Sarcasm is definitely a theme in my life – call it a coping mechanism, I don’t know, but “amazing” is a misnomer. I have Type 1 Diabetes, it’s always been a part of my life so I think it dignifies a monograph. It’s pretty rubbish but you deal with it. One of my early childhood memories is drawing up insulin into a syringe from a vial either red or green labeled. I’ve known nothing else. Finger pricks, injections, mars bars and waking in the night to pee… regular aspects of life as a diabetic. Mercifully waking during the night is now only a sign when something’s wrong – not very often, and no, dad, I don’t wet the bed anymore…
As a layperson, you probably don’t really understand diabetes. Type 1 is essentially an autoimmune disease – the body has decided that the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas shouldn’t exist and they’re destroyed. Normally the body releases insulin when the level of glucose in the blood crosses an upper threshold. Insulin converts the glucose in your blood into something the body can store, glycogen, which is stored in muscles, the liver and probably elsewhere too. Then the body can break it down to glucose again when needed. Oh, how I yearn for those good old days. To clarify – type 2 diabetes is completely different, it’s to do with how the body responds to insulin – either it becomes less sensitive to it or the pancreas doesn’t produce enough. Done. No more science. Okay, so there is a bit more science, but I think it’ll illustrate a good point. The pic below explains the difference between types of diabetes, far more eloquently than I.
The routine of my day has always been embedded with the necessities of diabetic life. Nuances at each meal times are the most noticeable. Checking labels, weighing or Googling nutritional info for that elusive count of carbohydrates. Usually involving a calculator and some sums, eventually, you can have your dinner… only to find two hours later you got something wrong and it was all pointless. The point is, you need to take the right amount of insulin to keep your blood glucose at a healthy level. Unfortunately, there are at least half a dozen variables in the way you have to consider. Every diabetic responds differently to insulin – sensitivity, how much it reduces their glucose level; ratios are how much carbohydrate a unit of insulin reacts with; how long insulin stays effective for in the body, so if you’ve had any within the past X hours, some will still be there; what are you eating? If it’s a big meal with lots of carbs or lots of protein in it, it’ll take a while to digest – so maybe take two smaller insulin doses. Phew. Then, each of those can pretty much be different at different points in the day. Even I’m bored. I’m bored every day of having to think of all of this before every meal. No wonder the prevalence of depression among diabetes is so rife (it’s multifactorial, however, I’m sure). Please forgive my ignorance of mental health issues, I don’t claim to remotely understand what it is to live with depression but I can empathize. I’m certainly not depressed but it can be tough sometimes trying to keep doing so much extra before every meal, or before bed.
There are millions upon millions of people with diabetes and I have no idea how any of them feel, but surely all the stuff you’ve to do is annoying for everyone. There are also millions upon millions of people whose daily lives are much more limited by debilitating conditions, so I’m certainly not complaining. It’s tough but I can still do most things I want. Over the past four years, life’s been made a bit easier with an insulin pump – it’s pretty handy. Most of the settings are saved in it so it’s quicker. Although having a small tube connected to you 24/7 isn’t exactly the best alternative to stabbing yourself 4 times a day, but perhaps the lesser of two evils? Maybe. I’m healthier because of it anywho, so it can’t be bad. It’s still hard to get all those settings right, they still change regularly but at least it’s less on my mind every time I check my blood and have something to eat.
Growing up with diabetes has literally scarred me and probably defined who I am. Various A&E visits, clinic appointments every three months, having your eyes photographed, having the vein in your arm opened once again for blood samples, having your feet groped, having your diet scrutinized. See what I mean? So boring.
It’s really just a frustrating life. After so much effort every day something usually goes wrong. There’s never a perfect day for anyone, but if diabetics don’t get something quite right, they either spend an hour later on trying to fix it or feel crap for the rest of the day. It definitely impacts our daily routines, plans can sometimes be scuppered by an awkward hypo or you’re not really hungry because you’re still high. Right now I know my blood sugar is high because I’m really thirsty. I know that each year virtually transforms the field of endocrinology with advances being made every year and maybe I’ll even be a part of that at some point, part of the infamous paradigm shift scientists love so much. So surely, as my fellow scientist Professor Brian Cox proclaimed, “things can only get better”. Below is a nice visual aid to give you some key points – probably should’ve just started with that to save you reading. Sorry!
You can get more info at Diabetes UK