Sometimes, working on my own can feel slightly schizophrenic.
I know you have tons of questions for me.
And today you’ll get some of them answered!
I’ve done an interview with none other than my fabulous self. I asked myself, included the ones from you (and googled some) questions to answer.
So here we go, here is the GrainBrain.ch interview with Hanna Boëthius:
GrainBrain: What type of diabetes do you have? Hanna Boëthius: I have Type 1 Diabetes.
GB: How long have you had diabetes? HB: I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 2, 29 years ago now.
GB: How did you manage, growing up? Did you hide your diabetes? HB: I had my moments. Up until the age of about 10, my parents had full control of the diabetes and me. That’s also when I learned how to do my own injections, which gave me a little more freedom. I can’t say I ever took pride in having diabetes before.
Being a teenager with T1D was difficult for me, I wanted nothing else than to be like “everybody else”, and I felt the diabetes hindered me in that. Starting at about age 16 I started hiding the diabetes more and more, at times even ignoring it.
It was a stupid move on my part, as it brought me to the ICU on the night of my high school graduation with a life-threatening DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis), but luckily I survived, thanks to the excellent health care staff around me. This complete roller coaster of taking care of myself vs not doing it continued a few years after that too, purely because I didn’t achieve the results I was promised and that I was working towards.
GB: Was it tough on your sibling, with you being the center of attention? HB: Oh yes, most definitely. What she actually feels about it, you’ll have to ask her, but I think she has found it very tough.
GB: What was hardest for you and your family — emotionally? Or financially? HB: A little bit of both, I think, but mainly emotionally. I’ve always been fortunate enough to have excellent health insurance.
I know my mother was terribly afraid of needles until my diagnosis, and then got over it because, well, she had to. And to get over something you’re afraid of is incredibly difficult. So it has affected my whole family in many, many ways.
Also having to deal with the doctors visits, the low blood sugars, the high ones, the inexplicable ones, the food, the insulin, exercise, hormones as well as other factors that influence the care of diabetes is life changing. And definitely not just for the patient, but also for the ones around them.
GB: What treatment do you use to treat your diabetes? HB: Medically, I use insulin and check my blood sugars often.
GB: How often do you have to test your glucose levels? HB: It’s gotten a little easier with my newest acquirement of a CGM (continuous glucose monitor), but I still measure up to 10 times a day. Before that it was 7-12 times a day, depending on how I felt and what I was doing.
GB: Do you use an insulin pump or injections/pens? How often do you need to inject? HB: Since about a year, I use an insulin pump. Her name is Doris, and we’re a great team. But for the other 28 years I’ve used syringes first, and then insulin pens. So I know all about feeling like a human pin cushion!
The benefit with an insulin pump is that it injects small amounts of insulin every 5 minutes, giving the body a smoother supply of insulin, rather than injecting huge lump-dosages and hoping for the best.
The reason I changed was a lifestyle improvement, but also to cut down the margin of error of the big dosages I mentioned.
GB: What kind of insulin do you take? HB: I use NovoRapid in my insulin pump.
GB: What insulins have you had throughout your diabetic career? HB: Oh, I don’t think I can even remember them all! But a selection of them is: Humalog, Lantus, Levimir, Protaphan, Humulin, Actrapid…
GB: How well do you think you manage your diabetes? HB: I think I’m doing better now than ever before!
I take much less insulin and other medications now, my blood sugar is more stable and all my laboratory results and measurements are better than they ever have been.
GB: Can you recognize the symptoms of a low/high blood sugar? HB: Yes, most of the times I can.
GB: What symptoms do you get? HB: When I have a high blood sugar, I get sleepy, my brain feels like toffee, I’m lethargic and I can’t concentrate. Sometimes I’m insatiably thirsty as well.
When it’s low, I feel jittery, I might shake, I can’t see properly, and I can’t concentrate then either. But although that’s exactly what I need to do, I rarely feel hungry, that comes afterwards.
GB: How often? HB: It depends on what I’ve been doing. Stress, too little exercise and water, and too many carbs make it go up. And too much exercise and insulin makes it go down. It’s a careful balancing act.
GB: How do you treat a hypo? HB: I’ve learned to become more patient. Before I used to eat whatever I found, and too much of it, making my low blood glucose race up to be too high.
Now, I reduce my basal rate on my pump to -80% for ½-1 h and eat 4-8 carbohydrates in form of glucose tablets, depending on how low it is. Usually I’m back to my awesome self within 10-15 minutes.
The worst thing for me is waking up with a low blood sugar in the middle of the night and then falling asleep again, once I’m ok. Getting up the following morning is a real struggle. It’s (much) worse than waking up with a hangover!
GB: What do you eat for breakfast/lunch/dinner? When? HB: I actually eat very simple food. Clean, whole foods that have been minimally tampered with is my preferred choice.
I always eat proteins, good, healthy fats and vegetables. And I don’t eat grains anymore, as it impacts my blood sugars too much to handle. It’s not worth it.
I very rarely eat breakfast nowadays, but rather do a form of intermittent fasting, which has tons of benefits. But mainly because I’m not hungry then, and also because that gives me another couple of hours of stable blood sugars. For lunch, around 12am-1pm, I very often have a mixed salad with fish, meat or eggs and avocado and olive oil. Or a vegetable soup, or an omelet. And for dinner, usually around 7pm, it’s usually some kind of cooked/warm vegetables and meat or fish and some great fats.
If you want to see what I eat, you should follow me on Instagram where I have my “food diary”.
GB: Do you vary your insulin dose if you eat something that is not really good for you? HB: Of course, that’s what I have to do to feel well. But I try not to eat things that I know aren’t good for me very rarely. And if I notice it wasn’t good for me, blood sugar-wise, I give a correction dosage as soon as I notice it.
GB: Do you eat snacks in between meals? Soda? HB: Very, very rarely. I’m not hungry between meals, which is something I make sure of by eating what my body needs at meal times. And soda makes me feel terrible, even the diet ones, so that’s not usually on the menu either.
GB: Do you eat vegetables? Drink lots of water? HB: I eat TONS of vegetables every day! They are nutritious and taste great. I have no problem substituting things like pasta or rice, which are frankly quite tasteless, for yummy vegetables.
I make sure to drink 2-3 liters of water a day. I notice on my blood glucose straight away if I haven’t had enough water.
GB: Do you ever skip meals? HB: Mmmm, no not really. Apart from breakfast, like I mentioned before.
GB: Do you find the diet restrictive? HB: Absolutely not. Actually, I vary my eating a lot more now than I used to before. And judging by the fact that I feel so much better eating like this, I only see benefits to it.
Completely besides the point is that I’m a nutrition coach that hates the word “diet”…. Ugh!
GB: Do you get annoyed when people ask if you should be eating a certain food? HB: Not nearly as annoyed as I get by the word “diet”!
I actually don’t get that question too often, especially now that people have realized that I know best myself what I can and can’t eat. But I see it as people trying to look out for me rather than let it annoy me.
GB: Do you exercise? HB: Yes. It’s essential to my well-being, so I exercise pretty much every day.
GB: What do you do? HB: For many reasons, I’ve found that the form of exercise that suits me the best are walks of varying length, intensity and geography. Sometimes I wish there would be more variation in my routine, but I do enjoy my daily walks a lot.
GB: Do you do anything else to manage diabetes better? HB: Yes! Diabetes management goes WAY beyond just eating, medication and exercise.
I have found that having a daily routine helps me manage diabetes, as well as various forms of stress reduction, like meditation, breathing techniques, massages and self-love, keeping up motivation, the right supplements, along with exercise, eating the right things, drinking enough and taking the right medication.
GB: What is the hardest part of being diabetic? HB: The constant worry. And keeping up with the roller coaster, both physical and emotional.
GB: And the best part? HB: How it’s shaped me as a person. It’s taught me self-discipline, celebrating the small things and victories, made me stronger, more resilient and to find happiness in every day.
GB: Does your diabetes cause you any other problems? HB: I try not to see the limitations of diabetes, and at least not let them limit me. But of course there are moments I have to sit down and take it easy rather than going at full speed…
GB: What would you like a non-diabetic to know about having diabetes? HB: There’s much more to diabetes than eating and taking insulin. And blaming people for having diabetes is not exactly right either, it only creates a social stigma. That stamp is difficult to get rid of.
GB: What would you tell someone who has just been diagnosed with diabetes? HB: I would tell them three things: 1) Take a deep breath, I know it’s overwhelming. 2) Your doctor doesn’t have all the answers, you’re your own best doctor. 3) Keep at it, it takes time, but when you find what works for YOU it’ll all be alright.
GB: Who do you get support from? Who treats you? HB: Oh I have a whole team of teams!
My first priority is Team Hanna, which consists of my body and I. Secondary is my husband, then family and friends. Thirdly, I have assembled a real Dream Team of medical staff consisting of an endocrinologist, diabetic nurse, diabetic educator, ophthalmologist, podiatrist, and dermatologist.
Is there anything else you’d like to know about me or diabetes? Ask them in the comments and I’ll answer them too!
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