Blues

There is a gentle snow falling across the street light’s beam, and I’ve got a predictable case of the mid-winter blues. In the last days of winter break, I could feel it creeping in, pushing slowly into the space behind my sternum.

It’s there now, occupying each muscle fiber as I tie my running shoes and strike the treadmill, stride by stride, in halftime rhythm with my heartbeat. It’s not washed away by the scalding shower, or soaked out by tepid bathwater. It’s just landed lightly, pulled its feathers over its eyes and gone to sleep. I’ll let it rest there. There’s not much more to do than hope for a sudden migration.

Ketones

I hadn’t thought a lot about ketones until a week ago when they hit with a vengeance. Ketones are a yucky thing produced when blood sugars are high for a prolonged period of time. They are the bodies reaction to the high blood sugar. You can have different levels of ketones in your system, depending on how high the blood sugar has been and how your body decides to react to it. The ketone test describes the amounts as: none, trace, small, medium, and large.

Whenever my blood sugar has run high, I have simply corrected until it came down. Correction doses are doses of insulin only to bring the blood sugar down (not as a part of eating something with carbohydrates in it). In the past, my blood sugar has usually come down pretty predictably. I’ve only tested for ketones once or twice before in my 7-year tenure as type I diabetic. And those two tests were just to see what happened. Both tests came out ‘none.’

On the Sunday before Memorial day, I was running between 300-450 all day. I was at home and munching on treats all afternoon, so I assumed I wasn’t giving myself enough insulin to cover what I was eating. Each time I’d test, a high number would appear on the screen. I felt okay, so I just kept eating and correcting assuming it would eventually make it’s way back into my desired range (between 80-120).

I tested before bed that evening and it came back as 350. I corrected one last time before bed, which freaked me out a little as I was risking going low while sleeping, but I figured if I didn’t give myself a correction dose, I’d wake up with a blood sugar of 1 billion. In the middle of the night I woke up feeling like a train had hit me. I was very nauseated. I tested again at 1:00am and was at 370. The (pretty large) correction dose had done nothing. In fact, my sugar was higher than it was before the dose. I started flipping out.

I am a part of some diabetic groups on Facebook. A favorite is called I Hate Diabetes (Type 1). A rather aptly named group, most people come with questions, concerns, and to complain heavily about the disease. I’ve read various posts about people experiencing ketones and ketoacidosis. Mostly stories of them having to go for a stint in the hospital. Thus, when my blood sugars weren’t coming down, I knew I had ketones.

I tested my ketone levels and they came back as “moderate.” It was the darkest color I had ever seen on the test, and started dreading a visit to the hospital. I looked up treatment for moderate ketones. Half the websites said: GO TO THE HOSPITAL. The other half said: drink lots of water, keep giving large correction doses, and keep testing blood sugar and ketones until they both come down. Water flushes ketones out of the system. Such a simple, but powerful treatment to a yucky thing.

So I made my first post to I Hate Diabetes and described my situation. The consensus among members and fellow T1Ds was similar to my Google results: half said GO TO THE HOSPITAL. The other half said treat it yourself for a couple hours and if it’s still terrible THEN GO TO THE HOSPITAL.

Over the course of 2 hours, I drank about 7 glasses of water, tested my blood sugar 10 times, and tested for ketones 5 times. I gave myself approximately 40 units of insulin to correct the high blood sugars. That’s a TON of insulin. For a Thanksgiving meal, I have given myself 25 from a pen at most. My insulin pump won’t let me give a single dose of more than 20 (you’ve got to split it up into 2 separate doses to bypass it). Basically, it’s a ton of insulin. Even 10 units of insulin given to a non-diabetic could kill them.

I started feeling better once I was at 120 with trace ketones. At 3:30am, I flopped down in bed–exhausted from the ordeal. After only one minute, my mouth started watering and I knew I was going to throw up. I leaped out of bed and dashed to the bathroom where I had the most violent and glorious vomits of my life. They broke blood vessels all around my eyes; the ‘gin blossoms’ lasting three days. After ralphing, I finally felt just right. So I passed out a second time–making it until morning.

And then I woke up low.

144

“144.”
“Ah, I was like 306.”
“I’m recovering from a low.”
“How low?”
“60.”
“You felt it at 60?”
“Not always, but this time.”
“Lucky, what’d you eat?”
“Three Twix bars.”
“So you’re 144 and on the way up.”
“Yeah, see you at 306.”

What else

We’re into the third week of January, and school is cancelled for the fifth time (this month) tomorrow. The temperatures aren’t so bad in and of themselves, it’s the wind that makes it unbearable. Right now it’s -12 fahrenheit/-24 celsius, but wind has it feeling closer to -30 fahrenheit/-34 celsius.

Most students and staff can plan for this weather. We can get up early, make sure the coffee is hot in our thermos mugs, and remote-start the cars that stay outside overnight. Most of us can shove our feet in to Sorel boots and arms into Patagonia jackets and make due between the car and the door to work. That’s most of us. And while some of my coworkers are cringing at the thought of having to make up a couple of days in June, they are forgetting that there are students who don’t have the same access to amenities that make dealing with the cold a bearable experience.

Tomorrow I’ll be inside. In the warmth of my townhouse. You can find me under my Anthropologie duvet and the flannel quilt that my auntie Jan made me. You’ll find me with my arm around Nico, all four of his fuzzy paws canopying the blankets above us.

Whiskey Mystery

She wasn’t prepared for the crunching sound of her back bumper against the ice hill. The blue plastic turned glass in the -20 degree weather, and matched against a solid hill of plowed snow and ice–it never stood a chance. She cursed aloud when she heard the thud and the crackle. She pulled forward gently. For a moment, she sat in the driver’s seat staring out her front windshield. The night was dense around her; the snow packed into every crevasse. In the silence, she thought of her bank account and her deductible. Embarrassment washed throughout her chest.

She reluctantly opened her car door against the arctic, and made her way to the back of the sedan. The bumper gave way into splinters. She took off her mitten and ran her fingers over the damage. The plastic slid into her skin, but she didn’t notice at first. Instead, she slipped on her mitten once again, locked the car, and made her way back to the town house one step at a time.

She had spent just shy of two weeks with her family an hour and a half north of the city. The holiday was needed, and as she pulled back into her neighborhood, she was rejuvenated by the rest and love she had experienced while with relatives. She was particularly fond of the evening spent with a rag tag team of friends with whom she went to high school. The four had ventured out for drinks a few nights after Christmas, and at the end of the evening drowned in dollar drinks, the sober cab took the wheel of her blue Honda Civic. The friends crashed in one of their parents’ basements, and watched the tail end of of a 1990s teen flick on cable TV, just as they might have done ten years ago.

There was no indication of foul play until, after two days of wallowing in shame over her run-in with the snow hill, she realized she needed to get groceries. Thinking she would beat any dinner time traffic due to the extreme cold, she started the car and waited inside until it had been sufficiently warmed.

It had since been five or more days since anyone had ridden in her car, and even more time since anyone had been in her back seats. She’d thrown her backpack and bags of Christmas gifts in the back before she left her family’s house, but hadn’t at that time noticed anything of concern.

It wasn’t until she finished her grocery shopping, and began loading the bags into her back seat that she noticed the two bottles of whiskey laying together behind the passengers seat. The bottles were frosty. One plastic flask of Evan Williams, and one 750ml of Crown Royale, still cozied in it’s purple felt sack. She instinctively looked over her shoulder. Where did these come from? She did not drink (because she did not particularly like) Whiskey in any of it’s forms.

The parking lot of the grocery store stood quiet. A few doors slammed on a black Suburban parked in a handicapped spot. Tall street lights glowed overhead. Other than that, no other bodies were in the lot. She lifted the two bottles, wrapped them in a blanket, and placed them in the trunk for the ride home. Someone put these here, she thought, but who?

It became no more clear as she cautiously drove home. Her groceries shifted in the back, and as she made her way through the roundabout, she could feel the bottles of whiskey sliding out of the blanket into the void of her trunk. She had made it a point to lock her doors obsessively after her iPod had been stolen out of the glove compartment of her previous car. While not equipped with a security system, the car was parked in the driveway of her parents house, and the theft happened while she was inside, no more than 40 meters away.

When she arrived home and began to unpack the food, another thought entered her mind. Who would want to give me whiskey? Who would want me to have this? She wondered if it had been abandoned by someone in the heat of the moment. But again, how did they manage to unlock the vehicle?

She pulled a chair from the kitchen table over to the refrigerator, and stepped up on to it. The fridge-top bar, as she called it, had needed cleaning and organizing, anyway. She lowered each bottle of liquor down into the stove top and wiped down the top of the appliance until it was white again. As she lifted each bottle back into place, she stopped wondering about where the whiskey came from, and instead realized she should just be thankful–decidedly thankful.

Waiting

Sitting at the dinner table tonight, my sister looks over at me and says, “You look like you’re waiting for something to happen.”

In the past I’ve had a predominantly internal locus of control. I feel most out of control when things don’t happen. I go out on quite a few limbs, and sometimes do regrettable things, all in attempts to change the course of my life. But most of the time, swinging from one fist gripped to the furthest limb, the course goes just as I’d feared, and just as I’d tried to prevent.

It hasn’t helped to speak up or speak out, to hint or demand. I’m not convinced right now that I have been the author of my last six years, and I’m feeling convinced that I won’t have any more control of the next six.

I’m not waiting for something to happen; I’m waiting for anything to happen.

Discovery

Tonight my family celebrated Christmas Eve by eating and singing and eating more. The drink choices were at a minimum, so I choose diet caffeine free Pepsi. That’s how minimum the choices were. That of them all, I chose something diet AND caffeine free. In comes in that fantastically ugly gold/brown bottle. I usually go for diet so that I don’t have to give any insulin. What happened next was a Christmas miracle.

The diet caffeine free pepsi was awesome. It tasted like heaven. It was crisp and sweet. I thought, “why the heck do I drink diet coke when there’s THIS!?” So I kept drinking it. I was onto my fifth party cup and telling everyone how amazing this diet caffeine free Pepsi was, when it was pointed out to be by my cousin that it wasn’t, in fact, diet.

It was just caffeine free. So it had sugar in it.
That’s why it tasted to good. 
And then I had to give myself a whole lot of insulin to cover the 5 glasses of regular Pepsi that I drank.

Sparrow Mansion

If you have spent a morning with me, you know that the first words I usually say have to do with what I dreamt about the previous night. I don’t think I dream more than anyone else, but I have the blessing and curse of remembering a lot of detail about what I dream. If given the forum, and a little bit more practice, I could probably spend at least an hour each morning recanting the adventures I’d been on in dreamland.

And so what is curious is that I don’t really daydream. Not in the classic sense of playing through images in my mind. Instead, I daydream with words. I don’t think of sentences or monologues, not real ones anyway. I build strings of words that sound sonorous together. I toy with them until I come up with just the right phrase. It could take me anywhere between 5 and 25 minutes to decide on sequence I like. I’ve never been sure if they sound as sweet to anyone else, because, unlike my actual dreams, I’ve never shared the results of the little word game I play. Until today.

With the exponential amount of information aggregated on what we know as the internet, it has always been the perfect library in which to search for some of the combinations I’ve thought up. Today on the drive home from work, it was sleeting. The sky was dusty and the roads were black and wet. The sequence came to me rather quickly, but today it was: sparrow mansion.

I don’t know what I like about it, but it’s right. It feels right to me. When I first started coming up with these phrases, they served no other real purpose than as a mind-game, and a way to fill time. I often start with tangible items in my environment and work from there. I have found, however, that the sequences (not the game itself) end up serving to calm me.

Each day, I provide speech and language therapy to students with varied severities of autism. One of the common characteristics among these students is their ‘scripting’ otherwise referred to as echolalia–the repetition things they’ve heard in other places. Sometimes it’s lines from favorite movies, or from commercials on the radio or TV. Many have the uncanny ability to remember these lines and recite them verbatim and at length. Many find joy and/or comfort in reciting these scripts. Whether or not they know it, they use it as a way to regulate their sensory systems.

The satisfying product of my game is these phrases are my own version of scripting. Usually it’s in my thoughts, but I always have to try saying them aloud a few times just to make sure they sound as good spoken as they do in my head. I found myself feeling stressed a few days ago, and instead of using other common coping strategies (breathing, visual imagery, taking a break) I just repeated one of my sequences a few times and I felt better. Maybe I just forgot about being stressed, and hopefully it’s not an obsessive compulsion in it’s infancy, but I’ll certainly try it again the next time I’m frazzled.

When I got home from work, I sat down at my desk and typed sparrow mansion into Google. So it happens that I was not the first to come up with this phrase. There is an abandoned house in the UK that goes by the moniker Sparrow Mansion. It’s not without saying that I don’t think it sounds nearly as nice with a ‘the’ in front of it. I’m not bummed that I wasn’t the first. Perhaps it’s evidence that the words really do sound agreeable together.

A few days ago I thought of: mister sonnet. Tomorrow it will be something else.
And the day after that, I’ll be that many days closer to hearing the ice went out on Mille Lacs.

Sadness Season

If you haven’t heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, then you probably haven’t lived in a place that gets very cold and very dark during the winter. In Minnesota, we faithfully observe daylight savings time, and the days begin to shorten in early November. As of December 2nd, the sun is set at 4:32pm. On a day like today, we were not lucky enough to say we saw the sun at all. It was fully hidden by heavy snow clouds from morning on into evening. The rumor was that it rose and shone somewhere, but as far as I know it’s hearsay.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, aptly called SAD, is a mild to moderate depression that concurs with the onset of winter’s shorter, overcast, and bitterly cold weather. If you’re like me, you’re at work before sunrise, and you get home as the last sliver of daylight settles on the horizon. It’s a twilighty feeling, like you missed a day–everyday. Unless you enjoy an outdoor sport, the majority of us come home to Netflix, social media, or a thick hardbound novel.

SAD is the emptiness that’s left where bonfires, grilling, evening walks with the dogs, and swimming at the cabin once filled. It’s the long understanding that there won’t be much to do but eat, drink, watch, read, and write for 5 solid months. SAD is the compound effects of boredom, hopelessness, solitude, and inactivity. Whether it’s caused by an adaptation of animals that no longer hibernate, or some result of light deprivation, I can only do my best to stave it off for as long as possible.

Mama Linda bought me a SAD light. It’s one of these full-spectrum lights that tricks your brain into believing that it’s had enough day. The prescription is to sit between 30 to 60cm in front of the box, facing it but not looking at it directly, for between 30 and 60 minutes. After this, irritability, anxiety, or mania can set in. So each night, I faithfully switch on my SAD light, and bask in its semi-florescent glow for between 30 and 60 minutes, or until I find myself too tired of it.

Does it work? I don’t know.
Am I still beginning to experience the dysphoria and withdrawal of winter? Certainly.

But it is only another winter. My 26th, at that. It will come and pass as all the winters before have both came and passed. It is difficult to remember this early-December feeling in late-May when the world has melted out and the undergrowth is resurrecting, just as you would be hard pressed to convince now that I’d ever laid out in my back yard and got a suntan that was hot to the touch.

iPhone

The first thing my sister says to me when I walk into my parents house early Wednesday evening is, “I got an iPhone 5s!” After a discussion about the terms under which she purchased said iPhone, I also purchased one. We both got gold. Mine should arrive in the mail sometime in the coming week. Very exciting! I hope to recoup at least $50.00 for my still functional HTC Sensation.