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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Reflections of a Control Junkie

I am Will's Obsessive Behavior

I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.

Lately while being sick I have had a debate raging inside me. How do you balance a need to maintain iron control with the need to live a full and happy life? When is too much of a good thing not so good for your whole sense of well being. I can rattle off the nutritional values of most the foods I eat on a regular basis. I can calculate the calories of the carbohydrate, fat and protein content. I know my BMI and requirements to the third decimal place. I can see how my test levels fall on the charts I have created. But how do you chart satisfaction? When have you crossed the line where you wake up a slave to your own methods? Do I wake tomorrow and find that my shoes are too tight, but it does not matter because I have forgotten how to dance?

Let me go back to the beginning of my journey on the path of management. When I was diagnosed and the initial shock wore off I met a new force in my life. My inner diabetes policeman. A dark and brooding figure armed with a truncheon of fear, and a scrapbook full of pictures of my mother's downward spiral into an abyss of complications that consumed her. I became an archetypal Üuberdiabetic. A desperate person swearing to seek perfection so what had passed would not happen to me. In my diabetes class I was the one who always had the right answer for the questions asked. I had done a lot of homework to learn all I could to fight for my life. I may have become a bit insufferable. I did not need others to lay the burden of profound guilt on me, I could do it all by my self and I was quite good at it. By now I know enough to be able to temper my need for control with my need for growth.

Lately I have had a change of attitude. The advice of my diabetes coaches is beginning to sink in. We are not perfect, you live life one day at a time and do what you can each day to find a balance. You gratefully take each small victory and diligently learn from your mistakes. You experiment with different methods and strategies to lead a life worth living. It is a lifelong process and you are allowed to make mistakes along the way. If you do not risk you end up missing opportunities for growth, acceptance and happiness.

So here I am. I stand on the edge of the cliff of rigid control frightened and exhilarated. Feeling like a young bird spreading its wings and wondering how they will carry me to new heights. All it knows is it's time to leave the safety of the nest and find its own way in the world. Maybe it is my time to fly.

Till we meet again, live your life with passion, live it with joy, and wonder. Try to be good to yourself, and do something good for others. Always remember we all can fly.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

I am Will's Dark Passenger

Thoughts on the Nature of Depression

We should every night call ourselves to an account; What infirmity have I mastered today? What passions opposed? What temptation resisted? What virtue acquired? Our vices will abort of themselves if they be brought every day to the shrift. -- Seneca

I was pondering the nature of depression. It has made me think deep about how it expresses its self in those who live with it each day of their lives. On my birthday I caught a segment on the news about how "experts" deemed my birthday the most depressing day of the year. I did not let it rain on my parade. I could see why they might say such a thing. The winter season filled with grey dead cold days weight down our spirit and drive some to the edge. Lack of sunlight, cabin fever, brain chemistry or sheer boredom can make us feel blue. Add the link between diabetes and depression and things move from bad to worse.

What constitutes depression? How does depression differ from common grief or justified regrets? The human condition is never an absolute proposition drawn in only black or white. Even at its best it is a bittersweet experience. We all experience joys and sorrows, hopes and regrets. It speaks to us about some fundamental questions: When does simple common sadness change into a damaging mental condition. When we are caught up in depression how do we fight back? How do we turn what at first appears to be a fatal flaw into a life affirming strength?

I think even the most optimistic and well adjusted of us still has those dark moments when we question our worth and goals. It is part and parcel of a life examined. People may aspire to a logical life but there is a primal side that is insoluble in logic. Residing just beneath the veneer of civilization there is a part of us that is governed by emotions and irrational hungers. It is not always pleasant to look into that place and see that part of our humanity. We react in different ways,some act out, some feel shame, some deny it exists, and some make peace with that messy irrational side of the coin we flip each day. The key is to accept who we are under the mask we wear and grow from what we learn.

We all have seen or heard that voice that tells us we are not worthy or perfect enough. When we are faced with temptation it whispers that we should just let go and not try anymore. We see our condition as a burden too heavy to bear. We feel are special, that nobody can understand the depths of the pain we feel. Our resolve weakens and we say to our self. “Life is unfair! Trying to get control of my hunger/glucose level/exercise is all so hard what is the point? Why can't I just live for today and forget about tomorrow?”

Before you reach for the torches and form a mob I have to say I have been there too. I am not point a finger in accusation. I am merely making a confession and an observation. We get in our own way and throw up obstacles, excuses and justifications for not taking responsibility for our own lives and the state of affairs we must deal with to lead a healthy life. Our untamed dark passenger sabotages our new found control and we watch knowing full well that it did not need to happen. That can lead to a double jeopardy of guilt shame, a sense of worthlessness and recriminations. This is a dangerous self-reinforcing toxic cycle that needs to be broken.

What is the answer to this problem? I have more questions than answers. I can not speak for others. Our personal answer is unique for each one of us. Some find it in religion, some in medication and psychotherapy, some in insight, introspection and acceptance. All I know is that it is a journey we must take if we want to live a happy healthy life and be able to lift up those around us along the way. No matter what path you take remember that you are worth the effort. We each are a individual answer to an infinite number of questions life asks of the universe. Find your own voice and answer and shout it out loud. Join the chorus of life and shake the world with our song. We are not alone.

There seems to be a strong link between diabetes and depression. The search for cause and effect leaves me with a conundrum. Does diabetes increase the chances for depression, or does depression increase the risk on diabetic onset? Some think it is a chicken or the egg proposition. The question drove me out to see what has been written on the subject. My research is far from perfect or exhaustive. But life is a never ending classroom and I will keep leaning and sharing.

Here are a few links that I found interesting:

Till we meet again, live your life with passion, live it with joy, and wonder. Try to be good to yourself, and do something good for others. Remember that if you are feeling cast adrift you are not alone. Reach out and accept a helping hand. You are worthy and precious. We are here on this world to help each other.

All the best for you and yours.


Friday, April 08, 2011

Memories, Guilt and Salvation

Unbidden Memories

The mind is a strange and mysterious thing. Full of doors that open when we least expect it. One of those doors opened, flooding me with memories of my mother. She was my first direct encounter with the complications that can befall a person with diabetes. Her life and death have been a major influence on my motivation to control the condition she passed to me that did not manifest its self until late in my life.

I remember how my mother stubbornly cut her own toenail, and in the process cut herself. She hid it from all of the family until it was too late. We only discovered it when we were forced to take action and hurry her to the hospital. We saved her life, but she ended up losing her leg to just below her knee.

She suffered from depression, and guilt all her life. Diabetes made her condition become much worse. There was a nagging thought in my mind that she did not ask for help because she wanted to punish herself for things that happened to her during an abusive childhood. It seemed that she saw her diabetes as a death sentence for the crime of not being able to defend herself all those years ago. Toxic shame can poison your life if you allow it to. And in her case it was fatal.

I was the person who became the primary care giver in the last months of her life. We spent that time talking, working through things left unsaid for so many years. We both knew this was the last chance to share time together. I found ways to prepare her favorite foods in a healthier version. I did what I could to make her life easier, healthier and more enjoyable. I had her blood glucose levels stable, her numbers were as close to what a normal healthy non-diabetic person's would be.

In the end it was blood poisoning from the dialysis that claimed her life. She had a "do not resuscitate" order on file and there was nothing we could do to extend her life. To me it was a bitter pill to swallow. I nearly choked to death on it. I had the curse of the firstborn. We were brought up to be the strong fixer of problems, perfect and all knowing. Frustration and grief led to profound guilt. I was Prometheus bound to the rock of guilt while a great eagle ate my liver every day only to have it grow back to be eaten again the next.

Generational guilt can be a hard thing to break. It expresses it's self in every member of the family touched by it. It is like a chain wrapped around your family tree. It took me a long time to see how it held me and break free. My way to freedom was through Bradshaw's work on co-dependence and family dynamics. Suing for peace with myself was not easy. Nothing that is fundamentally life changing ever is. We pick our battles and seek the place where we can find strength to build a better life on the ashes of the past.

We either learn from the past or are forced to relive it. Her tragedy and loss was not in vain. It has made me more aware and proactive in managing my diabetes. For that I am eternally grateful and will cherish the memories of the good times. And I remember the bad times too, so I may avoid making the same mistakes again. I think she would feel proud and be at peace knowing that after all her suffering some good came from it.

I am Will's Childhood Memories

I have been on a mission of outreach to uncover others who share my condition. Part of my journey has been looking back in my life to see the seeds of my need to act on my mission. I look deep and remember those in my family who have traveled the same path I am on now. Emotions well up and I can feel that fullness around my eyes. Tears are waiting to overflow the dam of my stoic self control. I would not want to escape them It is what makes me human. Healing rain that flows in abundance, they help wash my spirit clean. In our quest for meaning we look back and find moments of foreshadowing. Clues that we find anew in the future. Hidden, unbidden they reveal their presence when we least expect it. a message in a bottle we sent off to speak to our future self. A gift from the past for when we need it the most. This one of those moments.

My thoughts of my uncle Leo came to me the other day and has popped up often since then. He was a gentleman in both senses of the word. A loving husband to my aunt Zella. He possessed a easygoing wit and charm, and a kindness that surpassed that of his loving wife. His passion was making life special for all he touched. Their home was always open to all our family. many happy times we all spent together in celebration of life and family. As a boy I loved to visit them. Their home held many exotic treasures that fascinated me and made me want to see far-flung places. He was my favorite uncle, mentor and friend I felt some shame that I did not know till lately how much I love and miss him. He was not related to me by blood, but he was truly family to me.

He was a pharmacist by trade. And on special Saturdays he would take me to where he worked and sit with me at the soda fountain counter. We would both order a soda, chocolate for him, strawberry for me. We would talk of many things. People came in and recognized him. They would speak with us, I could see that he had touched them as well. He was more than their pharmacist in their eyes, he was their caring friend. I can taste those sodas now and they still taste as sweet. As sweet as my memories of those times when we were together.

One night in the late 1950's when I was sleeping over at their house. He quietly sat down next to me. I could see that something was troubling him. I saw tears in his eyes as he confessed to me that he had been to the doctor and found out he had diabetes. He spoke of how his life would change. I could see the fear, the hope, the slow acceptance of what at the time was thought of as a sentence to slow death. Of things he would have to give up to live. He apologized and told me that he would have to just have a seltzer water when we went for our Saturday afternoon visit to the pharmacy. I took his hand and told him I understood, "You are still my uncle Leo to me". I saw him live with his condition with a quiet dignity. He was still the man I knew, but I could see his inner struggle to live his life on his own terms and not let his secret condition triumph over him.

So today I want to dedicate this post to him. And pay some of the debt I owe to this kind gentle man who means so much to me. He was my uncle, my friend, my teacher and fellow traveler. His passing made the world a poorer place.I dedicate my life to help pay forward in the currency of compassion and good deeds. It is my legacy. It is my history. It is the path I choose, now and in the future. What a world we can make if we all bend a knee to help those who have fallen stand tall. Maybe I'm a dreamer. But it is a dream worth having. I would rather dream than be awake in an uncaring world bereft of human dignity and compassion.

Confessions of an Aging Diabetic

Every day I remember when I was first diagnosed with diabetes. I can still feel the shock of the cold pronouncement that my doctor gave me. The news he gave me was no real surprise. I had seen the symptoms but hoped against hope. I had been living with my head in the sand refusing to acknowledge what my body had been shouting to me loud and clear. There it is again, that lost feeling I had while being told the news which would forever alter my life. "You have diabetes. Here is a meter and this is how you load it. Would you like to see our mental health care councilor to talk through your feelings? Good I will see you in a couple of weeks." He turned and rushed off leaving me speechless and feeling like I had been hooked up on a blind date just so he could ditch me and move on to another case on his log. I moved through the rest of that day like an automaton with someone else working the strings. I followed the instructions as meager as they were while trying to figure out what to ask, what to do, what did this all mean to me. Eventually the numbness faded and it was replaced with another emotion I can still feel the anger I felt when I realized I had not been given any of the tools I needed to deal with this new challenge.

I was tried to cope with that sense of loss. A feeling like I had attended a funeral of a close friend who I would mourn came over me. I grieved for the me who died that day and thought on how that death would change me. I made a laundry list of all the things I had to leave behind. Those favorite foods, the spontaneous carefree days all gone. Everything I thought I knew was dust in the wind and events blew them away. At first it chafed me and I had a profound hunger that continuously gnawed inside my belly. I never thought I would feel full again. This was not just hunger for mere food but for my old life back. Though the rumbling in my belly could not be denied.Without the input of a dietitian I had been over zealous in my attempt to reduce my intake and had been too focused on losing weight at a rate that was not safe.

Time rolls on and I am now a new man. Gone are the cravings. I have discovered ways to nibble what I choose. Eating small manageable portions that make me feel pampered and content. Moderation in all things always rings in my head. Everything is permissible unless it is damaging to your body or spirit. I dance lightly on the razor's edge juggling with wild abandon. Set free from ignorance I am no longer afraid of cutting my legs off because of an unexpected fall from grace. Fear is an ugly form of slavery and I long to be free.

I am glad that I came to my condition late in life. I am not sure how a younger and less wise me would have reacted to the news. I was one of those willful brash and arrogant young men who saw the suffering of others as proof of their weakness. My pride was legion and my compassion sorely wanting. I walked in twilight when I should have sought out the brightness all around me unseen.

I was living with a chronic case of youthful deception. Blindly thinking that I was invulnerable and brimming with insufferable ignorant certitude. Eventually I was inoculated against this cancer of the soul by a life changing injury. It was my turn to cry out against what I saw as a hostile uncaring world intent on my degradation and eventual destruction. My world crumbled around me. I was faced with the unvarnished fact that my body had failed me. The knowledge shook me to my core. Pain gripped me and I was reborn. My cries were my second birth pangs. It was my wake up call and the first step into becoming truly human. It has been quite a trip, but I would not change a thing. Humility is a hard lesson to learn, but without being humbled I would not be the man I am today.

My world keeps changing, and with it my life has become richer. I gained a sense of concern for the well-being of those around me. It has more weight in my mind than concerns for my personal survival. When my mother was dying I offered myself to take her place because her life meant more to me than my own. When my prayers went unanswered. There was a question that hung in the air insoluble in logic. I had to think hard about what was the reason I was still here on Earth. Maybe some day I will know the answer, or perhaps I will never know. I will keep on finding more questions to ask and someday either I or those who follow me will pick them up and solve the mystery.

In my later years I know I am who I am. I am just a man living life on my own terms. I am much more than a set of statistics and medical conditions. Diabetes is just another place I travel through on this long and strange journey. I am not the road I walk on, but a traveler navigating along it to reach my goal. I may take a detour, I may have to pull out a map to see where I took a wrong turn. I may travel a path rarely taken by others. If I find an oasis of joy I will linger there for a while and feed my spirit and drink deeply. But I know I will get to where I need to be at the time I need to be there. Life is a wonderous journey best taken at a slow pace so we can savor each step. No longer am I in a great hurry to cross the finish line. Understanding has taught me this race is won by those who finish last.

So I sing a song of joy for you loud and without shame. I say a prayer for all of us to see us through our days. May our journey be long and full of wonder and a sense of awe for all the profound secrets revealed to us along the way. Meaning found in a smile, a word, in the warmth of a kiss. Lessons found in s water smoothed rock on a beach, the shimmer of the northern lights, or the sounds of the night chorus from the wetlands on a summer night. A kaleidoscope of imagery and sensations that speaks to our heart if we are calm and our inner voices do not drown them out.

We were meant to make this journey it is a gift given to us and a duty to take it. Though at times we think our life is hard and the path is rocky. We have an infinite inner strength to endure it all if we have faith and the serenity to face it unafraid. The human spirit can work miracles. In the darkest moments it can shine out so bright. I will follow the light that others glow with and l will meet you all somewhere down the line. When we all gather together in the light of grace we will laugh and share ideas on what this life was all about.

I know I may have said some of this all before and if I have said it once I have said it a million times I hate when I repeat myself. But grant me the indulgence an old geezer is due for my ramblings.

Till we meet again, live your life with passion, live it with joy, and wonder. Try to be good to yourself, and do something good for others. Always remember you are never alone as long as friends are near.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Honey I'm Home!

Every task you choose to tackle has the capability to expand well beyond your wildest dreams of how long it will take to complete. But it is to be expected, and you should rejoice in the opportunity to stretch your personal envelope. The journey of discovery has its own time frame and we are just along for the ride. Hold on tight, and enjoy the trip.
Will Boucher, circa: Early 21st century (2010)

I had intentions of posting earlier, but events conspired to draw my time and energy elsewhere. Time seems to have flown by and I realized that it has been many years since I have posted here. My body had hit the wall and it took time to get back to a semblance of normality.

I am Will's My Life as a Mad Scientist

Yes I know I have not been around lately. Yes I know this is my home. All I can do is beg my friends for forgiveness for my extended period of "incommunicado". My only justification is I have been caught up by events bigger than me, and you will forgive me because I know you love me. (Well some of you do...) Since I have last posted I have been swept up in a whirlwind of manic activity. I have been up to my neck in webpage revisions, turning old-school tag soup 700 page Frankenstein site into a 1000+ pages of semantic user friendly goodness. I keep a history site covering World War One aviation. I had been contemplating a major renovation for a couple years, but the scale of the project was daunting, and I had personal health fires to put out before getting busy on "The Website From Hell". As always every step has bred more revisions and new graphics, more research. It is my way to give back to the online community for all the blessings I have received in over a decade I have spent online.