Tag Archives: life

How to cope with Hypoglycemia

Because a couple of people have asked me about hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and I realise that while I do explain, I might not do so particularly clearly…and, to be honest, it’s not so common a thing, despite everyone having it to some extent!

The TL;DR of this is – LISTEN TO THE PERSON. THEY WILL USUALLY TELL YOU WHAT THEY NEED.

Having got that out of the way, let me do some more explaining. I’ve got mild hypoglycemia, and have had since I was a child. Basically, I don’t cope too well with not eating for extended periods of time – by which I mean about 3 hours. However, I’m lucky: because it’s mild and not related to diabetes, it’s very much an invisible illness, and one that mostly doesn’t affect me. (Hah. Ok. I manage it so that it doesn’t affect me, mostly.) I don’t need to do the blood pricks or carry insulin/glucose, and it’s not immediately life-threatening – which for many people with the condition, is can be. For me, it just means that I seem to go through glucose a lot faster than most people – and have a worse reaction if I get low blood sugar.

So I’m writing this for a couple of reasons:

  • a PSA for anyone who a) knows me, or b) may know someone with the condition; this is the sort of thing you need to watch out for.
  • to say that this is one of the small, invisible illnesses that does exist – it doesn’t affect my life too badly (or at least is something I manage) and I don’t need any accommodations beyond “sometimes I need to eat in meetings”, but it’s something that is there.
  • and to say: this is me. This is my brain, my body, my life; I’ve had a couple of people asking simply in the spirit of “really? Can you tell me more about it?” so…explanation!

And now a brief diversion via storytime for the fourth reason that I’m writing this…

Basically, one day last week, I messed up. There’s various factors that affect my sugar levels and how they work with my body, including how well I’ve slept and what I’ve been eating (which is why you’ll sometimes find me talking about having a “shaky” day). I hadn’t been doing anything that I knew would trigger issues, and I woke up fine and trundled myself on my walk to work. I realised when I got in that I was a bit tired, but it was the point that I put my bag down and had to try three times to open it that I got a bit suspicious. I can’t always judge how well/badly I’m doing, so it is always a little bit of a guessing game to see where I am on the when-I-need-food scale, and that morning I was struggling a lot sooner than I normally would do…

And that was when I went via a friend’s desk on my way to make tea and porridge, as they know me, and know how to cope – and I had a sneaking suspicion that I might need someone there to watch my back.

The point I nearly dropped the kettle the first time was a bit of a giveaway that I’d been right to be suspicious; the second time got the kettle taken off me before I tipped hot water everywhere, and the point I got tunnel vision was the point I sat myself down on the floor! I think I startled a few caffeine-deprived coworkers, but my friend just handed my tea down to me and spent the next fifteen minutes cheerfully disclaiming any responsibility to said startled coworkers and checking my porridge hadn’t exploded, while I cracked up laughing and got as much of my tea into me as I could. Because I’d caught it in time, I had enough energy to get back to my desk and get breakfast in me (which my friend kindly delivered, mostly to save the carpet from spilled porridge) and by lunchtime I was back to normal. Not unusual in my general experience, but the first time I’ve been that bad at work – and in front of other people *winces* which was…well. Not fun, for them and for me – sorry to anyone I scared!

But! I will bet quite a bit of chocolate that the above incident was the first time everyone (except said friend) in that kitchen had realised there was anything different about the way my body processes glucose and the way I deal with it. Invisible illnesses are invisible – until they’re visible!

So this is your PSA on dealing with hypoglycemia, or at least my case. In anyone with a more severe condition, these timeframes will be a lot shorter, and they’ll have specific things they need to do – but in all cases, more glucose is never a bad thing.

What does it look like?

The first things people tend to notice (to do with my hypoglycemia, anyway) are;

  • I’m the snack queen – I’ll usually have a cereal bar, packet of biscuits or banana on me, and my desk drawer always has a selection of noms;
  • I’ll occasionally hold my hand out flat and stare at it intently for a few seconds, usually after someone’s asked me “how are you doing?”;
  • I usually give time periods before I next need a meal, which can range from “eh, I’m fine” to “you’ve got half an hour and then I WILL NEED FOOD.”
  • I’ll occasionally interrupt things with, “Sorry, I need to eat” and cheerfully continue with whatever it was with the addition of a cereal bar. It seems to flummox some people. (Sorry!)
“When did you last eat?”

The root of hypoglycemia is something everyone gets if they don’t eat enough: low blood sugar. A lot of the initial symptoms might be recognisable – know anyone that gets hangry, tired or irritable if they skip a meal? I get hungry and then tired, but I’ll also get shaky, which is what I look for in my hand. That’s my first sign that it’s not just hunger – as obviously I do get the same reactions as everyone, and therefore “hungry” could simply be my stomach demanding a second breakfast or that spare donut 😀

This is basically the “Kate, you’re a bit grumpy/tired/pale, when did you last eat?” stage, and the solution is a decent meal – for me, preferably something hot and with carbs. However, it’s not always quite that simple: my anxiety means that I often find it hard to go to restaurants or buy food, and if I’m not doing great, I’ll actively avoid eating because it’s stressful…which then, of course, makes me worse. (Yes, I know. That’s why it’s anxiety: it’s not rational.) Various friends know what to look for with this, as it’s quite hard to explain – but as a quick solution if I don’t want to eat, get yourself food and share it with me. It’s one of the shortcuts for my anxiety brain, and will at least get enough energy into me that I’ll hopefully get myself sorted shortly afterwards!

Umbles

If I ignore the hungry I-should-eat – which I can, and frequently do – then I start getting then I get what I affectionately call the “umbles”; mumbles, grumbles, fumbles, bumbles. I’ll drop things. I start getting noticeably tired. I’ll be a bit more clumsy – I’ve referred to “egg days” before, after the day I was handed an egg for baking and it went straight through my fingers…

So if I’m at the I’m at the a-bit-shaky stage, hand me a cereal bar or biscuits, but preferably something not too sugary – so oats, nuts, plain biscuit, that sort of thing. Chocolate isn’t great because it’s too quick a rush, and while it works, if I don’t then get something more substantial in me then I’ll come down off the sugar rush HARD, which hurts. The amount of people that give me chocolate when I’m looking a bit shaky is lovely – I thank them profusely and save it for later. (Definitely not wasting chocolate.)

This is also the stage where if I say to you, “I need to go and eat NOW,” it is not the time to just spend ten minutes faffing or “oh but I just need to-” because I am now on a time limit and You. Are. Not. Helping. If I ever say this and look like I want to murder you, that’s why. (In the nicest possible way, of course.)

“Ok, I’m not doing great: help?”

I can push through the shakiness. I know, I know – but if I do then hey, I get a bit of a second wind! Which depletes my reserves and I shortly end up in exactly the same shaky position just without the second wind option, and I really should, by now, know better. It’s easy to just keep going, but the consequences can be nasty (which I’ll go into in a sec). It also happens if I haven’t eaten for 10+ hours (for example, if I’ve been asleep…) or my body’s having a strange day with how it’s processing things, so it’s not just me making terrible decisions.

This is, to me, the “ok, this isn’t great” sitting-on-the-floor and completely-out-of-energy stage – I’ll be properly ‘umbles’, shaking, likely close to fainting if I move too fast, and I can feel an ache in my muscles. I’ll probably also be fairly pale, having trouble focusing, talking quite slowly, and generally a bit subdued.

I’ll possibly also ask for help if I’m around friends – that’s when you know it’s bad!

The solution: anything sugary straight off, and then a decent meal of some sort to back it up. A good compromise is tea, preferably with two sugars, and make sure I’ve got a damn good grip on the mug because I’m likely to drop it. I say ‘compromise’ there because the hot liquid and sugar hurt my stomach but it’s the best thing mentally, and also usually the simplest thing for someone else to make. Also be aware that it will take me about fifteen minutes to get enough sugar in me to recover and get myself somewhere (in last week’s case, off the floor and back to my desk) and then up to 3 hours to get everything back up and running – the aftermath feels a bit like a flu ache, so I’m likely to be moving slowly and holding on to things for a little while after.

The friend help at this stage is often more to field off enquiries and well-meaning people; I know what I need to do, and I’m usually already doing it. It’s also to carry things – yes, I have dropped full mugs of tea before because they’re too heavy – and generally just make sure I am recovering. I’ll still be completely compos throughout all of this; it doesn’t affect my brain (much), only my body. So just keep talking to me, and I’ll probably be laughing at myself while working through tea!

This is pretty bad… (not likely to happen soon to me, at least)

I can keep going, but I’ve not been that much of – frankly – a damned idiot for 15 years. Apparently I collapse, have a fit, and if I then push past that – which I’ve never done – I’d end up in a) hospital, or b) a coma. Fun.

So, if I (or circumstances) do push far enough that I do collapse: let me pass out. I’ll recover, and then you can do the above – aka. feed me sugar. Paramedics can’t do anything: I appreciate it’s a bit scary to see someone shaking on the floor, but it really is a case of just letting it happen and then dealing with the aftermath. I appreciate that anyone around me would probably call an ambulance anyway because it’s hard to tell what is causing a fit, but if you at least tell them I have hypoglycemia they’ll be able to confirm that’s the cause, rather than anything worse. In the one experience I have had, I’d recovered by the time the paramedics turned up and was able to reassure them I was fine.

General advice for any of these stages: talk to me.

Yes, my brain’s sometimes an idiot but if you ask me when I next need to eat, I’ll tell you! I’m also a lot better at letting people know and planning it in to trips, and letting people know if I am having a problem; it’s something that I can – and will – talk about.

If you’re not sure, then ask me (and feel free to tell me that I’m an idiot, as long as you back that up with actual help).

So that’s your random PSA for mild hypoglycemia in Kate form!

cookie

5 Happy Things: October 2018

Happy things for October! (How the heck have we got to October?!)

Two black cats curled on the sofa, october 2018

I had a bit of a mental health blip this month…ok, a lot of a blip. It was partly due to moving house and life throwing a load of things at me, and partly due to being back on some pills that I knew wouldn’t be great. However, I didn’t think they’d be that bad….and I was wrong. But hey ho! In good news, I am surrounded by amazing people and the ones I reached out to (because that’s usually the only way I’ll accept help) were absolutely wonderful. I’m doing a lot better now – I’m off the damn pills for a start, despite the side effects of that – and I’m back to Happy Kate! I’m a bit tired but other than that, coping with everything again – so far, at least.

Despite the blip, though, there’s been a load of stuff this month that’s made me happy!

1.Being snarky at films.

As anyone who knows me may have figured, I’m not great with TV or films; I find them too intense, and really struggle to watch things (with some exceptions – I’m happy to admit I don’t entirely know how I work). But I’ve been watching more silent films with Badger, and I have been snarking my cynical little heart out – with said Badger laughing at me the entire time! It entirely suits the over-acting of the films, too; there’s just something ridiculous about the drama (although to be fair, we last watched Metropolis), and if cynical snarking means it’s bearable enough for me to watch…well, that seems to be a win.

2.Walking across the fields.

Field of grass, Oxford September 2018

My commute is now across the water meadows on the west side of Oxford, and while they’ve been a source of solace and beauty over the last six months, it was only this week when I got to show my friend Otter my walk home that I realised how much I love them.

A picture of one path is my phone background; I always turn and look at another as I reach a small rise, watching the tracks drop down across the field and into the distance, matched by the march of the pylons overhead. I get the sunrise from behind the trees and church, spilling gold across the fog that lingers on the fields and hollows; I get the sunset that dips behind the hills, lighting the sky with fire even as the track fades into dusk and shade, pooling shadows under every hedgerow. I love the line of the railway bridge as it tumbles down to skim across the lake; the abrupt change from flat stillness, only broken by the haunting calls of the birds, to the lines and edges and glints of the railway, the heaps of stones and barrier fences, the roar of the trains as they rumble past uncaring – and then back down to the tiny path that winds between the willows and ash and elder, the smooth trunks rising in turn until they’re replaced by the pylons again, soaring out of the pool of still water under the crooked causeway bridge. To hear someone else say with wonder, “I never knew this was here…” – and to be able to spread my arms and spin and say, “Yes, and now I can share it with you!”

3.Cats!

Two cats on a cushion and a sofa, october 2018

Our two have learned that the wooden floors are great for skidding on, humans give scritches in exchange for treats, yowling doesn’t get them food any faster but it’s still worth a go, and that THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED CAKE. We had an argument, which I won – eventually. (I suspect it may be a repeated one, though.) Other than that they’re settling in to life: they just skidded around the corner into my bedroom, saw me, panicked that There Is A Human There and promptly ran off again – but they’re slowly getting used to the idea that Humans Do Move, and that the house isn’t too scary, so I think they’re pretty happy.

I also got to meet my gorgeous, arrogant poser again (I’ll ask if I’m allowed to post pictures, because he is beautiful, and also completely and utterly daft) and I’m getting cute cat pictures from another friend on a regular basis in exchange for black fluffball pics – so it’s a tough life!

4.Baking.

I made scones! And I was bopping round the kitchen singing! It’s been really nice to feel like baking and singing again; and I got to do both while chatting about mythology (on which note, I really need to do a series of Alternative Morals For Greek Myths since my fellow-baker came up with “pack a lunch” as being the moral of Persephone…) and laughing at the cats. It was a reminder of something I loved doing, and a reminder that it is coming back. Plus, the scones were nommy!

5.And friends.

All the friends who have been playing ridiculously silly games at lunchtimes with me, texting six supportive gifs in a row and then give me a pep talk, singing karaoke very loudly in the car, telling me I’ll get through this so seriously that I have to believe them and then giving me a huge hug, randomly texting cat pictures, or checking in despite their hectic lives; all the friends that I don’t see for six months and then can catch up with in ten minutes with a hug and a laugh, and it’s like we haven’t been apart; all the friends that I can have long conversations about something completely random with, or sit with and watch something ridiculous (*cough*Metropolis*cough*) for five hours straight;  the friends I can text at stupid hours of the night to catch up with them and find out about their illuminated wardrobes (don’t ask) or their latest Arduino project; the friends who I’m just starting to get to know, and the ones I know will be there in six months or a year or two years, wherever our lives are taking us. I have some fabulous people around me, and I am absolutely blessed and grateful for them all. Thank you!

As a bonus: Peter Cat-paldi being friendly to my housemate!

Peter cat Oct 18

Post-FantasyCon 2018: thoughts and advice

So I was at FantasyCon 2018 this last weekend in Chester, and honestly…it was a bit weird.

I’ve gone from fangirl and small indie author when I last went to the con in 2016, to a senior editor at an indie publisher and junior editor at a mid-list publisher… and that has very much changed the conversations that I’m now involved in. I’ve gone from, “I’ve written a book and I edit stuff” to “what have you written, because I could be interested in it…” alongside “I write and I edit stuff!” – alongside, of course, the always-interested, “So what are you working on at the moment?”

But it did also give me a chance to think about what those conversations were, and how they’ve changed. Being a relative newcomer to the publishing side of things, and having been a writer and editor a very short time ago…actually, what would I have wanted to know two years ago when I was at the con as an author? What could have helped the people I was meeting to get the best of me as an author and writer?

So, some bits of random advice:

Know your elevator pitch

Give me an idea of genre, length, and a very brief idea (as in one sentence) of what your story is, and then another sentence on what makes it stand out (pick one or two themes, characters, settings…) Bluntly, what I need to know is;

a) is this something I can even be interested in as a publisher? (eg. if it’s the wrong genre or style, then I may be interested personally, but I’ll mentally cross it off the list of possibles for my job), and

b) if it is, I want a very brief overview! Catch my interest, make me want to ask you more. And, frankly, this applies to anyone asking about your book, not just publishers – what you’re trying to do is very briefly answer the question, “why do I want to read this?” Because that’s where I’m coming from as a publisher – I want to read it myself first!

And then practise your pitch. Learn it, and trot it out whenever anyone asks – you can always expand on it! But if you start with a long-winded explanation of the background themes…unless I’ve specifically asked about those or we’ve come from a conversation that was relevant to that background, it’s not what I want to start with.

Have your online persona visible

I was guilty of this myself until I put my Grimbold badge on, which has my Twitter handle on it! I recognise names and Twitter handles more than I recognise faces, or I don’t match the two until I see someone – so have it visible!

Mentioning your affiliation is also helpful; if you’re with a particular publisher, or you’ve got a book out that I may have heard of… have a badge, a lanyard, a t-shirt. Give me some hook to go “Oh yes, that thing! You’re part of that/wrote that/know X?”

Or, failing all of that, have something I can ask about! I’m as introverted as the next person – give me something to approach you with, because I suck at approaching people cold.

Your book does not matter until you’ve finished it

Blunt, I know, and it sucks. But I can’t use a half-finished novel, and honestly – as a publisher – I can’t really spend time being interested in it until you’ve proved you can finish it. As a writer and generally Dreadfully Enthusiastic Person, I will likely be cheerleading you on to finish it – but professionally, I can’t do much with something that’s not yet ready!

That said…you can always pitch us! But that’s a bit of a different skill and set of circumstances, and I’d need to see that you have a solid background in actually finishing things before I was interested in a pitch for a not-yet-written novel…which still argues for the “finish something” thing.

Also, if you’re getting caught up with re-writing…please don’t. Get words on the page, finish your first draft, THEN worry about all the problems. Seriously. Just finish the damn thing! (This is apparently a bugbear I didn’t know I had…but man, I got frustrated!)

Write what you want

Do it! Absolutely do it. Yes, you have to write with one eye to the market, and so much of publishing is watching what’s commerical and selling and how the genres are working and…but half the stuff I end up reading is mashups, and I think that’s where the fun of the genre comes from. It might not be as easy a sell, but definitely keep going.

Write, write, write

Don’t pin your hopes on one project. If you want to make a career of writing, you’ve got to keep going – and if you’ve shopped something around and it’s not sold, then shelve it, write something else. If I (or an agent, or a submissions editor) likes your writing and says, “Well, this project doesn’t quite work because it’s the wrong genre/length/style/I can’t sell it at the moment, but what else do you have?” then what else have you got to show off?

 

So, there you go…those are my random thoughts!

FantasyCon 2018: I did the thing!

I was at FantasyCon 2018 in Chester over this last weekend, and it was alternately fabulous, tiring, wonderful, weird and overall pretty exhausting!

First, huge props to the organisers (Allen and Karen) and all the redcloaks – they did a hugely fabulous job with panels, organising, events, answering questions, herding cats… and it was marvellous.

I was on two panels. The first was blogging in genre fiction (which Alexandra Peel did a lovely review of)  – it was great fun as I just got to chat to Alasdair and Kit, and then Micah when he arrived! They’re all always interesting so it definitely felt more like a natter than an actual panel. I did manage to dodge out of my panel on punk on Saturday evening, although I went along anyway – and I’m actually very glad that I did, as my views were very different to everyone else’s! I appreciate that it probably would have made for a good panel, but I also would have got flattened by the combined coilsprings of cheerful rage from Ren Warom and Kit Power, so… selfishly, I’m very glad I didn’t have to talk! (I do want to write a blog post on the subject though). And the second panel was fandom on Sunday, which felt like another natter – we got to talk Marvel, shared worlds and Star Wars!

I also got to see several panels; Writing on a Contract on Friday, which was really interesting; one session of readings from the wonderful Steven Poore, GV Anderson, Allen Stroud and Hal Duncan; a panel on publishing on Saturday afternoon, and one on editing anthologies on Saturday evening; and then a panel on starting out in genre fiction on Sunday morning, followed by underrepresented voices. All the panels were really interesting, and it was great to see so many subjects and voices talking about things they were passionate about – and I learned so much! Plus my reading pile and research list have grown exponentially, as usual… I didn’t haul many books; I picked up Steven Poore’s Heir to the North and Pete Sutton’s Seven Deadly Swords and promptly gave them away to someone who NEEDS TO READ THEM, but I did pick up Margaret Helgadottir’s The Stars Seem So Far Away for myself. I did, however, get a stack of suggestions – as if my reading pile wasn’t bad enough…

In between, I got to talk to people, talk to more people, eat stuff, talk to even more people, get a brief walk around Chester’s wall in the sunshine (absolutely beautiful!) and then keep talking…I spent most of my time with Rebellion’s lovely PR person, Remy, but managed to catch up with a whole bunch of Grimbold Books people, Fox Spirits, some old faces, some people I’d only met so far over t’interwebs, and some new introductions!

I did feel pretty weird throughout the con; I’ve gone from indie author and writer to editor for a mid-list publisher, and I felt I couldn’t win with how I spent my time – I loved seeing everyone I did, but I didn’t feel I spent enough time with anyone! It was very strange meeting so many people as well, having gone from someone who didn’t matter (not in a bad way, just…frankly, I didn’t, two years ago) to someone who might be a good recipient for writing, stories, agent subs, anthology ideas…

So…yeah. I’m still feeling pretty unsettled from that. I was definitely feeling both imposter syndrome and that I was supposed to be filling more of a role that I’m not sure how to work yet; I should have talked to more people, done more deals, found out more about what could be coming our way – but I’m also still the person who was looking at everyone else with wide eyes two years ago, and I still don’t feel I have anything to say. I don’t yet know how to combine those two roles, or how to fill shoes I’ve only been in for six months; I don’t know enough people, don’t know enough about how this world works, don’t know what I can do. I don’t know what my role is meant to be, yet, and every time I stretch I’m wondering when I’m going to hit a boundary or look like someone I’m not.

But. BUT. I’m still the writer, author, editor, the person who loves chatting to anyone and everyone about what they’re writing and hearing about amazing stories. That was my sanity when I was feeling lost, and I think – I hope! – I held on to that well enough to be able to talk coherently to everyone that I did get to speak to! It was amazing to meet so many writers and professionals and enthusiasts; everyone who talked to me was absolutely lovely, and the con has such good energy. Despite feeling unbalanced, I loved meeting everyone.

I’m going to do another post in a sec with some thoughts I had, partly about the above mix of emotions and partly some advice, so keep an eye out for that.

But overall: a fabulous weekend, even if I did manage to miss the karaoke – oh noes! (Apparently it was epic, so I’m half sad to have missed the amusement…but not sad to have missed the chance to demonstrate my awful singing!)

New household members: the Doctors!

We have mini panthers – please meet Jodie WhittaCat (right) and Peter Cat-paldi (left)! My housemate named them…guess who the Dr Who fan is in the household!

They’re from Oxford Cats Protection, and they’re siblings at about 6 months old. Currently they’re still quite shy, but have got the whole Humans Give Food and KILL THE STRING thing down, and are getting there with If I Get Strokes I Get Treats, So I’ll Tolerate This. So far, they seem to be settling in ok!

Two black cats; Peter and Jodie