‘Run a bit in range, like maybe between 4 and 8mmol/l’. That’s not how diabetes works! 

What do we learn when we run activities that talk about hypos? We learn that many people are grateful for others’ stories. That people feel less alone, and better equipped to speak about and attempt to address any issues they may be experiencing. We know people pick up tips and tricks from others. We know that (once again) peer support is important to many PWD. 

So, with that, I’m sharing a couple of videos from the last week or so. 

First up is the Q&A I did with Professor Jane Speight from the ACBRD last week, where we had a very frank discussion about the mental health implications of hypos. 

And this week’s Heads Together event I hosted, a wonderful collection of Aussie PWD indulged me as I fired questions at them about their own hypo experiences.

You can also check out the Diabetes Australia campaign here, and by searching for the hashtag #HyposHappen on socials. 

Disclosures

I am the Manager of Type 1 Diabetes and Communities at Diabetes Australia and am involved in the Lowdown 2020. I have not been asked to write about this, or share information about the campaign, but I am doing so anyway because I think it is a great initiative. Of course I get paid for my work at Diabetes Australia – they employ me! (But this, as with all my blog posts, was written in my own time.)

I am on the Patient Advisory Board for the HypoRESOLVE project. This is a volunteer position and the only financial contributions I have received for my work on this project are to cover travel, accommodation and expenses. (So not a cent this year!) My time recording the podcast is not paid. 

No one has reviewed this before I hit the publish button. The words and all associated typos are all my own. As always, you should consider my bias in anything and everything I write. 

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