There’s a lot I can tell you about Type 1 diabetes.
For starters it's 24/7 and yes, I can still eat chocolate.
It's a total pain having to know your blood sugar ALL THE TIME.
Before I reach for something in the fridge I need to know what my blood sugar level is and that means doing a finger prick blood test.
I can sometimes be found in the kitchen at 3am drinking Coca-Cola to stop a hypo (low blood sugar). That can be pretty disruptive too.
But I don’t want this post to be doom and gloom. Ahead of World Diabetes Day on November 14th, I wanted to sit back and reflect on my time with Type 1.
It’s a condition that’s changed me in many ways and I’ve put together 10 things I have learned and am grateful for since being diagnosed 2.5 years ago:
1. Health is key - Type 1 is autoimmune so there’s nothing I could have done to prevent it. I now focus on looking after myself with balanced meals and regular walking. Type 1 has definitely made me pay more attention to my body.
2. I CAN have chocolate - Phew... My first thought on being diagnosed was that chocolate was out the window. I can eat chocolate as long as I inject for it though the best bet for me is to eat smaller amounts at a time.
3. I CAN eat out - sounds silly but when I was diagnosed this was a total nightmare, the same with takeaways. I would stress out at the size of portions -how would I know how much insulin to give? Now I look at menus online and in advance and I am upfront with the staff, explain I'm Type 1 and ask about the sizes of portions.
4. Relaxation is really important - massage used to be a luxury, now I see it as a necessity for helping me feel less anxious, relaxed and on top of things. I try to factor in a deep tissue massage every 4-6 weeks.
5. A support network is everything - even a Type 1 diabetic with good control has bad days. Days where you can eat the same food as the day before but for some unknown reason your blood sugars rocket or crash. Having family and friends who you can talk to or offload to is really important. I still don’t know many people with Type 1 but having family who can listen when times are tough is amazing.
6. A good hospital team makes all the difference - a diabetes nurse you can call or email when times are rough, a dietician who can help you make changes to your diet, a consultant who listens and understands. A strong team is crucial.
7. Illness is tough - Flu is rough but for a diabetic it can be dangerous. Sickness bugs can play havoc with blood sugar (I have been in hospital twice needing a drip). I try to keep on top of sleep, eat plenty of fruit and veg and I always have the flu jab as soon as I can when flu season approaches.
8. An online support network - There’s an online network of Type 1 diabetics who help and support each other - I find this particularly on Twitter. There are monthly meet-ups, Twitter chats & Facebook pages you can join. Whilst you can feel like the new kid at school, it doesn’t last long as you gradually get to know others with Type 1.
9. The NHS is amazing - Since being diagnosed in 2015, I have been sent on a diabetes education course DAFNE and been given an insulin pump. This has cost the NHS over £5,000 and I don’t forget for a second how lucky I am to have these things along with the staff who have made it happen.
10. Don’t sweat the small stuff. OK, I do sweat the small stuff sometimes; we all do. But I’ve learned to live my life more, try new hobbies and activities, be grateful for each day and always try to focus on the positives. Type 1 diabetes is part of me now and I need to do my very best to look after myself physically and mentally. Looking for the positives and making the most of every day is crucial - simple as that.