A Really ‘Good’ Good Friday!

Friday, March 30 2018 will definitely be a date I remember and will do so with both joy and not just a modicum of pride.  I had scheduled an A1c test at the clinic; it was about time as I’ve been getting them every three months since my initial diagnosis of late onset Type 2 diabetes back on May 24, 2017.  At that time I tested a ‘14’ for my A1c and a real time blood glucose test showed 375 mg/dL.  To say I was devastated would be the mother of all understatements!  However, after a couple of days of a ‘pity party’ followed by a few days of denial I finally faced this fact, started researching the condition and began making preparations to really change my lifestyle.  It began an honest odyssey during which I learned so much while experiencing the frustrations, joys and confusion almost any diabetic knows only too well.  But the fear of insulin dependence drove my efforts; in hindsight it was amazing what fear can do when properly channeled!

By the next A1c in late August I saw a 6.0 and was ecstatic; across the next seven months I saw a 5.8 and, most recently, a 5.7.  I was pleased no end with these results as was my wonderful doctor (Dr. Joan).  As an aside I’ve always been distrustful of physicians in general and especially those espousing ‘western medicine’.  I believed far too many were in the practice only for the money and were willing pawns of ‘Big Pharma’.  I also believed most followed the ‘disease de jour’ concept and, if allowed to run enough tests, would always find a malady that had to be addressed.  Dr. Joan is none of these!  She is a warm, knowledgeable, caring and understanding physician who honestly listens to what I share with her.  I’ve never spent less time than 15 minutes in conversation with her at any of my appointments!  This is so refreshing after experiencing the ‘assembly line’ practice of so many doctors.

I expected Friday’s appointment to just be a blood draw and A1c test but it had been maybe four months since I’d seen a provider and I was encouraged to schedule such an appointment.  As luck would have it Dr. Joan had an opening just a half hour after my appointment for the A1c so I signed up.  During the exam I was weighed, had my feet examined, had my BP/pulse measured and answered a number of health questions.  When I saw Dr. Joan she was very pleased with the results.  She told me I had ‘healed myself’ regarding the late onset Type 2 diabetes and could now stop my daily blood glucose testing and just monitor as I saw fit.  I can also decrease my A1c testing to just twice a year.  The icing on this cake is the fact I have now halved my daily dose of Metformin HCl and, if my next A1c is 6 or lower, I can cease taking the medication all together! My BP measured 122/82 mm Hg which was very good given I had been seeing 160/115 mm Hg readings a year earlier when I was first diagnosed with severe hypertension.  While the medications I take helped the fact I exercise daily in the form of counting my steps and I’d worked hard to lose weight were probably the main drivers behind this decrease in my BP.  I’d shown a loss of another ten pounds across that four month period which meant by the clinic scales I had dropped almost sixty pound in the preceding year.  As Dr. Joan told me most patients my age only lose such large amounts of weight via bariatric surgery, so shedding so many pounds was remarkable in and of itself.

She was very interested in just what I was doing to have turned around my health situation so dramatically in a year’s time.  She knew about my 12,000+ daily steps but I filled her in regarding my low carb lifestyle – I eat between 95 grams and 60 grams of carbs a day and almost all are my ‘good’ carbs – and we talked about my learnings.  I shared I’d discovered I could indulge myself once a week with some ice cream with chocolate sauce without negatively impacting my blood glucose or my slow but steady weight loss.  I reiterated my ‘bad’ carbs were anything containing either starch or fructose.  The latter means my selection of fresh fruit is very limited but I do love the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries I can consume.  Sadly, any breads, rolls, crackers, potatoes, corn and similar are just plain ‘off the menu’.  But I’ve found a wonderful pasta substitute in ‘Miracle Noodles’.  Although a bit pricey they are an amazingly delicious pasta substitute and the firm also markets a variety of rice using the same component (shirataki noodles) with the same almost no calorie or carb content.

We also briefly touched on my depression which is now just a distasteful memory.  I’m still taking 50 mg of Sertraline (Zoloft) daily and will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  Along with some counseling this combination appears to have vanquished the depression although mine has a history of coming and going in cycles.  Because of this I’m not about to proclaim I’m ‘cured’.  However, if taking the daily Sertraline prevents a re-occurrence, or even mitigates the intensity and duration if it does reappear, then it is well worth the cost.

Given all the aforementioned it isn’t difficult to see why I felt this past Good Friday was really a ‘GREAT’ Friday.  But more importantly, I discovered that I can take control of my physical situation and affect sweeping changes for the better.  I learned that diabetes is different for almost everyone and hence the only way to manage the condition is by putting in the required effort up front to do the research and then to meticulously monitor one’s dietary intake across months while doing daily blood glucose tests.  Sure, it is a long and often frustrating process but in doing so one will learn so much more about their body.  But perhaps most importantly I discovered I could ‘cure’ myself of a condition which affects millions of people and causes a myriad of negative side effects like increased chance of heart attacks, vision problems, foot issues and weight problems.  I had no idea I would get to this point; back in July or August of 2017 I figured I’d be testing my blood glucose level almost daily for the remainder of my life and always be concerned about my next A1c.

So if there’s anything I’d like a reader to take away from this piece it is simply this; “You are never too old to affect sweeping lifestyle changes!”  It is possible to incorporate such changes for the better and actually make them a part of one’s life.  Sure, I will never stop regulating my carb intake and I have to steer clear of those pesky starches and fructose containing foods but if one can view making such a commitment as a pledge to a healthier lifestyle it eventually becomes acceptable.  Of late I’ve told a few folks that getting that late onset Type 2 diabetes diagnosis in May of 2017 was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me; most cannot understand how I can make such an assertion.  It is simple to me; doing so forced me to seriously examine my lifestyle, face up to my situation and dedicate myself to making sweeping lifestyle changes which have allowed me to lose weight, shape up, eat healthier and feel so much better.  So who says ya can’t ‘teach and old dog new tricks?’…   

Contemplating Depression…And Beyond

Once again I’ve emerged from the dark miasma of depression and am finding all those things I enjoyed in the past are once again sources of joy and stimulation.  I’m no stranger to this situation having ‘been there, done that’ more times than I care to remember.  But this time is different because I finally sought medical assistance for the condition and am continuing to take 50 mg. of Sertraline (Zoloft) on a daily basis.  The med is helping as did the counseling but I’m left wondering if I would’ve once again found my free  of the desperate darkness of emptiness without such assistance?  If the past is any indication then the answer is an unqualified ‘Yes’.  But this latest bout was stronger than most and it showed no signs of dissipating after ravaging my emotional well-being for more than a month.  Sure, I remember times when I struggled for a year or more but that was also before I recognized the depression for what it was…a chronic condition that was robbing me of my joy, my balance and my caring.  And while I ultimately am just pleased it is no longer a factor in my day to day existence I still wonder…

Of course part of my concern is based upon the fear it will eventually once more sweep into my life and drag me down into the dark depths of despair.  However, if I continue taking the Sertraline this most likely will not occur.  However, I really am not a ‘pill person’ and hence I have real issues with taking meds especially if I feel they are having minimal to no immediate benefit so I remain a bit conflicted.  I’m working on becoming more sanguine regarding taking the daily dose of Sertraline – my doctor tells me it is about the minimum dose prescribed nowadays – and am viewing it like I do insurance.  It is an investment in maintaining my well-being should the worst occur.  In this sense I view the daily med as I do insurance in general – a ‘necessary evil’.  I guess if I didn’t already take daily doses of HCTZ, Amlodipine and Losartan Potassium for the hypertension and Metformin for the late onset Type 2 diabetes swallowing my daily tablet of Sertraline wouldn’t be such a big deal..?

So I’m heading towards a place whereby I just need to remember how bad this last bout of depression had become and how much the Sertraline appeared to help in dispelling the condition.  As I look back at this latest event I remain confounded by how this condition functions.  How does an apparent biochemical imbalance have the ability to literally wipe away the joy and enthusiasm one holds for life and replace it with a complete lack of motivation and an overpowering numbness which makes even the most beloved activities empty and without value?  In contemplating this question I am struck by the awareness that if depression is ‘just’ a biochemical imbalance with such power over our thoughts and perceptions what does that say regarding the basis for our reality?  Is our very existence nothing but a complex series of biochemical and bio-electrical reactions?  Are the emotions which are so ‘human’ such as love, compassion, fear and loathing predicated only upon a proper balance of molecules, electricity, neurons and synapses?

In a way this description of human beings seems almost derogatory but there’s no denying the direction our race’s ‘voyages of discovery’ are heading regarding the biological sciences.  However, if one looks beyond just the mechanical/chemical reactions there’s something I find truly fascinating.  If all life exists based upon these same fundamental interactions then is not all life related?  Some may find the concept of a human being’s life force being identical to that of a microorganism to be insulting but I do believe this feeling is valid.  In this sense, all life is inter-related and, hence, all life is precious.  Think on this concept!  On an energy level all life is related and most likely interconnected as well.  This ‘connectedness’ is probably on a quantum level but being part of the very small doesn’t diminish its importance.  What a profound concept!!

We human beings have seemed driven to place ourselves at the apex of the ‘web of life’ on this planet and, in many respects, this is an accurate measurement.  But we should never have allowed this concept to morph into a feeling of being superior to all other life!  If we do, indeed, share such basic commonalities with all other life on this planet perhaps we should look deep within ourselves and begin to realize as a race with so many distinct cultures we honestly need to stop celebrating our differences and begin to embrace our commonalities.  There is nothing ‘wrong’ about being different or distinct unless we allow these perceptions to divide us or set us apart from other.  So perhaps we should begin to celebrate our uniqueness and our commonalities..?  While doing so, perhaps the time has come to enlarge our acceptance of all life around us and understand that the myriad of life forms is but the Universe’s way of celebrating life?  If we could all come to honestly embrace this fundamentally  amazing ‘sameness’ our lives would be so much richer and we might better understand the value of diversity.

Neuron

Is this the sum total of a human being..??