How my disappearing symptoms left me upset. Last of the 4 part series on uncommon symptoms of Type 2 diabetes.

This is the 4th and last post of a series intended to highlight less obvious symptoms of Type 2. You can read part 1, part 2 or part 3 in the archives.

If you or anyone you love has evidenced such symptoms, please seek medical advice immediately.

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Following my doctor’s advice after a neurological assessment she conducted in response to both cognitive and physical conditions I was experiencing, I struggled throughout the weekend without carbohydrates. I questioned, read nutrition labels and learned a little, took risks but mostly didn’t know what I should eat.

 

I tried but failed to feel OK with this brave new world.

 

But, rather than my expectation of suffering and feeling deprivation through the weekend, instead and to my great surprise, 48 hours minus carbs caused magical and bountiful rewards to rain down upon me. So unexpected were the results and so utterly taken aback, I barely knew what to make of it.

 

Miraculously, come Sunday evening after a weekend where I didn’t drown in deprivation, the earlier dread had given way to astonishment. Although it took a while to sink in, I couldn’t help noticing that virtually all the frighteningly disparate symptoms I’d dealt with simply disappeared, evaporated, were history!

 

Whatever I managed to do in eliminating carbohydrates from my diet had not merely had a positive effect, but one that brought startling results.

 

Most of the GI tract problems that caused great discomfort cleared up. I was able to digest food easier, no longer experiencing the sensation of blocks of concrete resting there for hours.

I noticed my brain is more its old self, back to typical ways of processing information and making associations between information both new and old. Vanished was the awkward, disjointed and frustrating sense of disconnect between thought and speech. I welcomed back my ability for articulating what I thought.

My energy roared back in full swing, with the marked absence of fatigue that had hounded me for months. Even my quintessential sense of humor, diminished along with other aspects of myself, made an appearance!

 

Less tangible, but no less remarkable, was my awareness of these reversals. My ability to  have awareness and be mindful had returned after having been subtly diminished over those miserable few months.

 

All that remained of my symptom-rich ordeal was a faint numbness on my left shin still persisting. My droopy right foot slowly began to behave itself, incrementally mirroring its counterpart on the left. Elated at returning to a more gracious walking style, nevertheless cautiously I figured I could put up with clumpy shoes for a little while longer before breaking out my strappy heels.

 

My eagerness to return to fashionable shoes gave me pause for a moment, acknowledging the vanity behind that desire. As I reflected upon the physical changes over the prior few months, and the impermanence demonstrated, I was amazed at how I’d taken my body for granted throughout my life.

 

Much as I delighted in this latest turn of events that moved me closer to being symptom free, I pick up on a creeping sense of feeling vaguely disconcerted, encroaching upon the inner core of relief and joy that developed.

 

Starting off in a mild way, a growing sense of disturbance was speedily rising full steam ahead through to a depressing burst of insight. If the multiple symptoms had pretty much dissipated within the space of a weekend, and the only obvious change over those two days being the absence of carbohydrates, it’s difficult not to draw a positive correlation between these facts.

no carb

Eating carbs results in nasty symptoms; don’t eat carbs, nasty symptoms dissipate.

 

As I connected up the dots, my sense of elation flipped into disappointment, as it slowly dawned on me that my symptoms were related to my favorite food group.This is an emerging truth I tried to resist.

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Instead, I recalled again the words uttered by my doctor. I replayed them over and over internally, clinging for comfort to her intimation that I won’t have to say no to all carbohydrates forever.

 

That was my interpretation of her comments based upon my recollection of what she’d said. Watching my mind try to pick and choose its way through the facts, I felt in a birds-eye position to marvel at the way it innately pushed away from the unpleasant, and clung to the pleasant.

 

At this point, I felt universally connected to all human beings everywhere, since this is the quintessential human experience of how the psyche naturally clings to what’s pleasant and recoils from what’s unpleasant. The third option, neutral, is usually passed over without registering.

 

I softly murmured to myself, cheerleader-style, “This carb-free period is just for this weekend before the fasting blood glucose test”. I clung to this recollection knowing that it was a delusion, yet derived comfort from it.

 

And I needed all the comfort I could find. The proverbial carpet of carbohydrates was pulled out from under me. I could barely entertain the idea of going forward avoiding all carbs. The massive paradigm shift that it inferred left me reeling.

 

Yet, the remarkable disappearance of such disquieting symptoms, over the course of one weekend, which can only be attributed to an absence of carbohydrates, was irrefutable.

 

Tips

Commit to reading nutritional labels on packaged food. I arbitrarily decided initially that 10 carbs per serving was my cutoff point.

Remember to subtract the grams of fiber to ascertain the actual amount of carbs.

Everything changes, impermanence…this too will pass!

Accept what is happening in just this one moment.

 

48 hours without carbohydrates. Part 3 of a 4-part series.

This is the 3rd of a 4-part series documenting my pre-diagnosis experience with lesser known symptoms.  In Part 1 and Part 2 I talked about the strange, seemingly unrelated symptoms I began to feel.

If you or anyone you love has similar symptoms, please seek medical advice immediately.

You can read the first part here, and the second one here.
 
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In my doctor’s office, I shakily described the terrifyingly confusing symptoms I’d been struggling with.

My doctor had a way of reassuringly brushing off innumerable questions related to my amateurish self-diagnosis attempts. But this time, her stance changed rapidly when I announced the two latest conditions, numbness on my left shin down to my foot, and a ‘floppy’ right foot. The mere mention of them highjacked her attention immediately.

Sitting upright in her office chair, her face creased with concern, she pushed back her chair, and moved hurriedly around her desk towards me. Her facial expression, combined with her swift physical response, indicated I’d now catapulted into a category of higher medical interest to her.

During our prior meeting, as if thinking out aloud, she’d mused that she really didn’t know what’s going on, my symptoms were all over the map!

Well, finally I offered up something worthy of her attention. She was prompted into action by these (scary to me, juicy to her) symptoms.

Galvanized, she immediately jumped into action. She began directing me through a set of questions and diagnostic evaluations that I recognized as a standard neurological assessment. She ascertained what my body can or can’t do physiologically, the first order of a suspected neurological disorder clinical assessment.

Can I squat down, then stand up without help?

No.

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Can I feel any sensation from this tiny prick from a needle on my leg or foot?

 

No.

 
 
 
 
How hard can I push against her hand held out towards me?

Barely at all.

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Can I balance at all on either leg?

 

Briefly, wobbling a lot.

 

 
 
 
 

Other points we covered were washed out of my memory by persistent waves of fear.

Putting it bluntly, the question on both our minds was what messages could my brain still send that’d work my lower extremities?

Apparently not the one that could help my droopy foot work the way it was meant to.

The rudimentary crux of medicine is to firstly find, then secondarily fix, what in the body no longer works. In my case, in no particular order, that meant my droopy foot, the numbness on my shins, and my impaired cognitive processes.

And I desperately needed her help to fix what didn’t work, so if nothing else, the tsunami of overwhelm and terror I was experiencing subsided.

In response to these seriously troubling symptoms, along with the results of her clinical assessment, my doctor suggested I get a fasting blood glucose test first thing Monday morning.

“Go off all carbohydrates for the weekend in preparation for the test’. Her firmly stated comment startled me, triggering a powerfully visceral reaction.  As I slowly digested her words, rolled them around in my head to check that I’d heard her correctly, the look on my face alerted her to the sense of dread that was slowly engulfing me.

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“All carbohydrates’, I murmured.

She didn’t look as though she was joking. I wished it was a farce, as I tried to get a grasp on how I’d survive this new regime. My mind closed in on the single point of abstention of carbohydrates, now my main issue, like a photographer honing in on the exact lighting for a subject.

 

If this seemed an overreaction, this post here, and here offer up some background on my former relationship to carbs!

I was wondering what I’ll be able to eat in lieu of my beloved carbohydrates. In trying to wrap my head around this novel idea of not eating them for a weekend, my imagination felt stretched.

It didn’t occur to me to just eat as normal, omitting carbohydrates.

“Just for the weekend, then you can add them back to your diet,”  she said brightly, with what sounded like contrived encouragement .

I derived a little bit of comfort from the words, “Just for the weekend”.  I intoned them, more to myself then to her, as if trying to fix the idea in my head as a good one to embrace. Still, I mentally held the words at arms length, as if to block them from infiltrating my being.

So this is it for instructions? The paucity of helpful hints offered escaped me in the moment as I focused on the big picture. Questioning her more on details about carbohydrates really never occurred to me. I thought I knew enough about what they are given how frequently I ate them, easily identifying the more obvious simple carbs like breads, cakes, pizza, pasta, rice or potatoes.

With no more detailed nutritional suggestions being offered as to how to survive the weekend, I lollop out of her office, my right toes hanging in a defectively downward angle on my uplifted foot, itself flopping in the clumpy shoes I wore.

My preferred fashionable shoes were redundant due to the fact they no longer did the job.  Not being able to operate all parts of my foot in cohesion, I resorted to lifting it high enough off the ground to avoid dragging it toe first and risking falling over.

It was a strain, trying to appear dignified (something I was oddly overly-concerned about), with this bizarre walk. Finding a modicum of dignity seemed a reasonable counterbalance to the slow-motion fragmentation happening internally. My gait could pass for an out-take of the 1970′s sketch from the Monty Python show, John Cleese’s classic ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ routine.

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I wasn’t laughing at this point.

As frequently is the case, the dreaded weekend turned out quite differently from the story unfolding in my anxiety-riddled mind.

Just thirty-six hours after I abstained from carbohydrates, that action led to a stunning revelation, one that was destined to change the course of my life forever, and that far exceeded my wildest dreams.

In the next and last post, I share what that defining weekend revealed.

Helpful Hint

Partner up with your doctor

1. Although most medical personal have precious little time to chat, be precise, clear, courageous and question what you don’t understand, or need more information on. They don’t know what information you need unless you speak up.

Despite the fact that  they’re the professional, many, especially older patients, continue to see them as THE authority figure, and that they shouldn’t be questioned.

Wrong! Your doctor should applaud legitimate questions that will lead to better patient understanding and compliance. Not to mention safer, as a lack of it is the single biggest contributor to failed treatments. If your MD brushes you off, persist or change doctors.

2. Ask your doctor to write down the main points. Tell him/her that you can’t absorb the diagnosis or instructions. Or take notes yourself if able.

3. Anticipate you may hear difficult news. Collect yourself in the waiting room, calm yourself down through focusing on your breath, taking several deeper ones, and holding it for a count of 3 before exhaling.

4. Rehearse internally asking the doctor to explain further, repeat or clarify information.

 

 

 

 

A 3-second intervention for insubordination of body parts. Part 2 of unfamiliar Type 2 diabetes symptoms

This is Part 2 of a 4-part series on the less common symptoms I experienced that led to a diagnosis of Type 2. I decided to share this in case you or anyone you love recognizes any similarities. If you are concerned, please seek out medical help immediately.

None of the symptoms that mysteriously plagued me alerted me to the condition I didn’t know I had. In the first part of this series (read it here), I recounted how I noticed serious yet comical cognitive changes.

Here I write about  symptoms that clearly required more than a first-aid solution.

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The symptoms I’d been experiencing for a few months escalated, making it more difficult to hold onto to the perspective that they were separate, unconnected and minor incidents.

The turning point came with a flourish, a really disturbing attention grabber.

A subtle, creeping numbness arrived, spreading from my shins all the way down along the top of my feet to my toes.

I didn’t know what to make of this. It was different from any of the other symptoms if for no other reason than it clearly couldn’t be treated with a nominal first aid approach!

I was armed with that most dangerous of states, a little knowledge, which is indeed a dangerous thing. On a good day, I took comfort in the fact that I lay claim to a slightly higher level of medical knowledge than perhaps the average layperson. This mostly had been gleaned from years of specializing in health psychology, although still obviously not in the same ballpark as a physician.

By the time the numbness appeared, I found myself in a holding pattern, a state of silent despondence. The lack of sensation in my left shin and foot was extraordinarily disquieting. Not painful nor uncomfortable, but nevertheless deeply disconcerting.

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If I lightly traced my fingers over it, which I rarely did, preferring instead to avoid the gut-tightening fear, the immediate somatic feedback received left me feeling disoriented.

I was used to being able to discern being both the ‘touched’ and the ‘touchee’.

The practice of mindfulness had helped my mind to clearly distinguish sensation on both sides of “the touch”. The fingers stroking the shin, and the sensation of the shin being stroked would both be discernible.

But now, there is an absence of sensation from my shin, just numbness. This was proof that touch was happening only via the nerve endings in my fingertips, which confirmed they made contact with my shin.

But from the ‘shin’ side, I only noticed a very faint, blunted pressure from the fingertips on the shin. Normally, sensation would have been received both ways, discernible on both fingertips and the shin itself. Now it was missing. Touch happened on a one-way street.

This is a far cry from the anticipated experience of a delicate balance of equal sensation from both fingertip and shin.

My mind was busy ricocheting between contemplation of this new development on the one hand, and futilely denying it on the other. Consequently, I brilliantly managed to completely miss the beginning of the latest bodily misbehavior. By the time it got my attention, it had ballooned in significance, having become impossible to ignore.

What developed is the really annoying way in which my right foot suddenly refused to cooperate, and allow itself to be lifted up off the ground in a graceful horizontal manner when walking.

This was downright insubordination from my foot, not to mention verging on the dangerous.

I’d become fairly adept at diagnosing and treating the various little annoying things that bothered me.

But a floppy right foot and loss of nerve sensation in the left shin and foot was a whole different ball game.

After feebly running benign ideas about possible causes through my mind, nothing resonated. No matter how much I longed to do so, I couldn’t persuade myself to settle on any acceptable or easy answer.

Because one didn’t crop up. Unable to suspend disbelief, I was left to conclude that I was dealing with a possible movement disorder.

The reign of terror continued.

Eventually, I fearfully asked myself if it could be of a neurological origin? I recalled from my

images (4)graduate school classes in brain physiology that movement disorders often originate in the brain’s motor cortex. Whatever overall condition I was dealing with, the arrival of this latest occurrence was now far bigger then I was comfortable admitting, even privately.

 

My constant companion these days, fear, brought up a desire to run away from reality. But how does a person run away from their own body? This desire struck me as being like my own personal earthquake. I recalled that sense of inevitability, nowhere to escape to or run away from I’d experienced during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in the Bay Area.

No matter how much I found myself longing to be able to, there was simply no way to avoid, to run away from, or to hide… It was finally these last two symptoms, the numbness from shin to toes, and then my droopy right foot, that pushed me to put aside my fear long enough to make an appointment.

Helpful Hint

Stay calm and carry on!

I know, easier said than done! But important to try, as a state of panic distorts perspective, leading to an increased chance of a poor reaction, not a measured response. And the internal “hamster wheel” , those thoughts that that can accompany anxiety or panic and obsessively spin around your mind,  can reinforce those negative and often catastrophic ideas.

Try this approach to stave off a panic attack, or at least high anxiety.

Sit comfortably, in a meditation postion (back upright, hands resting in lap or on thighs). Close your eyes, and let your attention rest gently on your breath. Take note of what’s happening internally

1. Follow the inhalation and exhalation, try not to control your breathing. The body will do it perfectly fine on it’s own.

2. After several rounds, on the next inhalation take a deeper in breath and hold it for 3 seconds.

3. Let out the longer and deeper exhalation before repeating #1 as many times as you wish.

Check in with yourself. How do you feel now compared to before you practiced this exercise?

Leave a comment below sharing what you discovered, it could encourage others to try it!