Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My diabetes history

Prior to my diagnosis in 2009 (my junior year of high school) I spent much of sophomore year of high school putting myself in the most anxious and depressed state I've ever experienced. I was dealing with what I didn't know at the time was pretty bad OCD. As I wrote in this article about body-mind and OCD, I am certain that the auto-immune response that began the type 1 diabetes was directly related to this period of intense anxiety. The stress I was putting on my body was incredible, and it originated from mental anguish.

From fall of 2008 into winter of 2009 I experienced the typical symptoms- excessive thirst, frequent urination, insatiable hunger, significant weight loss and changes in vision. I continued to add to my own mental stressors through OCD and wrong attitudes. When I say wrong attitudes, I mean the artificial and destructive stress I thought I had to experience because of school. I grew up in a town where it was expected that you got A's and went to a very good school if you "wanted to have a good life". 98% percent of my graduating class went to a 4 year college or university. It was indeed a great school, but the mental attitude was self destructive. The occurrence of Type 1 Diabetes in my home town is strangely high...

I remember finals for the first semester Junior year at the end of January 2009. I distinctly remember trying to study and being incredibly stressed out trying to ensure I knew everything and staying up later than I should have. I remember driving to Cumberland farms to buy red bull and vitamin water energy drink to stay awake (chock full of sugar). What I was certainly feeling the time was severe hyperglycemia. On top of the energy drink, I remember one night where I drank a Dr. Pepper that tasted just so amazing that I had to drink another. My blood sugar must have been through the roof at this point.

A week after finals, my youngest sister noted that I was drinking a lot, eating a lot and peeing a lot and that one of her friend with diabetes did the same thing! My mom told me that my youngest sister might be right. I looked up symptoms on WebMd (a bad idea in any situation- basically you can make yourself believe you have anything) and determined that it must be diabetes. I decided to go for a long run on the treadmill because if it were diabetes I had better get started on the thing I knew diabetics were supposed to do- exercise. The next day we went to the doctor who saw the symptoms quite apparently and then went to Children's Hospital in Boston and that was that! They tested my blood sugar- only 445 mg/dl, and looked for insulin antibodies. Then they said it was type 1 diabetes.

I did really well with learning all of the stuff and from the day I went home, I was the only one that gave myself injections or tested my blood sugar. Occasionally my mom would hold my arm or something, but I was in sole control. I hated having to tell the school nurse what doses I was taking because this was my thing and I could control it. I would rarely take injections in the nurses office. I bolused where and when I needed to, tested my blood sugar anywhere I needed- in the middle of class, in the middle of a test, in lunch- where ever.

I started on pretty normal doses, and then once I got adjusted, I was taking minimal doses. It was quite strange. There was a period where I was taking almost nothing at all and going low all the time. That confused my doctors and they did the antibody and c-peptide test again. Still type 1 diabetes. Things got more typical, and I'll skip the boring part of living with diabetes as per the usual and get to a few years later in college.

At the start of college, I was taking more normal doses, though on the lower end. Maybe 30 units of bolus a day and not too much basal. Toward the middle of freshmen year, the OCD I had experienced in sophomore year of high school returned, and my health and relationships with people suffered. I still had relatively good control, but my high blood sugars were closely related to bad OCD. After summer of freshmen year, I got into some literature on "mindfulness meditation". These approaches helped me to understand that I do not have to live my life in anxiety or fear. The OCD diminished greatly and my blood sugars began to improve.

I noticed that on days where I had a good meditation practice and felt unattached from my negative thought patterns, I would go low. I started having late night lows where I would wake up in the 40's at least once a week. As a result, I made the decision to cut my basal rates. At this time, I also began eating much healthier. I began to stop eating any food that came in an air sealed package and switched any grains I ate to whole grains. Conditions continued to improve and I made the decision to cut my carb ratios as well. I was taking minimal insulin again. There were days when the meditation was consistent and my thoughts were calm that I took 2, maybe 3 total units of insulin.

I decided to seek out some more intensive training in meditation. I asked my former boss from the job I worked all through high school if she would coach me (I knew she had studied yoga and meditation). She sent me instead to a teacher in NYC where I went to school. I met this teacher, explained my past experience with OCD, diabetes and how meditation seemed to be effecting it all, and in a few weeks of attending her Kundalini yoga class, she told me that there was an anonymous donor in her studio that would make a donation for me to study intensively with her. I began going to class every Tuesday from 6-10 for an 8 month period. 2 hours was a yoga and meditation class and the second two hours was classroom instruction in the philosophy of yoga.

I began practicing the Kundalini yoga and meditation practices consistently, and in March of 2012, I stopped taking insulin. My doses were just so low, that they were basically non- existent. But the real kicker was when we had a guest teacher come to the Kundalini class one night. He is and MD, a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner and a QiGong instructor and scholar. He turned me on to the works of Weston Price, DMD who published the book Nutrition and Degenerative Diseases (1939). I read parts of this book and became convinced that I should no longer eat any grains. I threw away the end of my last loaf of bread, got rid of my rice, quinoa, oatmeal and cereal and stopped buying milk. Now I really didn't need any insulin.

For the first few weeks without these old staples of my diet, I went through some withdrawal symptoms. I can attest to the fact that sugar is a drug. I had headaches, sweating, irritability and general feelings of discomfort. They subsided shortly, and I was left with a grain free, milk free and insulin free life with diabetes.

The months of April 2012 through August 2012 were filled with lots of study and lots of trying to figure out what worked and what didn't. I also began seeing an acupuncturist at this time. Periodically, I would test myself to see if I could eat the old foods I used too. (Now, I wouldn't want to because I'm convinced they're not a suitable diet for anyone). I worked at a pizza shop and would occasionally test by eating some pizza. The results were varied. I would often go straight to work on a Saturday after an acupuncture treatment. At these times, I could eat a pice of pizza and have my blood sugar be 90 an hour after. Other times, I would try eating a power bar, and find my blood sugar to be 190-220 a little bit after. Instead of taking any insulin, I would try the watermill exercise that I mentioned in this article, or go for a walk or sit and do a short yoga Kriya (complete set of exercises) that I learned from my Kundalini yoga teacher. Here is a website with many Kundalini yoga Kriyas.

I invariably found that certain exercises would bring it down to normal range- 80-120- fairly quickly, ie. less than 20 minutes. The watermill exercise which I learned in a QiGong class is one of these. I was in the process of learning how to control Qi, or universal life energy, in my body and put it in the place it needed to be. If I didn't want to to QiGong or a yoga Kriya, I would go on a 15 minute walk. As I would walk, I would stretch along the inside of my right foot at the big toe all the way up my groin. This is where part of the spleen (pancreatic) meridian flows in the Traditional Chinese Medicine system. I would imagine electricity ie the Qi I mentioned before, flowing freely through this channel and stimulating my pancreas to do the job it was supposed to do. When I would return from the walk, the sugar would be in normal range.

I stopped performing these little test for myself with food that I used to eat, and simply ate and continue to eat my completely grain, sugar free and as raw as possible diet. In September 2012 came the next big development in the state of my diabetes.

In Kundalini yoga, the practitioner is encouraged to take part in their own daily personal practice called Sadhana. This practice occurs early in the morning and lasts quite a while. I have detailed the practice here in the daily regimen. I was very resistant to this actual practice since the time I began studying the yoga. I thought that it was unnecessary, and that I was in school and it was impossible to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and do 2.5 hours of yoga. It just seemed downright not needed- and besides, I wasn't taking any insulin so what I was doing was working.
         All of this was just the chattering of an untamed mind. Discipline itself is the teacher. You have to have a discipline- a measuring stick- in order to make changes. I still had occasional bouts of OCD, and still fought too hard on a daily basis to keep the sugar down by performing exercises periodically. Once I began this practice, things became much easier. There is one breathing exercise outlined in the article mentioned above that is reputedly supposed to get rid of OCD symptoms in 90 days if practiced for its full time. I can attest to this fact. After 90 days of practice, I truly felt that I no longer had OCD and that it would never come back. I continue to practice it and it continues to make me stronger. The other exercise, Sat Kriya workout is reputedly supposed to have curative effects on the digestive system. I also can attest to this claim.
         When I first began practicing this daily regimen, after the exercises, my blood sugar would perhaps be a little higher than I wanted it- over 120. But, the conditions rapidly improved. I test in the morning when I wake up, and when I first began the daily practice, I would wake up around 120. Pretty good for a diabetic without insulin. Soon it was down around 110 in the morning, then for a long time I would wake up at 100. Then after about 2-3 months of daily practice without missing, I would wake up in the 90's. After another couple of months- in the 80's. Now I wake up in the 70's on a consistent basis. If I fast, my sugars drop into the 60's. I've even seen it in the 50's a few times before my liver kicks in and gives me some glycogen. In any event, normal non-diabetic fasting blood sugars.
        With the consistent practice of the daily regimen and sticking with my specific diet, my postprandial blood sugars are rarely over 110. Two hours after eating, low 80's. Consistently.

I gave myself somewhat of a Glucose Tolerance Test the other day. I will almost never anymore eat an ice cream or cookies or anything like that, but I was with my friend and he wanted to go to Friendly's ice cream. I got a "kid cone" which I thought would only be a few bites worth, but it was truly a double  scoop cone. About 65 carbs. I decided to eat the whole thing as a little test. 1 hour after, I was just below 160, an hour and a half after I was 130, and 2 hours after I was in normal range at 100. I couldn't have done that  year ago, so something has changed.
          This is not something I would do regularly. The literally insignificant benefit of eating the ice cream is not in any way worth the trouble it causes later. The experience of eating the ice cream is inherently empty and not worth it. I would have been just as content to be with my friend. But, seeing what actually happens when I eat those foods is interesting.

I have spoken to my endocrinologist, and there is no doubt that I had remaining beta cell function after diagnosis. He thinks that my actions have helped to arrest the auto-immune response and perhaps allowed for some beta cell regeneration.  I think that this is likely the case.

As it stands now, the way I live my life with diabetes is completely different than the way I led it under the normal standard of care. In many ways, I feel past diabetes. I feel like I used to be diabetic. I also feel like I used to have OCD. Neither of these are things that cause me suffering any more. That to me, is what healing is all about. Even if I still had to take insulin or had obtrusive thoughts akin to OCD, with the mindset I have now, I would say that I live a post- diabetic, post OCD lifestyle. There was pre-diabetes I remember clearly, then there was the life with diabetes. Then there is this, something completely different.

As I look back at the pre, during and post diabetic life, I know that diabetes was the best thing that ever happened to me. If there was a "cure" today, I would not take it. I have simply learned too much about my own body and my own mind which have allowed me to open up to the final frontier, my own soul. It continues to be my teacher. Now that I have learned at least partly what to do with myself, it is teaching me how to help others; teaching me my role in life. Diabetes was my alarm that signaled the deep psychological problems that were taking place, and my signal to help myself. It has helped me to learn, understand and begin to transcend my own body and my own mind. I have learned that I am not my thoughts; I am not my body; I am not a disease; I am not a set of conditions; I am simply am as I am. Inherently, all conditions are meaningless without their association to other things, and because of diabetes and OCD I've been able to realize that. I don't know where things will go from here, but I do know that I now live a post-diabetic life.

8 comments:

  1. Keith, thanks so much for putting your story out there for anyone to benefit. I, too, attended an excellent high school and put tremendous pressure on myself that academics=good life (however, my T1 dx did not occur until age 38). I would not describe my mindset as OCD but certainly perfectionist. I can allow negativity/imperfection/worry inordinate power over my life. It is so inspiring what you have done with your life. So few of us achieve that much transformation especially when it requires going outside mainstream beliefs. You have been helped and now you are helping others like me with your blog!

    I appreciate your practical focus which is making non-mainstream ideas and practices more accessible to me. I have a question re Sat Kriya if you have an opinion. Is it ok that I am not finding a regular breathing rhythm? I pull in my stomach and release independently of my breathing. Sometimes I happen to be inhaling when I pull in, other times I am exhaling. Sometimes I stop the stomach pulls to catch my breath. I have only practiced 3x but I am curious to see if it helps my digestion. My digestion is so slow that I have always had to split my boluses into 2, sometimes 3.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I hope that I can share information people want to hear.

      In Sat Kriya, if you focus your attention on the words and just have a nice light yet firm pumping motion with the sat and the release on nam, then the breathing will find itself. As you practice, you will adjust and fall into breathing. Ironically, you kind of forget about the breathing for this one and just focus on the sound and pumping. Of course while you get started if you need to catch a breath, please do breath! This is a pretty common question when first starting to practice Sat Kriya. It can be quite powerful and in the process of breaking bodily patterns, you all of a sudden begin to notice discomfort once you put yourself out to do it.

      Here is a link where the teacher addresses the common question about the breath:
      http://www.3ho.org/articles/everything-kriya-sat-kriya

      I hope that helps :) So glad you are reading the blog.

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  2. Again....I love your writing and perspective. Thank you for ypur perspective and insight. Much, much appreciated!!

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  3. My 12 year old daughter wss just diagnosed on 6/25/13. We saw the dr yesterday and her Lantus has been decreased to 15 units and Humalog to 2 before ea meal. She was hospitalized for a day when we found out she was diabetic. Her readings are now in the 80's at fasting and up to 130 throught out the day. I am convinced the alkaline veggies and combination of food I am giving her her has helped. Your story gives me hope for someday my daughter to be on a very low insulin dosis
    Or none at all. We are dealing with hair loss. She had lo ng thick hair but it is coming out in chunks, pretty scary and hope this will diminish soon. I will continue to read the rest of the information you provided. Thank you so much!

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    1. Thanks for reading! I am glad to hear you are investigating closely and really looking into the foods as a source of healing. It definitely takes a little while for things to even out but it sounds like you and your daughter are on your way to finding out what works best and finding your own health!

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  4. Sat Nam Keith, what an amazing story! I heard from Hari that you cured yourself of diabetes and I finally got a chance to read your blog. I love your last paragraph. You are so brave, strong and smart. That's how everyone should be looking at their diabetes.
    I will share it on facebook if you don't mind.

    Zita

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  5. This is an incredibly inspirational story. Have you kept it up until now? Gluten and grain intolerance (Celiac Disease) commonly affect people the longer that they have had diabetes, and I've already removed grains from my diet and almost all dairy besides Parmesan cheese. Please share more about your diet. What sort of meat do you eat, if any? Fish, chicken, beef, etc.? Approximately how many carb grams do you eat with each meal? How many snacks each day, and how many carbs in those? Do you eat fruits or drink juiced fruits or vegetables? Can you eat potato products? I'm guessing that the workouts build a lot of muscle. Have you lost weight since you started the program? I'm hoping that the diet doesn't make a person lose weight, because I can't afford to lose ANY weight. I want to see if I can match what you are doing, and see if it works for me, since I've been sick since 1985 (almost my whole life). Thank you very much for posting this!

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