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Wrestling with the Amygdala
What are you wrestling with these days? It seems as though there is often something that presents itself frequently that needs a solution or leaves me with a bit of a restless feeling. The great news is that I am committed to the feisty fight when it presents itself with the spirit of losing is not an option. And I guess I have redefined what losing is too. A bad morning does not equal a write off of a day for starters. It has taken a good long while to “get” that. Type 1 diabetes at times tries to convince me that I am down for the count but I scream ever so silently in my head, “No I am not!” I am not down for the count today, or tomorrow, on the super bad days with the 365’s or when something or someone tries to suggest that I am down for the count. Rascal feistiness instead gets back up although some days with more or less fervor because hey, we are each human after all.
Just when I was under the illusion that we were going to get a wee break physically within our household, boom diabetes & another appearance elbowed in with explosive laughter. Sometimes I even think diabetes is almost saying in that childish voice, “you are not the boss of me!” That would be on the full tilt meltdown days living with type 1 diabetes at least in my experience. Thankfully though I recognize the melting down voice of diabetes quickly so then it becomes a choice about what I do & think next. It takes effort. Some days as you know it takes Herculean strength living with diabetes. The strength is not just in relationship to the physical needs that our bodies absolutely have to have us take care of 24-7 but also the place the amygdala has us travel to with or without a reservation. How can something so small have such a pinning down affect? The amygdala is an almond shaped wrestler that resides well within the brain’s temporal lobe that processes emotions. Managing or wrestling with my amygdala at times is exhausting. I can easily picture the match during low & high blood sugars especially. Those suckers can take an emotional & physical toll. There is a term that is often used to describe basically a melted down amygdala & that is “amygdala hijack.” That is kind of a fancy way of saying that our emotions have taken on a life all their own & to wrestle them back to a state of rational, calmness takes indescribable efforts. It is a time that I try to minimize making any major decisions. You know the popular saying of it being best not to make big decisions when we feel either angry or profoundly sad or ironically even euphoric. Having a state of even as she goes is where we want to likely steer the amygdola towards. Each one of us are beautiful originals so I only speak for myself when I say that maintaining calm even within the chaos of living is essential for my physical & emotional well being. This makes a difference about the choices I make. A healthier thought process/emotional calmness for me means that I maintain the bigger fight to wrestle with the beast of diabetes. It makes for a more even match.
Do you find that the wheels start to fall off the bus when you become sleep deprived? Do you find it challenging to keep an upbeat attitude when you are physically exhausted? I know that is how I find it goes. Type 1 diabetes has a nasty way of interrupting our sleep with the high & low blood sugars that appear often out of left field. I never cease to be baffled when I have no “productive insulin” or bolus that is still productive (for example it has been 5 or more hours since I took insulin last) & test before bed to see something like a 6 point something blood sugar (Canadian measures) & then proceed to turn off the light with confidence that my sugars are stable for the night yet wake up 3 hours later to the shakes, sweats like a marathon runner, numb tongue, absolute stupor, etc. What the heck diabetes? I don’t have to tell you that a reasonable night’s sleep in those situations is a no go. Energy levels the next day are less than stellar I find & espresso levels I have found keep me going for the day. I am not suggesting that this is a healthy choice but I will not apologize or lie about espresso kicking me into more like me mode on the exhausted days. With 3 high energy sons to help raise being lethargic is really not an option. Most of us don’t have that luxury to just give in to the exhaustion in the real world. Some days we may paste on our brightest smiles & carry on into the world & life with an invisible 365 that permits us to look “normal” or just like everybody else. One way or another though I believe that everyone out there is wrestling with something so there is no time for me to invite myself to a pity party for 1. When I take my eyes off of myself my amygdala is best in check. Most people have something that works best for them or grounds them or keeps their amygdala in check. Life does not suddenly become perfect (come on there’s no such thing) when we have a go to amygdale checker. It becomes better though & better is well better right!
Squashing emotions down or a denial kind of thing works exactly 0% of the time for me. We are each different that way understandably. I am an emotional animal though & so I find thinking my emotions out or at times talking to a Dear Heart that I trust helps me to sweep away the emotions approaching an amydala hijack. It is kind of a deal with it now or deal with something 100 times more elevated or escalated emotion wise for me. The insidious beast that type 1 is tried to pull a fast one on me recently. I always test my blood sugar before driving. Before breakfast one morning I decided that I would run out & get some items for a care package for a loved one who had been hospitalized. My blood sugars were in that gorgeous range prior to leaving my house. Thirty minutes later I felt like I was going to pass out right on top of a bouquet of flowers at the shop. Oh you unmistakable fiend diabetes! I already knew that I was in a good sized low blood sugar for no reason at all. Like a ravenous crazed & appearing dazed I am certain person I inhaled 2 packages of gummy bunnies & waited for my blood sugars to come back up. Wrestle wrestle in the meantime though. My emotions were going to the land of what an inconvenience this was to feel trapped a half hour away from home having to wait for stupid diabetes. It had tried yet again to literally wrestle me to the ground. No & no were my thoughts. Instead I knew that I would get my blood sugars back up & wait the safe amount of time for driving & that yes I would have to stop thinking about what a hassle this all was. I was not Mary Poppins in the process though with a couple of choice adjectives about the beast best known as type 1 diabetes. Once I got home I let the upteenish time of a low in public go & the feelings of frustration that accompany that. I let it go on purpose because really I could have circled the block on those emotions for a long time but what’s the point.
After the most recent wakeup call in the middle of the night from diabetes I invoked my positive attitude of “oh well, it’s just one night & tomorrow will be better.” That would have been great but the next night & for 5 more nights our youngest son has had an awful case of the flu which has kept him & me up. With this particular flu strain he has a really bad headache, fever & nausea. He had wanted to have the drapes drawn as too much light seems to make him feel worse. It had made for long days & nights because the only form of “entertainment” that he was interested in was talking together. My heart went out to him because the flu is nasty. While sitting up with Alex during the few times when he preferred silence over chatting all kinds of things went through my mind. What came to mind within keeping my own amygdala in check was a writing idea for next week. It includes an honest sharing of the things that I cannot seem to successfully communicate to other people around me who do not live with diabetes. Truthfully, I wish that somehow the thoughts could be transmitted via either a bubble above my head or osmosis. Maybe you feel this way sometimes too.
My heart’s hope for you is that you also know that an almond shaped “regulator” is not the boss of you either. Wrestle that melted down processor to the ground if it tries to spiral out of control. Yes, & do it like a boss!
May this week be wrestle free (other than maybe a watch of the movie, “Foxcatcher” ) & as always be gentle with yourself. Next Monday’s story is, “Diabetes Muggles.”