Mclean Hospital

Podcast: The Road To Research

August 20, 2019

  • Listen on Apple Podcasts
  • Listen on Spotify
  • Listen on Google Podcasts

On today’s episode, Trevor discusses the importance of being mindful and breathing. He’s then joined by Laura Germine, PhD, technical director of the McLean Institute for Technology in Psychiatry, who talks about her non-traditional career path.

A type 1 diabetes diagnosis in graduate school led Laura to change her career focus to research. She was recently awarded one of the largest grants in McLean’s history to study type 1 diabetes and mental health. She also discusses use of technology in mental health treatment and research and the website she created, Test My Brain.

Episode Highlights

  • Laura explains the continuous glucose monitor installed in her leg that monitors her sugar levels (07:25)
  • Laura discusses the website she created in college, TestMyBrain.org, which has over 2.5 million users (15:41)
  • Laura has struggled with panic attacks since her youth (26:20)

Relevant Content

Episode Transcript

Trevor: Welcome to Mindful Things. Welcome returning listeners, welcome new listeners. How’s everybody doing? Real quick, before today’s interview, I find this happens a lot. I’m sitting down, I’m working, I’m doing some audio editing or video editing, or I’m reading something, and all of a sudden, a lot of physical tension builds in my chest or in my head. And what’s strange is that for the life of me, I can’t figure out what’s triggering this. I’m just working. My thoughts are focused on work or whatever I’m reading. I read camera blogs, a lot of those. So, it’s not like there’s rarely an article from a camera blog that I find triggering. I probably read them because they don’t do that. And yet all of this, I mean real, real physical pressure builds up. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out what’s triggering me emotionally because I wrongly assume that it’s an emotional trigger and it’s not.

It’s the simple fact that I just forgot to breathe. This happens a lot. You hear a lot in ... probably anybody who’s listening that has gone to therapy has at some point been told to breathe, to be mindful of your breathing and that’s good. Initially, I think I took it the wrong way. I thought it was to remember to breathe deep, taking a lot of oxygen. And that’s important for me too, because I take a lot of shallow breaths, but I think it’s to remind us to know what the feeling of regular rhythmic breath or the action of breathing to remember what that feels like. Because the thing is some of us just plain forget. I don’t know why I do it. I honestly don’t know. And I’ve done enough soul-searching in the past year that that’s one I’m just going to shelf and work on.

I know I’m not the only one who has this problem. I’ve talked to a lot of people that have this problem. I’m sure some of you listening right now are like, “Yeah, I have this problem.” I bet even some of you don’t even know you have it, but sometimes I just stop breathing. I just stop, and I hold it. And this is an assumption because I really haven’t taken the time to study it, but I almost wonder if the reason I do it is that feeling that tension is almost a comfort zone for me, and that’s not good. So, I need to stop doing that because robbing your brain and heart of oxygen, that’s just going to build tension in your body, and that tension in your body can make the difference in how you express yourself emotionally. It could be the difference when it comes to a dispute, a mild misunderstanding, an argument. I need to remember just to breathe.

I’ll just be sitting there, cat on my lap and watching an episode of 30 Rock, like I’m in heaven, and I’ll just forget to breathe. It’s not good, so remember to breathe. I’m sure I’m the 10 millionth podcast about mental health that has brought up this subject, but it really is important. You got to breathe. Try it now. Try it with me right now. We’re going to breathe. Let’s see, let’s go 20 seconds. Okay. You’re driving. You’re sitting there maybe on the bus, maybe on the subway, maybe you’re at home, maybe at your office just listening to this. We’re going to take 20 seconds, and we’re going to breathe together. Okay. At the count of three, three, two, one. I just said at the count of three and then I counted down backwards. At the count of three, one, two, three.

I’m sure that was way more than 20 seconds. It’s kind of difficult to focus on your breathing and then count to 20. How do you feel? Actually, I feel okay, and okay for me is, that’s amazing. Remember to breathe. It’s really, really important. On today’s episode, Laura Germine, let me tell you about Laura Germine. I wouldn’t say this word is part of the contemporary rhetoric, but Laura Germine is a hoot. She’s a lot of fun to talk to. She understands there’s an art to conversation, and we talk about this in the episode and just the rhythmic and the back and forth of it. She is the technical director of the McLean Institute for Technology in Psychiatry. She’s very much involved with building technology for studying cognition and behavior using web and mobile devices. And she actually uses a mobile device to monitor her glucose levels, and we go into all of this in the episode, but in short, she has something installed in her. It sends data to her phone, and that’s how she can monitor her glucose levels because she has type 1 diabetes.

Again, we’re going to go into that in great detail. She’s a lot of fun to talk to. Would love to have her back, and I hope you enjoy it. This is me interviewing Laura Germine. You have way more energy than I do today.

Laura: Well, is that good? Do you have—

Trevor: That’s fine.

Laura: ... less energy than you want to have?

Trevor: Yes.

Laura: Okay. I’m sorry.

Trevor: It happens. What is going on with your phone. You can’t turn it off because it’ll—

Laura: It’s a medical device essentially. So, I have a continuous glucose monitor in my leg, and the phone is the receiver for the data from it. So, if I were to start to plummet, my blood sugar would start to plummet. The phone is what tells me.

Trevor: Right. But it’s not communicating that information straight to your phone. It’s going to a server somewhere and then it’s going to your phone. Right?

Laura: It’s Bluetooth. So, I believe it goes—

Trevor: Right to the phone.

Laura: ... directly in my phone and then it goes to a server somewhere where they mine it—

Trevor: So, it does eventually go to a server?

Laura: It does eventually go somewhere. And then I think it actually goes to my doctor.

Trevor: Really?

Laura: ... who ignores it. Nothing against my doctor. You just don’t have enough time. But it goes to my doctor so that I can feel like someone’s watching in a good way but no one is—

Trevor: No one’s watching. How does that get around HIPAA, or do you have to sign a HIPAA release for that?

Laura: I’m pretty sure I sign things related to the device and the company getting access to my blood glucose information, although I don’t know. Do they have identifying information with me? Probably something. Yeah. When it comes to blood glucose, I feel like there’s other things to worry about privacy-wise. I’m not so concerned about the cloud knowing my blood sugar levels at any given moment.

Trevor: Right—it makes sense. So, it’s been really good for you?

Laura: It’s been really great. It’s been really good. It’s actually a game changer from before when you had to do a finger stick every time. And the problem is your blood sugar can change quickly. And then maybe if it changes really quickly, your ability to detect that your blood sugar is changing quickly based on your internal symptoms is impaired because you’re changing too quickly, and the change itself causes you to have a problem detecting it. So, it’s the most dangerous, and these devices that we’re constantly monitoring, it wakes you up at night if you go low in the night, which is one of the really dangerous times.

Like when I first got diagnosed, of course I started Googling about this disease, and there was this thing called dead-in-bed syndrome, which is a common, I say common, it, it was one of the ways that people with type 1 diabetes die is that in the morning they are discovered dead in bed. And the idea is they had overnight a low blood glucose that was not corrected either because they didn’t wake up or because maybe they did, but they couldn’t correct it because they were too impaired at that point and then they just don’t.

Trevor: So, has technology curbed the numbers on that substantially. I mean—

Laura: Yes, it’s an access issue, yeah—

Trevor: ... well, assuming you get to use it.

Laura: Right, it’s an access issue now. So, I am of an education level in socioeconomic status that I have good health care, and I have health insurance that can get me access to these devices, but not everyone is. And that’s base and that’s ... So it’s something like, I want to say 20% of people with type 1 diabetes have access to these sensors and these glucose monitors, which are really by far the most important aspect of self-management in terms of safety and making sure that you don’t hit sort of a crisis point in a very short period of time. But it’s just not, they’re expensive. They’re expensive for insurance companies. They are expensive for the system, and so for a lot of people it’s not accessible.

Trevor: Right. I know a lot of people that are using technology for up-to-the-second data. I have a friend, her and her husband, they’re both in their 40s. They’re trying to conceive again, and she has a gizmo inside of her that alerts her the precise moment when she’s about—

Laura: She’s going to ovulate. It’s time to get friendly.

Trevor: Yeah, like that exact moment.

Laura: Yeah. It’s amazing. Yeah. Yeah.

Trevor: I think we were ordering pizza, and all of a sudden, this alarm went off, and the funny thing, oh that’s her and I have been friends since school. We go back like he was at work, and she’s looking and thinking, and then looking at me wondering if she’s going to have to send me home early.

Laura: She’s like, “I’m sorry, but I’m ovulating.”

Trevor: Yeah, and I need my husband to come home early for like the, and I was like, this is why I don’t have kids. This is a horror film to me.

Laura: Yeah. Well, for you, yeah—

Trevor: For me, yeah.

Laura: ... It’s also a tale of—

Trevor: That’s just how it is.

Laura: ... how it is in life and romance really. That was the sound of romance that you heard roaming on her phone.

Trevor: There is that element that I choose to ignore, but yeah you are right. That is there. Yeah.

Laura: She’s not for you because you were not part of the romance that was happening so.

Trevor: No, not that I know of. Not that I know of. Yeah. So how are you feeling today?

Laura: I’m feeling good. I’m feeling good. I’m glad to be here. Yeah.

Trevor: Can I ask you a potentially uncomfortable question? You blink a lot.

Laura: Yes, I have thyroid eye disease.

Trevor: Oh really?

Laura: And thank you for acknowledging that I blink a lot because so many times I say to people, I’m sorry that I’m blinking a lot. It’s not that I’m skeptical of you, it’s just that I have—

Trevor: I didn’t get that a lot.

Laura: ... an eye thing.

Trevor: And those people are skeptical of me, so it’s fine.

Laura: Though it’s universal. Yeah. I blink a lot. So, I have an autoimmune condition called thyroid eye disease that basically means that my immune system attacks the various parts of my eyes. One of the side effects is dry eye and especially when it’s allergy season, my eyes feel like small uncomfortable stones in my face. And so I blink like crazy.

Trevor: So wait, I’m sorry. It’s a neurological thing?

Laura: It’s an autoimmune thing. It’s not neurological. It’s like, it’s in my eyes, my eyes just aren’t good at regulating their dryness.

Trevor: And so, what do you do to combat that? Blink?

Laura: Blink a lot.

Trevor: Yeah. There’s nothing. There’s no medicine.

Laura: So there’s actually, there’s the active stage and a residual stage. I forget those exact words, but during the active stage, you ever see people with bulging eyes where their eyes look like they’re popping out of their face.

Trevor: I really try not to look at people at all, but yes, I have seen.

Laura: Yeah, that’s one of the things that can happen in the active stage. I was fortunate that it didn’t happen to me. And so people get this bug eye kind of thing going on because the tissue behind their eyes is swollen.

Trevor: Wait a minute, and I think I’ve heard like some people’s eyes will actually come out, right?

Laura: And they cannot close all the way.

Trevor: And they can’t close. Yes, I have heard of this.

Laura: They cannot close all the way. I was very fortunate. That did not happen to me. However, I did have—

Trevor: Can you make it happen during this interview?

Laura: If I could, I might. I probably wouldn’t anyway, but probably fortunately I cannot. So, but thank you. Because I always say I’m blinking, and people are like, “No, you’re not.” I’m like, “Yeah, I am. You and I both know that I’m blinking a lot.” So.

Trevor: Well, it’s not just a blink. It’s a really—

Laura: Yeah, it’s a forceful blink.

Trevor: ... to me I thought you were in pain. Like you were wincing at something.

Laura: Like wincing at you or something—

Trevor: Yeah. Maybe like here I’m so annoyed by this guy he makes me wink—

Laura: Right, that I might be in pain looking at you. So, this is what I tell people because I’m like, “It’s not you, it’s my eyeballs.” And then they’re like, “No, no, no. It’s cool. I didn’t notice anything.”

Trevor: Yeah, you were wincing a lot during the photographs. You can say it was because it was a horrible experience.

Laura: It was a horrible experience, and when things are a horrible experience, it makes my eyes dry and then I have to blink even more. So, Chris just dried the hell out of my eyeballs during that photography session. That’s all I’m saying.

Trevor: I say we get rid of the theme song and just replace it with, Chris dried the hell out of my eyeballs and welcome to Mindful Things.

Laura: Love it.

Trevor: Well, yeah, me too.

Laura: The important stuff.

Trevor: Yeah. So, you’re doing well.

Laura: Yeah, I am. Things are going well.

Trevor: I’m going to not lie. I tried to do your internet thing.

Laura: My internet thing. You went to Test My Brain?

Trevor: Yeah. I went to Test My Brain, and I started it, and I stopped because I felt that if I clicked on something, I was going to end up in a 4chan room somewhere, and the police are going to ... and I know we talked about that. I know we talked about the design of the page. That’s on purpose, right?

Laura: So, what did you do specifically?

Trevor: I don’t remember. I just remember not feeling comfortable.

Laura: Was it faces?

Trevor: Probably.

Laura: Was it people creepily looking at you?

Trevor: Probably.

Laura: With creepy—

Trevor: Yeah. Yeah, I think so.

Laura: … creepy facial expressions.

Trevor: Yeah, because I tried it right after our pre-interview, and our pre interview was a while ago, right? Was it like late this year?

Laura: Yeah. So, we’ve got some tests on there that our social perception—

Trevor: Well, first of all can you give me some background on what that is? On what Test My Brain is?

Laura: Yeah. So, Test My Brain is essentially a digital research laboratory. So, it’s a website where people can go and participate in studies that involve cognitive tests and self-report questionnaires. And in exchange, they get their results at the end. So, things last 5 to 25 minutes depending on the study. And at the end, people get their results compared to the average person who takes that particular test. So, whether their score was higher or lower, or whether if they had taken an anxiety questionnaire, whether they tend to be more anxious or less anxious than the average person who took the tests. And we use that data to develop better instruments, to test hypotheses, to understand more about how the mind works and about how different sorts of people are different from each other and what those differences might mean. I think the platform has been around for … we’re going on 11 years now, and we’ve tested almost 2.5 million people.

Trevor: Yeah. And I remember I went to the site while we were doing our pre-interview over the phone, and I remember, and I could be remembering incorrectly, that we talked about there was a reason why it had a very sparse design. And that’s not an insult, but that was for a reason, right? No.

Laura: Yeah. So, we try to make it simple. It’s not marketing focus. It’s like we’re not trying to sell anything on the front page, and I think that it’s—

Trevor: And you know what? And that’s probably why. That’s probably why it kind of looks weird. It’s like I’m not being smacked in the face with a thousand ads.

Laura: We try not to smack any faces in the course of testing or recruitment. We don’t spend, we have a budget from research grants in many cases, and so, we’re not spending that budget on things being shiny. We’re spending it on having instruments that are solid and avoiding technical issues and trying to make things accessible to people who are sometimes turned off by things being a little bit too complicated or too busy. So.

Trevor: Let’s back up a bit so we can give the site some more context. So, you were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when?

Laura: So, I was diagnosed in the very beginning of 2008. And it was my first year of graduate school. I was fortunate I didn’t have any symptoms really. I had a one-off blood test where they found my blood sugar was a little bit high, and they said, “Hey, you should come back in six weeks, and we’ll test it again.” So, I came again, and my blood sugar was higher. And then they told me I had type 2 diabetes. And so I said, okay, that, that sucks. And I started reading up about it. And then when I went in to get trained on how you test your blood sugar as a person with type 2 diabetes, and at that point my blood sugar was 450, and the normal range is sort of 70 to 160. I was up at 450, and I remember—

Trevor: I’ve never had diabetes. Is there a feeling? Is there a physical feeling?

Laura: I didn’t feel anything. Which is why in some ways it was not to say I wanted to go to the ER, but I felt fine and to know that in the background—

Trevor: You felt fine, but did you feel any different?

Laura: No.

Trevor: Did you feel ...Nothing?

Laura: Nothing. And when they told me my blood sugar was 450, I was sort of like, “What does that mean?” And they’re like, “You don’t have type 2 diabetes. You have type 1 diabetes.” And all I knew about type 1 diabetes is Julia Roberts dies of it in “Steel Magnolias.” That’s all. That’s literally like all I knew. I was like, hold on, this killed Julia Roberts in “Steel Magnolias.”

Trevor: Can you do the Sally Field monologue?

Laura: No, I can’t.

Trevor: No, you can’t—

Laura: I’ve avoided that movie ever since my diagnosis. I’m blocking every scene in that movie as much as possible because of Julia Roberts and her type 1 diabetes. So yeah, I’ve tried to—

Trevor: Ironically, I just watched it a few weeks ago.

Laura: Did you?

Trevor: Yeah, seriously.

Laura: Yeah. It’s depressing when you’re like, by the way, you’re going to die like Julia Roberts does in “Steel Magnolias.” And I was totally, just completely shocked.

Trevor: Well, not to sound cheesy, but actually let’s bring in this “Steel Magnolias” thing. You have children. Did you have children prior to your diagnosis?

Laura: No, I didn’t.

Trevor: No.

Laura: No.

Trevor: Okay. So, you know where I’m going with this?

Laura: Yeah. So, I asked three questions. I said, “Am I going to die?” And my doctor said, “Well eventually, but hopefully not soon.” I said, can I still—

Trevor: Wait, eventually as in like we’re all going to die or eventually like.

Laura: She was a little hand wavy about it, but I think she was trying to say we’re all going to die, and we’ll keep you alive as long as we can, you’ll probably be okay. That kind of thing. I said, “Can I still be in graduate school? Do I have to quit school?”

Trevor: So that was question two?

Laura: That was question two. And she said, “No, you can stay in graduate school.” And then I said, “Can I ever have children?” And she said, “It’s going to be tough, but you can do it.” And that was, look, I’m getting emotional. I wouldn’t think it was that when they got me anyway, and yeah, and it was tough. Oh my gosh, it was tough. It was tough. Having kids with type 1 diabetes sucks.

Trevor: I don’t want to get into the weeds, but what did your doctor mean by tough? As in like tough as in the chances of you having a successful birth are low? Or tough as in the chances that you’ll be able to conceive will be hard?

Laura: Yeah.

Trevor: What does tough mean under those circumstances?

Laura: So, conceiving is probably a little harder, but really it’s the pregnancy itself and having a complication-free pregnancy is hard. There’s a lot of complications both for the mother and the child that can happen when someone has type 1 diabetes.

Trevor: And you have two kids at this point?

Laura: I have two kids, yeah. So, I did it twice this whole thing.

Trevor: Pound it out?

Laura: Yeah. Seriously. It was—

Trevor: A bunch of people on this podcast just heard me go pound it out and no context whatsoever. They didn’t see the fact that we—

Laura: It was solid fist bump.

Trevor: Yeah, when we bumped fist.

Laura: Yeah, it was a good fist bump. So, like the pregnancy itself, you have to control your blood sugar constantly, and your body’s doing everything it can to mess up that process.

Trevor: Okay, what does that mean? I know nothing about it. What does that mean? Control your blood sugar.

Laura: Oh my gosh. So, whenever you eat something that has carbohydrate in it, your blood sugar goes up, and your body makes insulin to offset that. When you have type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t make anything. It basically does—

Trevor: It doesn’t any make any insulin.

Laura: It doesn’t make any insulin. So, you have to inject insulin from external to address those carbohydrates. If you inject too much, you go low, you potentially pass out, potentially seizure, potential death. If you don’t inject enough, your blood sugar goes high, long-term complications, kidney failure, retinopathy vascular dementia, all sorts of stuff. So, you have to inject the exact right amount that you neither go too high nor too low. That exact right amount is almost impossible to guess. Lots of trial and error. You have to be able to estimate your carbs really well. You have to think about your activity over the past 24 hours. You have to think of your stress level, your sleep level, all of these factors to figure out how much insulin you need at that moment for that meal, for that time.

Trevor: Does your app give you an idea?

Laura: A little bit.

Trevor: A little bit.

Laura: A little bit, but really, it’s an internal computation that you have to largely get good at doing. Like knowing that for instance, I went to the gym yesterday, so I need to give myself less insulin today because I went to the gym yesterday. That’s something I just need to keep in mind.

Trevor: Well, you’re a very, very smart, intelligent person, but nobody’s perfect. What happens when you forget because you have forgotten something, yes?

Laura: Oh yeah. Yeah.

Trevor: And so, what do you do? Do you sit there and just fret? Like what do I do?

Laura: There’s a certain equanimity I guess that you need to kind of have because like my last time I went hypoglycemic was last night, and it was because I went to the gym, and I turned my insulin down overnight, but not enough. Last time I had high blood sugar was this morning because instead of eating half a bagel, I ate slightly more than half a bagel, and I only gave myself insulin for half. These are just facts of life and during pregnancy they’re facts of life that could harm your baby. So, it’s this very intense, scary kind of thing to constantly be doing this balancing act when you’re also not just trying to protect yourself to protect this child as well. So, I think that’s ... things have gotten so much better like now—

Trevor: How?

Laura: Like now I have a device that reads my blood sugar every five minutes and tells me if things get dangerous. I have another device that gives me insulin that I can turn the insulin down or up if I need to. Like, if I go to the gym and I want to turn my insulin down, whereas before people more on these regimens where you had a fixed amount of insulin every day and you had to eat to match the insulin as opposed to giving insulin to match the food. And that was the way you would deal with this disease. The rates—

Trevor: Yeah, but when North Korea fires an EMP over us and takes down electricity and destroys our network, what then?

Laura: I have a zombie apocalypse plan. Are you kidding? I have a zombie apocalypse plan.

Trevor: I have a run bag, and it’s packed, and it’s already to go.

Laura: So, there’s a plan. I’m not someone who’s going to stay alive for long when the zombie apocalypse happens. I’m hoping to eke eat out three months, right. Just get everyone to safety and then we’ll see what happens. I also—

Trevor: I’m just going to sit it out and just let what happens happens. Me and the cat, we’re just going to chill.

Laura: What if the cat is also a zombie? I mean, we don’t know how the zombie apocalypse would work.

Trevor: I’m totally fine with my cat eating me.

Laura: Your cat might be the first thought. You would let your cat just eat you?

Trevor: Yes. I love that little asshole that much.

Laura: Well, that is a very simple zombie apocalypse plan then. My zombie apocalypse plan is much more elaborate than that.

Trevor: This is a kind of scary thing to say, but when it comes to personal death, I’m very simple about it.

Laura: Well, that’s freeing I guess in a way. I would not let my cat eat me. I’m not going down via the zombie cat.

Trevor: She’s going to open up the bag of dry food and wet food and serve it and so here, it’s food it’s right here. Just a sack of food. Go at it.

Laura: My dog maybe. I don’t know. Not my cat. I’m fighting. I’m fine. Three months. I’ve got a three-month zombie apocalypse plan. I’m going to survive three months. The zombie apocalypse plan obviously applies to other infrastructure-destroying apocalyptic events.

Trevor: Sure. Sure.

Laura: Right. Yeah. So. And a lot of people you can Google almost any chronic disease and zombie apocalypse plan. The internet is full of people’s zombie apocalypse plans. It’s important. Psychologically, it’s important.

Trevor: So now you have type 1 diabetes. This is prior to children. How does this affect grad school?

Laura: Oh, so—

Trevor: I mean you’ve got the go-ahead to go back.

Laura: Yeah, I got the go-ahead to go back. I now had this part-time job and beginning of a full-time job of figuring out how the hell do I manage my ... how do I act like a pancreas? How can I be my own pancreas from the outside? It takes a lot of mental energy. It takes a lot of physical energy. I was dealing with low blood sugars that I didn’t know what the warning signs were. I was dealing with high blood sugars, and I didn’t know how scared I should be. I didn’t know how to estimate carbohydrates just by glancing at a thing. It wasn’t a skill I had. And I think the psychological part was the hardest though. I just felt scared all the time. I was scared of what I felt inside. So, I used to get panic attacks, and I’ve struggled with it less now. But when I was younger, I used to have frequent panic attacks in many situations.

Trevor: Prior to the diagnosis.

Laura: Prior to the diagnosis. And I remember one of the things I thought when I got diagnosed is, they’re like, okay, it seems the hypoglycemia is very important for you to know. Your heart will race, you will feel sweaty, you will feel light-headed, you might feel a little bit disoriented. I’m like, you’re telling me the symptoms of the thing I need to be shit-scared of are the symptoms of a panic attack. The thing that I’ve been telling myself to ignore and not to worry about and not to catastrophize over as like the core of how I deal with this anxiety that I have, and now all of a sudden all of those things that I was supposed to ignore, I now have to focus on and to think about and to catastrophize over? That was like, I don’t even know how to deal with that.

And so, I had a lot of anxiety for a while trying to internally monitor, but then CBT myself into being like, it’s cool, don’t worry. These are just internal sensations that, “Oh my God, I’m going to die.” And I’m being told, yeah, you need to take that stuff seriously. So that was a struggle. It was about six months to a year when I was really just in my head a lot and trying to just cope.

Trevor: Were you married or had you were ... Were you with your spouse—

Laura: I was married—

Trevor: ... so you were married at the time?

Laura: I was, and my spouse was great. He was the perfect combination of supportive and chill. You know what I mean? They’re supportive, and they’re kind of making you more stressed. But he’s ... I was about to refer to my mother. I won’t do that. This is a public podcast. He was supportive without making me further stressed by being overly intense about anything.

Trevor: Do you want me to cut out the mother comment?

Laura: She’d never listen to this. So maybe the first few minutes. So just don’t put it in the first few minutes of the podcast. She’s never going to listen to it.

Trevor: Okay, it’s fine.

Laura: So, I was very fortunate, and I also had a very supportive set of colleagues. I remember one of my professors going to her and saying, “I’m not going to be able to complete this essay that’s due because I am dying.” And she was so understanding. And so, this is not the most important thing right now.

Trevor: Please tell me you said you’re dying. Please tell me you actually said that. Please.

Laura: If you know me well, I say that I’m dying on a regular basis. Most of my lab is basically a support group to convince me I’m not dying.

Trevor: We were separated in the womb. I am convinced of this.

Laura: Do you always think that you’re dying too?

Trevor: Thinking or wishing, one of the two.

Laura: This is part of my zombie apocalypse plan why I will survive is while everyone else is not worried enough about dying, I’ve been worrying about dying my entire life. So, I am ready for the zombie apocalypse.

Trevor: But if you’re like me, do you also do incredibly reckless things, or do you stay away from those?

Laura: Socially, yes. Physically I’m a complete wuss. I worry about—

Trevor: Have you ever been skydiving?

Laura: ... steep stairs. Oh hell no. Are you kidding?

Trevor: Twice for me.

Laura: No, there’s no way. I won’t even look at a person skydiving.

Trevor: Twice.

Laura: No, I can’t even watch figure skating. There’s no way. It’s too stressful. No, but socially I tend to stick my foot in my face and then stick the other foot also in my face—

Trevor: I do that a lot too.

Laura: ... and then just use some foot chewing. So socially I won’t say reckless. I’d say not as inhibited as I should be.

Trevor: I was having a conversation with somebody we interviewed maybe like two months ago. We’ve been keeping in touch, and we both talked about how that, not reckless, but that out-of-controlness that we dip into every once in a while. That’s actually the only times we feel we’re in control is when we let it go. That’s the great irony.

Laura: There is a way in which when you step outside the box, whatever the box is, it can feel like exploring in a way that everyday life doesn’t, where everyday life can feel restrictive and can feel routine and can feel like, what is the meaning in it?

Trevor: Well, it feels like life.

Laura: It feels like life.

Trevor: I mean—

Laura: But something outside can be liberating—

Trevor: ... it feels like the, I’m living my life thing, because when you’re out, the extremely overrated pop musician John Lennon once said that life is actually, I’m paraphrasing, but life is actually the thing that happens in between the awesome things. Like that’s—

Laura: It’s the boring part?

Trevor: Right. That’s actually life. And I rarely if ever agree with him, but that one I do and—

Laura: What’s the swearing policy here?

Trevor: Everything but the F bomb.

Laura: Everything but the F bomb. Got it. I sometimes do feel like I’m two people, one person who’s just trying to just stay safe and not die and have everything be okay. And another person who was an asshole who is making stupid decisions constantly that are going to put regular me under stress and cause more fear of death, more stress, lack of sleep, all that kind of stuff. But unfortunately, the asshole is the one that tends to make most of the decisions. It’s a struggle. So.

Trevor: So, the reason I’m focusing on this is because in our pre-interview you said something that I found was key. You said that the experience of all of this taught you the experience of being a patient.

Laura: Yes. So, I think type 1 diabetes is not unique in this, but it is one of the diseases where experimenting on yourself is basically the only way you’re going to survive. You need to constantly be monitoring. You need to constantly be collecting data, constantly be trying stuff. Your doctor knows a lot, but you are ... even things like you’re supposed to eat oatmeal, right? Because oatmeal is good for you if you have diabetes. Right? Oh my God, I might as well eat cotton candy, and he told me I can’t eat oatmeal. I cannot eat it since diagnosed. I cannot eat oatmeal. Oatmeal drives my sugar so high, so quickly.

Trevor: Oh, so it’s not a matter of you disliking oatmeal—

Laura: No, I love oatmeal.

Trevor: ... it’s like it has a strong—

Laura: It has a horrible effect on my blood sugar. But that’s not true of everyone. That’s true of me. And those sorts of things are things that you can only know if you’re doing all that self-experimentation, data collection, and all that. And so being your own experiment and the consequences being so important, it’s not just like, hey, things won’t be fun if I don’t get this right. It’s like, no, I could die if I don’t get this right. I could damage the child that I’m currently pregnant with if I don’t get this right. So, it made me realize sort of two things. So, first of all, how the system that is so focused on the ideas and beliefs of scientists and physicians can neglect the individual experiences of patients I think was one thing. And how much patients have to add to our understanding of these disorders.

So, I’ve been going to my doctor and saying, “Hey, I can’t oatmeal. I know you said I should eat oatmeal. I can’t eat oatmeal. My sugar goes high.” And she was sort of like, “Well, it’s better than other things though.” I’m like, “No, it’s not.” I tried those other things. Oatmeal is the worst. And it was sort of like, oh, that’s strange. Let’s get past that. And my doctor now is fantastic. She’s much more sort of thoughtful about my own experiences, but I was sort of between doctors, and it was someone who wasn’t really a specialist at the time. So, there’s a lot of patient input that I think can really drive science in a way that is important. And being a person who was in that position myself, it taught me the lesson in a very visceral sort of way.

Trevor: Right. I find it very strange. Oh, I mean, I’m a person of science, but I also believe that science is constantly evolving, and I feel that the first people that forget that are scientists because they’re very principled and play very ... they draw lines really hard in the sand for somebody, for you to tell somebody, “Hey, oatmeal isn’t working for me,” and for them to come back at you like that. What are you doing? I mean, I’m so lucky. When I first started therapy 20 years ago, I had panic attacks with harming obsessions. So, what it was is that I had constant flashes of me doing horrible things that I knew I wasn’t capable of. So, it would feed into the panic attack even more because I would convince myself that I was dangerous when I wasn’t doing anything. I wouldn’t go to dinner with my parents. I mean, I was in my early 20s. I wouldn’t hang out with friends, and it just made it worse. When I finally went to a doctor, it was a medication experimentation.

Laura: Right. And I think many times the ... and this is not intentional in many cases, it’s just sort of, it’s hard to validate people as much as I think is needed in many cases, especially at the beginning of treatments. So, if you’re experimenting with different drugs and something’s not working, that is not the patient’s fault. It is part of the journey, and it is part of the process. And the fact that a certain treatment regimen isn’t working doesn’t mean the person’s not adhering to it or being compliant. So, I think with type 1 diabetes, this is often a thing where if your blood sugar is high, it is very common not amongst all physicians of course, but there are many physicians where they’re like, “Okay, well what are you doing wrong?” It’s like, “Well no, I’m doing everything. I just can’t get things under control.”

And it’s like, “Well, you’re not doing everything clearly if you can’t get things under another control.” And it’s sort of like the fault of the patient if treatment doesn’t work. That happens in psychiatry as well. You take a medication, and it’s sort of like when you’re not feeling better, well have you been exercising? Have you been doing all the other stuff you’re supposed to be doing with this medication because it’s not going to work if you just take the medication. It’s like, well yeah, if the treatment’s not working for me it’s because the treatment’s not working for me, not because I’m not working for this treatment. So, I think that visceral sense is it’s easy to tell someone that the patient perspective is important. It’s easy to say the patient perspective is important, but.

Trevor: Yeah, I told my PCP at the time, like 20 years ago, my primary, I told him, and this doesn’t even make any sense, I just made it up in my head because it was the only way I could. I accused them of being caustically suspicious, which was a really my nice way of saying, dude, not only are you not believing what I’m saying, but you’re being a dick to me about it at the same time.

Laura: It sounds like a gentle way of saying you’re caustically suspicious.

Trevor: Right. That was the only way I could think of saying it without escalating the situation with anger, yeah.

Laura: People respond badly to negative feedback. Maybe I’m like sort of an insensitive person or something, but I think negative feedback is great. I think if you’re a physician, if you’re a scientist—

Trevor: If you can handle it.

Laura: ... if you can handle it, but you should be able to handle it. As a scientist, I think one of the things that has been great about opening up our research to anyone is that people give us lots of negative feedback, and that’s great because every time someone gives us negative feedback, that’s something we can do better on. We can fix. If we’re just getting positive feedbacks, we can’t fix anything, we can’t make anything better. There’s no improvement. There’s no growth. You’re just stagnant. Now what’s the point? Just go home, go to bed, whatever. Right? At the point someone says, this is broken, you okay. Maybe they could have admitted the offensive words afterwards, whatever. Then you can fix it and so it’s not personal. Or even if it is, who cares? Negative feedback is an opportunity. I hope that I’ve been structuring my scientific career in a way that allows negative feedback to actually make things better, whether that be from patients or people who are non-patients, and they’re just using something for fun. But all that feedback I think is the only way that we get better.

Trevor: Sorry for the movie of the week question, but do you think you’d be where you are today without the disease and those experiences that came with it?

Laura: Oh, it’s hard to say. I think probably not. I mean it could’ve been okay. Things could have been good in a different way, but I had planned on becoming a clinician. I was working in neuroimaging, so doing fMRI studies of the brain at the time that I was diagnosed. And as a consequence of having that early experience where I felt like I didn’t have the mental energy to apply myself to really to helping others for a while, I didn’t feel like I had the energy to do much of anything. I switched into a research-focused program, and I got my sense of worth from the work that I did there, and I also moved away from neuroimaging and more towards digital technology because the kind of work that I was doing where I felt ... so you like to tell a good story about yourself, right? And I like to tell this story—

Trevor: To some people.

Laura: ... to some people. I like to tell this story that I was inspired by digital technology, and I built this platform and then it went viral, and everything was great. But really it was that I was scared that I didn’t have the energy to do the work that I needed to do, and I knew that I could program some stuff. I had some coding ability. So, if I made a website and that could run on its own while I was sick or while I was taking care of myself, then maybe no one would notice that I was failing or something, right. Does that make sense?

Trevor: Yeah. Yeah.

Laura: Like, I’ll build a thing, I’ll put it out there. I can still do research because that thing will be doing the research and then if I crash no one will know. And that was the original sort of push to create all of this stuff. And ultimately I didn’t crash or I felt like I did, but I actually didn’t. I was still doing all of my work and fulfilling all of my requirements and all that, but I put this thing out into the world, and all of a sudden, the way that it had been built was very much with like, I can’t do this. So, people of the world come and take tests, give feedback, tell me what to do next because I feel powerless here. And then that became the platform that it is now. And if I hadn’t done it in that way, if I had done it in consultation with all my advisors as a digital technology initiative that we were going to all build together, it would have been built by scientists for scientists.

But it wasn’t, it was built by me feeling at my weakest for other people to help me. It was a way of having the participation of the world make up for what I felt to be my own deficiencies at the time. And that sounds so dramatic when I say it now—

Trevor: Oh, you clearly haven’t listened to any of this podcast.

... but it was—

Trevor: That is nothing.

Laura: Yeah. It was—

Trevor: Not to invalidate it. I’m just saying you’re fine.

Laura: My drama is fairly mild. Yeah. And then at the point that other people started going to the platform and they started using it for their own purposes, like early on, there’s an autism community that came in, and they started taking all the tests and sharing results with each other and then coming up with their own sort of hypotheses about their own condition based on what they were doing. It went from this way of patching my own deficiencies to this opportunity to do something in a different way and in a way that felt like it felt inclusive and open and liberating. And that in turn helped me feel like I could have a career, even though at the time I was struggling with this new diagnosis. So, all these things fit into each other and who knows what path I would’ve taken if I hadn’t gotten sick. Maybe I ultimately would’ve still rather than being scared of death, I would have been lazy and bored and programmed something, who knows?

But it certainly catalyzed in some ways, facilitated, taking this career path away from what was the traditional way of doing things and what I thought is probably the way to be successful. And I moved away from how to be successful and more towards how to just get by in the way that I knew how. Yeah. But it’s been evolving ever since then, and now I wouldn’t characterize it that way at all. Now it’s, now it’s just fun, I think. Well and work, oh, it’s work. Everything’s work, but work with fun.

Trevor: Are you a lone wolf or—

Laura: No, my gosh, No, my gosh. I’ve coined that phrase trademark.

Trevor: No, my gosh—

Laura: No, my gosh.

Trevor: ... I like that.

Laura: I’ve got a terrific team. So, I was the original—

Trevor: Okay, no, no, no, you may have a terrific team but—

Laura: Yeah, I have a terrific team, and they’re great. And none of the stuff that I’m doing right now could be done without these wonderful people that I have in my lab.

Trevor: Right. But I’m talking about your workflow. Are you the way you work? Are you a lone wolf? Do you ask for help?

Laura: No, but not because I think I’m like bad at asking for help and I’m terrible at asking for help, never mind. I’m terrible at it. I like to find solutions, mess around and find solutions for things before I asked for help. So, it’s less of like, oh no, I’m not going to ask for help because I don’t want to burden this other person. And more of like, I’m a doer. Like when I’m stressed or when I’m feeling like overwhelmed or when I’m feeling powerless, I just start fiddling and start doing and start being like, what if I did that? Would that work? And what if I tried this would that work? And so, I tend to go right into that mode. How do you solve this problem? Because I have all of this internal like, huh, so I need to just get it out by you doing stuff.

And so, I think many times I won’t ask for help because I’ve already gone straight to let’s fiddle this back into place or let’s stick some gum between these two pieces that are broken and see if we get enough gum, if we can get everything to get fixed again. But as you go further in your career, you can’t do that as much. Gum only works so well and so you have to ask for help. And so, I think, I think I’ve gotten better at it. And working with a team, it’s much easier to ask for help for your team because it’s not for you as much anymore, and you realize I can’t just fiddle, it’s going to end up breaking everything. And so now it’s easier to advocate. For me it’s easier to advocate for others.

Trevor: Go on a tangent with me, have people accused you of being overdramatic or dramatic?

Laura: I wish they would more because I’m a very overdramatic person.

Trevor: I don’t agree with that.

Laura: I don’t think I’m overdramatic, I think I’m very expressive in a dramatic way.

Trevor: Okay. I think we’re getting to something a little closer. What I think is that you understand something that not a lot of people do and understandably so. I think you understand the rhythm of conversation and that when you find somebody else that has that rhythm, it’s fun. I think most people talk to communicate and that’s fine. That’s what it’s for. But I think there is a small, small group of us that like to pretend we’re in a David Mamet play, and we’re in an episode of “Gilmore Girls” or something and find that rhythm because there is an art to it, and you are kind of playing jazz going back and forth. The problem with it is that you don’t just do it with a person that has the same skill. You do it with everybody. I say you as in all of us that do this.

Laura: The general.

Trevor: Yeah. The general. 98% of the time you’re playing to deaf ears, but that 2%, when you find somebody else that’s like that and is willing to play back and forth, they’re willing to do that duet. I used to think that the art of conversation was ridiculous, and it’s not, it’s a real thing.

Laura: It is fun.

Trevor: It is.

Laura: It’s interesting that you say pretending that we’re in an episode of “Gilmore Girls.” I remember when I was younger, I used to literally, when I was alone, pretend I was in a TV show and just walk around and be in character. But I hate acting. I hate it. If you have to play a particular part a particular time and it’s not an organic interaction thing, it’s just I can’t do it, I can’t. Like freaking photography with Chris. Look like a human being. So, but the organic thing is, it’s fun, it’s fun, and it’s nice, and it feels like bonding too.

Trevor: It does.

Laura: It’s very socially rewarding.

Trevor: It feels like we’re treating this like an instrument, and we’re just playing back and forth. But I’m not not listening to what you’re saying. We’re doing both. It’s a balance of can I send you content that you are going to ingest at a rhythm and at a rate that you can work with and then improvise from and then go back and forth. If they cut this part out, I’m going to be furious because—

Laura: We’ll see what we can do.

Trevor: Just give me this five minutes. This little change of pace—

Laura: I will yes and everything you say.

Trevor: Thank you. So, you’ve got funded your grant. I see grant April 2019. That doesn’t seem right. Does that seem right?

Laura: Is it 2019? Yes. So, our grant started on April 2019. So, it was funded this winter, and it was awarded this winter and then the grant started April 2019 to study cognition in type 1 diabetes. It’s not hilarious. I want to say the word “hilarious” isn’t the right word. The fact that I thought this was the disease that was going to end my career and destroy my dreams or something.

Trevor: Yeah. That doesn’t sound like a cognitive distortion at all.

Laura: Yeah. And now it just shows how unexpected life is. You know what I mean? Like the thing where I was like I’m going to have to quit graduate school, and I can’t have children, and I can’t do any of the things that I thought I was going to do in my life. Like now the federal government is funding me to understand sort of fundamental aspects of this disease using the digital technology tools that I built because I thought that I wasn’t going to be able to do regular research. So, there’s this full circle aspect, and I still am kind of like, I’m still reeling a little bit the fact that I’ve been awarded this grant because it is the case where I can be both a scientist and a patient in the same project. So, I have a co-PI at Washington State who’s also type 1 diabetic who was also diagnosed after she began her research career.

And she has a very similar journey to the journey that I had. And we bonded very quickly around this shared experience. But we regularly would get on the phone, and we’ll be talking about this project. We’ll say, “Okay, we want to have something that’s going to be sensitive to low blood sugar.” And we’re both sitting there thinking like, okay, so how do we feel when we have hypoglycemia? And I was talking to another person the other day and then all of a sudden, I started getting really loopy, and I couldn’t stop myself from saying stupid things, and like maybe that’s just tiredness. What cognitive test do we have that actually gets at that? So, we’re thinking about our own very real experiences of this disorder and how that can translate to the right research instruments. So, it’s great to have a project and be so validated by the scientific community where one can use one’s inside as a patient and as a scientist in the same project to drive the science forward.

And what we’re hoping is that what will come out of this project is digital technology tools that can help people with tracking things like anxiety and mood and sleep in connection with blood glucose. But it doesn’t have to stop there. It could be in connection with anything that’s sort of physiologically relevant for what someone’s going through and having tools for that I think is going to be ... I wish I had that sort of tool. Back when I thought I’m anxious, I don’t know why, and maybe it’s because my blood sugar is swinging all over the place, so it’s this trauma that I’m experiencing, but also the fact that my body is just all over the place and to be able to say, okay, you know what, I have control over that, not this, and I can fix this piece, maybe that will make me feel better and less.

Trevor: Are you on antidepressants.

Laura: No, I’m not. Not at the moment. For a while for panic disorder, when I was in my early 20s, terrible idea. I ended up, at one point I was getting medication antidepressants for panic disorder, and I remember driving down the freeway in California and then pulling over by the side of the road and picking orange poppies and scattering them throughout my car. So, I had orange poppies all over the dashboard and all over the seat next to me and all over the seat behind me.

Trevor: Were you on the 10 or the 510?

Laura: I was on the 5 going down the Central Valley—

Trevor: Oh, yeah you were.

Laura: ... actually north of the bay. Anyway, so poppy flowers everywhere. I think it’s illegal to pick the orange poppy in the State of California, but I did. And then I thought, this is not normal. I don’t like orange, first of all, I hate the color orange. How could anyone like the color orange? It’s a horrible color. And I’m not a flower-picky person either.

Trevor: I would never have thought of you as a flower-picking person.

Laura: No, I am not. I find flowers delightful in small amounts when there are no bees. So, I thought, okay, this is not good. And so, I stopped taking that medication pretty quickly. So, I think I wouldn’t call it a full hypomanic episode, but I was certainly not reacting. I wasn’t myself. And so, I’ve fluctuated around on different things and eventually stabilize. And then got type 1. And weirdly though, having the blood sugar check, my body has decided that if I’m feeling anxious, all I have to do is check my blood sugar and then I’m okay. So, in a weird way, the fact that there’s a clear physiological event that could explain my anxiety symptoms and then having that event disconfirmed by looking at my blood sugar and seeing that it’s normal ends up addressing anxiety in a weird, screwed up kind of way. So, I’m not going to say that type 1 diabetes is good for panic disorder, because it is not. But my brain’s made it work. My brain’s figured out a hack to get around the whole panic attack hypoglycemia thing. So.

Trevor: So, you, have you, in April of 2019 received the largest grant in McLean history?

Laura: For type 1 diabetes research, which is a little bit why I like it, but yeah, it’s a R01. So, it’s a large research project grant.

Trevor: So how many people hate you?

Laura: I hope no one, but my God, I hadn’t really thought, how have I not thought about that? I hope no one, I think everyone’s been ... we’re going with no one. We’re going with no one.

Trevor: Sure.

Laura: No one, nobody.

Trevor: Sure. Nobody—

Laura: And everyone was very happy.

Trevor: ... nobody in Boston gets jealous.

Laura: Everyone is very happy. Everyone was very happy and collegial and no one gets jealous.

Trevor: So, you haven’t received any fallout?

Laura: I don’t think so. I also I’m not like—

Trevor: Listen, not all of it, but there is a success-oriented society here in Boston, especially when it is under the shadow of the Harvard shield, and success is meant with clapping to your face and knives in your back when you’re turned around.

Laura: If anyone has stabbed me at all, it hasn’t felt very stabby.

Trevor: Do people feel that you’ve done your time?

Laura: Oh, the doing time thing. Yeah.

Trevor: I mean, you’re young.

Laura: Well I do have this, I think the thing about academia and the Harvard community and all of it is that if you have the credential, things like this grant, then people are like, okay, wait, you’re in the group, you’re in the club. So, whatever. It’s when—

Trevor: You get the blazer.

Laura: ... it’s when you’re considered out of the club, but you act as if you are in the club that people get a little bit. And which I’ve experienced many, many times. I’m told that sometimes I speak when I shouldn’t.

Trevor: I’ve never ever been told this in my entire life.

Laura: No, never. Never.

Trevor: No, never.

Laura: I think where I am now, I don’t feel as if people are ... if there’s any negativity, there is no direct, it’s not directed at me in a way that I can feel. However, go back a few years, if you think about things like the postdoc training period or something when you’re doing stuff that people perceive as being potentially a resource that they might want or maybe that what you’re doing couldn’t possibly be valid because you’re not at the point in your career where you do meaningful work. That kind of thing I think there’s a lot more.

Trevor: So, before we wrap up, let’s guide people to the Test My Brain site. When they go there, we’ll give the URL in a minute, but when they go there, what should they be expecting? I mean, I know we touched on it earlier, but let’s give the full picture.

Laura: Yeah. So, if you go to TestMyBrain.org, you can participate in—

Trevor: And that’s, T-E-S-T, M-Y, B-R-A-I-N, dot, O-R-G.

Laura: T-E-S-T, M-Y, B-R-A-I-N, dot, O-R-G.

Trevor: Okay. So, T-E-S-T, M-Y, B-R-A-I-N, dot, O-R-G.

Laura: Yes.

Trevor: I was really hoping you were going to do it for a fourth time in a row, and we were just going to keep doing this.

Laura: As opposed to TestMyBrand.org which is more about breakfast cereal, distinct thing.

Trevor: Or keeping regular.

Laura: Or keeping regular, which is very important. Still—

Trevor: Very important.

Laura: ... not to discount that by focusing so much on cognition, but so you can go, and you can participate in a research study. There are a number of studies on the front page. Some of them are very short, some of them are a little bit longer. At the end, you get feedback on how you performed or how you did or how you feel relative to other people who have participated in the study as well. Bear in mind people who do the studies there that they don’t represent. Many times we’re trying to build things that work. So, if you do something and it doesn’t work, let us know because part of the main work that we’re doing now, which is federally funded, is to make stuff that works good and does other stuff good. So, if stuff doesn’t do stuff good, let us know.

So, you can email testmybrain@gmail.com or me or shouting at the computer doesn’t usually work, but usually we have a Twitter account @TestMy, no is it at? How do I not know this? whatever the Twitter name thing is, Test My Brain, T-E-S-T M-Y B-R-A-I-N and yeah. So.

Trevor: Growing up, were you the outlier in your family, or were they all—

Laura: I was an only child.

Trevor: Oh, so that explains.

Laura: Which is why I had to put on a one-person play for most of my life just to entertain myself. Yeah.

Trevor: What was your most elaborate production?

Laura: Oh God. I’ve had multi-year, multi-year productions, multi-year productions. I used to pretend I was like Henry David Thoreau, but less of a jerk and like with people all around me, but like narrating my life in the mediocrity of mankind. I was about 12 at the time, I think 12 through 14 I did this where I was walking around as if I was some sort of like enlightened hipster person and writing my memoirs out loud with ...

Trevor: I’ve got something for you. It’s something that I think is going to melt your brain. It’s on Amazon Prime. Have you seen Fleabag? You need to watch Fleabag.

Laura: I’ve seen the ... is that the woman with the mascara that’s sort of running down?

Trevor: Yes, indeed.

Laura: I will watch it tonight.

Trevor: I don’t like theater, no offense. But I bought tickets to watch her perform it live on the State Lake. That’s how good it is. And it’s—

Laura: I will check it out.

Trevor: ... what you just described.

Laura: Really?

Trevor: Yes.

Laura: She did exactly what I just—

Trevor: Pretty much.

Laura: That’s amazing.

Trevor: Yeah. Pretty much.

Laura: Yeah. Cool. I’ll check it out.

Trevor: Yeah, it’s really good. I think you’ll like it. So how are you feeling?

Laura: Good. My blood sugar is—

Trevor: Yeah, let’s break it down.

Laura: ... slowly dropping in a healthy way.

Trevor: Give us all the details. Where’s your blood sugar at?

Laura: So, I’m currently at 149, dropping by about negative five every five minutes, which is about one milligram per deciliter of glucose per minute, which is fine for this time of day and given where I’m at. I feel—

Trevor: You have a watch. So, the app works in conjunction with your watch. So, you just looked at your watch—

Laura: I did, yeah.

Trevor: ... and got all that information.

Laura: So, I have a thing that’s stuck in my leg. So, I had the needle. It puts a thing like a little wire under the flash. And so, I have that on my leg that speaks to my phone via Bluetooth, which then speaks to my watch so that my watch can tell me via a calendar app. So, this is actually being posted to a calendar. There’s no native app on the watch to do this. So, post to a calendar and this is the calendar thing that pulls from the calendar to say what the next event is, what the next event is my blood sugar of 149 dropping by negative 5. So, it’s—

Trevor: Amazing.

Laura: ... it all works and things alarm. If I go too low and they alarm, if I go too high and they alarm, if my mother texts me too many times and ... It works, and it makes life a whole lot easier.

Trevor: That’s great. It was really, really nice talking to you.

Laura: It was great talking to you too, and I’m glad we did this.

Trevor: Yeah, it was really good. Thank you so much for coming.

Laura: Thank you for having me.

Trevor: Well, what did you think of Laura Germine? It’s pretty great. Always impressed with anybody who finds himself in a dire situation and can somehow integrate into their life and turn it into not only something positive but something that can help others. I think I’ve described most people, but yet it’s still impresses me that is not something that I am capable of. If there is any sort of health or mental health disaster going on in my life, whether it be me or a loved one, yeah, I’m not capable of doing anything but moping. If I’ve got a dollar for every minute I’ve moped, I’d be filthy rich. Can you do me a favor? Could you rate us please? And be honest, we just need the ratings. I mean, of course I love the five star rating. Don’t get me wrong. I’d love that. But we just need ratings.

So whatever app you use or outlet you use, be it Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, iTunes, or the Apple Podcast App, rate us please, throw us some stars. Feel free to write something. We want to hear from you. Well, from what I know, a fair amount of patients here listen to the podcast. You’re who I want to hear from the most. So, do you have any feedback? Rate us, we’d love to hear it. Whether it’s good, whether it’s not, we need to hear it. We need to know what’s working here and what doesn’t. I would really appreciate that. I hope all of you are well. I’m sending my love out to all of you, all of you that are suffering, all of you that aren’t, or actually let me throw some love towards the people that aren’t suffering, but are loving somebody and supporting somebody who is because I’ve been in that situation too, and it’s hard.

You don’t really understand what’s going on. You kind of can’t, and all you can do is love and help and try and get through it together. So, I’m sending this week’s love all the way out to you, the friends of family members, the loved ones that help us get through this. You are all greatly appreciated. Okay, two weeks already have it recorded. We’ll be back, and I hope you’ll all be back here with me. Okay? See you in two weeks. Thank you for listening to Mindful Things, the official podcast of McLean Hospital. Please subscribe to us and rate us on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you have any suggestions for special topics or future guests, email us at mindfulthings@mclean.org and don’t forget mental health is everyone’s responsibility. If you or a loved one are in crisis, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day at 877.870.4673, again, that’s 877.870.4673.

- - -

The McLean Hospital podcast Mindful Things is intended to provide general information and to help listeners learn about mental health, educational opportunities and research initiatives. This podcast is not an attempt to practice medicine or to provide specific medical advice.

© 2019 McLean Hospital. All Rights Reserved.