How Sweet It Is: Diabetes

How Sweet It Is: Diabetes

Really, it's not that bad.
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I’d like to start out by saying (or writing, whatever) that I never planned on writing about diabetes. Not because it’s too difficult, too personal or anything like that. I just simply thought there were better things to write about. But after two of my friends and fellow Odyssey writers wrote about their respective struggles with ADHD and Social Anxiety, I figured I should also write about something that affects millions of people, including myself. So without further ado, let’s talk about diabetes, shall we? Or as actor and walrus impersonator Wilford Brimley calls it, “diabetus.”

While I’m sure you’re excited to read about something you may know little or care little about, I should probably first address my discomfort in referring to diabetes as a “disease.” Not that I find it offensive, mind you. In high school, my classmates’ started “Whack a Diabetic Wednesdays,” and just last year my roommate and some friends threw me a surprise party on World Diabetes Day (which included a playlist of any song with the word “sugar” in it). I found both of these instances hilarious, and the latter to actually be kind of sweet (pun intended). Anyway, I hesitate to call diabetes a “disease” because in terms of chronic illnesses, I hit the jackpot, especially when compared to things such as ALS and Cystic Fibrosis. Instead, I more or less consider diabetes an inconvenience. The only things it has kept me from doing is enlisting in the military (Go Army) and giving blood. But what exactly is diabetes?

First and foremost, there are actually two types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2 (there’s also Gestational diabetes, but that’s usually temporary). We’ll start with Type 1, since that’s what I have. And while I’m not a particularly “sciency” individual, I think I can give a pretty simple rundown of something I’ve had for half my life. So, remember the pancreas from high school biology? It’s one of those organs clumped together near the stomach, like the spleen or liver. The pancreas produces insulin, which your body uses to maintain your blood sugar, specifically by absorbing the glucose (from carbohydrates you consume) for your body to use as energy. If your blood sugar is high, you have too much glucose in your body, and the pancreas will release more insulin to consume more glucose, which will bring your blood sugar back down to a normal level. However, for some unknown reason, my immune system decided to attack and kill off the cells in my pancreas, rendering it useless and me a Type 1 diabetic (which actually happened the day before Thanksgiving, pretty ironic huh?). So with my pancreas out of commission, I have to rely on synthetic insulin administered through either injections or an insulin pump (the latter of which I use). I also have to regularly check my blood sugar by pricking my finger with a spring-action needle (or “lancing device”), and making sure a tiny strip on a monitoring device (or “meter”) absorbs the resulting blood. That monitoring device then shows a number reflecting my current blood sugar level, which I can use to determine whether I need to inject insulin to lower my blood sugar, consume carbohydrates (which have glucose, remember) to raise it, or preferably, do nothing. So basically, Type 1 diabetes is like trying to balance on a seesaw, while your own body is trying to throw you off it. And between the shaking, sweating, and fainting caused by low blood sugar, and the dehydration, fatigue, and nausea caused by high blood sugar, it’s a hell of a seesaw.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is a bit different. With Type 2, your pancreas isn’t rendered useless by your immune system. Instead, Type 2 diabetics have something called “insulin resistance”, which means your body doesn’t utilize insulin as it should. Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, and unlike Type 1, is usually caused by obesity, unhealthy eating, and inactivity (although genes are also sometimes a factor). For Type 2 diabetics, their treatment mainly involves dieting, exercise and medication (which may or may not include the occasional insulin injection).

So there it is: an informal, uninteresting, and rather brief rundown of a disease that affects millions of people. You’ve taken the time to read about something you might have known little to nothing about, scientia est potentia. However, if there is just one little thing you can take away from this article, let it be this: Having diabetes does not mean you are unable to eat anything that contains sugar. Usually, I’d refrain from using all caps, as it reflects the general lack of intelligence you’d find on Tumblr or the Youtube comment section. But if I had a nickel for every time someone asked me “Does that mean you can’t eat sugar?” after I tell them I’m diabetic, I’d probably have enough to buy a candy bar, which I would eat, because I can.

Cover Image Credit: gigaom

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Everything You Will Miss If You Commit Suicide

The world needs you.
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You won’t see the sunrise or have your favorite breakfast in the morning.

Instead, your family will mourn the sunrise because it means another day without you.

You will never stay up late talking to your friends or have a bonfire on a summer night.

You won’t laugh until you cry again, or dance around and be silly.

You won’t go on another adventure. You won't drive around under the moonlight and stars.

They’ll miss you. They’ll cry.

You won’t fight with your siblings only to make up minutes later and laugh about it.

You won’t get to interrogate your sister's fiancé when the time comes.

You won’t be there to wipe away your mother’s tears when she finds out that you’re gone.

You won’t be able to hug the ones that love you while they’re waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had become their reality.

You won’t be at your grandparents funeral, speaking about the good things they did in their life.

Instead, they will be at yours.

You won’t find your purpose in life, the love of your life, get married or raise a family.

You won’t celebrate another Christmas, Easter or birthday.

You won’t turn another year older.

You will never see the places you’ve always dreamed of seeing.

You will not allow yourself the opportunity to get help.

This will be the last sunset you see.

You’ll never see the sky change from a bright blue to purples, pinks, oranges and yellows meshing together over the landscape again.

If the light has left your eyes and all you see is the darkness, know that it can get better. Let yourself get better.

This is what you will miss if you leave the world today.

This is who will care about you when you are gone.

You can change lives. But I hope it’s not at the expense of yours.

We care. People care.

Don’t let today be the end.

You don’t have to live forever sad. You can be happy. It’s not wrong to ask for help.

Thank you for staying. Thank you for fighting.

Suicide is a real problem that no one wants to talk about. I’m sure you’re no different. But we need to talk about it. There is no difference between being suicidal and committing suicide. If someone tells you they want to kill themselves, do not think they won’t do it. Do not just tell them, “Oh you’ll be fine.” Because when they aren’t, you will wonder what you could have done to help. Sit with them however long you need to and tell them it will get better. Talk to them about their problems and tell them there is help. Be the help. Get them assistance. Remind them of all the things they will miss in life.

For help, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Cover Image Credit: Brittani Norman

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7 Ways To Calm Your Mind, Body, And Soul During An Anxiety Attack

It is OK not to be OK.

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Everyone gets anxiety attacks whether you will admit it or not. Seven little things that help me find my inner peace are ones I feel everyone should be aware of.

1. Try the "5, 4, 3, 2, 1" grounding exercise.

Answer these five questions out loud for sensory awareness:

What are five things you can see?

What are four things you can feel?

What are three things you can hear?

What are two things you can smell?

What is one thing you love about yourself?

2. Try out this breathing .GIF.

Breathe In Help GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY Giphy

3. Listen to a song that reduces your anxiety.

4. Use some lavender oil.

Rub it on your temples.

Put some on your wrists.

Inhale.

*Calming.*

5. Tense up your muscles (and then relax).

This may sound counter-intuitive, but just give it a try:

Start tensing at your toes and move up through your body — legs, abdomen, arms, neck, and jaw. Hold it for four counts. Then, relax your muscles. Feel the tension melt out of you.

6. Download an app on your phone.

There are my top apps for helping with anxiety (and they are FREE):

"Recolor" (a coloring book app).

"Wordscapes" (like a crossword puzzle).

"PicrossLUNA" (kind of a play-off of sudoku).

"Words With Friends 2" (just like Scrabble).

7. Reach into your freezer and grab an ice cube.

Just one of many distraction methods.

Reach into the freezer and grab an ice cube or an ice pack.

Hold it firmly in your hand.

Place it on your toes.

The idea is to distract your mind from anything else.

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