It’s All Mental (Except When It Isn’t)

I’m 30. People said my metabolism would slow down the closer I got to this milestone. But it’s not just being 30. There’s something else I have to contest with – something called Type 1 diabetes.

I don’t have the energy I had when I was 22 or 25 or even 27. Something has changed in the past year. I’m exhausted all the time. I’m lucky when I can work out more than three times a week. Hell, I’m lucky when I can manage to do weights after a 10-hour work day.

Any kind of physical activity is a struggle. I want to be in shape. I don’t want to be overweight when I age, but over the last year, I’ve gained 10 pounds. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s hard for someone who used to have to body image issues to tell herself it’s okay I’m a little heavier.

Everything I eat seems to stick, and the old stress-methods of not eating don’t seem to make a difference. The only thing that makes me feel better is physical activity. But exercise is a hardship these days, even harder with high blood sugar. My performance sucks, and all I want to do is sleep.

So, I’ve focused on getting better sleep. It’s difficult with a cat and diabetes. I imagine it would be even more difficult with a cat, diabetes and kids (by the way, I still love Norm). I told a friend recently that whenever I change out my continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) sensor, the first few days are off (inaccurate). So much so that in the middle of the night my CGM (as well as my phone since I have the app) will go off with this loud annoying alarm telling me my blood sugar is low (but it’s not). And it will do this 2-3 times in the night, so eventually I get annoyed with it, tell myself, oh well, if I die, and I shut it off (by the way, I’m still alive).

The Little Accomplishments

The point is a good night sleep with Type 1 diabetes is unheard of, but I have been trying. I know after years of practice that I need 8-9 hours of sleep. This is challenging when I spend 10 hours of my day devoted to my 9-5, and I’m a night owl in general. But there was this one week where I was getting at least 7.5-8 hours of sleep per night. And man, that week was wonderful. I didn’t necessarily have more energy than usual, but I had momentum. I could push myself to work out and be social and be creative and play with the cat and get my chores done and cook. That was a lot to accomplish in one week. Some days, it’s an accomplishment just to get out of bed.

But for someone who used to run 6 miles no problem and endure 60-minute kickboxing classes, it can be hard to admit that maybe all my body can do right now is 2 miles or 0 minutes of kickboxing. I went to a kickboxing class for the first time in 8 months recently, and the 25-year-old instructor kept yelling, “It’s all mental. You can do this. Keep it up.”

Except it’s not. I used to wear a shirt when I ran cross-country in high school that read, “It’s all mental.” I wasn’t the fastest runner, but being on that team taught me a lot about endurance and self-confidence. And then less than a decade later, I met Type 1 diabetes. I don’t like to use Type 1 diabetes as a scapegoat, but as I’ve gotten older, I have to admit my body is not 100 percent. So, no, it’s not all mental. There are days when I can run 6 miles and feel great. And there are days when I can’t even run a mile.

This Wasn’t Excess

There are days when I come home with high blood sugar and literally collapse on my bed. I used to handle the symptoms of high blood sugar (tiredness, thirstiness, heaviness) under the worst of circumstances. But now, my blood sugar rises above 200 (normal blood sugar ranges from 90-120), and I close my eyes and shut down a little. It’s even worse when I travel outside my normal routine. Even on this vacation, when the physical activity should be keeping my blood sugar in a normal range, I find it’s hard to control. I’m not eating much yet the littlest carb makes it skyrocket. I don’t know why. And it makes me so tired, in addition to the increased physical activity.

Just this morning, I ran up our steep drive in 25-second sprints (with breaks in between) to keep my blood sugar from climbing to 300. I woke up with low blood sugar so I drank some orange juice, and for some reason, that made it climb to an unnatural level. Sometimes, juice will do that in excess amounts. But this wasn’t excess. No one, except those with Type 1, know the challenges I deal with on a daily basis. I don’t expect them to, but if I run out of wind or seem weak, it’s not because I’m out of shape (well, mostly).

It’s because I have a disease that takes a toll on my body every single day. And no matter what I do, I don’t know how much my heart will take of this extra stress. It could give out at 70 or it could give out at 40. I do the best that I can, but now that I’m older, I am starting to respect my limitations. I’m trying to listen to my body. Yes, I want to stay healthy, and I want to stay active, but if there is a day when my body is not feeling it, I let it go. Maybe I’ll gain another five pounds? Maybe I’ll be okay living with those extra five pounds?

I’d rather have some energy left than nothing at all. And I’d rather have a body with Type 1 diabetes than none at all. So, I keep trying, and I try to give myself a break when the gravel is too hard on my exposed toes.

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