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Sunday, May 24, 2015

My First Year at UC Berkeley

I got my Associates degree from Santa Barbara City College and transferred up here to UC Berkeley in August.  My first semester went fairly well but I didn't particularly have any strong feelings about school in general and was just excited to get through these last two years of undergraduate life before closing the book on my school endeavors.  However, now that I've officially finished my second semester, thus wrapping up my first year at UC Berkeley (and my junior year of college) I have a completely new, exciting outlook on school.
This past semester was the most difficult semester I've ever had (not to mention the total number of papers I wrote this semester - 25 total!) however, it was also the most stimulating and rewarding as well.  And, I think I finally found the areas in philosophy that I really really love and can't wait to continue learning more about.  Metaphysics and Philosophy of Mind are the two areas I am so excited to explore more.  And, while I was once the gal that said she'd never ever want to go to grad school, I've officially decided that I am indeed going to go.  I do not know where exactly I want to go most and, I haven't decided if I'm going to apply this Fall and attend the following Fall or if I want to wait and take one year off before going but, the decision to go has been made!  My love for philosophy grows with every book I read, every lecture I attend, and every paper I write and I am so excited for what's ahead.  And, to the people who ask, "what the heck are you going to do with a degree in philosophy?" my answer is, "whatever I want".

Here's some photos (sorry for the bad quality - all from my phone unfortunately) I took around campus - you'll see the Campanile, Hearst Memorial Mining Building, Howison Philosophy library, the box I painted and which contains a (real but dead) beetle that I made for my friend and professor of the later Wittgenstein class (mostly just me playin' with irony - see section 293 of Philosophical Investigation), my tired self, and the little arrangements I made (for myself and two of my favorite gals) from foraged flowers around campus on the morning of my last final.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Type One Diabetes - My First Year

Today is my one year diaversary.  One year of living with and managing type one diabetes.
Last week I wrote some reflections about pre-diagnosis (see that post here).  I shared most of my initial story in this post here, and shared my thoughts on choosing the t:slim insulin pump here.
And now I thought I'd just share some thoughts about my first year with t1d.

I guess I'll start with the not-so good parts about t1d.
The most challenging thing for me is the constant ups and downs.  No matter how hard I try sometimes to keep my numbers in range, there's always times (sometimes entire days or weeks!) where nothing seems to go right.  The feeling of high blood sugars is horrible.  When I have super high blood sugars I feel I've been run over by a fleet of semi trucks and then backed over again (then repeat that 29 times).  My head gets foggy and heavy, my vision blurry; I get nauseous and can't concentrate on anything at all.  Whenever that happens and I give myself a correction bolus of insulin it feels like it takes hours days years (!) to finally kick in and bring my numbers down.  When my numbers do finally come back down I'm still left with this gross cloudy feeling.
When my bg goes too low on the other hand and I experience hypoglycemia, that's harder to explain.  When it's really low (like below 50) the feeling is nearly unexplainable. Sometimes I just feel shakey and get cold and sweaty but then when it's really bad I start to lose all my ability to function at all.  I can't form any real sentences, I can't communicate at all really.  Heck, I can barely think at all.   It just feels like I am shutting down and sinking into a hole and, rightfully so I suppose since my body actually is shutting down when that happens.  But, with some sugar (usually some Trader Joe's chocolate truffles, yum!) and a little time, my bg climbs back on up and I can begin to function again.

Another thing that can be overwhelming besides the constant checking and worrying about my bg is being attached to things 24/7 and always checking numbers.  When I was first diagnosed I said that I'd never choose to be attached to some thing everyday and rely on some little machine to give me insulin.  But then, after giving an insulin pump a try I ended up absolutely loving it.  But even though it's made insulin calculations easier and allows for tighter control it's still sometimes difficult to always have to remember I'm attached to 24inches of tubing and have to always find a place to clip the darn thing.  Oh and then there's also getting the tubing caught around stove knobs, door handles, the pump un-clipping from wherever I have it clipped to and falling down nearly yanking the whole site right outta me.   Also having little marks all over my belly and having these robot looking things attached to me just takes getting used to.  Making time to change the site every 3 days and changing the site of my Dexcom sensor once a week isn't so bad really but sometimes it means running a bit late in the morning because of a last minute change.  And, though I really have gotten used to pricking my finger throughout the day and whatnot, inserting the Dexcom and the site is still pretty painful (but not too bag) so I usually just don't think about it!

When I first got my Dexcom continuous glucose monitor and my pump it was so exciting to have all this new data and was so cool to be able to see where my blood glucose is every minute of the day. But with that, it also overwhelming and can cause lots of self-judgement.  Seeing those dreaded double arrows up or down and hearing Dexcom beeping at me - yelling at me that I'm doing a horrible job managing this diabetes beast can be tough.  But I've been trying my best to take things in stride - to realize that a few days with a bg that went over 200 isn't the end of the world and my a1c isn't going to be completely ruined because of it...I am not a failure because of it.  It's just a number.  Yes, these numbers are really important number but they are not a measure of my self-worth.  Some days diabetes certainly wins and takes over and no matter what I do and how hard I try I just cannot win.  Some days things seem completely beyond my control.  But, that's just how it goes!  At the end of the day, though t1d is a very big part of my life, I am not my disease. 

Now, this leads me to some of the good things I've come to love about having t1d.
First, the things that I've enjoyed most is meeting other people with type one diabetes.  The instant connection you feel to others is so amazing!  Other people with t1d are the only ones who truly understand the struggle of managing this monster - they understand the day to day struggles with high and low numbers and they understand how it feels too.  The unexplainable feelings of having a bg at 268 or 42 is a feeling that doesn't need to be explained between type one diabetics, it's a feeling we know all too well. 
Also, now that I have an insulin pump I usually always have it visible - whether clipped onto the waistline of my pants/skirt or clipped onto a belt at my waist when I wear a dress.  And, this is something I've come to be proud of actually - it's really become a part of me.
Though, it will never truly be normal being attached to something 24/7 and, it's not normal to prick your finger multiple times a day, it's not normal to have to stay within a certain range on a graph to really feel well, it's not normal to have robot lookin things on your belly that stick out when you wear form-fitting clothes, it's not normal to have a whole cabinet in the kitchen and a whole drawer of insulin in the fridge full of stuff keeping ya alive, but this is my reality.  What is normal anyways?  I guess I'm not sure, but this is my new "normal".  I am alive thanks to my hard work and diligent managing of this often overwhelming autoimmune disease, I'm alive with the help of these robot things attached to me and the 30 or so units of insulin I have coursing through this 24 inch tubing each day.
I feel healthier than I've ever felt in my life and happier than I've ever been as well.

I am a gal that loves to drink coffee, that flowers, that loves philosophy.  I'm also a gal with an incurable autoimmune disease.  Today I reflect on all that I've learned about type one diabetes this past year, all that I've learned about my body and myself as a person.  And, the most important thing I always need to remember is that, I am greater than my highs and lows.  (and yes the tattoo is on my middle finger because well...you know!)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My Approaching One Year Dia-versary

A week from Wednesday will be May 20th - which marks one year since I was diagnosed with type one diabetes.  Next week I'll share some reflections on the difficulties I've faced, things I've learned, and things I've learned to love during this first year living with t1d.
Before getting to that though I thought I'd share a little bit about some of my pre-diagnosis experiences.  I was looking through some photos from my Europe trip last year (which, I still have yet to go through/edit but that's my big project for Summer, promise!) and couldn't help but spend a good amount of time reflecting after I saw these photos of me that we took during an visit to a tucked-away natural hot spring in Iceland.  I strongly debated whether or not I wanted to share these but then realized it's an important part of my story. 
This is what an un-diagnosed type one diabetic looks like. 

Every single bone in my body was visible.  At the time though, I didn't pay any attention to it at all.  Sure I glanced at myself in the mirror here and there during the trip and I gradually felt that I was looking thinner.  For example, when I saw these particular photos that day we took them I remember feeling annoyed that my body looked grossly thin and so I wasn't comfortable sharing any photos on social media but frankly, that was just a feeling of annoyance rather than being alarmed by how I looked.  Anthony says that he noticed I was getting really thin too.  But, it was never something we explicitly stated or were concerned about.  Honestly, neither of us really thought anything of it at all.
I was annoyed that my body looked so grossly thin but I was convinced that once I got home from my adventurous travels I'd be able to put back on my weight no problem, work out, and look normal again and besides that, I never gave it a second thought or felt at the time that something was wrong.
Looking back now at these photos however, I can't even believe that I didn't take more notice of how scary it really was.  I guess I was just living in the moment trying to get the absolute most out of the trip that I could - taking in everything around me; I didn't even occur to me that I should have paid more attention to what was happening to my health.  Looking back now I can see the girl that was clinging to life, I see the struggle to keep up.
Looking back now, I remember all the times I was so insanely thirsty, getting water every second I could.  Having to go pee everywhere we went and multiple times during the night.  Eating tons of food but never feeling full.  My heart racing like I've ran a marathon when I've just walked up a couple flights of stairs.  Feeling so, soo, soo indescribably tired.  Growing weaker by the day.  Having some days (thankfully this horrible part of it all happened later on in the trip when we were living in Sweden) where I would wake up and not be able to do anything or go anywhere at all and would end up going back to bed and falling into the strangest, deepest sleep that was always somehow so unsettling; I would honestly feel like I just could not get up, I couldn't wake up at all.
But how did the red flags and danger alarms not go off in my head?!
I guess I was just so wrapped up in the bliss of traveling and to be honest, in a way, I'm actually sort of glad I didn't think anything of it at the time.  I got to experience so many beautiful places and I somehow miraculously pushed myself through it all.  I remember how long it took me to climb the crazy amount of steps up to the top of the Sk√≥gafoss waterfall - I had to stop so many times (Anthony was so patient with me!) and I remember saying "phew, I'm so out of shape, can't wait to get back home and get back into shape".  Now that moment is sort of a funny (okay maybe not funny, but I like to make light of a scary thing) moment for me because I thought I had just lost my endurance but really my body was dying, it was shutting down.
A little over a week after we returned home I was no longer jet-lagged, I caught up on sleep, I was eating tons of healthy foods, I was basically back to normal everyday life.  But, I continued to feel worse.  My heart still couldn't even handle the one small flight of stairs in my apartment without racing like crazy.  I still fell into those unsettling deep sleeps that I couldn't shake off.  And finally I realized that something was just really, really wrong.
Late afternoon of May 20th is when my sister took my to the hospital and after some time in the E.R, being weighed in at 82lbs, a blood glucose reading of 763, and being told I was in Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) they quickly got me over to the ICU.
That whole first day and night was both a blur and an intense graphic nightmare at the same time.  I had several IV's going, I was hooked up to what felt like a million machines, vial after vial of blood were taken, I couldn't sleep because someone had to come in every hour to prick my finger and test my blood.  But yet, aside from the overall madness it also felt like such a blur.  I remember being in so much pain from all the poking and prodding and the most intense headache I've ever felt in my life but aside from the physical pain I also sort of felt numb.
After a couple days in the ICU though I started to feel like a semi-functioning human being again and was able to start asking questions and begin learning all I could about this autoimmune disease that I had previously known absolutely nothing about.
I remember when they told me to give myself my insulin injection for the first time I felt like screaming and crying at the same time. (oh and when I got home from the hospital and had to check my blood for the first time I couldn't get my finger to bleed enough and basically had a full-blown melt down!)
But aside from all the madness, the numbness, and the shock of the diagnosis, I remember feeling so lucky to be alive.
I think back to all those times when my body just couldn't wake up, but somehow, it always did.  And I'll never stop feeling thankful for that.

And now, nearly a year later I am feeling more alive than ever. 


Monday, April 20, 2015

April

This post has nothing in particular to do with the month of April...these photos were actually taken the last week of March anyways.  But, here's to just a few left over photos from when I would sit with loving eyes in the center of my studio staring at all my pretty blooms after my first big trip to the flower market. 
Anyways, I went to the SF flower mart again this past Friday and it occurred to me how interesting it is that I have absolutely zero trouble getting up at 4:15am and out the door on schedule however, when I need to get up for school during the week at 6-6:30am it's practically a miracle if I'm able to do so without turning my alarm off and sleeping in too late, thus leaving me rushing to get ready and eating breakfast in the car on the way to campus.
Tank top - Everlane

Friday, April 17, 2015

All of the flowers - p a r t 3

Here's to the final floral-full post (for now!).  It's interesting to see how my taste in fleurs change over the years.  When I was younger I loved daffodils.  Then I went on to loving peonies (and still do, they're my #2 favorite).  But, when I first laid eyes on David Austin Juliet Garden Roses via photos online, they immediately took place as my favorite flower ever.  When I first went to the SF Flower Mart and saw some for the first time in person I nearly felt like crying, they're just SO beautiful!
What's your favorite flower?