Breaking Tradition

Laddie_Head SquareFor most of my adult life, I have gotten a stomachache starting in mid-December. It doesn’t go away until late afternoon on Christmas Day. It’s obviously related to stress although it feels somewhat reminiscent of the nausea and fatigue that accompany low blood sugar.

Many years ago the stress was probably warranted during the holidays. Lots of shopping, planning, entertaining. More shopping and trying to think of gifts for people who don’t need anything. #FirstWorldProblem. Searching every Target in the Minneapolis area for the one He-ManChristmas Tree action figure which sold out in early November. Making grocery lists and checking them twice. Decorating and cleaning house. And so on….

I am the first to admit that at this stage in life, it is unreasonable that I am close-to-puking stressed in December. We no longer exchange gifts with the adults in our family. No sweaters, no dice games, no puzzles, no tacky glass figurines. The grandchildren are fun to shop for although I am not allowed to buy American Girl dolls or video games. The meals are still big, but much simplified compared to 20 years ago. I don’t make cookies and one daughter-in-law handles that.

Unfortunately my stress is a “Pavlov’s dog” reaction to December. It is no longer based on reality but still shows up every year. It is definitely my problem and not the fault of others placing too many demands on me.

I spent much of this December b*tching to friends about how I have to cook prime rib on Christmas Eve and don’t even like it. I grew up in a family where Christmas Eve meant vegetable soup and opening one gift. The big festivities were on Christmas Day. My husband is the grandchild of Scandinavian immigrants and Christmas Eve in his family meant roast beef, lutefisk, boiled potatotes, sylta, potato sausage, pickled herring, rolls, lefse, the Minnesota addition of jello salad, and about twenty kinds of cookies. Christmas Day was another huge meal with turkey and trimmings.

Last weekend one daughter-in-law reminded me that last year I swore that I was going to serve pizza on Christmas Eve! I laughed and said that was a pipe dream. Over the next few hours I began to think “Why Not?” and sent an email to the eight involved adults. The four grandchildren technically had a say and of course chose pizza. One of my sons expressed a desire to have roast beef and my husband wisely kept quiet.

But the decision was PIZZA!


I’ll make a salad ahead of time for the adults and the kids will eat veggies and strawberries. We’ll bake pizzas from Papa Murphy’s. After that we will open gifts and have cookies and coffee. I am looking forward to this and my stomach ache is easing up a bit.

I haven’t completely thrown tradition out the window. We will use the Christmas tree plates and sit at the dining room table. We will open Christmas poppers which contain jokes, tiny toys, and paper crowns. We will wash the dishes before gift opening. Most of the day and evening will remain unchanged.

But I wonder how many years it will be before we use paper plates….

Happy Holidays to all of my friends and readers. See you in 2016!


Mental Health Day at the Endo

Laddie_Head SquareI visit my endocrinologist twice a year. I used to go quarterly, but many years ago we decided that there just wasn’t much to talk about every 3 months. Sometimes even the semiannual appointments seem overly routine. My endo respects that I have had Type 1 diabetes for almost as long as she has been alive and that I am essentially a self-managed patient. At the same time she has the ability to pull me out of the tangles of diabetes minutiae and help me focus on the big picture of my overall health. And of course she is the portal to lab work, diabetes technology, supplies, and medications.

If you asked me how my diabetes has been for the last few months, I would answer frustrating. Too many lows, too many highs, too much of this, too little of that. I remember the bad stuff. The overnight lows in the 30’s when I must have acknowledged Dexcom alerts and gone back to sleep. The weekend of intractable highs from sampling a few gorging on Hershey’s chocolates. The party with too much wine and too little willpower. The days of “doing it right” and baffling wacky blood sugars. Insulin acting like water one day and nuclear fuel the next. Nothing unique to anyone with Type 1 diabetes. Probably no better or worse than other months in recent history.

I had my endo appointment on Monday. I arrived on time with Dexcom and Diasend reports in hand. We spent the first part of the appointment discussing a  recent physical with my internist. Some of my numbers have been creeping out of the normal range into that zone that is within target if you don’t have diabetes, but not okay if you do. This is a discussion for a later blogpost, but I agreed to start taking a statin. She could see my distress at these recent changes and emphasized that the differences from last year were not hugely significant. She also discussed that current standards indicate that all patients with diabetes should be on statins unless there is a reason not to be. But ultimately it was my choice.

As she pulled out the Dexcom tracings, I said that I knew they looked good, but they weren’t. This was bad. That was bad. I starting babbling about basals, highs, lows, chocolate.

STOP” she said.

Stop SignStop being so hard on yourself. Stop micromanaging. Stop obsessing over insignificant changes in health indices. Stop driving yourself crazy. Be confident that you are doing a good job. Relax. Take two aspirin with a glass of wine and call me in the morning. Oops, not the last one.

Very kindly she told me that she doesn’t know how people with perfectionist tendencies and diabetes do it. The frustrations, the illusiveness of perfection, the inconsistency, the unpredictability. She shared that her father is a “rocket science” engineer who does not have diabetes but would never being able to reconcile the “do it the same, get different results” illogic of Type 1 diabetes. I am not sure what she said next, but what I heard was “You are doing fine. Continue to respect your diabetes. Be kind to yourself. Keep up the good work.”

Then she walked me to the lab for my blood work. I went home. Definitely better off than when I came.