* This post has been written by our previous Social Media Manager. *
Hey all! As most of you already know, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes back in July. After finding out through a blood test and initially being unaware of the main ‘tell-tale’ symptoms, I was immediately hospitalised after going into a complication known as diabetic ketoacidosis. During this time my blood sugar levels and ketones were very stubborn and wouldn’t come down for a week! But after lots of ups and downs, education, and support, I was eventually discharged.
A few months have passed since my diagnosis and although it’s been life-changing and still difficult to cope with at times, navigating through it has been a slow but sweet ride (pun intended)! I’ve also managed to get my head around my medication – injecting myself routinely before every meal and regularly testing my blood sugar levels throughout the day. One positive is that being diabetic has improved my mathematics skills - even though they’re still awful.
An important thing one of my diabetes nurses told me was:
“You should never let diabetes control you; you should be in control of diabetes.”
What struck me about this quote was that you’re the one fighting against your own body to live, with the job of insulin to help you with it. A form of resilience and strength that non-diabetics do not understand. It’s like having a 24/7 job with a lifelong contract, where you get no breaks or holidays and are responsible for a major organ that keeps you alive. Talk about pressure!
It’s very easy to slip back into your pre-diagnosis habits. When your body has been actively shutting down for quite some time, you get the urge to do whatever you want and previously never had to think about, making it hard to stop at times. I've also begun experiencing the guilt that comes with eating something very high in carbs and accidentally forgetting to bolus. There was once an incident when I ate a whole chocolate bar, and my levels took 2-3 hours to even reach the tipping point of the normal range, even though I ate two crumpets and drank a cup of coffee for breakfast, and it took half an hour to an hour to spike! Diabetes is just too unpredictable and could sway one way or another.
During my latest diabetes ‘MOT’, I was praised for well controlling my levels over the last three months, which made me feel so much better about myself and highlighted that I’ve got it under control. My HBA1c (the blood test which shows how well controlled your diabetes has been in the last three months) is finally under the normal range from 15.5% to 6.2%, which is partially thanks to the ‘honeymoon’ phase (where your beta cells in your pancreas can basically take a breather).
Seeing positive results as a newly diagnosed diabetic is an out-of-this-world feeling, especially after being told people struggle with controlling their diabetes for some time. However, doing the job of an internal organ doesn’t go without having hard times. You’re vulnerable to feelings of depression, anxiety over your blood sugars, reminiscing about your “old” life where you didn’t have to inject before eating or checking your blood sugars before going for a brisk walk.
Thankfully I have the BEST support network, including my partner, family, friends, my healthcare professionals, and the rest of the AYL team. Collectively they motivate me to keep going, despite the many highs and lows I may encounter throughout this rather rocky journey. For any other diabetics reading this (particularly newly diagnosed) I know it’s so easy to give up, but you just need to keep on going. Just remember diabetes is relentless – but so am I.
Finally, here are my top tips for living with Type 1 Diabetes:
1 – Make sure that you stick to your diabetes treatment plan.
2 – Always, ALWAYS, carry spare insulin pens (or vials if you use a pump) with you.
3 – Make sure your insulin is in date.
4 – Always ensure you have hypo treatment (usually 15-20g fast-acting carbs, such as a 200ml can of full fat Coke or a fun size bag of Skittles).
5 – Invest in a suitably sized pocket bag or handbag to carry all your treatments with you.
6 – If you don’t feel right when out and about, don’t hesitate to check your blood sugars in public. Most people will not care even if it feels like everyone is staring!
7 – Don’t be scared to live life to the full! Diabetes is just one part of your identity that shouldn't stop you from having fun if you are doing it safely.
8 – Remember that every diabetic is different, so try not to compare yourself. Instead, share advice and connect with others!
9 – Be patient and never stop learning. The more you know about your condition, the better you’ll be at taking care of yourself.
10 – Be your own advocate and never be afraid to speak to your medical professionals if you have any concerns.