Who are you? Please, introduce yourself.

I’m Mer (@TypeUnicorn) – a queer, plant-powered human with a busted pancreas who loves travel, giant redwoods, rescue dogs (especially senior ones!), woodstoves, unicorns (obvs!), adventures, books, San Francisco, bean-to-bar chocolate and warm beverages (especially matcha and pour-over coffee!).  I’m a pacifist with a deep commitment to self-reflection, learning and actions/advocacy that support social justice, equity and human rights.  Random facts:  I can chirp like a bird well enough to fool many cats (…and even some birds!), I worked as an archaeologist for over a decade and I believe with absolutely every fibre of my being that kindness is everything.

T1D diagnosis date:

T1D diagnosis date:  April Fools Day 2016 (01.04.2016). I was 39.

How did you feel about your T1D diagnosis? If you do not remember, perhaps, friends or loved ones could share their feelings.

My diagnosis was both complicated and strange – in part because my doctor wasn’t sure if I was Type 2 or Type 1 (she thought only young people could develop T1D) and in part because my symptoms of DKA were atypical.  Regardless of the circumstances surrounding it, I feel positive about my diagnosis.  I am grateful that my pancreas worked effectively for 39 years. I am grateful that treatment exists (thank you Banting, Best, Collip and Macleod!) so that I can both survive AND thrive. I am grateful that my case is now used to educate medical residents in the city I live in so that folx with “unusual” presentations of T1D and/or DKA can hopefully be diagnosed more accurately and quickly. I am grateful for the chance to know my body in a way that I otherwise wouldn’t. I am grateful for the love and support I’ve received, which has taken so many shapes and which runs so very deep.  I’m grateful for the amazing community I’ve become part of as a result of my T1D diagnosis and especially for the rare, profound, unique and beautiful friendships that I have forged with incredibly big-hearted humans through this experience. 

What mental illness(es) were you diagnosed with and when?

I have not been formally diagnosed with any mental health-related experiences….that said, I am a chaotic (dis/ordered) eating survivor.  More specifically, I have been engaging in chaotic eating thinking/behaviours for the last 32 years, including: food restriction, obsessive exercising, binge eating, compensation…and have a list of food rules about 1,000,000 miles long. Let’s just say that chaotic eating and I are well-acquainted.  Adding T1D to this volatile mix has been…um…interesting, to say the least.

What is your management routine for T1D (pump, MDI, etc.) and how do you manage your mental health?

When it comes to T1D, first and foremost, I cultivate and count on a trust relationship with my body…it is good at telling me if I am high, low, or stable…as long as I take the time and make the effort to listen.  I try and learn what symptoms of highs/lows feel like and keep tabs on how they change; after all, we know that T1D is dynamic and ever-changing!  Otherwise, I collaborate with Mildred – my Medtronic MiniMed 630G insulin pump to dose basal/bolus insulin on the daily.  Mildred and I have been hanging out for two years now and I couldn’t be more grateful to her for the flexibility and support that she affords me so that I can live my best life with T1D!  I also hang out with Flash – my Freestyle Libre system; although Libre sensors do not work well for me in terms of accuracy, the ability for me to keep tabs on shuggie trending (going high/low/staying stable) has been a complete and utter game-changer.  Since Flash isn’t terribly accurate for my body, I also rely on my trusty ContourNext glucometer for 8-11x daily (avg) shuggie checks involving the good ol’ fashioned finger prick!  Managing my mental health is also a daily commitment, particularly when it comes to my chaotic eating realities – this involves trying to get outside daily, working on re-booting my body/mind/food narrative from one of shame/guilt to one of self-compassion and love, celebrating the small victories, laughing often, being honest with myself about where things are at with my food/body/mind stuff at any given time, cultivating acceptance and leaning on friends/fam/other folx/resources/supports as needed.  I believe that there is strength in vulnerability and in asking for what I need (including help/support).

Share with us the best book you have ever read. Why should we read it?

Aaaaaggghhhh!  I love reading…picking ONE book to talk about, much less identifying the BEST book I’ve ever read is too hard.  So, I’ll pick a book that I recently read an reallllly loved:  “Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling With Cure” by Eli Clare.  I loooove Eli Clare’s work.  This is a non-fiction book…it’s a mosaic of prose, conversation, theory, life experience that explores the idea of “cure” (as in curing things like chronic illnesses) – its complexities, challenges, violences, nuances.  A really powerful read – especially as a human living with a chronic condition.

Do you have a favourite song or a song that inspires you?

It’s really difficult to choose a single favourite song or a single song that inspires me because so many songs are magical for a variety of different reasons!  That being said, I am pretty smitten with a song called “Clouds,” which was written by Zach Sobiech.  Zach thrived with osteosarcoma for several years and he had a passion for music; he wrote the song “Clouds” about his experiences living with cancer and in acknowledgement of important relationships in his life. I stumbled across Zach’s story (and the song) through one of my favourite online series – “My Last Days” (via SoulPancake on YouTube) – which features some pretty incredible folx.  I know I’m off on a tangent here (shock!)…but I’m going to go ahead and highly recommend these videos anyway. 🙂

Have you ever suffered DKA?

Yes – I am a DKA survivor!  I was in DKA upon diagnosis, but did not have many of the conventional symptoms – I was not nauseous, I did not vomit, not did I have any other kind of stomach upset/GI issues.  I did have elevated shuggies, ketones, thirst and a very mild headache that felt a bit like eye strain from staring at a computer screen for too long.  Since I didn’t have many of the “hallmark” symptoms of DKA, my doctor did not advise me to go to hospital as early as she might otherwise have; thankfully, I was admitted before things got any worse than they already were by that point.  

If you were offered a FREE cure for either your T1D, mental illness(es) or both, would you take it? Why or why not?

Honestly, I am conflicted about this.  T1D and my mental health experiences related to chaotic eating are part and parcel of who I am.  Inasmuch as they have brought significant challenge (and, at times, heartache) to my life…they have also brought absolutely incredible gifts.  I imagine it would feel really amazing (…not to mention strange!?) to have some respite from the relentless mental/physical/emotional energy these things require of me (what would I do with all that spare time?! Ha!)…and I’d be lying if I said that the idea of this kind of respite wasn’t attractive/compelling. Buuuuut…if I didn’t live with these things, the reality is that I’d likely live with other things.  Sooooo….given the option of the challenges I know vs. the ones I don’t…I’ll choose to continue to survive and thrive with the things I know so well and continue embracing my chaotic eating/T1D life!

What is the most unique gift you have ever given someone?

I love gift-giving more than anything.  When my shiniest human turned 40, my biggest hope/wish was to bring all the folx who she loved/was loved by into one space to celebrate.  However, since these humans were scattered all over the globe, this wasn’t possible.  As an alternative, I spent the year leading up to her birthday gathering stories, memories and photos from the important folx in her life and turned them into a book, which I gifted to her on her birthday.  The whole process of curating & bearing witness to the stories and photos that people shared was beyond moving and utterly wonder-full…I ended up feeling like I received the biggest gift by putting the book together!

Time for a shout out! Who inspires you?

I would like to give a huge shout out to each and every human – both known and unknown to me – who strives to share unconditional love and kindness to self and others through thought and action…no matter how large or small, whether in times of ease or in the face of great adversity.  You both inspire and humble me. 

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