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What's so important about the hard parts?

3/17/2019 by Scott Johnson

What's so important about the hard parts?

Social media encourages us to put our best faces forward, and this can build a false impression of someone.

But when you share your full story, you’d be amazed at how many people will show up to encourage you and share their support. That’s what Megan learned when she started sharing her full story with type 1 diabetes. Megan Cornelius runs the blog Push-ups ‘N Pumps and has a very active social media presence on Instagram and Facebook. She diagnosed herself with diabetes (!!) in the 4th grade and shares her stories of struggle and hope online to help others in the diabetes community feel less alone about the harder sides of living with diabetes. We hope that her story will inspire you to share some of your struggles so we can all help each other.

Summary

  • How Megan self-diagnosed her diabetes in 4th grade
  • The problems with perfectionism in diabetes care
  • How sharing both the good and the bad will help you find balance
  • Why complications don't have to mean that you've failed at your care
  • A visit from Megan's puppy!

Transcript

Scott Johnson: Have you ever felt frustrated or confused by your diabetes? Yep. Me too. I tell you what, you're taking another step in the right direction by tuning in today and I'm proud of you for that.

Scott Johnson: What's up Monster Tamers? Welcome to another episode of “Live, with Scott!” Thanks so much for tuning in. My name is Scott Johnson. I've been living with diabetes since I was five years old, and the diabetes social media space, that's you, by the way, has been an important part of my well-being for a long, long time. And that means the world to me. Thanks for helping me along.

Scott Johnson: As your host today, I am excited to connect with you Megan, AKA Push-ups 'N Pumps and we'll hear more from her in just a second. While we get going, please share a quick hello in the comments and let me know where you are watching from. I'd love to say hello! And if we cover anything that hits home for you, please let me know as well. I'd love to hear that. Today's episode is sponsored by the mySugr Bundle. Get unlimited strips, automatic supply refills, personalized support and more all for just $49 per month. Learn more at mysugr.com/facebooklive. Now, more on this week's guest.

Scott Johnson: Megan Cornelius, also known online as Push-ups 'N Pumps, diagnosed herself with diabetes when she was in the fourth grade. She's all about sharing her wins, struggles, and laughs in hopes of helping you feel less alone in your own journey with diabetes. She is full of love, help, and support. Her raw and open stories about her own life with diabetes have helped countless others find themselves in their own journey with diabetes. And without further ado, let's dive right in.

Scott Johnson: Hey, Megan, it's great to see you again. Thanks for coming on.

Megan Cornelius: Hi Scott. Thanks for having me.

Scott Johnson: Can you tell us a little bit about who is the magnificent Megan? What's your connection to diabetes?

Megan Cornelius: So this month, I will have been diabetic for 22 years. I was diagnosed with type 1 in fourth grade, so you can figure out my age from there. I actually self-diagnosed myself. I had a friend from preschool and kindergarten who was diagnosed the year before me and I remembered my mom talking to her grandma and her grandma telling my mom all the symptoms and as it was happening to me, I recognized everything. And I thought, oh, if I don't tell anyone, they'll never know.

Megan Cornelius: And so, luckily, we had some close family friends that also picked up on like oh, we took Megan to the movies and she went to the bathroom 10 times during the movie. And so then at my yearly doctor's appointment, my mom asked them to test my blood sugar and the doctor was kind of like, oh she just lost her baby fat. Because I was a chubby kid. And my mom insisted they check my blood sugar and sure enough, it was in the 400s so ... They checked me into the hospital, and it goes from there. So ...

Scott Johnson: And, how did you get kind of connected with the diabetes social media space and everything that you are doing online? So you've got a very active and powerful Instagram channel. You do a lot of sharing your stories on your website and blog. So, and we'll put all that information in the comments. But tell us a little bit about how that came to be for you?

Megan Cornelius: Yeah. So, I spent college ignoring my diabetes. I took my Lantus and then Humalog was hit or miss. If I have a test, hit or miss, because I just didn't want to deal with it. And I was talking to a friend a couple of years after college and I'd been just kind of managing as little as possible at that point. And I was telling him like, I eat pretty healthily but I am tired all the time and I try to do stuff with my diabetes but I don't really know what to do. And he actually introduced me to eating paleo. And so, I decided at that point, to change my eating habits and to change how I was taking care of my diabetes.

Megan Cornelius: I went to my first TCOYD event and I learned about Omnipod and Dexcom and decided to start using those two. So, I kind of did all these changes and I thought, okay, these things are working for me. How can I share them with other people? So I started a blog kind of more towards using natural food more and recipes for my diabetes. But I soon found that that didn't work for me, because I was cutting out too much and I'd find myself either obsessing over it or just going a weekend and saying, screw it, I'm just gonna eat everything in sight. And it wasn't manageable.

Scott Johnson: Yeah.

Megan Cornelius: So I thought, at the time, I also wasn't seeing a lot in the diabetes space as far as online. And maybe I wasn't looking in the right places, but I decided I wanted to kind of share my story. So eventually that kind of evolved into the Push-Ups 'N Pumps, that brand I am using today because I also started incorporating weight lifting and CrossFit into my lifestyle. So I thought that would be a good kind of name because I post about everything. From my pumps to working out to travel and every once in a while, even clothes I like. And it encompassed everything.

Scott Johnson: Which I think that's ... one of the things I love about all the content that you push out is you talk about your struggles with balancing everything. Something that you mentioned a moment ago resonates with me. I struggle a lot with the perfectionism, right? And I think diabetes really breeds perfectionism because it's so ... we're so focused on the numbers and measuring everything and I can't tell you how many times I have kind of fallen into that trap where I think of myself with this pendulum that swings back and forth going from perfectionism to just all out kind of recluse and abandonment. Which you described, right? You are going all in or forget all about it kind of thing, right?

Megan Cornelius: Yeah.

Scott Johnson: Did you find that sharing your stories and interacting with people has kind of helped you find a balance in ways? I mean, for me it's something that I need help finding that balance over and over and over again.

Megan Cornelius: I agree. I think part of the thing is with diabetes, something happened to us that was completely out of our control – getting diabetes. So, then, we take that and we're like, I'm either going to ignore this because I'm mad about it, or I'm gonna control every tiny detail of it because I couldn't control that happening, but I can control this.

Scott Johnson: Yeah.

Megan Cornelius: So, people see the extremes. I found ... one of the things I started doing is I started seeing a therapist who sees diabetic patients and he's also diabetic himself. Which has really helped me refocus and look at the fact that I can't control anything but I can control my reaction to it. And that's helped me a lot and I also think it helps to see that there's a community out there that also goes through the same ups and downs and that's why I try to show my ups and downs because I got a message a couple of weeks ago and someone's like, how are your Dexcom graphs always so straight? And I started thinking, whoa. Okay. I've only posted good Dexcom graphs lately. Let me post my next one where things are out of whack because I never want people to think that I live a perfect life because I don't.

Megan Cornelius: I strive to do as well as I can but I also don't wanna be fake because when people see someone who is always doing well and always pretty and always happy, it can really drive them to look at themselves negatively if they don't think they are doing as well. So to do both sides I think really balances out and helps people see a realistic version of diabetes.

Scott Johnson: Yeah, and it shows both sides. I remembered another thing that you mentioned that sticks with me often is you talked about sharing a great blood sugar in the morning, but not necessarily thinking about all the work that it took overnight to get to that blood sugar in the morning. Or waking up two or three times overnight to take some more insulin or eat a snack because you’re low, or whatever. That great blood sugar in the morning didn't just magically show up, but there's a lot of work that goes on, in a lot of kind of trials that diabetes drags us through to get to that great blood sugar.

Megan Cornelius: Yeah. There's a lot of background math and calculation and exhaustion that goes into those good blood sugars and sometimes they work out from all that work, and sometimes they magically happen when you wake up. But it's never the same thing, really.

Scott Johnson: Yeah. And I think it's really brave of you to share as much as you do about all the different sides of that and I think it shows, um ... it shows a strength that you have to open up and say, "Listen. I'm not gonna show just the pretty sides of diabetes, but I want people to see the full, the real deal of everything going on." And I think that also encourages a broader conversation about that.

Megan Cornelius: Yeah. I agree because I see what people post about especially in Facebook groups, and its stuff that to me, is ... like I just know. And then I realize that others have no idea. And so as much as I can share and get the word out there, I want to because we're our own advocate. I'm blessed with good doctors, but a lot of people aren't and so they won't know that there are other things out there for them that can help in their care. So I can share and tell people about it, I want to so that they can advocate for themselves because I think that's a really important part of your diabetes care is kind of being your own advocate and being able to make those decisions on your own and guide your endocrinologist and your team as to what you want to see in your diabetes care.

Scott Johnson: Yeah. Absolutely. Thinking about the time that we have with our care team, so I don't know about you or other people out there watching but I typically go see my endocrinologist once every three months, maybe every four months or so and I know I am fortunate to be able to go in that often. When I go in, I maybe get 15, 20 minutes with them, and quite honestly, there's a lot of ground to cover in that little bit of time. There's a lot of things that we need to talk about in that time right? So there's prescription refills, medication adjustments, blood sugar management. Doing a foot checkup and review lab results. I could go on and on and on. And I also sometimes come out of those appointments feeling a little bit beat up because we're only looking at the trouble spots in my logs and reports.

Scott Johnson: But then I have to take a step back and think about, gosh, if I have a limited amount of time with an expert, of course, I want them to help me troubleshoot the spots I am having trouble with. That makes sense. So, it's really ... we do have to keep our heads on straight when we're in there and I think that it makes a lot of sense also that if there are certain things we need out of those appointments to help guide them, like you said, into what exactly we need out of those appointments.

Megan Cornelius: Yeah. And I try to take some time before my appointments and kind of prioritize what I need and the questions I have. But depending on your provider, they also may have a messaging system to communicate with them outside of your appointment and it may not always be them that answers. It might be like a PA or a nurse, but I'm trying more and more to utilize that so that I can make sure between my appointments that I am still getting answers on what I need. And I'm still getting prescriptions filled or troubleshooting. So, I think just knowing your resources and looking into them and asking is really key. Because for the longest time, I didn't use that system and I go in even to my primary care for every little thing. Just for a prescription. Whereas I could have just messaged and asked her and it would have been less time and money for me, and it was a simple question, so ...

Scott Johnson: Yeah. That's great. Can we talk a little bit about ... you mentioned seeing a therapist that specializes in seeing people with diabetes and even has diabetes himself. I remember a time, this was, gosh, 20 years ago by now, I was really down in the hole dealing with depression and I didn't have a mental health network or care provider set up prior to that, and I found it really difficult to try and find care providers in the mental health space who knew enough about diabetes period, but it really sucked having to do that work while I was dealing with depression. I think that the American Diabetes Association is building a resource to help people find mental health professionals that deal with diabetes but I'm wondering what was your experience finding a therapist or provider that knew enough about diabetes that you weren't having to teach them about diabetes?

Megan Cornelius: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, I honestly can't remember how I found him. It was probably through TCOYD. But he works for the Center for Diabetes Mental Health. So that's CDMH. And, I know they have some resources. There are clearly probably not enough therapists with diabetes that'll understand it as well, but something else to take into account is finding a therapist that fits you. So they might not know about diabetes but if they are willing to talk about just, in general, your ... and not judge ... you have to kind of find a therapist that works for you. And so some therapists won't get it and you'll know, and it may take one or two appointments and then you'll have to say this isn't working. I need to find someone else. I think it's about, you can probably even more broadly look for someone who just deals with chronic illness, and even though they may not understand diabetes completely, they may understand how much chronic illness can wear on someone and the ties between chronic illness and mental health.

Megan Cornelius: And, so if you can't find someone who is specifically diabetic, that may be another route to look because it does help for them to understand but I think as long as they are willing to work with you on the issues that maybe also are in other parts of your life, that you don't realize you are using on your diabetes, that can come full circle and really help. So, it's just a process that you have to be patient with but I found that just talking about your diabetes even if you're not getting a ton of feedback, can really help even just as you are talking about it, the wheels start turning in your own head, and then you start thinking, oh, wait, this is why I am doing it. And the longer you talk it out, and the more you do it, the more you're able to pinpoint for yourself what your pain points are. And your therapist becomes someone who just walks you through the process and helps you to talk about it and get those feelings out so that you can talk yourself in to what you need to do to take better care of yourself.

Scott Johnson: You said so many wise things in that little bit there, Megan. I often think about therapy work. So one thing that I very much agree with is that it's a process and you have to be patient and willing to work yourself into ... through some scary places, right? So, I think about it like cleaning out a dark garage that's a mess for a long time, right? If you picture your brain like a dark garage and this therapist is there with you with a big giant flashlight helping you clean out and sweep out these corners that you maybe have not explored for some time, to see that, you know what? It's not so scary back there, and let's get rid of some of that garbage that's getting in your way. But I also very much agree with what you said about that. It may take a few therapists to find one that you really vibe with.

Scott Johnson: I experienced that same thing, and it was very frustrating but it was so worth it once I found someone that worked well with me. So, for anyone out there listening, hang in there if you're going through the wringer with that stuff. It's very much worth it.

Megan Cornelius: And something I found that helps me if you are not able to see a therapist because I know a lot of the time that that's just not covered with healthcare. Something that's helped me a lot is just being active socially. And being active in the diabetes groups you have to be careful not to go down the rabbit hole of comparing yourself to others and that's why I am so conscious about posting the good and the bad. So no one is saying, "I need to be like Megan with perfect blood sugars." I don't ever want anyone to feel that way looking at my profile, but I know that it helps to have conversations with other people who understand what you are going through and know that you are not alone.

Megan Cornelius: So if you can't see a therapist, that's just not financially a possibility, reach out to other diabetics. Try to do a meetup in your own city. I'm always willing if people are having meetups to repost on my profiles about the meetup because I do have a reach so, I can help find other people in your area, because I know the value of having that social outlet, and it's kind of magical how when you get a bunch of diabetics together, they just get it. And it's not hard to find the conversation pieces because there's so much to talk about. So, it might sound scary, especially if you are an introvert, but I promise it has been one of the best things for me to socialize with other people that live with diabetes.

Scott Johnson: Totally. I will agree with that 150%.

Megan Cornelius: Yeah.

Scott Johnson: Let's talk a little bit about conversations around living with complications. That's something that I think is also brave. It's also something that's not talked about enough and I think it is ... much like when we were diagnosed with diabetes, we found ways to, okay, here's this thing. We have to figure out how to deal with it and get on with life, and the same thing happens when we bump into a complication, right?

Megan Cornelius: Yeah. Absolutely. And so, for me, I mean the one I've been most vocal about is I do have a little bit of retinopathy. And you know? It's very likely from ignoring my diabetes in college, and I will always share that piece so that people know, I went through my rebellious stage too. So, I find it important to share because people will hush that part. It's scary and it's kind of depressing but then again, when I first found out that I was gonna need injections in my eyes, I was vulnerable and I told my social following.

Megan Cornelius: And I cannot tell you how many people reached out to me. Like, I feel a little emotional just thinking about it because so many people reached out to tell me, I promise it's not scary. I promise the anxiety of leading up to it is worse than the actual procedure. And yes. That's what I found out to be. I was making this in my head to be something way bigger than it was and I also felt kind of alone at first when I found out I was gonna need this and then again, the number of people that told me they were doing the exact same thing, really helped me feel more comfortable and less depressed about what was going on because every time you add something to the list of issues with your body, it just ... it gets you emotionally. And so to hear that I wasn't alone and this was a good thing I was doing for myself, really helped because those injections helped heal and prevent further damage.

Megan Cornelius: So 10 years ago, it wasn't happening. They would do laser treatments and you would probably lose your vision eventually. Now, this sounds scary and terrible, but it's actually preventative and it's helping me preserve my vision. So, it's a good thing when we share, because it helps everything feel better and knowing you're not alone makes you less scared and it helped my anxiety. Even though I still had it, it really helped me to feel comfortable with the fact that the world was not ending.

Scott Johnson: Yeah. I think that's really great. You know, the world of diabetes and complications is complicated, so my experience with these conversations is that the threat of complications are often kind of held over you as you are growing up with diabetes, saying you better take care or else. But, then that's it. And so, there's all this guilt and shame that comes along with anything that you bump into. However, the truth of the matter is that there is a lot that we don't know and don't understand about diabetes and the way that the human body works, so I know many people who have taken wonderful care of their blood sugars but yet still encounter complications and I know others who haven't managed their diabetes very well and don't have any complication.

Scott Johnson:  And so, I think the conversations that are starting to happen online now, thanks to people like you, Grumpy Pumper is another one that has done a great job and many, many others. We're starting to see the real stories around complications and how life moves on wonderfully, beautifully, after the fact which has shown people that there's not ... we don't have to be shrouded in this guilt and shame and that there are many, many available treatment options which then helps them move forward in a strong, courageous way. So thank you for opening yourself up like that.

Megan Cornelius: Absolutely. And you know, it's part of my journey. I would feel like I was being fake if I wasn't sharing everything going on. So, I'll always, on the day I get the injections, share that. And afterward, I'll show you my huge dilated eyes and the fact that I am wearing sunglasses in my own living room. So it's just something that I want. Other people made me feel not alone, and I want to, in turn, make others feel not alone.

Scott Johnson: Yeah. It's a great, beautiful cycle that I think feeds positivity into the world and it's a great thing. So thanks again for doing that. So, Megan, we have covered a lot of ground already. Time flies when we start talking, right? I know that much. But is there anything that we haven't talked enough about? Or anything else that you want to mention? I was really hoping that we get to see Tucker on camera. Is he nearby? Did you lock him in a room to ...

Megan Cornelius: No. He's napping, but I can grab him if you'd like to see him. He's right over there. Scott Johnson: Oh my gosh, you have to do it.

Megan Cornelius: I'll grab him.

Scott Johnson: So folks, Tucker is Megan's adorable puppy and we're gonna get a little cameo appearance. Yeah. There we go.

Megan Cornelius: Hi, Tucker!

Scott Johnson: Awesome. Thank you for that. Great.

Megan Cornelius: He's just a little dazed and confused after a nap wake up but ...

Scott Johnson: Sorry for the interruption Tucker. I just had to get a little cameo appearance there, so yeah. Well, thank you for coming on and sharing so much of yourself with us, like you do all the time. Thanks for sharing!

Megan Cornelius: Yeah. Thank you for having me. I enjoyed it.

Scott Johnson: Great. And we'll see you around soon and reach out if there's anything we can help with along the line.

Megan Cornelius: Yeah. Thank you!

Scott Johnson: All right. There you have it. I hope you also enjoy getting to know Megan and that adorable puppy. If you are not already following her on her Instagram channel, her blog, and Facebook page, you should definitely do that right now. They are all at "Push-ups 'N Pumps" and we'll put the links in the description there as well. As a special thanks to all of you watching, I have a fun mySugr tote bag with some goodies inside like a pop socket, a few stickers and I even found some more copies of the amazing book Bright Spots & Landmines by Adam Brown and look at that you guys, autographed. Autographed copies.

Scott Johnson: So I'd love to throw that in for you as well. So to enter, leave a comment below. Let Megan and I know if you enjoyed today's episode and before next week's show, I'll randomly pick one or two lucky winners and announce them during the start of the broadcast.

Scott Johnson: I also wanna share something that I am very excited about. You may have heard me talk about Diabetes Training Camp before. We've had a couple of guests on that have been involved there, and I really excited to share that they have added a Type 2 Diabetes Boot Camp to their lineup. I'm gonna read some information right from their website about this, all right?

Scott Johnson: Diabetes Training Camp's, Type 2 Boot Camp, is an extremely unique program geared towards everyone with type 2 diabetes. Learn the simple facts on developing a healthy life, and fitness program that will help you take control of your diabetes. Come experience lifestyle and fitness programs that you can do. This camp is built just for you. Our team is a phenomenal group of diabetes and fitness specialists, some of whom have diabetes themselves. This team understands your needs as a person with diabetes. We get it. And yes, indeed, they do. I can testify to that myself.

Scott Johnson: Now, I am so excited about this that I am actually heading out there myself to learn more about it. To do some interviews with the staff and most importantly, hear from the campers that are attending and bring you guys some fun stories from them. Maybe we'll be able to do some ... capture some video segments that we'll broadcast on Facebook Live coming right after that.

Scott Johnson: So, there's still time to register. This is happening at the end of March, so if you are interested, head onto the link there. We'll also put the link in the Facebook section so it's easy to just click on and go right where you could be. There's still plenty of time to register and I really would love to see you there. It's super fun, all right?

Scott Johnson: As far as next week, be sure to tune in when I'll be talking with the amazing Ginger Vieira about fasted exercise, intermittent fasting, learning to think about diabetes as a scientist and removing self-blame and shame to build power and learning for 24 by 7 game of blood sugar management. Right on Ginger. I love that. Thank you so much for joining today. Please give this a video a like. Share it with your friends. Have another amazing day and we will see you next week!

Scott Johnson

Almost famous for being a Diet Coke fanatic, Scott is the Patient Success Manager, North America for mySugr and has lived well with diabetes for over forty years. He's an active pioneer in the diabetes social media space and along with his work at mySugr, he manages his award-winning blog, scottsdiabetes.com when time allows.

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