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The people at Wellspring were easy to talk to. They were into eye contact, and open about how what Brand had said was true: Beneath the good vibes and aerial-yoga acrobatics, many attendees at this conference told me they were sober or currently dealing with addiction. The ultra-runner Engle was not alone in the conscious replacement of substances with wellness. But addicted or not, many of the people I met had turned to wellness to explicitly fill some space previously occupied by a substance or behavior or person, so as not to relapse into self-destructive habits.
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I was diagnosed as a Type I diabetic in October 1993. I was traveling at the time, and I felt lethargic, I was always thirsty, and I was having trouble concentrating. When I returned home, I went for a checkup, and the doctor confirmed my condition. From that day forward, I’ve been injecting myself with insulin every day. Before I switched to an insulin pump in 2011, I calculated that I had given myself about 30,000 needles. That’s a lot of jabbing.
High blood glucose sets up a domino effect of sorts within your body. High blood sugar leads to increased production of urine and the need to urinate more often. Frequent urination causes you to lose a lot of fluid and become dehydrated. Consequently, you develop a dry mouth and feel thirsty more often. If you notice that you are drinking more than usual, or that your mouth often feels dry and you feel thirsty more often, these could be signs of type 2 diabetes.
The same thing applies to the chronic back and leg pain so many people have. There may be a few pain signals coming up from tired muscles or joints toward the brain. Those signals go through nerve centers called “pain gates.” Those “gates” are where the signals are mixed with other sense data, feelings, and body states such as tension. In people with chronic pain, the gates amplify the signals over and over until the pain is severe. They do this because the brain thinks the person needs to be warned away from a real threat, such as taking a hand out of the fire so it doesn’t burn.
For a wellness festival, there was an unexpected amount of talk about the importance of suffering and pain. In one panel about addiction, the ultramarathoner Charlie Engle, who ran 30 marathons in his first three years of sobriety, told the story of his first son being born. “He was gonna save me,” Engle recalled, “and then six days later, after a crack binge, the police are searching my car, and I had to choose between living and dying. And I chose running ... I wanted to pound that part of me out and never visit it again.”
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Diabetes is a number of diseases that involve problems with the hormone insulin. Normally, the pancreas (an organ behind the stomach) releases insulin to help your body store and use the sugar and fat from the food you eat. Diabetes can occur when the pancreas produces very little or no insulin, or when the body does not respond appropriately to insulin. As yet, there is no cure. People with diabetes need to manage their disease to stay healthy.