What a week! It’s been a fantastic #diabetesweek and thank you everyone so much for their amazing words on the blog. I cannot express in words how much it’s meant to me and the happiness I am feeling!
As my final post this week I really wanted to get another viewpoint of a diabetic and for them to talk about their journey.
I’d love everyone to meet Sally! For those of you that don’t know her, she’s also a Type 1 diabetic, fun, loud, outrageous and a wonderful human being! Sally and I had a chat at the beginning of this week on what topic she’d love to write about.
There were two that stuck out firmly. One of the topics we thought was a post we should work on together as it is incredibly important (eyes peeled for it in the coming months) but I am delighted to say she has written a truly wonderful and heart felt post all about her acceptance of her condition.
So without further ado, please read her story and enjoy.
“Have you tested? What are your levels?”. My mother has uttered these words so many times over the 3 years that I’ve been a Diabetic that it’s almost become her catchphrase. To her annoyance, when I was at my worst, I would answer “180!” like my blood sugar levels were just one big game of darts.
I became a Diabetic in October 2012 when I was rushed by blue light to Kings College hospital aged 24-years old. I had been feeling ‘off’ for months, with the typical signs of undiagnosed diabetes – excessive tiredness, thirst, going to the toilet all the time, and losing around 2 ½ stone in the space of weeks. I also had terrible cramp, and an unshakeable ear infection that 2 different rounds of antibiotics could not touch. When the ambulance man pricked my finger my blood level read as 29, not the highest level I’ve heard of, but nowhere within a good range. Much of my time in A&E is a blur, but luckily my best friend worked as a paediatric nurse upstairs so was able to sneak in, see the state I was in, and then call my mum. My mum knew it was Diabetes because her father, had had Type 1 Diabetes too. When my mum heard the words from my best friend, “They’ve had to put two central lines in her” she knew she had to get to London, stat.
I’ve always been health conscious – a typical Virgo if you will – sometimes to the point where people around me would think I was overreacting or being a hypochondriac. I was in touch with my body and I had known something was going wrong, but shamefully I didn’t think of diabetes because I was never really close to my granddad, thus I never really knew much about it.
(Okay, I sometimes eat cake too! Taken – when I was in the midst of undiagnosed diabetes). (Editor – whoops!)
In the days, months and years that followed my diagnosis I struggled to come to terms with my new health condition. It wasn’t that I struggled to understand the principles of managing my condition, the regime it needed, when to inject or even how much insulin to take. It was the non-physical stuff. I took my condition personally, and I was ashamed, I pushed it away because I didn’t want it. A part of me couldn’t believe my body had let me down by attacking my beta cells and killing them…for no good reason. I was also afraid of what others would think of me. Not just from paranoia about the tangled web the media spins, but because I had a few bad interactions with people who thought they understood Diabetes saying “You just need to eat healthier!” “Should you be eating that?” “Did you have too much sugar?”. (Editor – we’ve all been there…!)
Also, just before I was diagnosed I had started a new job and after leaving hospital I took a few months off to recuperate. The company, placed undue pressure on me to come back to work, calling my mother to ask for my Doctors opinion on when I would be back, even though it was like asking “How long is a piece of string?”. I was diagnosed halfway through October and I was back in work early December. When I returned to work I faced discrimination, through not so subtle digs at my condition, to viscious emails from my manager to hers mocking inability to work because I was hypo.
I’m sad to say, I know I was particularly unlucky, but it happens, even in today’s society. This discrimination led me to push my condition further away from me, it compounded the feeling of not wanting it. My overall control was not bad…I just didn’t do it correctly. I would blindly inject insulin without testing. I was not mindful of exercise, food, or alcohol. I just felt resentful of all the ‘upkeep’. It was the black cloud that followed me around, raining on my parade. On top of a dire work situation I was living with a housemate who had mental health issues and did not hold back on making her housemates as miserable as she was. She would often mock my condition, and lay into me about my diabetes and how it was a silly excuse. Everything plonked together made me feel like I was alone with my condition and like I would never accept my diabetes, because those around me didn’t.
So I hid that I was a diabetic to everyone I encountered.
After a year of having diabetes I moved across London, and into a new flat with my friend who I had met travelling and her university friend. We bonded over silliness, cats, nail varnishes and prosecco. This is when my life started to take a turn for the better. The dust began to settle and the barriers I had built up with regards to my condition began to slowly fall away. They supported me, cheered me on from the side lines when I got a new job and they didn’t judge me when I locked myself in my room because I was hungover from the worlds worst hypo.
Alongside my great flatmates I found support in fellow diabetics through the awesome DOC on Twitter, and of course Dan. In fact Dan came to me just when I needed it. I was standing at Euston station travelling to see my friend for the weekend. I was hungry and looking at a girl who had just purchased an UpperCrust baguette. I was jealous, and pissed off at the simplicity for her as she began to eat it. She didn’t need to test her blood sugar levels, calculate, inject, and then wait for the carbohydrate shit-storm that might follow after ingesting such a colossal carby beast. I used to be like that I thought. Tears flooded my eyes as I felt overwhelmed and alone all at once. Then my phone lit up with a new follower notification on Twitter. And over a year later, the rest is Twitter history. It helped that I had found someone who also ‘got it’, was interested in health and fitness, and was so supportive just because he knew how it felt and wanted to help. I also began to educate myself I read a great books such as this one by Gary Scheiner.
These days, it isn’t as hard as it used to be, in fact I’ve accepted my diabetes is a part of me, but it’s not everything about me. I’m happy to be diabetic, because it makes me concentrate on the good things. I am more invested in living a healthy lifestyle; because when I don’t I physically feel awful. It’s opened my world up to fabulous people, hilarious events and real-life experience of a health condition which inspired me to retrain as an Occupational Therapist.
If someone doesn’t like my strength, courage, carb counting prowess, then they do not deserve to be in my life. Simple. My acceptance came from finding support and knowing that I was not alone. Finding someone else who knows what it feels like to be 2.4 at 2am is comforting. This support I believe is vitally important for all diabetics. Diabetes is a condition that demands constant psychological, physical and social attention. Therefore, if you can boost the social support it helps a lot.
It’s a simple equation really.
Support = acceptance = better blood glucose control = mental and physical wellbeing.
This is why I’m 100% supportive of Dan and what he’s creating here. We may not have a cure for diabetes but we can stop diabetic complications from happening with the right support, advice, and knowledge.
While on Pinterest, I stumbled across this quote, that sums things up how I feel today about my diabetes:
We are Diabetic, not broken. There is nothing wrong with needing a little carby sugary sweetness sometimes. How brilliant is being able to justify needing sweets/cake/fruit juice for medical purposes? I won’t lie, acceptance is hard, and it’s often a long journey for people, full of stumbles. As long as you surround yourself with positive people who will hold your elbow as you get up and steady yourself, you’ll soon reach a safe haven where acceptance will come.