Ah, what an eloquently stated opener, right? Really there's no other way to word it other than the cold, hard truth.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at seven years old, and ever since that doctor spoke those five, daunting, awful words, my life was changed forever. "You have Type 1 Diabetes," he stated, nodding empathetically, the way you nod and stare at someone who told you their dog just passed. He would go home that day, have dinner with his family, snuggle up and watch some "Jeopardy," perhaps. I would go home and learn how to keep myself alive — for the rest of my life.
To commemorate my 14-year anniversary of fighting Type 1 Diabetes, I thought I would write an article to tell you the truth about diabetes. Behind all of the fluff, the offensive jokes about sugar causing diabetes, the horror stories of what could happen to a type one, I am here to spread the reality.
Type 1 Diabetes is an auto-immune disease. The essential hormone, insulin, is no longer produced due to the fact that one's immune system attacked insulin-creating cells. Insulin is extremely important, its main function being to metabolize glucose in the blood. Without it, too much sugar occurs in the blood, which can be very harmful and even life-threatening. Type 1
Diabetics must manage blood sugars and manually balance insulin input. Too much or too little insulin can cause fainting, seizures, comas, and even death. The long-term effects of ill-managed diabetes go on and on.
An average, healthy person's day goes a little something like this:
Wake up. Debate whether work or school is really so important that they can't sleep more. Brush teeth. Eggs or cereal? Ah man, it's blazing hot outside; go change into something cooler. Where are my keys again? Oh right, right where I left them. Duh. Bye, puppy! I'll see you tonight! Drive to school or work; there's chatty Cathy again. Really? It's the morning and I haven't finished my coffee. Type, scribble, answer phone, sip my third cup of coffee. Is it five o'clock yet? Wrap it up and you're back home.
Here's a little bit how a Type 1 Diabetic's day goes:
Wake up. What in the world? Why are there skittles in my bed? Oh right. My blood sugar went low last night and I ate skittles in bed to bring it up. That reminds me, I have to test. Great, 128, I finally got my overnight basal correct. Brush teeth. Eggs or cereal? Well, the last time I had cereal my blood sugar shot up. I guess I'll just have the eggs and hope I don't go low. Ah man, it's blazing hot outside, which means my blood sugars are going to sky rocket. Better find some shorts that will fit my insulin pump. Gosh darn it, my pump sight fell out again. Gotta change that before I leave. Do I have enough snacks in my bag in case I go low today? Where are my keys? Oh, right, I left them on the counter when I rushed in to grab some juice to raise my blood sugar.
And this is only the start of our day. Questions surrounding blood sugars, carbohydrates, lows, highs, and insulin, amongst the few, clutter our minds all day long. To give me and my fellow type ones some credit, we are literally responsible to keep ourselves alive every minute of every day. And we never get a break.
Amongst the severity of the condition, it's hard not to see the humor behind it, too. For instance, type ones have mastered the kind nod of patience as a friend exclaims that their grandparents also have diabetes!!! After gritting our teeth, trying not to interrupt, we kindly explain that what type ones endure is much different than the type two diabetes your grandparents have. You also can't beat the questions we get. My favorite of all is, when you're pricking yourself with a needle or giving an insulin shot, people LOVE to ask: Does that hurt? I'm sorry... Did I just hear you correctly? Is water wet? Dirt dirty? Yes, it hurts! It's a needle.
Personally, one of the most frustrating things to hear is someone complaining about their day with little nuances that, in your mind, don't even slightly compare to the hell you endured today. Don't get me wrong, everyone has their own struggles and it's more than OK to complain, but when I spent the day battling the urge to faint because my blood sugar was so low, or trying my best to choke back tears because my number is high and I feel nonfunctional, I really don't care that someone cut you off in traffic this morning and that you're having a bad hair day.
If there's one thing I want my readers to take from this article it's this: Diabetes is hard. It always will be hard. Just when you think you've got the hang of it, your body throws you for a loop hole and somehow everything is out of whack again. But despite everything – the 3 a.m. blood sugar tests, the exhaustion you feel from a day of highs, the scares of all the complications, and the constant battle with your own body – you're not alone. There are going to be days, months, or even years where you feel like giving up. Just letting go and having terrible blood sugars may seem the only feasible options because managing this disease is seemingly impossible. You musn't be ashamed of these feelings, but you have to control these inclinations before you let them control you. You own this disease, it does not define you. Don't let it. Type ones are fighters every single day, and no matter how people interpret your condition, you must always consider yourself a victor.
To learn more about how you can volunteer, donate, or contribute to the Type One Diabetes' fight for a cure, visit www.jdrf.org.