How to Find a Good Mental Health Provider

If you live with any form of diabetes, you’re far more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. An estimated 40% of people with type 1 diabetes and 35% of people with type 2 diabetes experience significant levels of “diabetes distress,” which can result in negative mental health repercussions, including diabetes burnout.

A mental health provider can be a crucial part of your medical team. Dr. Mark Heyman, the Founder and Director of the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health (CDMH), explains why:

Diabetes is a self-managed condition. This means that it is the person with diabetes, not their doctor, who is responsible for taking care of him or herself on a daily basis. Diabetes involves making frequent, sometimes life or death decisions under sometimes stressful and physically uncomfortable circumstances.

In addition, diabetes management is constant and can feel overwhelming. If you or someone close to you has diabetes, take a minute and think about all of the steps you take in your diabetes management every day. What to eat, how much insulin to take, when (or whether) to exercise, how to interpret a glucose reading, how many carbs to take to treat a low, the list goes on. Decisions, and resulting behaviors (and their consequences) are critical aspects of diabetes management. However, doing everything necessary to manage diabetes can become overwhelming – and feeling overwhelmed is usually no fun.

There are things you can do to help manage the mental distress of diabetes, including finding a good mental health provider that is especially positioned to help people with diabetes. This article will outline how to find the perfect fit!

Consider What You Want in a Mental Health Provider

Think of your mental health provider (or therapist) as someone you’re trying to develop a long-term relationship with. You want to be comfortable sharing all of your thoughts and feelings with this person, and be vulnerable with them as well.

Mental health providers become very close with their clients, so knowing what will make you uncomfortable is very important and crucial to knowing who you want to look for when searching for a provider. Some things you may want to keep in mind:

  • Gender (do you have a preference to work with only men or only women?)
  • Age (you may feel more comfortable working with someone much older or younger than you, or maybe you’d prefer someone closer to your age)
  • Religion (are you looking to connect spiritually with someone? Perhaps your religion is very important to you, or perhaps you’re looking to keep the interactions completely secular)

When you contact a provider’s office or complete an initial questionnaire for therapy, you’ll usually be asked some questions about basic preferences, such as those described above, to help match you with the best therapist.

You may also be able to research a mental health provider’s bio online to learn more about their areas of expertise before scheduling a visit.

Consider the Issues You Want to Address

There are many different types of mental health providers out there, and knowing that specific issues you want to address can help steer you in the right direction. Perhaps you’re suffering from substance abuse, or maybe you have developed anxiety around food. Maybe you and your spouse are struggling with your child’s new diabetes diagnosis, or you’ve noticed depressive symptoms that you want to tackle early. Different providers can help you manage different issues, so be cognizant of that. Some of the different types of specialists include:

  • LCSW – Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • LMFT – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
  • NCC – National Certified Counselor
  • LCDC – Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor
  • LPC – Licensed Professional Counselor
  • LMHC – Licensed Mental Health Counselor
  • PsyD – Doctor of Psychology
  • Ph.D. – Doctor of Philosophy
  • MD – Doctor of Medicine

But no matter what a provider’s background credentials entail, what matters most is their area of expertise. Reading up on a provider’s background information and bio can help you familiarize yourself with the areas of mental health they deal with, and can help you decide if they would ultimately make the best fit for you and your needs.

Consider Asking for a Consultation

Consider this an interview for the mental health provider you’re considering “hiring.” Some practices will offer a free, 30-minute consultation, so that you can get to know the provider before deciding to come on as a client. Some important questions to ask if you’re able to, are:

  • Are you a licensed provider? (while every state varies, a licensed provider has passed the minimum competency standards for training within your state)
  • What’s your educational background?
  • What is your treatment orientation? (this refers to the school of thought that the therapist draws from in understanding and treating mental health issues)
  • What is your area of expertise? (and if they say “chronic disease” or “diabetes,” that would be excellent!)
  • Do you accept my insurance?
  • What is the cost per session?
  • Are you a prescribing physician? (some providers may be able to prescribe medication for things like obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression)
  • What is your communication style?
  • Do you prefer short or longer-term therapy? (some providers are very short-term goal-oriented, while others prefer developing a relationship over a long period of time)

These questions are not a complete list, but it’s a good start to finding the perfect fit for you and your care.

Seek out Diabetes Experts

It can be very difficult to find the right mental health provider for you and your needs, and that’s especially true when living with a chronic disease like diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recently teamed up with the American Psychological Association (APA) and created a directory of mental health providers specifically equipped to meet the needs of people with diabetes. All providers in this directory are:

  • Currently licensed as a mental health provider
  • A professional member of the ADA (Associate, Medicine & Science, Health Care & Education)
  • Have demonstrated competence in treating the mental health needs of people with diabetes

Currently, the directory has about 60 providers, 40 of which provide pediatric services, and the list is rapidly growing. The tool is simple to use: enter your zip code and whether you’re looking for adult or pediatric services. The directory will then pull up diabetes-trained mental health providers near you. The directory also lets you access what types of insurance a chosen provider accepts, their office location, phone number, and more.

Finding an appropriate mental health provider can be a difficult but worthwhile challenge. Investing your time, money, and energy to improving your mental health as someone living with diabetes is absolutely worth it, and it is crucial that you find a mental health provider that is going to work best for you in getting your needs and goals met. Hopefully these tools will make it a little easier to get there!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Two Brothers Take Control of Their Type 2

Peter and Johnny are brothers and good friends of mine, we were lucky enough to meet through our sons. They both have type 2 diabetes, just like their dad did. Just recently, they promised each other to begin taking their health seriously – and the changes they’ve made have been inspiring. I want to share their story.

Peter was diagnosed with type 2 eight years ago, right before I was diagnosed with type 1. Over the years, Peter and I have spoken a lot about our diabetes, and it has been so nice to share information and experiences with someone who “gets it.” I remember one time, we were all at a dinner party, and my continuous glucose meter was reading 49 with an arrow down. Peter understood the severity when most wouldn’t have, and quickly ran to the waiter to get me a coke. It has been nice to have someone to talk blood sugars with, but it became bittersweet when Peter’s brother Johnny was dealt the same fate of a type 2 diagnosis.

I thought it would be great to hear from Peter about his journey and how he started to take it seriously and commit to his health. I also spoke to Johnny about his surprising diagnosis, and how he quickly took action and control of his type 2. These brothers helped motivate and encourage each other, and now both can reap the rewards of their efforts.

Peter, Allison and Johnny celebrate taking control of their diabetes and their health.

Thank you so much for taking the to speak with me today. I thought many of our readers would love to hear how you both have taken care of your health thanks to your type 2 diagnosis. Making lifestyle changes isn’t always easy, but it is well worth the journey. And what a bonus to have your brother right by your side!

It is my understanding that your father had type 2 and eventually became insulin-dependent. Did you understand a lot about the disease growing up? 

Peter: Yes, we were six kids growing up, and my brother Johnny and sister Roula would give my dad his insulin shots 2x a day. They did not come mixed back then, so we had to mix the two vials (N&R) together to give his shot.

Did your father take care of his health? 

Johnny: No, he was first diagnosed at 37 but never took care of his health or made any lifestyle changes until later in life. Unfortunately, because of this, he had a toe amputated because of low circulation. It also affected his vision. He had multiple surgeries for this, and it ultimately lead to heart disease and heart failure. We lost him on his birthday at 71.

Knowing your family history, did you pay close attention to your diet and exercise habits? 

Peter: No, I thought I was invincible and that this disease would not affect me.

At what age were you diagnosed with type 2, and what were the symptoms? 

Peter: I was diagnosed at the age of 37. I really did not have any symptoms, but I had gone for a regular checkup and my blood levels were off the charts, and my doctor sent me to a specialist. The specialist put me on medication, but I was not taking the pills as prescribed, as I felt fine and didn’t want to take any medicine. I was not testing my blood sugar at that time.

How did you manage at first, and what lifestyle changes have you made since? 

Peter: I was in total denial and really did not change anything about how I was eating or going through my day-to-day life. Once I turned 45 and understood the severity and saw how much my blood sugar was rising, I made significant lifestyle changes. I started eating healthier, more vegetables (finally eating greens!), switched my alcohol choices (low-carb beer and lower sugar drinks). I started going to the gym prior to Covid, and then turned to walking.

I understand that recently you started to monitor your blood sugar more frequently and even tried out the Freestyle Libre. What was your experience with the Libre? Did you like being able to monitor your blood sugar all the time?  

Peter: I didn’t believe it! When I saw the numbers I thought they were wrong. I did like the ability to see how what I ate affected my blood sugar immediately, but I was not ready for the Libre until I took control of my lifestyle and lost weight, the full journey to get to where I am now. I feel like it would be better for me now, as it is extremely easy.

controlling type 2 diabetes

Peter before his weight loss

Please tell us about your brother, Johnny, and his surprising diagnosis. 

Peter: My brother happened to come over to my house when I was taking my blood sugar prior to my making healthier lifestyle changes and choices. My numbers were in the mid 200’s, and I thought my glucose meter was broken. My brother said, “Take mine so we can see how it’s working.” His numbers came over double mine at 468 [mg/dL]. We definitely thought the machine was broken until my sister-in-law took her blood sugar (with no history of diabetes in her family). She was at 90. At that point, we knew the numbers were correct, and we both knew that this was the defining moment of the rest of our lives.

What was your initial reaction to this pretty shocking news?  

Johnny: I was in total disbelief – I felt like I was going to die and really took a long, hard look at the life that I wanted and made a lot of decisions on how I needed to make some dramatic life changes.

Had you had any symptoms? 

Johnny: I felt completely fine, however, my wife always said that when I didn’t eat I would be very HANGRY. Snickers commercials had nothing on me, and truthfully when my numbers get too low now, I feel exactly the same. It is something I need to continue to control, to level out my sugar levels.

What were some of the first things you did to better get control of your health and your blood sugars?  

Johnny: I immediately stopped eating all processed carbs. No bread, rice, pasta, beer, sugar, desserts, and milk. I replaced these items with Ezekiel bread, zucchini linguini, almond milk, sugar-free coffee sweetener, and condiments (sugar-free ketchup and BBQ sauce).

Johnny before and after choosing to live a healthy lifestyle.

I know you have both come a long way since you found out you had type 2 diabetes. Can you each tell us a little about your successes? 

Johnny: I was 238 lbs before my diagnosis. By changing my eating habits, exercising every day, walking 2 miles, and working out, I now weigh 194 lbs. I’ve lost two pant sizes and feel like a new person, one that will be around for my family for a long time. And my wife says I’m super sexy now.

Peter: I was 232 lbs when I was first diagnosed, and with all of the changes in my everyday lifestyle, I now weigh 186. I feel like a million dollars and realize I should have made these changes years ago. Life is too short. Make the changes now.

You both should be very proud of yourselves for turning this diagnosis into a stepping stone towards a healthier life. What would be your advice to a newly diagnosed person?  

Peter: Control it now, before it gets out of control.

Johnny: Take it seriously as this life is precious and life is worth living without complications – it only gets worse as you get older. The best part, I feel like I’m 18 again!

Thank you again for taking the time to answer my questions. I am truly impressed with how you both taken on this disease. I know your story will inspire many of our readers!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Diabetes Self-Care: How I Got Into and Out of a Bad Habit

By Julie Hyland

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in July 2013 at the age of 37. I lost a lot of weight, mostly muscle. Looking back at pics, I looked so sickly but I had so much going on at that time I didn’t notice. I was moving to another state, my father passed away and my son was also moving to a different state, all within a two-month period.

After getting diagnosed, I had a very strong mindset that I wasn’t going to let this disease control me, and I was going to show the world I could do even more now with type 1 than I could do before. I have always worked out and watched what I ate, so I was ready to kick diabetes butt. Well, I gained my muscle and weight back and kept that mindset for about 5 years.

Left: Right after I got diagnosed when I lost all my muscle | Right: After I worked to get my muscle back

Then, I let it get to me. The feeling like I suck when my sugars were high. The fear when my sugars went low. The fear of going to bed and dropping low. The constant stressing and worrying about what to eat, what to drink and what to dose. The anger when I would attempt to work out and drop low. The feeling of being stupid because you can’t figure out this disease. So I stopped working out, and I started eating whatever I felt like. But most of all, I drank.

I have always loved alcohol. It was my best friend. It got me through sad times, happy times, stressed times, anxiety, fear. It was my life. It was there for me…so I thought. I began to drink so much, I now know it was a way of numbing my hatred for this disease. The same disease I said I wouldn’t let affect me. If I was drunk or drinking, I was able to ignore a million thoughts of this disease. This disease I got like winning a bad luck lottery.

Because I was always drinking, I stopped noticing how I looked. I mean, I noticed my clothes not fitting and how I looked in the mirror. But because I would just numb myself more, I was able to overlook it. All it took was one video I saw of me getting out of the pool. I couldn’t believe how I looked. I also started doing yoga at that time and I was in my house thank God, but in one of the positions, I had to lift my stomach up in order to do it…what the h*ll?! Never in my life had I experienced anything like this.

How I looked in May 2020

That day was May 18, 2020. I decided that day I was done drinking and punishing myself for something I had no control over. I quit drinking. I started walking. I got a treadmill and a weight rack, bench and weights. I started working out and eating better.

Because I wasn’t drunk and hungover all the time, I felt great and it began to change how I looked at everything. The scale doesn’t show a huge amount of weight loss, but I’ve lost so far 7 inches off of my stomach. I have gone from a size 12 jeans to a size 6. I have started running and I love it. I dabbled in running about 15 years ago but never could run for long distances and always felt like death. When I started in July 2020 I couldn’t run for even 15 seconds. I can now run 3 miles and not feel like death. I will be running my first 5k at the end of May, which is also my one-year of sobriety month. I am nowhere near where I want to be but I’m so happy and proud of what I’ve accomplished so far. After my 5k, I want to do a 10k and then a half-marathon and so on.

April 2021

If I have any advice about this disease it’s “don’t be so hard on yourself”.

I also wish there would be more information out there about adults getting type 1 and more people talking about it. When I first got diagnosed there was barely any information about adults getting diagnosed. I started a YouTube channel in hopes to help other adults and it’s also a good way for me to get all my worries, stresses and journey out to everyone. I stopped making videos when I was in my funk, but I’ve started back up now. Documenting my sobriety and my running journey and how it all affects my blood sugar. If you are interested and want to follow me along in my progress. You can subscribe on YouTube at imtype.01.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

#WeSwipedRight: How I Met My Husband on Tinder

By Carlie Widner

I’ve never been one to ask for help. I didn’t want to be on a dating app. I felt like using a dating app was “asking for help” so I put it off for a long time. I was more of a “traditional dater” and “non-traditional” dating just didn’t feel right. My best friend convinced me to try it out. She seemed to be having fun finding matches on Tinder, going on dates, and meeting new single guys, even if they weren’t husband material.

So I joined Tinder in 2014 after going through several toxic relationships over the years. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try and meet someone in a little more non-traditional way since the traditional way wasn’t quite working out in my favor. I let my guard down and realized that if nothing comes out of it, at least I’ll get a free dinner or two. After downloading the app, I hesitantly made a profile and decided to check out some of the single men in my area. “He’s cute…” Swiped right. “No, not him…” Swiped left. “Ehh, gross…” Swiped left. “Oooh, hottie!” Swiped right. I continued to swipe right and swipe left for a while.

Photo credit: Carlie Widner

Then, “You have been matched” came across as a notification. I checked who I matched with. There’s a picture of this guy holding up a barbell over his head. The first thing I thought was “Hey, he does Crossfit like I do. I like him already!” His name is Dustin. He’s a year younger than me, but that’s okay. We matched, so that’s a first step in the right direction.

The magic didn’t quite happen right away for us. We talked through the Tinder app for about a month before I felt comfortable giving him my phone number. I needed to make sure this guy was legit before I could trust him. I wasn’t looking for a hookup. I was looking for my husband. He was persistent. He didn’t give up. I liked that about him. He didn’t seem like someone who just wanted to hook up. Dustin and I went on our first date to a small burger joint in town and immediately hit it off.

Just prior to joining Tinder, my life had taken a turn. I was a travel NICU nurse living my dream, working in San Diego. I had wanted to do this since I became a nurse in 2006. Finally, my dreams were coming true for me, or so I thought. During this time, my body decided to attack itself, mainly my pancreas, and I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. That’s when I decided to pack my stuff up and move back home, ending my “dream” of working as a travel NICU nurse.

Photo credit: Carlie Widner

Living with type 1 diabetes is not easy. I was nervous to tell Dustin but I needed him to know that my life was not as “normal” as for most. Type 1 diabetes was so new to me and I was still in the process of learning how to live with this disease. To my surprise, Dustin showed up. We would be out on a date eating dinner and he would pull out his phone to help me count carbohydrates. He learned how to change my insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor. He learned how to give glucagon if I ever had a low blood sugar emergency. He would bake low-carb snacks with me just so I could have a snack and have better blood sugar control. He was there for me.

Photo credit: Carlie Widner

After my diagnosis, I joined a Facebook group for athletes with type 1 diabetes and in 2016, Dustin and I went to an event put on by the type 1 diabetes community in Austin, Texas called Bolus and Barbells where we got to meet so many of our “online friends”. We had a blast! We lifted weights, counted carbs together, injected insulin together, drank alcohol together, and had an amazing time with all our new friends.

Many of our friends were joking with Dustin about when he would propose. It’s then that I knew…Tinder was my matchmaker. I had found my husband. At the end of 2016, Dustin proposed on the mountain in his grandparent’s yard. Of course, I said yes! On August 5, 2017, we got married in the mountains at a golf course, with a double rainbow to end the night. We used the hashtag #weswipedright at our wedding. Here we are in 2021 and we now have 2 beautiful baby boys.

Photo credit: Carlie Widner

I was very skeptical of whether or not trying to find my husband on a dating app would work. They say skepticism is good because it means you’re curious. And curiosity can bring good change in your world. Well, I’m glad I was skeptical of Tinder because that curiosity brought me to my husband. Now I’m really living my dream of being a wife and a mom.

I really wasn’t sure how dating would go while living with type 1 diabetes. I was so nervous and so anxious to tell him but once I did, he showed me nothing but support. It really takes a special person to be able to deal with the highs and lows of diabetes, but thanks to Tinder I found someone who was the perfect match and he handled me having diabetes so smoothly and never once gave me a hard time if I had to cancel plans because I wasn’t feeling well. So instead of going out, we would stay in and enjoy each other’s company.

Photo credit: Carlie Widner

At first, when people would ask how we met, I would laugh and would say “Tinder, we swiped right,” shrugging and feeling kind of silly for using a dating app to find my husband. But after a while, I became more comfortable with it. I tell people that it’s not easy, you weed through the ones you don’t like, or hit it off with someone, and you have to put in the work, but when you do, it can be magical. I’ve learned that it’s okay to let down your guard and ask for help. Even if it means using a dating app! I’m so thankful #weswipedright.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Diabetes & Smoking: What You Need to Know

Most of us know that smoking is horrible for one’s health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, yet over 34 million Americans still smoke tobacco cigarettes nearly every day.

Unsurprisingly, smoking is even worse for your health if you live with diabetes. This article will outline the reasons why smoking is so bad for people with diabetes and what you can do to stop smoking.

Smoking Is Bad for Everyone

Smoking is the leading cause of lung diseases, including COPD, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. Smoking also contributes to the growth and development of many types of cancer, including cancers of the mouth and throat, voice box, esophagus, stomach, kidney, pancreas, liver, bladder, cervix, colon and rectum, and acute myeloid leukemia. On average, life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than for nonsmokers.

The American people have known for a long time that smoking causes cancer. Nearly 60 years ago, in 1964, the then U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry issued a definitive report linking smoking cigarettes with lung cancer for the first time. Smoking is even worse for people living with chronic diseases, especially diabetes.

Why Is Smoking Especially Bad for People With Diabetes?

People with diabetes who smoke are more likely to have serious health problems and complications, including heart and kidney disease, poor blood flow to the extremities, increased risk of infections, higher incidence of foot ulcers, increased rates of lower limb amputation, and retinopathy, which increases the likelihood of blindness than people with diabetes who do not smoke.

Why is this so?

People with diabetes are constantly working to manage their blood sugars and prevent complications brought on by the disease that include damage to the nerves, eyes, kidneys, and heart. The tobacco in cigarettes exacerbates these issues and accelerates the rate of decline in a person already suffering from a chronic disease.

There are over 7,000 chemicals in cigarettes, 70 of which are directly linked to the development of cancer, aging, and oxidative stress. For example, some of the chemicals found in cigarettes include toilet cleaner, candle wax, insecticide, arsenic, nicotine, lighter fluid, and carbon monoxide, just to name a few. These addicting, dangerous chemicals cause harm to your body’s cells, interfering with their normal function.

In a person with diabetes, the harm caused by a cigarette’s chemicals and nicotine causes chronic inflammation, resulting in insulin resistance and higher blood sugars, and thus makes it harder to manage one’s diabetes.

All of these issues compound to make diabetes management harder, and complications more likely. For people with diabetes, the health risks of smoking a cigarette is four times greater than for someone without diabetes.

Even more striking, a 2014 study revealed that smokers are 30-40% also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, making the relationship between cigarette smoking and diabetes a vicious cycle.

quit smoking

Photo credit: Adobe Stock

Reduce Your Risk and Improve Your Health by Quitting Smoking

The best thing to do if you have diabetes and smoke is to quit immediately, and it’s never too late to quit! Quitting smoking before age 40 results in lifespans as long as people who have never smoked, and one’s lungs start to immediately heal the day they stop smoking.

Quitting smoking before the age of 40 reduces the risk of death (associated with continued smoking) by 90%, and quitting before age 30 avoids more than 97% of the risk of death associated with continued smoking into adulthood. The sooner, the better, but there never is a bad time to quit smoking.

Studies have shown that people who have diabetes start to respond to insulin better and their insulin resistance drops within 8 weeks of quitting smoking. 

Quitting smoking may be one of the hardest tasks you ever undertake, but the benefits are worth it: a longer, healthier life, better blood sugars, lower HbA1c levels, and fewer diabetes complications.

How to Stop Smoking

There are many resources available to people who want to quit smoking, including:

If you have diabetes and you’re a smoker, take heart: there is never a bad time to quit smoking, and quitting smoking won’t only improve your overall health, your diabetes management will likely become easier as well.

Quit smoking not only for yourself but for the health of your family as well. Lean on your loved ones for support, and work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that will work for you, minimize withdrawal symptoms, and make the transition to a smoke-free life easier.

Whatever it takes, give yourself grace: a new study reveals that smokers try to quit 30 times before they succeed, and living with the stress of diabetes can make those attempts even more challenging, but definitely more worthwhile for you and your health.

Have you quit smoking or tried to quit smoking in the past? What has worked best for you? Share your story in the comments below.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

The Value of Diabetes Camps: Building Skills and Grit in a Safe and Supervised Way

A few years ago, I attended a function for children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes (T1D) and their caregivers. A breakout session on type 1 at school was packed with parents of newly diagnosed children, most wearing the familiar look of worry and exhaustion that us veteran parents remembered all too well. These weary warrior newbies needed an empathic community and substantive guidance.

The panel was composed of a seasoned school counselor with type 1 herself, and two school nurses. Collectively, their years of experience were a treasure trove of information as to managing the complexities of type 1 at school. Despite their expertise, the fear and trepidation among the attendees were palpable. I felt like exclaiming “group hug!” The parents, some of whom had devoted grandparents along for support, seemed to have two things in common: fear, and a strong skepticism over whether it was all going to work out OK for their children.

How could school waters be tested with the uncertainties of bus travel to and from, recess, gym class, standardized testing periods, and school trips? For those families in which there was not a full-time nurse on staff at school, the worries were significantly amplified. How would oversight of insulin dosing occur and who would help their children during a dangerous high or low?

Sitting amid these parents I could relate to their vulnerability as I recollected the first nerve-racking days when my eleven-year-old son returned to school after his initial hospitalization. I could remember needing to catch my breath when I would see the school name on my caller ID. Most calls were that a low was being handled and not to worry. Other times, it was a request that I come and pick up my son rather than have him ride the school bus home with a persistent low. The best calls were to say that he had given his own injections and was showing more and more independence each day. With the right helpers in place, the scaffolds were being erected for him to become confident, strong, proud, and as self-sufficient as feasible for a young boy with a chronic condition.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock

The first time we saw our endocrinologist in an outpatient setting just weeks after diagnosis he asked our son, “Hey, are you going to diabetes camp this summer? You’ll love it!” I thought, what could diabetes camp possibly be? It sounded like the least fun camp imaginable. There was just one other type 1 child in our son’s elementary school. How many kids could there be to fill up such a camp?

Fast forward to the next summer after our son’s diagnosis as we arrived at the aptly named, “Camp Freedom” to find a lively campground with hundreds of kids and teens with type 1 diabetes milling about. We could spot insulin tubing, patch pumps, and glucose monitors on arms, legs, and bare midriffs. I saw a teenage girl with her diabetes alert dog. Asking her about her beautiful companion with his official vest, she shared that she had hypoglycemic unawareness. I did not know what to say. To have someone unable to feel an acutely dangerous low was unfathomable to me as a parent. Never had I felt as much love and respect for an animal as that diabetic alert dog steadfastly at his owner’s side.

As each camper lined up at check-in, an endocrinology nurse or doctor would obtain precise information as to daily insulin amounts, pump settings such as insulin to carb ratios, basal schedules, and correction factors. Adjustments were made to err on the side of caution to prevent exercise-induced hypoglycemia with the many activities for recreation and sport yet to unfold. As the days would go on, if a child was running too low from fun offerings such as zip lining, swimming, and gaga, further adjustments would ensue by the expert staff who monitored blood sugars day and night.

During the six-night sleep away camp, no cell phones were permitted so this was the first time ever in our son’s life that we could not communicate with him for an extended period. However, laying my head on the pillow on his first night away and realizing the peace of mind that the 2 AM finger stick and countless other checks throughout that long week were being properly supervised resulted in a feeling of immense gratitude for the nurses, doctors, and camp counselors. What other kind of camp could offer parents this type of reassurance and respite from caregiving while creating fun for their kids?

One of the most famous organizations in the nation, The Barton Center for Diabetes Education, Inc., offers girls, boys, and co-ed camps year-round. They hope to provide an in-person camp experience this summer and are closely monitoring COVID to determine the safest numbers of campers to have onsite. Other camps are running virtual programs.

For children and teens who have felt isolated or misunderstood since their diagnoses, diabetes camp often represents the very first time they feel joyful and normal again. Surrounded by hundreds of kids with the exact same condition, the solidarity that comes from a shared experience is the fastest path toward normalizing and acceptance of one’s condition. Beyond acceptance, the cultivation of grit and perseverance, in line with the writings of Dr. Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania, are key skills that any veteran T1D will tell you matter. This sense of plugging away or what Dr. Duckworth calls, “deliberate practice,” combined with a positive “growth mindset” as outlined by Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford in her famous book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” are byproducts of immersive, supportive experiences that emphasize challenge, skill-building, and persistence despite setbacks.

Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. Infographic: Very Well Mind

The psychosocial theorist, Erik Erikson, had a stage theory of human development. He believed that within each stage was a central “crisis” to be resolved and how well one emerged from the stage and entered the next was a function of the degree to which the crisis had been resolved. When my son was diagnosed at age eleven he was in Erikson’s fourth psychosocial stage: industry (competence) vs. inferiority.

If the messaging to an eleven-year-old with T1D is, this is too hard for you, too dangerous, too you name it, then the child would begin to think that diabetes was a significant limiting factor. That impingement on self-efficacy would leave an imprint on the stages yet to come and be a set up for learned helplessness, worry, sadness, frustration, and a lack of confidence. Conversely, if a child of this age is exposed to a supervised, supportive, inspiring community like one finds in diabetes camp, he will emerge stronger, more confident, and more willing to embark on new and challenging pursuits that showcase his competence in handling his condition.

As a therapist, I sometimes speak with parents with heavy hearts over conditions or diagnoses of their children. Often, the children are soldiering on in their own way and sympathy may be misplaced when a show of empathy would better fortify and empower the entire family. I am reminded of a race I once ran in Central Park in New York City one summer. I looked on in pure awe at a blind runner to my right flying past me. I saw his guide next to him giving him quiet direction and I wondered what kind of messaging and experiences this runner had internalized over his life to cultivate his courageous growth mindset despite a formidable obstacle.

Modeling a growth mindset themselves, parents of children with type 1 can let their children venture forth to be guided by experts such as those staffing diabetes camps. T1D youth will learn lifelong skills while having fun and parents will get a respite from caregiving along with the great reward of watching their children thrive with T1D.

Tara and son with type 1 diabetes

Photo credit: Tara Bryant-Gray

As I drop my 19-year-old son off this week for a socially distanced mini-semester at his university, I am grateful for his early experiences at diabetes camp, and subsequently in pre-college overnight programs. My son is stronger and more empowered because of these safe and confidence building opportunities which expanded his diabetes management skills and enriched his overall independence and development.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Managing My Anxiety of Possible Retinopathy

I remember feeling anxious. Sitting in the waiting room of the eye doctor in March of 2019, I knew this sensation all too well. It came from my experience of receiving “bad news” one too many times. I was nervous but quietly tried to connect with the inner knowing that I was not the only person who has to go through these types of feelings. With a deep breath in and a long breath out, I thought of my friends within the diabetes community who constantly remind me that I’m never alone.

When you live with diabetes, it often feels like you’re just waiting for that next thing to go wrong. We try to be positive but at the end of the day we’re still human and being scared of the unknown is normal. Even people without diabetes typically know the risks associated with trying to manage blood sugars without a properly functioning pancreas and/or metabolism. Heart disease, nerve damage, kidney failure, and blindness are issues people with diabetes may live in fear of since day one of their diagnosis.

Deep down, I knew something was off. My vision had changed enough that I had a sneaky suspicion this time would bring that moment where I would be told that there were now signs of diabetes in my eyes. And I was right.

The doctor informed me that I had retinal bleeds in both my eyes but that “I didn’t need to worry” and they wouldn’t need to treat it just yet. She even kindly offered to check them again in 6 months time if that might make me feel better. It did… and at the same time, it didn’t. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. Thoughts of friends who have gone through so much with their eyes raced through my mind. Would I have to experience all of that, too?

Photo credit: Sarah Macleod

I started to cry and felt the same sadness wash over me that I had felt in 2012 after being diagnosed with gastroparesis. The guilt and shame I had been working through for years knocked on the door to my heart but I knew that the only way through this moment was to face this new information with acceptance and an attitude that I wasn’t powerless.

I had been taking a pump break while in yoga teacher training and had decided to continue on injections after I had graduated from the program. However, upon being diagnosed with retinopathy, I made the decision to switch back to my insulin pump once again. Everyone is different, but for me, having an insulin pump is a privilege and asset I couldn’t ignore. I knew that utilizing the technology available to me would be in my best interest.

When it came time for my next appointment, the world had already been impacted by COVID-19 and I wasn’t able to get my eyes checked when I had anticipated. I did my best not to let the fear creep in, but working from home and being on screens more than ever before didn’t do much to quell my anxious mind. Yet I knew I had to keep going.

For months, I tried to find a balance between discipline and letting go of what I simply could not control. I stayed connected with the diabetes community and my peers who understood what it was like to be managing diabetes daily while also navigating additional complications, illnesses, and issues. Utilizing tools like emotional freedom technique, guided meditation, and yoga continued to be a way I could serve myself while remaining focused on the balance I wanted to achieve.

I can’t tell you how many tears I cried. The worry would consume me most when I thought of a potential future pregnancy, breastfeeding, and motherhood. I wanted to see the children of my dreams and soak in every freckle on their face, their tiny fingers, and little toes. I wanted to see my children grow and watch them become who they were meant to be. If I lost my vision, how could any of these dreams come true? I found acceptance in knowing that I was willing to do whatever it took to preserve my vision even if that meant facing treatment options that terrified me.

It took me so long to make that next eye doctor’s appointment. Yet I knew in 2021 I wanted to address any of the issues I had been avoiding because of the fears that still existed within. The night before my appointment, I joined a meditation session with my diabetes friends and appreciated the energy, loving-kindness, and support that our “diabetesangha” was offering to me. It allowed me to relax, be present with how I was feeling, and honor any emotion that was coming to the surface to be acknowledged and released.

Sitting in that chair again, eyes dilated and heart open, I felt hopeful that I may be given the news that nothing had changed and to just keep working towards optimal glycemic control. However, the news I received was even better than I had anticipated. The doctor told me she could no longer see any signs of diabetes in my eyes. The retinal bleeds were gone and I was doing just fine. I was overjoyed and elated at the knowledge that I had reversed my diabetic retinopathy.

Each one of us living with diabetes is different. Despite ardent efforts and steadfast diligence, we don’t always receive positive news or the outcomes we are most hopeful for. Yet it is important to recognize that we must not give up even when we’re given bad news. There are avenues of support as well as resources and recommendations from peers and professionals that can offer us a sense of empowerment. If you are struggling with diabetes complications, remember that you are never alone and that there are people who understand what you’re going through. Don’t lose hope and keep in mind that there are many paths to healing ourselves body, mind, and spirit.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Advice for Parents From Adults Who Grew Up as a Type 1

I am very grateful to have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 37. I think of all the times where having type 1 would have been challenging growing up. Navigating diabetes and childhood and adolescence isn’t easy but with love and support, anyone growing up with type 1 diabetes can thrive!

Oftentimes there are discussions within the diabetes online community that help others on how to navigate their role in this disease. Whether they are the person living with diabetes or a “type 3”, which is a loved one or caregiver, many people seek advice from others who have lived through it. A common post you will find is a dedicated parent asking for help from those who are now adults but have lived with this condition almost their entire lives. Being a parent of a child with type 1 is tricky, to say the least. You want to give them independence but you also worry and it is a tough balancing act.

We decided to ask our community of people with type 1 who have lived with it since childhood, “What do you appreciate most about how your parents dealt with your disease and what do you wish they did differently?”

Let’s be clear. This isn’t to fault or finger-point at parents who have a challenging role, as not only a parent, but a pancreas too. This information is solely to serve our community with insights and observations that can help them play a positive and supportive role in their child’s journey.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock

Here is what people who have lived with diabetes since childhood had to say:

“I cannot tell you how vital my parents were. They made this normal. They changed everything they were doing in an instant. If they questioned anything they never did it in front of me. They supported me and they encouraged me. They taught me to look at this as an opportunity to educate others because I was diagnosed in 1980 and we knew no one at the time. They taught me resilience and self-esteem in handling this disease. They let me know I could do anything. When I wanted to go to college far away, they didn’t discourage me. They never held me back. And this goes for every aspect of my life, not just this. I miss them both every day because they were my biggest fans and I knew it and still do.” – Sarah G.

“My parents didn’t hover. They basically let me control it with support and help. They guided me, we talked about it frequently, but they didn’t control it…I was diagnosed at 8. They never told me I couldn’t stay at a friend’s house and never treated me differently. I was able to do everything a normal kid would do.” – Andrea H.

“Encourage self-reliance. This is normal, We are normal. I am always in awe of you parents. You are amazing.” – Sarah G.

“I was diagnosed at 15 and felt capable of managing it. They didn’t bother me yet encouraged and helped in any way I needed. What I wish I knew was about low-carb and not just follow mainstream medicine. But hey, I’m not sure how open to that I would have been as a teenager so who knows”. – Shaina R.

“They bought me a pony, which I took full care of and showed them. I was up at 5 am and didn’t stop to the sun went down. Oh yes, I had diabetes. OK, I will handle that too.” – Laura W.

“I like the idea of making it into a science experiment. Obviously, it all depends on the child and parent and other considerations but an approach of “thinking out loud” is a good thing.” – Halvdan W.

“Back in 1971 when I was 16, I imagine that a doctor told my parents I was old enough to handle it by myself. They never told me that but they didn’t even learn how to give shots or test my urine! But back then, one shot a day and testing urine weren’t that big of a deal. I’m glad they did it that way. I just figured it out on my own and I’m better for it. Now I’m healthy at 66 and happy!” – Aimee P.

“I’m glad they made me take responsibility right away.”- Kelly L.

“Unwavering support. Crazy over the top, unwavering support and agreeing with me anytime I screamed, cried, cursed about how messed up it was that I had diabetes. She was also on the front foot regarding low-carb and would fight any doctor or anyone who spoke to me in a way that was condescending, rude, dismissive, etc. Just knowing she was there and that I could ask for help means so much to me and it’s helped me feel empowered to run my own race and do what is in my best interest.” – Gemma B.

“I wish they were involved. I was 9 when I was diagnosed and I felt really alone. Ask my mother about insulin and she will say she doesn’t know a thing about it. Plus she always told me I couldn’t have kids cause I have diabetes. Another lie, I met many type 1 ladies having 2-4 kids. Just focus on the positivity! As parents get involved and show you care! Communicate with your kids on their food choices, what activities they plan, double check they have everything, It’s great to get involved as a team.” – G.C.

“I wish they would have tightened up my diet a bit by feeding me fewer carbs but the dieticians and endos in the 90s told them I needed x amount per meal or I would die so they did what they thought they had to do. Eventually, they stopped listening though. All in all, they did a great job.” – C.S.

“All I can say is I wish they had found Dr. Bernstein and his methods. There is a lot I wish, but that is the biggest one!” – R.M.

“I liked that they sent me to a diabetes camp. That’s where I learned how to take of myself.” – Sally C.

“I’m grateful they let me be in charge and stay independent instead of micro-managing. I wish they had been more willing to learn about better control and nutrition. Although few doctors I’ve ever had were much help there so my parents were just going along with what they were told. I learned how to get better control in my late 20s through my own research and worry about the long-term damage that’s already been done. I’m now trying to help my parents take better care of their own health problems through nutrition and a healthier lifestyle.” – Melissa S.

“Even though I couldn’t see it then, my mom gave me the space I needed as a teenager to make mistakes and learn. She must have been so anxious by my behavior and I feel bad for that. But she supported me and set me up with everything I needed to become successful as an adult. She cheers me on now and I hope she knows I’m only doing so well because of her.” – Kelsey S.

“I was 12 when I was diagnosed and my parents did what they were told– just dose for the high-carb meals. Well, here I am at 30 years old with diabetic retinopathy that caused swelling when I was pregnant and I had to get injections and lasers in my eye which was super painful. I also have peripheral neuropathy so that is fun too. I eat low-carb/keto now to avoid spikes the best I can.” – A.R.

“They did a great job at encouraging me to embrace being diabetic, without it being something I needed to hide or feel quiet/embarrassed about. My mom brought a lot of enthusiasm into my diabetes management. Diabetes just became to me this interesting fun tidbit I could share with others and never saw it as something that reduced my value as a person. However, they did not make mental health support a priority, not giving me viable options which I needed as I had a severe needle phobia. It took me about 6 years after diagnosis to do my first injection, with upwards of 10 hours each week since diagnosis working on forcing myself to give a shot before I succeeded. And it wasn’t until 4-5 years after that, before it became “no big deal to me” It scares me to think I could have become on of those young diabetics that rarely take insulin because they wouldn’t acknowledge how serious my phobia was.” – A.A.

“I always felt empowered to manage this disease on my own from an early age. They never pushed but followed my cues and let me take over when I was ready. They did a great balancing act and I look at all the parents now in our community and my hats go off to you. You are all doing an incredible job.” – Matt. F.

“I felt like my disease wasn’t spoken about in front of others. It bothered me since it still always existed even in those moments. It gave me a huge complex about my disease and led me to many social issues down the road since I felt ashamed. I recommend talking freely about your child’s condition and never make them feel like they should hide it! They will have a much healthier outlook on their disease and that will translate to many other aspects of their life.” – V.V.

“Stay positive! Be there to listen! Educate yourselves and never settle for a doctor that you aren’t absolutely thrilled with. Find a doctor that both you and your child feel comfortable with. It may take time but it will be worth the wait for a much better experience for you both.” – Nicole M.

I hope the advice from members of our community helps you navigate your role as a parent of a type 1 child. Remember, every child is different and every situation is unique. Communicate with your child and do what works best for you, your child and your family.

Did you grow up living with type 1 diabetes? Do you have any advice to give parents raising a  child living with type 1 diabetes? Please share and comment below!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

5 Ways to Talk Gentler to Yourself with Diabetes

Living with diabetes is hard. The 24/7/365 management, constant conscientiousness, precise measurements and tracking, and near perfection that the condition requires can be exhausting, and sometimes we’re our own worst critic.

We can become siloed in the “shoulds” and “should nots”, working ourselves into a corner of unrealistic expectations, not letting ourselves be fully human.

If you find that your language around diabetes is especially harsh, try flipping these 5 phrases to change your entire perspective on things, improve your mood, and live a fuller, free life with diabetes.

Instead of, “I can’t have that”, try “I choose not to have that”

The truth is, people with diabetes can eat anything they want. Sometimes, we may choose lower carbohydrate meals, or opt for seltzer water instead of an alcoholic mixed drink due to high blood sugar, rough diabetes day, or just because we want to take a little less insulin on that occasion.

But saying that you “can’t” have a food item puts you in a position of weakness. It shows that the food has power over you, putting on it a pedestal, and then you’ll begin to crave that food more and perhaps overeat it at a later date. It limits your thinking and creates a limiting mentality.

Instead, saying that you simply choose not to eat something puts you in a position of power, lets everyone else around you know that you’re in control of what you want and do not want to eat, and educates people that you really can have something if you choose to do so. You’ll also feel better about your food choices as a result.

Instead of, “My A1c is so bad”, try “I’m working to improve my A1c”

There are no “good” or “bad” blood sugars. Your blood sugar level is just a piece of data informing you what to do next. Low? You’ll need to eat something. High? You’ll need to dose some insulin. It helps educate you to learn how you respond to food, stress, exercise, new medications, or lack of sleep, and since the A1c test is just a cumulation of 3 months’ of blood sugars, the test result should just inform you on how you need to proceed to feel the best that you possibly can.

The great thing about an A1c test is that once you get your results, you can start working on your goals for the next one, and each quarter that you get the test is a clean slate. Maybe you tried a raw vegan (high carbohydrate) diet for a few months and your A1c came back a little higher. Getting a higher result might steer you in a lower carbohydrate direction for the next time. Perhaps you picked up strength training, and your A1c dropped 1% point. This might inspire you to continue the habit or even increase it. An A1c test is a tool in your toolbelt to help you along on your diabetes journey, but it should never be something that you use to negatively judge yourself.

Instead of, “I have to work out”, try “I get to work out”

Exercise is a cornerstone of any good diabetes management routine, but sometimes keeping that exercise routine is extremely hard. We’ve all had those moments where it’s early, we’re cold, the sky is still dark, and we really do not want to go to the gym, but we say we “have to work out” for better blood sugars.

Instead of feeling like you “have to”, why not flip it and express how thankful you are that you “get” to work out? That you have a body that can move, that your heart and lungs can pump, that you have a bicycle to ride, good running shoes for a jog, or a welcoming gym to go to?

Being thankful for having the time, mental bandwidth, energy, and money for exercise can help motivate you to get it done when it can sometimes be easier to complain.

Instead of, “I always have to go to the doctor”, try “I get to regularly check-in on my overall health”

If diabetes does one thing well, it makes people more cognizant of their overall health and wellbeing more than they ever would be without the disease. It makes you run a fine-tooth comb through your eating and exercise habits, how you manage stress and relationships, even how well you hydrate and sleep. And while going to the doctor often for checkups can sometimes seem like a drag, try and think of it as a great thing that professionals are frequently drawing blood, checking for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, checking in on your mental health, and making sure you’re healthy all around.

A lot of people do not see a doctor regularly, only seeking help when something is really wrong, and unfortunately, sometimes that help comes too late. The positive aspect of seeing a physician frequently is that you can check in on little things that may be bothering you before they turn into big problems.

This can be helpful not only for diabetes-related issues but for your vision, cardiovascular health, foot health, diet, mental health, and more. It’s a great thing and will ultimately make you healthier in the long run.

Instead of, “Diabetes always holds me back”, try “Diabetes lets me slow down and assess what I really need”

There will be times when diabetes slows you down. Perhaps you go low during a game of soccer or basketball and need to sit on the sidelines until your blood sugar comes up. Perhaps your insulin pump malfunctioned and your blood sugar has been high all day, and you’re dealing with a bad headache.

It can be easy to get down on yourself and start believing that diabetes is really holding you back, but in my experience, diabetes has only really had me slow down and tune myself into what was really going on. For instance, if I’m on a hike and keep going low, it’s usually because I didn’t have an adequate enough breakfast and I actually need to eat something with a little more protein, fat, and carbohydrates. If I have a terrible headache, and my blood sugar is stubbornly high, I can zero in that I haven’t had enough water or fresh air that day.

Blood sugars are usually an indicator that something else is going on; the instant feedback that they give people with diabetes is something that other people don’t get. We know if some food has tons of sugar because our levels will skyrocket; we can then portion things appropriately, while others may overeat and feel crumby the next day. We know that regular exercise makes our blood sugars more stable; someone without diabetes may forget or not have enough motivation to exercise because they don’t feel the instant results, and thus won’t feel as energized or refreshed regularly.

Taking the time to really assess what your blood sugars are telling you, and appreciating the time to slow down and address the issue is the key not only to better health but to better diabetes management as well.

What are ways that you’ve learned to talk kinder to yourself with diabetes? Share this post and comment on your ideas below; we love hearing from our readers!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Toddler Changes His Own Dexcom on TikTok: Advice From His Mom

TikTok has become more than just a place to dance along to the latest trend; it has become a platform for advocacy for many issues, and diabetes has received increased exposure thanks to this social media app. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a TikTok of a very young boy putting on his own Dexcom G6! And he did it with confidence, bravery, and pride. I wanted to share Daxon’s story in the hopes that it inspires others as well. I reached out to his mom who was gladly happy to chat.

Hi Cassie, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions! I would love for our community to get to know Daxon a little better! He is such a great role model for other children living with type 1 diabetes (T1D)!

At what age was Daxon diagnosed and what were the symptoms?

Daxon was diagnosed exactly 1 month from his second birthday at 23 months old.

He started to get a bad temper spring of 2019 and we never understood why. He would get so upset so easily and we just thought it was because of terrible twos. In July, he threw up twice one morning for no reason and out of the blue. He started throwing up at nighttime multiple nights in a row and only at night. I took him to his pediatrician, and they told me “it’s probably the stomach bug, it’ll pass” but I told him “but randomly like that? It doesn’t make sense”.

After about two weeks, it stopped until August. He threw up one more time in the morning and then stopped. Once again, we had no idea why. At the end of August he started drinking and peeing excessively. What really gave it away was that he was drenched from head to toe in pee after a 2-hour nap period one day and that was it. I checked his sugar and it was 461 mg/dL (borderline DKA).

How did you as a family adapt to your new normal?

Honestly, we are still trying to adapt. We take it day by day because it is always changing. The one thing about diabetes is that no matter what, it is different each day. Even if you do the same exact thing, sugars will change.

Did you change Daxon’s and/or your family’s diet at all? What are his favorite go-to foods that don’t wreak havoc on his blood sugars? I’m sure lots of moms could use some tips!

I did not completely change his diet, but I do swap stuff out for healthier carbs and a lower glycemic index. He does low-carb bread, cheese, and crackers instead of mac-n-cheese, Go-Gurts, Two Good yogurts instead of the higher-carb ones, chicken meatballs instead of chicken nuggets, Fairlife milk instead of others  (because of his milk allergy, but it is better carb-wise also), keto-friendly cereal because others spike so much that I cannot get it down for hours, keto-friendly bread only because the GI level is so much better. There are some other changes, but the family has not changed any really. He does still eat candy, it is just more in moderation than before.

His go-to foods are pork rinds eggs, a brownie bar called “Good to Go”, keto-friendly ice cream, yellow bell peppers, broccoli, really any vegetable, cheese sticks, pepperoni, lollipop suckers. Any time we are out Chik-fil-A, grilled chicken and fruit are a must. That is all I can think of right now.

Photo credit: Cassie Daniels

At what point did you start using the Omnipod and Dexcom G6? How did Daxon handle that? 

The Dexcom was a month after being diagnosed and he did not handle it well at first. We would have to hold him down to get him to let me put it on. It was a nightmare but once he watched a friend of ours put her’s on and she told him “you have a robot just like me” he got used to it and now it is normal. When his phone tells us it’s time to change it, he’ll tell me “robot needs changed” and he will 100% do it solo now which is amazing.

The Omnipod was a little different. His first endo wouldn’t approve it because they thought he would take it off, so we had to wait but once we switched to a different hospital, they got him on it right away; so, he was about 7 months in when he was able to get the pod. At first, once again — NOT a fan and it was horrible — but once he learned it meant “no more shots” he was perfectly fine with it (sometimes). We will scream — and I mean scream  — the song “Baby Shark” so he will not hear the clicking for the needle and that seems to help also. He is currently working on putting the insulin in his pod so he is super excited about that.

I know I personally prefer shots, but am often intrigued by the control some pumpers get. Do you find using the pump helps make blood sugar management easier?

The pump for us personally is a lot better for different reasons. Omnipod allows such a small dose, so even 1 gram of carbs he would get some insulin, but with shots, we would have to round up or down, which meant [more fluctuations for him]. Also, in the middle of the night, being able to give him insulin without even touching him has been great. I hated waking him up to poke him with a needle. Also, when on the go we can dose from the front seat of the car. However, if he ever decides that he wants to stop the pump and go back to shots I will support him and what he wants 100%.

@cdaniels2015

95% completely solo 💙💙💙💙 He’s get the hang of this soooo quickly 😭🙏💙 #typeonediabadass #BigBoy

♬ Bang! – AJR

I couldn’t believe my eyes when my diabestie, Hillary Emmons,  sent me this TikTok of Daxon changing his own Dexcom! I am so impressed and inspired! At what point did he express interest in doing that?

After about six months of being a type 1, he has always been curious about everything. He has been checking his own sugar with the meter since about 6 months in when needed to be checked. And recently he was really showing interest in the Dexcom and doing it solo. He did half of it one day and then the next change he did it completely on his own, all I did was hold it and help place it. I never asked him to do it because I didn’t think he was ready for that task yet but that day he told me “I do it” and that was it. Now he is showing interest in some of the Omnipod stuff, which is amazing because he feels in control.

I give you credit as a parent for letting him own his management and giving him the confidence to know he can manage his disease! What would you like to tell other parents about how to get children to want to be a part of their daily care?

Make it positive, make it fun, and make it normal. We have the JDRF bear and we practiced on that since being diagnosed. At first, we used it so he could understand more of it. We also got his big brother and all the other family members involved since day one. We check everyone’s sugars, so it is normal for everyone. All the children in our family (our boys and our 3 nieces) have been very curious about it since day one.

I see you are using TikTok as a platform for awareness and this one video alone got over 103,000 likes! Kudos! What would you like people to take away from your videos?

I want people to know the signs of T1D and to normalize it. I hate when I see people hide that they check their sugar or even giving their self insulin. I want to help parents have a voice for their children because doctors sometimes do not listen, and we need to be loud for our children and to follow their gut. I have a lot of people say that he encouraged their children to try putting the Dexcom on solo and I love that it is helping other children also. One of my TikToks potentially saved a child from dying. Her sugar was almost 1000 mg/dL and she was in DKA and doctors were surprised she wasn’t in a coma. Children should not die for people [not being able] to figure out what is wrong!

Does Daxon enjoy making the TikTok videos? I think “injecting” some humor and fun is the best medicine of all! And one you can all do together as a family!

Daxon loves showing people his stuff. He knows it makes him unique and he loves seeing others who are like him. So, when people duet his videos and they show their Dex or pod it’s helpful for him also to see that there are others like him.

Photo credit: Cassie Daniels

What else does Daxon like to do with his free time when he’s not managing his diabetes and TikTok’ing?

Daxon is a typical boy and I mean ALL boy. He rough houses with his brother, loves to color, help with dishes, cooking, loves to read books, play outside, ride his 4-wheeler, and absolutely loves cuddling with me. I think him being a T1D made our bond even stronger.

How does Daxon feel about being a TikTok sensation and knowing that he is helping to inspire many other children just like himself!

I have told him many times that he is helping other children and I don’t think he really understands what it means yet, but he always smiles and says “they have a robot like me” or he’ll go “yay that makes me happy”. I ask him “do you want to make a video?” and normally he’ll tell me “yessss let’s make a video”. I will never make him make TikToks so if he tells me no then I’ll leave it alone.

I ask this in every interview! Do you think they’ll be a cure in Daxon’s lifetime?

100% honestly I do not foresee a cure ever. They make way too much money from insulin (when it should be free, but that’s another story for another time). I wish there would be a cure, but I don’t see it happening.

Daxon

Photo credit: Cassie Daniels

What advice helped you? Can you pass it along to parents of newly diagnosed children?

My advice for parents is:

  1. Take one day at a time because it is an always-changing, never-stopping, headache of a disease.
  2. Do your best and never get down on your child for their blood sugars. That is the one thing I will never do to Daxon, anytime he has “bad” sugars, I never express it to him or show it on my face because it is not his fault, so I don’t want him to feel like he is failing.
  3. Always tell your child they can still do anything they like and never change activities. Just change foods to help [manage sugars during] the activities. For example, we took Daxon and his brother to a trampoline park and I knew his sugar was going to drop. He started at 170 mg/dL and dropped to 50 mg/dL. I was prepared with milk, yogurt, chocolate, and others, so he could still have fun and be a kid.
  4. Try not to have a fight if sugars are not in range, because everything is magnified if high or low. So what I do with Daxon if he is high or low and has a temper tantrum, I ignore it and let him do what he needs to do. Once he calms down, we discuss what happened and I explain I understand he doesn’t feel good but he doesn’t need to act that way.
  5. Treat them like you would any other child because diabetes does NOT define them.

Where do you see going with your advocacy and awareness on social media or elsewhere? Do you have other plans in the future?

I would love to bring more awareness to this disease. I would love for there to be a law that pediatricians must check A1c every year or every other year. They check your iron, and they check lead so why not diabetes? [Some] pediatricians think that younger children cannot get diabetes until at least six years old which is not true. It is ridiculous because a child’s death is avoidable if people were more aware of the signs and doctors tested when they should.

Thanks again Cassie, we really appreciate you taking the time! I look forward to continuing to follow Daxon’s journey and see how many kids he inspires along the way!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

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