Layer Upon Layer

When you live with chronic health conditions, there is often a background stress story, running along your life, at all times. Sometimes it pushes right up against you, other times, it can fade into the background – but it’s always there. If you have a hidden disability like me, most people will forget that you might be struggling; that you are always juggling, always thinking. My poor family suffer the thoughts and anxieties spilling from my lips, multiple times a day, in relation to my type 1 diabetes.

‘I’m hypo…again…’ (low blood glucose, under 4 mmol, which would not happen to people without diabetes and which can lead to coma and death if not treated.)

‘My blood glucose is bloody too high to eat!’ (most foods, especially carbohydrates, but also fat and protein, will raise blood glucose. It’s complex and varies due to so many factors such as the type of carbs, amount, timing with insulin, my gut paralysis, day of the week…)

‘My insulin pump site (the cannula I have under my skin ALL the time, that needs changing every 2 days with a very sharp inserter needle) is failing, sore, irritated, needs changing, again…’

They support me and love me and say all the right things. Occasionally I notice my poor husband glaze over a little. He’s heard it all, many times. But he’s there for me, no matter what. As are my boys and my parents. The thing about type 1 diabetes is that it’s relentless and boring. Add in all of the other conditions I have now and it gets pretty complicated. But still boring and relentless.

My insulin pump has a rechargable battery that has to be plugged into a wall socket at least once a day for at least 15 minutes. I have been on an insulin pump (many different versions over the years) since about 1997. Injections don’t work so well for me due to my complicated diabetes coupled with gut paralysis (gastroparesis.) This means the food is delayed in my stomach, making its impact on my blood glucose levels unpredictable. I can suddenly go too low (hypo) or later too high (hyper) without warning. I can bounce around and have persistent hypos that don’t respond well to glucose. It also means I have an extremely limited diet, that relies on easily digestible carbohydrates.

When I changed to this new fancy pants pump with the rechargable battery, the first one failed within days. It gave me a warning that it couldn’t charge properly and proceeded to rapidly lose power, at night, when I was very new to it and how it worked. I ended up going back onto my old, very loved, much clunkier pump (that is no longer supported or made) for a few days, until a new one came. That was over a year ago. It was scary and stressful.

Last night, when I went to reconnect after my bath. I noticed it hadn’t charged properly, thought it odd and plugged it back in. Ironically that day there was an email to say there was a charging error with these pumps losing battery power, but only if you were also on a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which I am not. I choose to prick my fingers upwards of 20 times a day, because the CGM is too anxiety producing with all of its alarms.

Anyway, back to last night – after plugging it back in, the alarm sounded (the same as that first time) to say it couldn’t charge. I felt anxiety rising but calmly put it back on a different charger to see if that worked. It seemed to go up to 100% so I took it off and it immediately dropped back to 75% – the same issue as that dreaded first pump…my brain started to whirl, imagining that this pump would now lose power over the next couple of hours.

I called tech who told me to plug it in for 30 minutes. I did that and the same thing, so I called again. Enter my hubby. I am on the phone in a state. I then proceed to have an anxiety attack, low blood glucose, sitting on the loo, dizzy head, couldn’t eat…still managed to get tea on the table for everyone else, including the dog.

Called tech again who walked through everything to check it over and told me to try charging again, a little longer. Thankfully I did that and got it to 100% and it was still on 100% this morning.

I am breathing lighter. I found an alternative power source they’d sent me due to malfunctions in some a while back (mine did rattle!) and am crossing everything. It’s likely it was a glitch in the charger and that the battery dumped because it wasn’t properly charged. It is likely it will be fine now. But there’s always that fear that the tech will fail, usually at night. Of course if that happened I could go back to my old pump and hope it works after a year sitting stagnant. Or injections, until a replacement pump came.

But going back to injections means trying to remember doses and how they work because pumps are very different. Pumps use only short acting insulin with a bolus – used when you eat or need to lower your blood glucose, and a continual basal rate, which can be different at any given time. This is like the insulin a person without diabetes secretes at perfect amounts to keep you steady at all times. A pump means you can create a more responsive insulin pattern to mimic a body as close as is possible. It’s never perfect, but it’s much better than injections. For me, injections mean 2 types of insulin and probably more than 10-12 injections per day. It means a lack of flexibility because a pump shoves out microdoses all day and night, where an injection is one slug of insulin all at once. It means highs and lows and a whole lot of anxiety.

Being stressed already about your health when something like covid-19 comes along is no picnic. It is layer upon layer of anxiety. Whether the events that lead to that anxiety are real or imagined – the anxiety is real. Often the worries are potentially very real too. If you like me, have chronic conditions to manage, dealing with covid-19 is extraordinarily tough – tougher than most other people can imagine.

And I want to say – I SEE YOU. And I send you love in solidarity.

Living with anxiety is waking up and going to sleep at night with a sense of dread. It means feeling like something has to be done, something has been missed, something needs to be sorted, fixed, something terrible is going to happen. It’s all of the what ifs and the coulds and the worst case scenarios. No matter how much you work on trying not to give into anxiety, it still keeps its fingers in your skin. It still pushes itself into your dreams, makes your stomach tremble, stops you from going places, makes you second guess everything, takes you away from life.

I try each and every day to be positive, to calm my thoughts and my body. I try each and every day to live, no matter what comes. I am usually very successful at this. I have a very full, very happy life. But sometimes something breaks and the walls come down and I spill out onto the floor with anxiety stuck through my guts and it’s hard and lonely and exhausting.

Today, I will pick myself up, rely on the technology, have my back-up plans in place and toss hope to the wind, that it will all be alright. And I’ll probably complain to my boys tonight that my blood glucose is too low or too high. And they’ll love me and shout at diabetes and make me feel better and everything will be alright.

The post Layer Upon Layer appeared first on Helen Edwards Writes.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.