Category Archives: Biosphere

Hypoglycemia-Caused Panic

In which we complain about bloodsugar induced panic attacks …

I doubt this is terribly important, but I want to at least reach out to those other people with type one diabetes and see if they, too, feel  panicky when their blood sugars are low.  Yesterday I had about fifteen of them.  This is a problem.

Granted, I have been feeling a lot of lows for the last few weeks.  Sometimes I do the wrong thing, and manufacture higher glucose (like in the 200s) reads in order to not have to deal with the lows, to not have to drink another juice (which I am growing to hate).  I’ve also been experiencing a lot of high energy and optimism which is causally pointable-outable to several factors.  Life is going well for me; I’m alive and hungry for more of it.

Yesterday morning I woke at 6:00 a.m., bouncing out of my skin as usual these days.  By about 8:00 I was ready to use the energy in a health-preserving way.  I checked my sugar and it was in the 180s (it was in the 90s when I woke up).  Not trusting it to stay stable simply by wishing it to be so,  I ate a half sandwich, lowered the basal rate on my insulin pump (to 25% for 2 hours) and headed out for a 3 mile walk at 9:00.   A half hour into the hike it was 146.  I drank a juice.  45 minutes into the hike it was, again 146ish (really close).  I considered another juice, but I was hoping that the half sandwich, the original 180 BG, the lowered basal, and the current juice would hold me through the rest of the hike.  It did.

But, despite my munching and no-schedule day, I had sugars in the 80s an 90s all day.  At one point it was in the 200s so I gave a correction bolus … which later resulted in another low.  Very uncomfortable.  Throughout the day I ate fruit, salads, cheese, nuts, french fries, and chips and salsa.  Granted, I didn’t eat as much as I should have, and i just snacked rather than having a proper breakfast, lunch an dinner (befitting of a single woman without children).  The exercise and the general high-energy status quo of my body-mind kept me in need of all of the sugar I could take, but I seldom have such constant need for juice.   I also find that I don’t necessarily need that much food, on days when I am working, at least*.  Stress seems to add about 50-100 to my glucose levels, but I haven’t tracked this exactly. Yet.

By evening I was fighting.  My heartrate was up and I could not get to sleep.  I cried several times and felt the kind of fear one feels in a panic attack.  I could barely control the worry thoughts relating not only to diabetes but also more social aspects of my life.  I checked my sugars two more times and drank more juice and lowered my basal to 15%, hoping to get the blood glucose level a little higher so I could actually sleep through the night.  When I woke the next morning it was 78.

More juice.

The funny part of this to me is that while on my bouncy-wonderful walk in the morning, I was drafting a letter  (in my head) to the CEO and President of the medical organization which employs my family doctor, my endocrinologist and my ophthalmologist  in order to express the gratitude I feel toward these people working so hard to help me get diabetes to a level of control I need and want.  I had a somewhat disappointing appointment with the endocrinologist recently. I  presented him with a handwritten account of day-to-day happenings with my glucose for about a week in the hope of understanding patterns better, but it didn’t seem to impact his thinking much (though I don’t really know).  Still, we’ve agreed to have me wear a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) for a week later in August to track the numbers more closely and go from there.  I also had a stunning annual physical with my family doctor and it looks like I am doing really well in all other health categories besides the one which concerns us all the most.  That morning, ironically, the nurse for that doctor had to fetch me a juice before the physical because I was low.

Urg.

So, more science is needed.  In a way, I am grateful that I am feeling lower rather than higher.  I am happy that I have high energy rather than low.  I probably wouldn’t be publicly sharing about a day of high glucose, and there have certainly been those before too.  Those don’t seem as life-threatening in the moment, though, as any person with type one diabetes will agree.

As I was laying there in the night watching my mind run away with my heartbeat eating the little sugar I kept giving it, I couldn’t help feeling so alone.  I thought about texting a couple of friends, but didn’t want to make it their problem.  Plus, it doesn’t matter how much I try to explain myself when I am suffering in this way, it gets so confused because of the complexity.  Doctors like to look at the numbers, and derive conclusions from those.  I provided numbers to my Endo in narrative form, and when I expressed frustration with the phrase, “I feel like … ” he replied, of himself, “I don’t go off of feelings (presumably referring to his preference for numbers).”  So I picked up my sheets of paper and, once again, to show him the map of my daily experience.  But it’s just too exhausting … trying to explain to an outsider what I can only feel on the inside.  My friends and family would do their best, I know, and offer questions and support, but why burden them with an unending mystery I will be attempting to answer all of my life.  They risk my frustration at them, for not understanding —  but really, really wanting to — which causes me to not reach out to them. If I turn my inner experiences into a social enterprise, much is lost in the translation.  Especially regarding what it all means to the experiencer …

Phenomenology. Next chapter.

So I cry now, thinking of this particular breed of loneliness, and how it reminds me of other ways I feel alone.  I know I am not though.  I’m still optimistic.  Life is better than it was this time last year and the year before.  I am winning at health.  For today, at least.

 

(*Still trying to map out my needs based on day-off and working day phenomena.  A lot more consistency is what the doc orders, which is difficult in my line of work, but I’ll try.  Also, I can’t easily obtain the exact numbers written here, so these are pretty fair recollections instead.)

 

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Ghost Vision

In which Carrie was startled and nostalgic …

EBNERC LT LATE ANGIO

Ghost Vision

The light

Or the memory of light

Or her brain reaching

Outward toward

The light

Entered a subjective field of vision

Populated with

Tigers

Polymaths

Players of Poker

Time and spatial curves

Even things of light and joy:

flowers, children, summits of mountains, books

Which once made the seeing

blind eye

Grasp at the infinite

Nothing.

The Universe holds no color.

1/19/15


I Reckon

In which Carrie reflects on the matter ….

 

Explosion of earthly

Wonder

I wonder why

I am born a reckoner

And would I be

without our

Milky Way.

 

Orion points me true

I see you in the

spattered galaxy.

 

From Sisters

I stop and think

Of ways I might

have been

Startdust

Less beautifully.

 

1/10/15


Hidden Flowers

In which Carrie recognizes terror management theory and its relevance to everyday living . . .

I confronted issues of mortality and morality at a school the other day.  The previous night I went to the local university’s psychology club film and lecture event centering around Terror Management Theory (TMT). The film was Flight From Death (2005).  We discussed conscious ways to confront fear of death., instead of unconsciously acting against it.  The film suggests most people suppress this natural fear but are prone to fighting evil with evil in the form of hurting those who are not like ourselves, Others.  When we dehumanize someone out of fear of mortality, TMT supposes this is an individual’s (or nation’s) way of immortalizing themselves.  To erase or damage another’s dignity, or a culture’s worth (think of Nazi Germany or the 911 terrorist attacks), we build a temporary, but unsustainable, sense of being right while making the others somehow wrong. This unconscious suppression of the knowledge that we are all going to die causes war, and impresses on the “winners” that they are somehow more worthy of others.

 

I live where I do not have “death reminders” everyday, which is not the case for countries presently at war (on their home soil).  I do not live with explicit violence everywhere, and do not see humans being shot down on a weekly basis.  I know nobody who owns a firearm except for hunters.   Death reminders are scarce, and passing subliminal, in my sheltered world, but I see things like it which remind me I need to protect myself, and others from harm.

 

The other day a little boy comes up to me at the last period of my day after I had already been through much which reinforced my (mistaken) beliefs in an incompetency of my worth as a teacher.  The day had been hard, and with each new challenge my will to work at my best potential became weaker and weaker.  I found it hard to do my job as well as I usually do.  But there are always wonderful things which happen on the hardest days.  They keep me coming back.

 

This boy approached me with two hand-lenses held up to his eyes like out-of-fashion  nerd glasses, showing me his humor, his geekiness.  I believe now that while I intuit he is not popular and is consistently the recipient of micro-aggressions from his peers, he rose above that sadness and showed me the strength of his creativity and humor.  He also asked me later if he could use one of the high-powered microscopes to examine the parts of his flower, being only the second student who wanted an in-depth view of their specimen instead of using just the hand-lenses (which are just easier to distribute).  In this case, he demonstrated—beyond the motivations of his peers—an inherent interest in the learning for the day.  He had probably been looking forward to this all week, since they planted the flowers.

 

The “greenhouse” was in the corner of the room.  Each of the lab plants was under lights to help them photosynthesize (there are no windows in the room).  By the time I got there to fill in for the teacher, most of the flowers had dropped off.  As a result, I had the supply management issue of making sure every student got one flower to observe and dissect for the lab.  This rationing was another level to my worry on top of jumping from other classrooms, a back-t0-back schedule and spring fever among students, and as the last period rolled around I skeptically gazed at my supply of specimens and back at the number of students, wondering if there would be enough.  I passed the tender flowers out, carefully.  Some students accidentally blew theirs off the table or had little success extracting the petals, sepals, pistals and stamens resulting in some smushed bug likenesses.  Somehow, there were just enough which I could find under those mock-sun lights.

 

But this boy might have hidden his own plant away from the others.   I don’t know. He approached me with a reasonably healthy plant filled with about ten blooms.  I wondered how my eyes had missed them, a sudden surplus.  Everyone by that time had one so I didn’t bother asking to use his.  It was his plant, with his name written in sharpy on the styrofoam container.  Originally each student was going to dissect their own, but they all became a collective resource by that time.  Good for him keeping his away from view, like it was a rare wildflower one finds in the most remote wilderness.

 

Later during that class, I had some time to think and watch.  The one thing about labs is they usually draw students in, being so close to art and equally messy.  Only the students with the highest of spring fever relinquished their curiosity of botany to forego the assignment altogether, but most did their jobs.

 

There, in my exhausted observation, I listened to a few students arguing quietly, quietly enough for me not to be able to hear the content, but I could clearly see distress in their bickering.  Small faces turning like machetes in the angle of enemies, tossing glints of anger at each other, their perceived immortality at risk.  I noticed this boy was still trying to concentrate on his work but his neighbors were taking stabs.  He defended himself with some degree of assurance but it was making his life miserable.

 

I called him up and asked him what was going on.  He started talking, his eyes dropping water.  His demeanor of expressing his frustrations about another student were not filled with large tones or expansive gestures, but coherent explanation through the drip, drip, drip.  The water stained his shirt.  He told me his object of frustration, another girl with low social standing, wasn’t really liked by anybody.  I saw he felt sad and invited him to take a break—go out and get a drink of water, walk around a little.

 

I then called the girl over who was the object of his present frustration.  She narrated her story and I heard that it, too, was understandable  Her backstory—from what I have gleaned through my brief interactions with her—would make every adult in this community want to pause their momentary pleasures and obligations to help her out.  But with our limited vision reaching not far behind our American identity, I would doubt that anyone would—leave it to those who deal with that sort of thing.  I suggested that her classmate was sad and that she might meet him out in the hallway to give him an apology.  I told her that he might not accept it, but that it would be a good thing to do anyway.  She smiled and walked off.

 

As I reflect on this—it all happened so fast—I realize now that I don’t know if either of them finished the lab, to the chagrin of their teacher and tazpayers.  I don’t know how the apology went, or if any harms were undone.  If I see them again I might ask, given the appropriate time to do so.  It is important to follow up on these things.

 

This minor episode, including the nerdy glasses sported by the boy,  was the highlight of my day.  The situation I found myself in for the entire work day was one of high stress, as is the usual nature of substitute teaching, only disastrously more than usual.  I don’t feel like I came close to doing a good job. But I took some lessons in terror management from this particular boy who confronted who-knows-how-much-bullying day-to-day with humor, interest in inquiry learning, and self-directed motivation to get what he could from a lesson in botany.

 

I still wonder if he had the plant hidden away, knowing in advance that in order for his project to succeed he needed to take it upon himself to create the right conditions, including asking to use the high-powered microscope, unlike his peers.  I also noticed that he let me know, after I asked, a frustration—not the first in his young career as an object of dehumanizing attacks.  This open door to talk is something I believe most students would welcome if a concerned person invited them to speak, and cry if need be.

 

Where the village ceased to be the raiser-of children, I don’t know, but it is for these hidden students that I work to protect.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Love and Grit

In which Carrie thinks of two “Bobby McGees”  . . .

 

A jarring purr-call of crows in the forest, which, to other avians must seem like a lion’s roar.  I ignore my labor and self-doubt with the distraction of interesting looking forest debris and idle chatter about things I would have a much easier time discussion were I sitting with my hiking companion over a cup of coffee.  It is eight in the morning and we put one foot in front of the other up a gentle incline which nature will turn into steep, loose cinders later on in the hike toward the end.  This is my first, my second, my third, my fourth attempt up the mountain.  They all blend into each other.  I have known this country.  My memory assures me it was I, Carrie Anne Ebner, who travelled there.

 

I also once tried the Portland Marathon.  I remember this September (or was it October) morning, after a night of watching two strange black-and-white movies (Pi was one of them) and not really feeling like sleeping, as the sun was rising by the second and I was smiling (at least internally) at the little downhill bit near the Naito Parkway.  An older woman passed me and I followed her skinny frame and the sign clipped to her shirt which said, “This is my 18th marathon.  How about you.”  I remember lime green something, and her moving farther along ahead of me.  It didn’t matter that she passed me or that this was my first official marathon, or that she was, like, 80.  I was happy to be there.  I wore a cut-off shirt with a giant sunflower printed on the front.

 

I have just read, and re-read a quote found in the book Running Away: “When a bad thought floats into your head you have to say, Thank you for coming, thank you for visiting, now go away.”  The runner Bobby McGee said it.  It is probably a well-worn sentiment used by coaches of many varieties to motivate their charges.  It has succeeded in both advising me right now while also invoking the Janis Joplin song which will probably be in my head for most of the day.

 

The trail is getting steeper, but I know there is relief coming, this being my multiple time here, the Three Sisters Wilderness.  Soon it will flatten into a plain and to the right of my companion and me will be Moraine Lake, and Broken Top, void of snow this August, farther off.  We’ll stop for a snack and some water up by those damn-tough looking trees.  They are probably five hundred years old or something.  How would I know, but that I suppose someone told me that they grow slowly, but enduringly, in this hostile habitat.

 

The other marathon was a lot more successful, though unconventional.  I might have worn that same sunflower shirt part of the time.  I remember waking up on my twenty-first birthday with something like a smile.  I had been thinking of running my own version of 26.2 miles for a week or two, and took two days off of work at Black Butte Stables to allow for the run and a day of recovery.

 

I jogged my first 5-mile loop in sweatpants.  I came home and ate and drank water, changed my clothing into something cooler–it was August– and went for a different loop.  Ten miles in a row was the longest set I had put in ever. My “training” consisted of ten-hour work days with horses and an occasional hike.  My ambition was fueled not by knowledge that my body was ready for this but that I loved something about the idea.  I wanted to at least try.

 

I went for another jog, had a longer break and completed the last 10 or so with a couple of friends of mine who seemed to admire me for this strange enterprise.  For some reason I didn’t consider it a big deal, not like getting an advanced degree or having a baby or buying a home.  I sipped a few gulps of merlot where they took me for a birthday dinner and complained of soreness.  I had run five and a half hours in one day which, by my loose estimate on my average mile time (13 minutes), was, indeed, a marathon.   I am the tortoise.

 

I miss running.  The book I read made me crave it.  I missed running and hiking long trails when I was studying philosophy and linguistics at Portland State.  I underwent a different genre of endurance–one where my thought and creativity and scholarship was remarked upon to the point of feeling not very good about myself–almost the entire time I was there.  I would read biographies about mountain climbers–the real ones who faced actual death every moment of their Himalayan treks–and would fit some homework in here and there.  Probably those stories kept me on track to graduate.

 

It was hard to thank the bad thoughts which floated into my head and firmly, but gently, invite them to leave.  I took therapeutic walks with my German shepherd while writing my papers in my head.  The verdancy of Tryon Creek State Park enriched me in my darkest moments in which I composed nothing resembling philosophical argument but passionate explorations of deep philosophies–useful ones.  Life-affirming ones. I would look upon the cyclical habitat with awe.  I came to know Wolf spider webs in the fall and explosive buds littering the trail in the spring.  Very different from where I grew up.

 

The summit of the mountain wasn’t really the end.  Nor the second or third one. Maybe that is what helped me think, It’s not a big deal.  Sure, nobody can take away those accomplishments one accrues in a lifetime, but there is still the downhill trek.  And the next unremarkable day unremembered now.  I faced other ambitions later which took longer and required the participation of more than one or two people in order to make me win or lose, more or less.

 

I finish and finish again and try something else and remember who I was in my sunflower shirt with nothing, really, to lose.

 


Theory and Fact

Our facts convince us but do they convince ultimate reality?

There has been some discussion here recently about what a fact is and what it really depends on to get a hold on the world (i.e. our minds understanding it as “fact”).  The problem is our species believes all of these facts–which are abundant–stand on their own.  A person can state something–their belief–and name it “just a fact about the world” and assume his interlocutor (s) will buy into his worldview.  But that’s just it.  There is a worldview there, from which the so-called fact depends upon for its existence.

I’m not trying to use the highly abstracted hand of skepticism to wave reality away from knowing creatures like yourself.  I’ll leave that to Descartes or Berkeley or Putnam.  But my aim is to remind you that “facts” are highly theory-dependent.  There are theoretical presuppositions behind every fact a person can name, and the truth of the fact depends upon the robustness of the theory.  Else it falls into the category of opinion.

We understand that objects fall because of our theory, or mental concepts making sense of patters, of gravity.  Or if you have never had the privilege of studying gravity in a formal way (school), you were (in fact) born with the fear of falling, as experiments on children show given controlled circumstances.  So, biologically, you will understand gravityness as true, that falling objects will not suddenly start misbehaving.  You will not test this embodied truth on yourself by throwing it (your body!) over a cliff.  This is a positive example of a fact which holds some mass in our worldviews.  My assertions utilizing biology and observation of physical objects and common assumptions about instinct or cognition back these asserted “facts.”

However, one must be wary because moral kinds of “facts” (or any using good/bad, better/worse, etc.) masked under the sacrosanct markers of True or False, ought to be realized as idiosyncratic preferences of individuals often arguing for thier opinions of how they would prefer others to see the world.  This can often be self-serving, selfish, and potentially destructive (the opposite might make up the consequence as well, as a matter of opinion). Beliefs also comes from biases, prejudices, and that ilk.  They are not justified until proven so.  It takes a maturer mind to question its own beliefs and opinions, and test them against alternative beliefs–even unpleasant ones– judiciously.

There is a wonderful game to examine the theoryladenness of factual claims, and how much we rely upon them,  often taking them for granted.  We have rich worlds within ourselves coming from our unique experiences, real or imagined. Below are a list of “facts” all linked to a common theory.  It is a puzzle to figure out.  See if you can guess the correct “theory” which links the list of facts below.  Feel free to comment on this blog.  The answer (guiding theory) will be in the categories at the end of this post.  Good luck!

  • Newspapers are better than magazines.
  • The seashore is better than the street.
  • At first it is better to run than to walk.
  • It takes some skill but is easy to learn, even for young children.
  • It’s true that it needs lots of room.
  • Beware of rain; it ruins everything.
  • A rock will serve as an anchor.
  • If things break loose, you won’t get a second chance.

Orb

In which Carrie’s friend composes a poem about an inorganic object with organic implications…

Guest Post: Alexander Ellingworth

Orb

Something has been unexpectedly given to you,
a small cool weight, glassy and round
lying comfortably in your hand.

You feel it’s comfortable smooth surface
regular and predictable,
as it slowly warms to your touch,
and receives moisture from your skin.

Your hand tilts, and it rolls a little
across the cupped expanse, and then
rolls back, until it finds one of those small, safe creases
where your fingers and palm come together.

Your other hand comes over, intrigued,
and picks it up, with long fingers lifting the curved glass
– no longer cool but slightly heated now.
The eyes, too, want their turn discovering this new thing.

Held up, the murky glass exterior
slowly gives way to the eyes’ patient penetration.
Tiny lines tug at the edge of your vision,
daring you, it seems, to seek them out for closer view.

So lifted, the rounded contour fades from sight,
and something new attracts your vision.
Knifelike cracks slide back and forth, glinting,
each a crystalline wonder,
waiting only for the fine turn of your wrist
to leap into being, to leap into the light.

See me, they each say, see me.
I am bright.
See how I leap from here to there, touching
every point in between, and a thousand more
besides.

Can either eye hope to follow these shining, minuscule tracks?
Each one lying anxiously still for your view.
Colors, too, lie along those irregular surfaces,
flaring minutely along what once seemed monochrome,
a tiny rainbow scintillation playing quietly against each edge.

Your eyes close unexpectedly, a reflexive blink;
and the obscure globular whole returns, slipping from between your fingers,
falling heavily back into your palm.
Now thoroughly warmed,
all detail fled from your eye’s vision, reacting
to a moment’s unintended clumsiness.

Startled, your fingers reflexively close next,
And you feel the solid weight,
the small dent of a dull landing
in the cupped chamber of your half-closed fist.

You recall the simple, cool hardness with which it first presented itself to you.
But now it has become suddenly heavy, too heavy perhaps,
a hot weight which burns through hidden tendons and skin if too closely held.

Distressed, your fingers unfold,
holding it once more up to air and light.
It rolls unpredictably in your palm, moving freely,
warm and light again.
What made it so heavy?, you wonder,
From where did it acquire such heat?

Your eyes pull forward, eager to once chase out those straightly ramified lines,
But in the moment of your inattention something has changed;
what once seemed fixed and determined has become winding, coy, joyful,
and delicate whorls have taken the place of what was once sharp and linear.

Now you see us, they together say, and how we move.
Never the same way twice,
we dance.
Watch how we stride from here to there
passing over every point in between, landing only where
we wish.

Surely there is no way to comprehend this intricate structure?
Surely it is too much to hope for, that all of this could ever be reduced to
a single moment, a glance, or a carried hope?
You wonder for a moment whether this orb demands too much;
perhaps it would be better hidden, carried in a pocket.
Or safer yet, in a briefcase, toted around for special occasions
when one is dressed and groomed and others will do no more than glance
and nod sagaciously at the rare fineness of the thing.

What to do, then, with this unexpected gift?
Shall the fingers close, and together hold it tightly until it becomes too terrible to bear?
Shall the hand tuck it away, unobserved in some darkly secret or too-public place?
Or shall the eyes lose themselves in the observation of those delicate, ever-unfolding depths?

(Alexander Elllingworth lives in Beaverton with a family of four persons, as many cats, and three times as many fish.  His favorite occupation is hours-long conversation with those he holds dear.  He has studied various subjects in the pursuit of self, including philosophy and anthropology, and is now sufficiently mature to realize that art is the highest of all human pursuits.  He also believes that his favorite color is not red, but is open to having his mind changed about this.)