Canadian Diabetes Association’s Stress, Depression and Type 1 Diabetes Talk

Hey, I know you!

Towards the end of Leah Drazek’s presentation on mental health and type 1 diabetes, I happened to spot someone I had met at the JDRF type 1 adult support group in November.

I don’t know about you, but when I see someone and know they are type 1 as well, I get this surge of excitement and happiness. My face changes. I smile. And I feel 100 times better. Does that feeling ever go away?

We updated each other on how we were doing with our diabetes management, what’s been happening since we last saw each other and offered words of support. It was short and sweet, and although I didn’t know it at the time, it was something I really needed.

It’s just like being in a room filled with other type 1’s out there. The room was packed at the ING Direct Cafe in downtown Toronto, and I saw people of all ages and cultures. It was the first time I saw such diversity. If you read my previous post titled What it’s like to be the only Chinese type 1 diabetic you know, I think you’d understand how much this meant to me.

And from the audience to the speaker, that feeling continued on. As Drazek went through her slides listing stats and symptoms of mental health and type 1 diabetes, I started giving myself internal head nods and inside saying, “Yes! I’ve felt that. Oh! I can relate completely. I’ve been there!”

My note highlights

  • People with type 1 diabetes are over 3x risk of developing depression
  • Risk factors for developing depression with type 1 diabetes: female, poverty, few social support, stressful event, longer duration of diabetes, poor glycemic control, presence long term complications, physical inactivity
  • Symptoms: sadness, lack of pleasure in almost all activities, significant weight loss/gain, sleeping longer than normal, loss of energy, agitation, impaired concentration
  • How to deal: use supports such as family/friends, counselors, family doctors
  • Drink more water, less coffee, listen to music, exercise, spend time with people you like, positive self talk, antidepressant/anxiety medications, drink more h20
  • Be open and honest with your diabetes health care provider, they can better guide and provide resources

My live tweets: Canadian Diabetes Association’s Stress, Depression and Type 1 diabetes

Drazek shared personal stories about having a panic attack, how family changes impacted her stress levels and even what her blood glucose levels were before and after a recent car accident.

What made the experience worthwhile was having a fellow type 1 diabetic speaking right in front of me, being vulnerable and sharing her life in a very raw and honest way.

I walked away with more confidence, feeling less alone, and after exchanging numbers with my support group buddy, possibly a new friend.

J

Links:

Canadian Diabetes Association

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Contact List

American Diabetes Association Depression Information

 

Sebastien Sasseville confesses before his run across Canada: I suck.

Photo by Genevieve Sasseville

Photo by Genevieve Sasseville

Sebastien Sasseville sucks.

Those aren’t my words by the way, they are 100 per cent his.

He’s talking about his natural athletic ability. Now I know what you’re thinking. Ultra-marathoner. First type 1 diabetic to reach the top of Mount Everest. Needs more than one hand to count the number of Ironman’s he’s done. Really?

But out of his own mouth, Sebastien admits that growing up, he was the furthest thing from a high school jock.

“I suck at sports. You know that kid who is always picked last in school?”

Yup. That was him. After being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 22, he decided he wanted to live a healthier lifestyle. So off he went, laces tied, ready to go.

“I didn’t get out of the parking lot. I ran 250 metres.”

I found hearing this comforting. Sometimes we see well-accomplished athletes as untouchable and their titles so out of reach. The tale of how he began is one that needs to be told and re-told. He started just like we all do. One foot in front of the other.

“People need to know, that stuff is done by people no different than them. Find the drive, make it big. Learn, take notes and never give up,” he says.

Photo by Genevieve Sasseville

Photo by Genevieve Sasseville

It’s that kind of attitude that will be accompanying Sebastien on his next conquest.

On February 2nd he will start Outrun Diabetes, a cross-country run from St. John’s to Vancouver. That’s 180 marathons in 9 months. The journey will end on November 14 on World Diabetes Day.

“The goal is to inspire, empower and educate. The message is very simple. Diabetes should never be a limitation. It’s a message of hope and I want people to realize there’s nothing they can’t do,” he says.

Sebastien may be the one pounding the pavement, but he insists the adventure is not his, but ours. Every single one of us.

“I want everybody in Canada to know that they own this project. It is their run. It’s not just Sebastien running, they can be a part of it. They can participate and be an agent of change in their communities. I’d love for this to become a huge collective project and see people be empowered by it.”

Photo by Genevieve Sasseville

Photo by Genevieve Sasseville

In a way this has everything and nothing to do with diabetes. It’s about perseverance, resilience and hope. And Sebastien will need all of that.
“It’s extremely exciting, I’m very nervous. There’s a lot of things we cannot control from a medical perspective, physical perspective. Running 5 marathons a week for 9 months. Probably not a good idea.”
No, not a good idea, but a great one. We’ll all be watching, cheering and hopefully participating with you, one foot in front of the other.
Best of luck,
J
Follow Sebastien on his personal Twitter, Outrun Diabetes Twitter & Facebook
Fun facts about Sebastien and Outrun Diabetes
  • Sebastien’s favourite way to treat a low is with maple syrup
  • Outrun Diabetes will take Sebastien through Halifax, Moncton, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Windsor, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton and Calgary with events in each location plus other local communities
  • Sebastien will be using the new Animas Vibe pump
  • Sebastien estimates he’ll go through 15 pairs of running shoes during Outrun Diabetes
  • It took a year of planning to make Outrun Diabetes become a reality
  • A self-confessed foodie, Sebastien hopes his first meal post-event will be steak and a glass of wine

Other publications on Sebastien and Outrun Diabetes:

National Post: Six-Time Ironman and Type 1 Diabetes Athlete Sebastien Sasseville to Take on Solo 7500 km Run Across Canada

What’s a poker run? Costumes, cards and charity. Running Room’s Ride to Conquer Cancer fundraiser

“Do you want to come with me to a 5km charity poker run?”

“What’s a poker run?”

“At each kilometre, a sealed envelope is handed to every runner containing a card. When the race is over, the runner hands over all his or her envelopes. They are opened by race volunteers who reveal what you got. Prizes are handed out to the best and worst hand. Proceeds go to Ride to Conquer Cancer.”

I immediately said yes.

So off I went to make some last minute poker-themed attire.

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My headband. M&M’s aces all around.

Matching card patches

Matching card patches

Here are some of the creative costumes I saw.

There was a great crowd out and together we trekked through the snow and tackled one nasty hill that seemed to go on forever.

Anticipating the next card and what it might hold made this run completely different. So fun!

Grabbing my third card. Thank you to all the volunteers who braved the cold.

Grabbing my third card. Thank you to all the volunteers who braved the cold.

Turns out I wasn’t so lucky.

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But I felt like a winner.

Raising money for charity, experiencing a unique race experience, running, meeting new people and dressing up.

I’ll be back next year,

J

My worst diabetes day: lowest low, a diabetes proclamation without my permission & what helps

I am usually the queen preacher of positivity. 

The reason you don’t see me expressing my diabetes distaste or frustration often is because I think there’s enough of it out there. And it’s not to knock people for expressing a negative thought. It’s just not what I choose to do most of the time on my social media outlets.

I have my bad moments.

My dark days.

I think this is something you need to know about me. I find this damn hard. 

There’s been many episodes of uncontrollable tears and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. This is the part that many don’t see. And it’s not just us. It’s all people with invisible illnesses whether it’s mental, physical, or both. 

If someone asked me how I was handling my type 1 diabetes (diagnosed in 2012), my honest answer would be, “not well”.

 

I’m writing this entry after my lowest hypoglycaemic episode. I went below 1.1 mmo/L (or 19 mg/dl). This was 3/4 into my run.

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I managed to get myself up and out of trouble, but I’m sure the severe drop didn’t contribute well to what transpired after. 

Long story short, I was presented with an “herbal tea” that was supposed to “be good for my diabetes”. I scoffed at it, went to another room and just broke down. It was also given to me by someone whom I am…not a fan of. Deeply not passionate about, you know, that one person who gets under your skin and just makes your blood boil. I was NOT aware she knew about my diabetes (told WITHOUT my permission). All this was fuel to the fire, the latter revelation being the worst.

I think I could tell this story until I’m blue in the face to my non-d friends and family, but it wouldn’t do much. I would hear words of sympathy and smiles of compassion, however I know no matter how hard they tried to comprehend it, they wouldn’t get it.

I don’t get that same sense of peace I do when I connect and open up with other diabetics. 

The more d-people I meet and talk candidly about my type 1, the better I feel.

I sometimes feel like curling up into a ball and crying in a corner. There are so many things I haven’t decided yet: who I want to know, how I want to contribute to the diabetes community, what to keep private, what is important to share so others don’t feel alone.

While I’m telling this story my hands are usually over-animating, my eyes are slightly bulging and I’m trying to coherently express how angry/sad/frustrated I can become. Nowadays there is a person across the table at a coffee shop, that is part of my growing diabetes family, who is looking at me and saying, “I understand”. 

So maybe they don’t understand and are just humouring me? It doesn’t really matter. I feel less alone. Less scared. And a moment of feeling just so miserable gets a little bit better. 

It doesn’t solve the ignorance. It doesn’t take away the pain. But it acts like a big bandaid, providing a buffer and sense of support until things get a bit better. 

The one blessing I have gotten from this horrible disease is that of finding amazing people who have helped me through my darkest days.

I am forever thankful for them, and for you the #DOC. I don’t know what I’d do without you. 

J

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going online: best & worst idea for someone newly diagnosed with diabetes (or anything for that matter)

When WebMD first came out, I was one of many who turned to the website when I felt the slightest symptom.
A cough: Was it a sign of the common cold, a debilitating throat infection or a warning of some pretty serious disease? Take your pick. Want to scare yourself silly? Start browsing.

We all know how the internet works. It’s a free-for-all for anyone with an idea and a connection. And although we know we should screen what we absorb online, sometimes proper judgement gets thrown to the wayside. This could happen when, let’s say, you are diagnosed with a disease you know nothing about and are told you will have to rely on insulin to survive.

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It makes sense really, a wealth of information right at your fingertips, a range of opinions and seemingly good answers to questions that would take hours to answer in a doctor’s office.

But there’s a great danger out there if you are in an emotionally vulnerable state of mind.

I didn’t realize it myself until now. What I read and who I communicated with (willingly or not) has definitely shaped how I view diabetes.
I was so overwhelmed with it all, and I found reaching out to people on Twitter made me feel less alone. On the flip side, sometimes my feed would seem like a storm of people complaining. I thought of myself 5 years later, a decade…would I be just as angry and resentful of my condition?

I sometimes got private messages from people who told me my doctors were wrong, that what I was doing wasn’t the “right way”. But when I felt so incredibly sad and frustrated, here were a bunch of strangers who understood what I was going through.

Today I’m much more selective of how I screen diabetes information. I look at how I conduct myself online much like how I should in all other aspects of life. I must be careful and selective of who I trust, be surrounded by those who will uplift and inspire me, and spend my time wisely. 

The online world has changed how we communicate but online or not, some things remain the same. There will be positives and negatives (opinions, people), those to be trusted and others with false claims. Do your research and do things that make you feel comfortable.

Tips to tackle the online world with a health challenge: 
  • Filter, filter, filter. Many social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook) allow you to make lists so you can choose what you want to see. I have my lists filtered so if I don’t want to come online and read about diabetes-related news/info that day, I don’t have to come across it.
  • Ask yourself who is the creator and what is the motive? A good exercise is to repeat the information given and ask yourself if you would trust it if a stranger said it to you on the street.
  • Verify reputation. Has this person been mentioned on other sites? Are they featured in reputable publications? Do a quick search and find out more. There are a lot of people who claim to be experts who have little to no educational background on the subject.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask. Not sure where to turn to for information online? Ask the experts. E-mail an organization and ask who or what sites they’d recommend for topic x. Find well established and respected online sources and see who they mention in links and go from there. Call for help on Twitter. Word of mouth can often lead you to the best resources.
  • Give an attitude check. Yes, the internet is a place where people like to pour out complaints. I think people are more likely to complain online than in real life about certain issues, but the internet is also home to tons of inspirational stories. There are tons of sites dedicated to people who may have similar health challenges who are defying the odds and living each day to the fullest. What kind of outlook do you want to have on life? That’s what you should be searching and bookmarking.

Safe surfing,

J

Meg Cross Menzies. What was she thinking? Why should I run for a stranger? #MegsMiles

Photo taken Jan. 18 at Whitby Waterfront, Ontario, Canada

Photo taken January 18, 2014 before our #MegsMiles run.

I’ve spent the last few days consumed with a woman I’ve never met.

Until this week I had never heard of her, or her road club for that matter.

However when I found out that Meg Cross Menzies was hit and killed by a drunk driver during her morning run, just 1 mile from her home, my heart just sank.

It was fast and horrific.

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Photo taken by me, before my #MegsMiles

And then throughout the days that followed, I began to wonder, what was she thinking during her run?

Was she happy that day? Burning off steam?

Was she dreaming of the Boston Marathon finish? She was training for it.

Was this a tough run where her legs cramped up? Or was she enjoying good momentum and in the zone?

Maybe she was thinking of her three children. Or an upcoming dinner date with her hubby.

Perhaps she ran to let her mind rest, and that’s what she was doing, not thinking about much, just enjoying the scenery and that feeling of pain and perseverance that so many runners get addicted to.

Did she know she was about to be hit? Did she have a split second where it registered she was in trouble?

We’ll never know.

But just like after the Boston Marathon bombings, today I put on a bib to support and honour those suffering from a needless tragedy. The victim, the families, the community.

RIP Meg Menzies. Pre #MegsMiles run

Thank you to my friend Rebecca who helped me with these photos.

I think as runners we do this to show support. I think we do this because we all know the pain and heartbreak of losing a loved one. That feeling is universal.

5.55 miles for Meg

Today I ran for Meg.

What was she thinking? No one can answer that.

As for the question, “Why should I run for a stranger?”

There’s an endless amount of answers to that.

To Meg Cross Menzies, may you rest in peace.

At the end of our run

Love,

A stranger in Canada.

There are instructions on Meg’s Miles on how to participate in the virtual run. You can pin your location on a global map and also input your miles and afterwards there will be a global tally. If you’d like to raise money for Scott, Meg’s husband, you can contribute here by buying a t-shirt.

The Power of Movement yoga fundraiser: what I learned about arthritis

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I love yoga. It’s instant de-stressing.

The soothing music, feeling my limbs get limber and that zen vibe that radiates throughout a class.

Ommmmmm.

When I found out about the Power of Movement, a yoga fundraiser for the Arthritis Research Foundation, I knew it was something I wanted to try. Raising money for a good cause and yoga? Yes please!

Last year it was held at Ryerson University. Yoga celebrity Jason Crandell led us through a great session and when I met him afterward he was really friendly. A great experience.

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So this year I’m in!

The event in Toronto has a new home at the Sheraton Centre Hotel and David Good will be teaching. I’m excited!

I learned a lot about arthritis participating last year and it was a reminder of how we take for granted so many things about our health.

I didn’t know that arthritis was an autoimmune disease, or that the majority of sufferers are working age.

The Arthritis Research Foundation gives these facts on their website:

  • More than 4.6 million (16.7%) Canadians aged 15 years and older report having arthritis.
  • Arthritis is the most common chronic condition reported by women and the third most common reported by men.
  • The economic burden of arthritis in Canada is estimated at $33 billion annually.
  • Arthritis is among the most common chronic diseases in children. An estimated 1 in 1,000 Canadian children below the age of 16 lives with juvenile arthritis.
  • For everyone of all ages living with the disease, arthritis has an enormous impact on quality of life. A prolonged course of arthritis may result in extended periods of pain and suffering, reduced sleep, depression and unemployment.
  • Arthritis is a more common cause of death than melanoma, asthma or HIV/AIDS.

An invisible illness. I can definitely to relate to that. Thought of as an old person’s disease? Check.

So my people putting on a brave face while being in excruciating pain.

Let us remember compassion for everyone, we never know what someone is really going through.

My grandmother has arthritis, so again, I’ll be heading to the mat to honour her.

This event is nation-wide so check it out!

Participants get a 25% Aveda offer and one month FREE on My Virtual Yoga. Another incentive to raise funds and downward dog in one huge yoga class.

Getting my zen on while helping to find a cure,

J

Follow Power of Movement on Twitter

Follow Power of Movement on Facebook

Your guide to Chinese hot pot

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What is Chinese hot pot?

A metal pot with your chosen broth sits at the center of the table and is heated by butane. Most modern hot pots are divided into two sections to accommodate two broths at once . As the hot pot is simmering, put your chosen foods in, watch them cook, take them out, let them cool, then dunk in your own sauce and enjoy!

It’s a fun experience and something different.

Chinese hot pot is typically all-you-can-eat. Personally I find Chinese hot pot a much healthier eating-out option because nothing is fried. You can also eat lots with next to no carbs (if you so choose) and not feel like you are missing out on anything. Meat, leafy veggies, dumplings and seafood are the typical hot pot staples.

Step 1: A tray holds a variety of different spices and sauces that you can mix together for your own dipping sauce.


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Typically soy sauce is part of the mixture but it is all up to you. Green onions, cilantro, chopped garlic, peanut sauce, hot sauce, peppers etc. Mix whatever you like in your own dipping bowl.

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I like peanut sauce, green onions and cilantro 🙂

2. Pick your broth aka. soup base.

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3. Choose from the menu what you’d like. 

The menu is sectioned into different categories such as veggies, meats, seafood, etc.

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4. Boil your foods and open up your pores with that steam. 

The meat is given to you frozen and thinly sliced. When it cooks in the water, the meat curls up for a neat presentation. Most meats are cooked almost instantly because they are almost paper thin. Vegetables don’t need to stay in the hot pot for very long either.

Fish balls, tofu, dumplings and pork take longer to cook, so leave them in for five minutes.

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5. Remove your yummies and let them cool, dip in your sauce (if you want) & enjoy!

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There’s also rice dishes you can order too if you aren’t in the mood for just noodles.

There you have it.

I find it’s very easy to calculate a hot pot meal. You can control how much noodles you put in (if any). Opt for a higher fibre noodle is possible. You can call ahead to any hot pot restaurants to see if they offer brown rice vermicelli.

I actually had homemade hot pot recently too. Yum!

Do you enjoy hot pot? Have you tried it? Let me know!

Happy hot potting.

J

Blanketing Toronto: helping the homeless + Q&A with founder Laura Banfield

This past weekend I took part in my very first Blanketing Toronto event.

Full disclosure before I begin: the founder of this event, Laura Banfield, is a good friend of mine. I always knew she was a down to earth, sweet person, but seeing this amazing event unfold first hand made me realize all the more just how giving she is.

On January 4th, a group of volunteers walked from shelter to shelter in downtown Toronto, handing out everything from food to clothes to essentials packages (toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, soap). All organized by Laura!

I can’t imagine the amount of time and effort it takes to put something like this together.

Q&A with Blanketing Toronto founder Laura Banfield

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How did Blanketing Toronto come to be? 

Growing up in Markham I was always excited to venture out to the city of Toronto with my dad when he would invite me to come out with him while he ran business errands. I enjoyed seeing the busy streets and tall structures as it revealed a different world to me compared to the quiet lifestyle in Markham. The idea for Blanketing Toronto had always been in my heart since I first spotted an individual in need on the street. It just took some time for me to make the commitment to a vision such as fighting to end homelessness.

What kind of donations do you need that people might not think of?

Blanketing Toronto accepts anything that provides warmth, is in fair to excellent condition and is washed prior to donating. Examples include:

  • hats
  • scarves
  • gloves
  • socks
  • boots
  • shoes
  • pants
  • shirts
  • sweaters
  • coats
  • jackets
  • children’s clothing
  • toys
  • blanket

I like to invite donators to think if they were on the streets with no home or job, what would they think would serve their needs best and donate that.

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Can you give me some numbers? 

Last year we had most of our donations arrive the day of so it was difficult to calculate numbers based on items of materials. However regarding the mass quantity of garbage bags filled with donations, we were blessed to receive 52 bags filled.

We made 78 care packages and 211 sandwiches; each care package contained a roll of socks, tooth brush, some tooth paste and a bar of soap and the sandwiches were a mixed variety of cheese only, ham, salami and bologna.

This year, we made 120 care packages and 220 sandwiches beating last year’s numbers; the numbers for donations are being calculated however it is safe to say we have beat last year’s numbers by far as we packed a 16 foot Budget truck with boxes and bags of donations compared to our 3 vehicles packed last year.

What is the most memorable reaction you have gotten from someone
receiving something?

Everyone I personally donate to or watch my fellow volunteers donate to adds to a collection of wonderful memories, energizing me to continue pushing through the day in order to reach out to more and more in need. However, each year there is always that one person who kindles my heart and validates the determination I have to resurface and save humanity.

Blanketing Toronto had 2 volunteers feel completely enthralled to donate the jackets off their back because of a compliment given to these gentlemen by a homeless individual who communicated interest in their coats.

Last year, I had one individual shout out “…and it’s real cheese, I haven’t had real cheese in a long time!”

The things we take for granted are made aware quickly by those who know the value of these materials we aim to provide to them. I can’t remember the last time I thought about the type of cheese I was eating.

This year my team encountered an individual who came out of a shelter wearing sandals inquiring about a pair of shoes; my team and I tried so hard to find him a fit however we did not have his size and that is one of the hardest things we face is having to say “I’m sorry we don’t have it.”

For me, the most memorable experience this year was visiting an orphanage and while it was quiet inside I spun around as I heard the pitter patter of feet behind me only to see a boy barely the age of my eldest niece who is 4 years old running across the hall… I confirmed with the supervisor whether diapers would be needed for donation as we had 3 packs in the truck and she told me “yes, diapers are huge as [they] have many babies…”

How does it make you feel when you hand everything out?

The feeling one receives when handing out a sandwich, care package, blanket and/coat or other warm material to someone in need is a gift like no other. The experience provides that feeling and there are no words to describe it.

For me, the days’ event is so fast paced and busy. I am able to feel it in the smiles from those I hand donations to; their smiles tell a story which is always different than the next person’s and for those few seconds of interaction I get with them, it just inspires me to continue what I’m doing reaching out to as many as I can, even if it’s only 1/100.

The Salvatino Army's Maxwell Meighen Centre

This was the first time I participated in an event like this. It was heartbreaking at times. There was one man who kept saying “God bless all of you. Thank you, thank you”. And many would beg for more than one sandwich. “Can I have another one? I’ll be hungry later”. It was a big wake up call of all the things we take for granted.

Blanketing Toronto takes place the first weekend of January. Don’t forget that after all the holiday hoopla, people are still out there, fighting to survive.

To donate or get involved, please contact Laura at laurabanfield@live.com

A special thank you to my run buddies Mike, Mary-Lou and Debby for donating to the cause.

Congrats Laura,

J