Race Review: Limerick Women’s Mini Marathon

The run-up to my first timed race was nerve-wracking enough, but coming down with bronchitis two weeks before the Limerick Women’s Mini Marathon was really not part of the plan. After spending most of the previous two weeks in bed coughing and wheezing instead of getting in my final training runs, I was quite worried about even being able to finish the race, let alone finish it in a decent time. The most annoying part of this was that before getting sick, I was quite confident of being able to easily run the 8km in under 50 minutes.

Alas… it was not to be. The race kicked off at 3pm from the running track in the University of Limerick. There was a Zumba warm-up beforehand but I arrived too late to participate in that, so I ended up having to jog on the spot on the track to warm up. On such a surprisingly cold day, I should have done a longer warm-up.

The route was quite pleasant- from the UL Arena to the industrial park nearby, through Castletroy and then around UL’s campus back to the Arena. All in all, a very pleasant and enjoyable route, but it still took me a while to settle into my running rhythm.

My chest infection had finally lifted a few days before the race but even during the race, I still struggled with my breathing. I had to stop and walk several times during the run to catch my breath and even had to take a puff of my inhaler at one stage. That eventually settled and I was able to enjoy the rest of the run, and at 5km, I was pleasantly surprised to look at my stopwatch and see it had only taken me 30 minutes to get that far.

Just before the 7km mark, I tripped and fell, which completely threw off my running pace again and I struggled over the finish line to finish in 52.09. While I was disappointed not to finish it in under 50 minutes, I was impressed that I managed to finish the race comfortably. I’m also managed to raise €200 for the Irish Cancer Society so I’m also pretty chuffed with that!

And here’s my lovely self looking for the finish line by Loren Harnett

Advertisements

World Mental Health Day: Let’s Listen

On World Mental Health Day, I think it’s really important that we start to talk about our mental health and what we can do to support ourselves and others. Most mental health campaigns have really emphasised that we, as a society, need to talk more about our struggles and be more open with one another when we need help. This is a really laudable aim in our attempt to overcome the stigma attached with mental health issues, but I think there is another aspect missing from all the campaigns to get people talking.

It’s about teaching people to listen, and to give people the skills and confidence so they can be there for their friends and family. As I am quite open about my depression with most people, I often hear stories back from people who have struggled about how they felt they couldn’t talk to anyone about it for fear of being judged or being told to get over it. I experienced that exact feeling myself as well. There is also the other side of this, that people feel that they don’t know what to say, or they’ll just say the wrong thing, and it’s perfectly okay to feel that way too.

But here is what you can do to help out your friend or family member with depression…

Stick Around…

When I was severely depressed, I wouldn’t answer my phone, rarely got out of bed and could barely have a conversation with anyone. Anyone who was concerned was rebuffed or ignored, and I’m sure I hurt some feelings by doing this. When things started to improve a tiny bit, I was able to explain some of what was going on in my head to those people, but it still took a while. Even if your friend or family member won’t talk to you about what’s going on, tell them you’ll be there when they are ready and want to talk.

Tell Them You Are There…

The most reassuring part of when I started to recover from depression and started to share my story was the amount of people who said to me that they are there for me and are only ever a tweet, phone-call, email or text message away. I didn’t end up taking many of them up on their kind offer of a shoulder to cry on, but the knowledge that so many people cared about me got past all the lies and nastiness my depression was screaming at me everyday.

So tell them that you are there for them, whether they need a conversation or some much-needed distraction, and you are only ever a phone-call away.

Check-In…

Sending a occasional text message to ask ‘how are you doing today’ is a brilliant way of reminding someone that you are there and care for them. It tells them that they are not as isolated and unloved as their depression wants them to think they are. Maybe they mightn’t answer but eventually the message will get through.

Listen…

When they eventually want to talk, the main thing to do is listen. They may say some hurtful things or stuff which may upset and shock you, but the main thing is to be there for them when they start to open up to you. Many people will want to start solutions and suggestions to fix the various problems being discussed, but please try to restrain this part of you as long as possible. It is quite likely that the person has already tried that or at least considered it, and may just be at the stage where they just need to vent and rage about what is going on in their lives.

Of course, if there is a genuine solution that you feel has been missed, do suggest it, but the main thing to avoid is the imperative feeling of ‘well, if you just did this, that and this, then your life will be fixed and everything will be fine’. Depression is more than a series of unfortunate events, it is the total loss of your energy, self-worth, self-confidence and happiness. Just fixing the events surrounding the depression will not fix the depression.

Reassure…

At this point of even when a person with depression wants to talk, they often feel like they will be judged or dismissed. Now is the time to reassure them that you love them and care for them, and want them to feel better. Remind them that you will be there for them during their journey to recovery, however long it takes.

One of the nicest things said to me at this point was by my dad who went on a long rambling speech about all my positive qualities and achievements. This; coming from my dad, a man of few words; meant the world to me. At the time, not much of it went through the fog but it empowered all the positive thoughts that I was building on in my recovery.

Encourage…

If you’re in the fortunate position of having someone trust you enough to talk about their depression with you, you are also in the position where you can encourage them to seek further support. This message needs to be couched in a language which says that ‘I want to help you and I appreciate that you are talking to me but it might also be useful to talk to someone like a counsellor or therapist to give you the skills to be able to overcome this’. Mention it once or twice but if they are reluctant, don’t keep pushing the topic.

On a side note, therapy and counselling can be quite expensive but there are some low-cost options available such as MyMind and InsightMatters for students, people with low incomes and unemployed people.

Don’t Dismiss…

The most annoying part of all this is when you open up about something and someone says something dismissive, even unintentionally. Recently I went to my doctor and he asked how I was emotionally coping with my diabetes. I commented that sometimes I feel that my body is abandoning me after doing so well together for so many years. He replied to tell me that he wouldn’t describe it like that and I shouldn’t feel that way. Well, my illness, my feelings, my way…

This brings me to my final point, don’t dismiss someone when they are talking about their feelings, no matter how irrational those feeling are. It’s very easy to say to someone that they shouldn’t feel a certain way. I still catch myself saying it all the time. The truth is, regardless of whether they should or shouldn’t feel that way, they do feel those emotions. Telling them they shouldn’t feel like that is of no use to them in a practical sense, and may make them feel shame and guilt for getting upset about something unimportant.

Be there…

The most important part to take away from all of this is to be there with the person who has depression. Listen to them, be there with them and don’t be afraid of saying the wrong thing. Even if you accidentally say something dismissive or critical about their recovery process, the main thing is that you are there for them and want the best for them.

The people who were there, even through the worst time and even if they didn’t necessarily say all the right things, are the people that I owe the biggest part of my recovery to.

Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults- My Diagnosis

Any long term reader of my blog is probably aware that I was diagnosed earlier this year with prediabetes. Bloods drawn during a routine health check found that I have slightly elevated blood glucose levels, and a glucose tolerance test confirmed the suspicions that I was on my way to developing diabetes.

I was referred to an endocrinologist, who straight away realised that I didn’t belong to the typical grouping for developing Type 2 diabetes. I’m not obese, I was relatively active and didn’t have a terrible diet. It still is possible to develop the insulin resistance of Type 2 while being healthy and active, but it still warranted further investigation.

During the weeks between getting blood taken for the anti-GAD antibodies test which would reveal the nature of my diabetes, I fretted and worried and wondered. Would a diagnosis of Type 2 be better as it can be very easily managed and possibly reversed with a low-carb diet if caught early enough? Perhaps Type 1 would be a better diagnosis as I have already seen the daily management of Type 1 with insulin and carb-counting, and that seems more manageable than never being able to eat cake again. Then again, I hate needles… absolutely dread them. I may not have had many thoughts about diabetes at the time which were not filled with panic and worry.

Back at my endocrinologist’s office, I learned that the test for anti-GAD antibodies came back strongly positive. This means that the insulin producing islet cells in my pancreas are currently having the crap beaten out of them by my immune system. Gradually over the next few months and years, my insulin production will slow down and eventually stop, leaving me dependent on regular injections of insulin. There is no treatment which can stop this process.

This particular variant of diabetes is known as Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults, or LADA. Sometimes it is referred to Type 1.5, as there also is a tendency towards insulin resistance with us LADA’s.

For now, there is no real medical treatment. It’s a game of wait and see when the numbers start to change- when my HbA1C starts to rise, when my pre-meal blood glucose levels go into double digits, when I start feeling exhausted and thirsty, and need to pee all the time. For now, there is only management- dietary changes and lifestyle changes to ensure my body can use the insulin it can produce as effectively as possible.

It is a bit of a mind-fuck knowing that one of your organs is not going to work properly sometime in the near future. I know the process of learning how to manage blood sugars, counting carbs and finding the right insulin therapy is difficult and stressful. We don’t know where this diagnosis leaves our plan for emigrating as the Long Term Illness Scheme in Ireland covers the mind-bogglingly expensive cost of insulin and testing supplies. And, did I mention I hate needles?

The biggest problem is that at the moment, there are more questions than answers. I guess everyone who receives a diagnosis of a long-term illness feels this way. There’s no conclusive evidence to answer the ‘why do I have this disease’ question, and only long term, daily monitoring will answer the when questions. All I can do is wait.

May & June Catchup

I didn’t get around to doing one of these in May, so today, you get a double whammy of what happened in May & June.

Birthdays

Birthday Cake 2 Birthday Cake

We celebrated two birthdays in the past two months- my 25th and the Ginger’s 27th birthday. Neither of us celebrated with a night out or a party, but a birthday cake is compulsory for any birthday. On the left is the white chocolate cake I made for his birthday, and on the right is a vanilla Madeira cake for my birthday. I guess I should set some goals for my 26th birthday or a bucket list for my 30th birthday.

Depression

I wrote a longer post about my battle against depression earlier this month, but I want to say that I am starting to feel so much better now. It feels like my personality has returned, as has my positivity. I’m going to be on antidepressants for the next while, but I’m hopeful that I will be able to stay happy and healthy when I come off them.

Fitness

I find that it’s only when I look back that I realise how far I’ve come. In the beginning of May, I would have struggled to run 1km but now, I’ve turned into a fitness enthusiast. I ran the Pieta House Darkness into Light run in the middle of May, and realised the effectiveness of exercise on my frame of mind. Since then, I’ve started boxing class, spin class, kettlebells class and run at the weekends. Of course, it’s also been very effective for managing my prediabetes as I took my fasting blood sugars down to 5.1mmol/l in my last checkup. I’ve also lost 10lbs as well, and none of my clothes fit me!

Everything Else…

I joined Cork City Library, the city centre library is huge and I love the branch out in Douglas. Why did no-one tell me they have hundreds of cookbooks?

I bought a Kenwood food processor- life in the kitchen has suddenly became so much easier.

I finally started wearing contact lenses again, it’s nice to go out without my glasses.

My hair is growing past my neck, it’s hard to believe I had a pixie cut this time last year.

I watched the first season of Nashville. It’s total brain mush territory but yet I can’t wait for Season 2.

There ends my brain dump, how was your June?

Prediabetes: Weight Loss & Health Kick

I mentioned earlier in May that I received a diagnosis of prediabetes after my doctor ran some routine blood tests. While my endocrinologist was running tests to make sure I’m not developing Type 1 diabetes, I also had a fasted blood glucose test ran to see whether my lifestyle changes were working.

The good news is that all the small changes are adding up, and I’m starting to control my blood sugars. Six weeks after getting the diagnosis, my fasted blood sugars dropped from 6.9mmol/l to 5.1mmol/l, a massive improvement.

While I’m not just improving my health, I’m also starting to lose weight and feel much better about myself. In six weeks, I’ve lost nearly 10lbs and greatly improved my fitness.

While I’ve made improvements, I really must emphasise that I don’t count calories nor do I eat a low-fat diet. Of course, I’m not a nutritionist or a dietician, and these are just what have worked for me.

The changes are small but all of them have added up to make a big difference.

I already gave up drinking Coca Cola earlier this year, but I took a further step after receiving my diagnosis by cutting out fruit juice, chocolate, sweets, junk food. Occasionally I have a can of 7up Free or Coke Zero when a craving for something sweet and sugary hits me.

I reduced the amount of refined carbohydrates in my diet, and replaced them with wholegrain carbs or just cut them out completely. I often have carb-free dinners or lunches, and have replaced wheat bread with rye bread and crackers.

I drink more water, at least 1.5l every day and more on workout days. Often when I think I’m hungry, I’m actually thirsty.

I actually eat breakfast every day, mostly porridge or poached eggs, but as a treat, I eat strawberries and sliced banana with Greek yoghurt.

I only ate cake once in May on my birthday, and since adding small treats back to my diet in June, I’ve had cake 3 times. Each time I just have a small slice and savour the treat.

I added more vegetables and fruits to my diet. Instead of having a carb side, I add another vegetable side. I add a salad to the table at dinner time, and extra vegetables to stews and sauces. When I’m hungry, I grab an apple or a plum, instead of a bar of chocolate. The vegetable stalls at the English market are now my favourite place to shop.

I eat healthy snacks, instead of crisps and pastries. I keep a jar of almonds and cashew nuts, and a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table, and grab them for a quick bite. Instead of ice-cream, I have a small bowl of full-fat yoghurt and fruit.

I use more legumes and pulses in my cooking, instead of relying on grains to add bulk. Tasty and cheap, what’s not to like?

I’ve became more active. I walk everywhere, and I workout three time a week for 45-60 minutes. My fitness has greatly improved and I may have turned into a fitness junkie.

All small changes, but they do add up to big improvements to my diet.