After nearly 11 and a half years of being diabetic, no one has ever actually asked me, “what is is actually like to be diabetic?” For a condition that people should know a lot more about, it shocks me that people don’t tend to ask me what it’s actually like to live with it. I guess, for some, maybe they might think it is too sensitive a subject to ask such a forward question, or for others maybe they’re just generally not interested.
When I thought about writing this particular blog, I did sit down and think to myself, “what is it like?” Diabetes isn’t something that you can compare to anything else. It just exists and it is what it is. Of course, I remember what it was like not to be diabetic, but after such a long time living with the condition, everything to do with it just becomes second nature and I don’t like to think of myself as any different to anybody else. However, being diabetic isn’t an easy ride. It’s tiring, testing and trying every day and slipping up can have horrible consequences.
As I’ve mentioned before, poor blood glucose control can result in all sorts of horrendous complications such as; blindness, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease – to name a few. I am (touch wood) extremely fortunate not to have had any complications that have occurred due to my Diabetes and I really hope to keep it that way.
Although Diabetes can affect your health further in the long run, what is it actually like to live with Type 1 Diabetes on a day to day basis?
There is never a time of day where Diabetes isn’t at the forefront or very close to the forefront of my mind. As I have said before, I don’t let my Diabetes rule me, I rule it. I don’t let it ruin my life and I would never let it ruin my life. I keep it well under control, but it takes a lot to do that.
On a daily basis I have so much to think about when it comes to being diabetic. I prick my finger on average 5 times a day and squeeze some blood out onto a tiny test strip to find out the current reading of my blood glucose. Sometimes I can test my blood more than 5 times a day, so it’s safe to say my fingers are a bit battered from all the pricking! If we take 5 times a day as an average then this means I check my blood glucose a minimum of 1,825 times a year. That’s a lot of times…
I’m not a pump or pod user, so the only way I can receive insulin into my body is by injecting it in. Let’s get a few things straight for starters:
- I do not tie a belt or scarf around my arm in order to draw up a vein to inject into. I am not a junkie.
- My needle is not comically long like in a cartoon, it’s actually only 4mm.
- I do not re-use the same needle over and over as that’s not hygienic and not a sensible thing to do.
I have to inject 2 different types of insulin – bolus and basal. My bolus insulin is a fast acting insulin called NovoRapid and my basal is a background insulin called Levemir. I count carbohydrates in grams in order to work out my bolus injections. Every diabetic has a different ratio to work off for this, because it all depends on how their body reacts and what their body needs in order to get their blood glucose right. I inject on a 1 unit:10g basis. So this means that every time I eat I have to do some mental maths to work out what I am eating in order to inject the correct amount of insulin. It’s not always straightforward and it’s not always easy. It’s extremely frustrating when food doesn’t have any nutritional information on the packaging because then I have to go off complete and utter guess work and (you guessed it!) I don’t always get it right. At the end of the day, I’m only human and I make mistakes. Making mistakes isn’t great when your diabetic because it can have such an impact on your blood glucose and sometimes the rest of your day altogether.
I inject Levemir twice a day as it works as a background insulin. I inject once in the morning and once before bed. Adding together both bolus and basal injections, I inject NovoRapid on average 4 times and with the 2 Levemir injections that makes an overall average of 2,190 times a year. It’s safe to say that I’m pretty much like a human pin cushion.
Injecting can hurt too. If you happen to hit a dodgy spot it’s absolute agony! I inject in my stomach and legs and my legs are definitely much more painful, so it’s not always the nicest of experiences. Injecting into your legs absorbs a lot quicker when you’re doing activities like walking, running or dancing so I have to think about where I am injecting and what I am going to be doing all the time. I don’t want to have any unexpected hypos!
Not only do us diabetics have to deal with the endless finger pricking and injection giving, we have to deal with the highs and the lows too.
Having a hypo is when your blood glucose drops below 4.0mmols and being hyper is when your blood glucose is too high. I usually feel the affects of this when my levels reach 15mmols or more. However, diabetics are advised to keep their blood glucose between 4.5mmols and 7.0mmols to maintain excellent control.
Hypos are not fun. There are a whole load of symptoms for hypos but I usually suffer from the following:
- Sweating profusely
- Short temper
- Shortness of breath
- Lack of energy
- Finding it difficult to be coherent
I am extremely fortunate when it comes to hypos because I still have excellent hypo awareness and feel all of these symptoms. Unfortunately though, it’s not the same for everyone and some people end up falling into unconsciousness or even worse comas, due to their lack of hypo awareness. The way to treat a hypo is to have 15g-20g of fast acting sugary food or drink. I usually have dextrose tablets when I’m out and about or a small carton of juice when I’m at home.
Hypers are equally as awful as hypos. I tend to feel irritable, thirsty and needing the toilet constantly. None of which is pleasant. The way to combat this is to check your blood sugar and take a correction does of 1-3 units of insulin depending on how high the blood sugar is.
As much as I try my absolute best to keep my blood glucose in check, it is so hard and I do experience highs and lows and it is absolutely exhausting. The most exhausting is being woken up during the night in a pool of sweat by my body because I’m having a hypo and trying to stagger to the kitchen to grab a juice. You feel drunk, disorientated and helpless. Not only that, but the next day you are utterly exhausted and feel rubbish. It is a constant daily battle, that unfortunately won’t be going away!
The upside of being diabetic for me is that I can eat absolutely anything, as long as I inject correctly for it. Staying away from mountains of carbohydrates is better because it does affect your blood glucose so much, but it doesn’t mean you can’t eat them altogether. It’s all about being sensible and having a healthy and balanced diet just like any other person.
As much as being diabetic is difficult, tiring and endless, I carry on every day as normal as anyone else would. There’s no point dwelling on my condition and waking up every day feeling sorry for myself. I just need to crack on and live my best, healthy life.