My lovely friends,
Today is World Diabetes Day. Yes, it is a day to raise awareness for that thing that your grandma has, but its also the day that I have an excuse to raise a little more awareness about type one diabetes (T1D). I’ll be milling about in blue to celebrate, and I encourage you all to do the same!
Every year on this day I give a bit of an update on my journey with T1D. In light of the Paris attacks last year, I wrote about fear; the year before, about labels. Every year, though, I feel overwhelmingly thankful. I am thankful for the friends that I have made along this journey. The T1D community gives me inspiration, they are my role models, and their fierce strength gives me enough faith for all of humanity. I am especially thankful for those who have been there for me through my difficult transition this fall, you know who you are.
This year, I am going to dive straight into the tough stuff. Diabetes Awareness Month is so often filled with Huffington Post articles about the 10 things that you should never say to your diabetic friend, and I am hoping that anyone who is reading this has enough common sense in our ever-inclusive culture to not be offensive. I use mostly I statements in these because this is my experience, not the experience. If you need a refresher, please do a quick google search before reading on. It seems obvious to me, but I’ve never not had type 1 diabetes.
This November, I encountered seven tough T1D moments that we don’t talk about enough:
1. I was sick
It sounds very normal, right? Doesn’t everyone get sick in November? Especially at Quest. Well I was hit hard, the regular coughing/sneezing/lack of voice was accompanied by a severe resistance to insulin. wait what? Yes, I got sick, and my body was not responding to numerous injections and site changes over 20 hours. I started to vomit, I couldn’t lie in bed because its height made me nauseous, and I couldn’t mend my sore throat with tea or water because of my nausea. Curve balls, something that my diabetes never seems to run out of. We don’t talk about how diabetes can make something as simple as a cold debilitating.
I like brains. I hope that doesn’t surprise you. Lately, I have been doing background readings for a lab that I will be working in over the summer and well the material isn’t warm and fuzzy. When I went through Question I made the conscious decision to not study diabetes and the brain. I was not interested in reading about how diabetes would kill me or that it makes me dumber than non-diabetics. The readings were about stroke recovery in diabetic mice and big whoop, regular mice recover better. I never expected my diabetes to give me a super power, but it is really hard not to take it personally.
3. Shattered Pump Clips
I broke my pump clip. It was a spectacle, shattered pieces of plastic and spring all over the room. It is so inconvenient, I prefer to have the option to clip my pump conspicuously rather than be forced to tuck it in somewhere where it will inevitably fall out or put it in my back pocket where it is anything but conspicuous. Ugh. My pump is not my most fashionable accessory. We often talk about how proud we are of our diabetes, but displaying that pride is a choice. Sometimes I’m too tired to explain what the thing on my hip is.
4. Running Late
I had a meeting, and a half-hour before my meeting I decided that I was due for a site change. It was day five, my site was still working, I was riding the wave but it was getting irritated. I needed to change it. I did not want to change it. I also needed to put in a new sensor, but I did not want to do that either. Sensors usually take me a little longer to change and with a little more mental strength due to a traumatic experience with a faulty site when I was a pre-teen, but on this day everything was taking longer. I couldn’t summon the mental strength to change my site. Looking at the needle made me sweat, so I grabbed an ice pack to numb the sensor site. I finally did it, but when I placed the tape over, I saw blood pooling around. I know its bad practice, but I usually leave it anyway. That experience did not exactly support my desire to complete my second site change. I eventually finished and had to jet up to my meeting. All the while my backpack was rubbing against my bleeding site, but I got there, late, because I couldn’t bring myself to do something that I do every three days.
5. Goodnight, sleep tight
This was the night after the vomiting. I was exhausted and I desperately needed eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. I cannot remember the last time that happened. More recently, I have become much more symptomatic at night. This means that while my BGs are the same as they’ve always been at night (safe zone), I wake up thinking that I am so low and I am going to die. Oh wait, I’m 5.4 (safe zone). I desperately wanted to sleep so I ran myself a little higher overnight to ensure that I didn’t wake up thinking that the end was near. This backfired so hard. I think that I would have slept better in my regular settings. I was drinking a litre of water every couple hours, going to the bathroom every other couple of hours, and I got no sleep. Sleep is for the weak, I wish. Diabetes may be treated with science, but it sure doesn’t act like it’s a science.
I already know that this one is going to be controversial.
I read an opinion article recently about going through university for yourself, not the GPA. It was interesting, the pay off between a 4.0 and your mental health. If I had an option between a sub optimal grade on a midterm or ketones, I would take the sub optimal grade. Sure, over the long term it’ll be more impactful, it’ll probably hit my self esteem harder, but on a basic human level I need my systems to be running the way they’re supposed to. Without those basic things (also known as living healthily), the rest doesn’t matter.
7. Self Love(emir)
Sorry, that was a bad pun. What is the first thing that you think of when you hear the words, teen, body, beauty, self. I’m sure it’s not a child on the top of a mountain in a power pose. I first thought of that haunting image of an anorexic girl looking in a mirror— the propaganda for disordered eating. I hate that image because I know that image. Whenever my BGs have been bad, it directly impacts my self-image and particularly my body image. I don’t have an eating disorder but there is something to be said about how diabetes can fuzzy the line in general. Over the summer I had many passionate conversations about what growing up with type 1 diabetes can do to a child’s relationship with food. Food, any kind of food can feel like the enemy because it is so much easier to control your diabetes without it as an additional variable. As an adolescent, I was often brought in to see the clinic social worker because of how susceptible type 1 diabetic youth (especially girls) are to eating disorders and unhealthy weight loss. Being surrounded by the rhetoric about diabetes in the media has made me very aware of how certain words such as fat, obesity, and diet are used in my context. I know that this is a much larger challenge for the T1D community and I hope that we can continue a conversation about development, healthy eating psychology, and diabetes.
This has definitely been the most extensive update that I have ever done. If you’ve made it this far, comment with a blue heart or something so I can personally thank you for your perseverance and friendship! Also, if you found any of this intriguing please comment/message/text/call me! I wish that I could say point blank that T1D sucks, but it doesn’t. T1D is a camouflage patterned rainbow; invisible with many elements. That metaphor works well for this update because there are seven colours in the rainbow! Niiiccce. Thanks, ‘betus. You’ve kept life exciting this far, cheers to 19 years!
From my personal Facebook page on November, 14th, 2016.