Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Divided and United

This blog was first published on the Diabetes UK Blog site in November 2013

Despite being a member of a "club" along with about 4 million other people in the UK, having diabetes is a very individual thing.  The intricacies of the treatment varies from person to person (think insulin to carb ratios) and some will have symptoms that others don't (e.g. hypo awareness).

How we each manage our own conditions, and everything else that comes with it, is a very personal thing to us.  The people we interact with and discuss our daily highs and lows (pun not intended) is also an individual thing.  Some choose to talk openly to the #doc (diabetic online community), others attend local meetings and some may only share with their nearest and dearest.

Despite the myriad individual things that set us all apart from other diabetics, I recently realised that there are a lot of things that do unite us.  I think it probably helps to remember when we're having a bad day that there's someone else who's been through the same things we have, and that should make us feel a little less alone in the universe.  What follows is a list of things that I think we've all done or experienced at some point in our diabetic journey (the list is a little Type 1 specific as I'm speaking from experience, but I've tried to include the Type 2 ones I've discussed with others)

  • Being told "you can't eat that" or "should you be having that?!"  
  • Testing your BG only to get a reading in the 20s that you can't possibly explain
  • ...and conversely, getting a low BG reading when you have no hypo symptoms
  • Writing down your insulin dose in a diary but forgetting to actually administer the dose (really hoping that's not just me!)
  • Waking up in the middle of the night and losing an hour of precious sleep to deal with a hypo
  • Hearing that you have the "naughty" type of diabetes (something I've heard said to Type 2s a few times!)
  • Concocting an elaborate excuse ahead of annual review time to explain a wayward HbA1c
  • Having a particularly bad day where you end up saying "sod it, I'm having chocolate"
  • Stacking insulin doses so you end up with low blood sugar
  • Having a BG reading that's either so high or so low that you do a double take on your meter
  • Wasting a test strip because you don't get quite enough blood on the end
  • Being slightly irritable and having someone tell you to test your BG because they think your sugars are too high/low
  • Getting blood on your clothes after a bolus injection or a cannula change
It's obviously not a comprehensive list but hopefully it does illustrate that whilst we have our own individual plans for dealing with our diabetes, there are some moments we all share.

It can be hard to feel like you're always in control of every aspect of your diabetic life and it can be quite easy to feel like you're the only person in the world who is struggling with something.  Hopefully you might recognise a few of the things from the list above and realise that while we're all individual, we're also all united by the same things that diabetes forces upon us every day.

Can you think of any I've missed?

World Diabetes Day

Tomorrow (Thursday 14th November 2013) is World Diabetes Day (WDD for the sake of my typing).  It's going to be the first time I've "celebrated" it and I've been thinking about what it really means to me.

The short answer is "I don't know".  I've been diabetic for 12 years now and truth be told, I've only known about WDD for a couple of years despite it having been running since 1991.  Those with curious minds can visit the International Diabetes Federation website to find out a bit more about it and the significance the date holds.

Obviously I'm all for anything that helps promote awareness of diabetes and the various difficulties it brings.  There's without doubt a certain stigma that comes with it as many people are unaware of the different "types" of diabetes and the different causes/effects of each.  Again, I'm not going to shove the information down your throat, but Diabetes UK have a pretty quick and effective guide to Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes if you're interested.

I've done a fair amount of work over the last 12-18 months to help fundraise and awareness on behalf of Diabetes UK (thanks to everyone who's supported me in those ventures) but I'm still unsure of the best way to "mark" the day, or whether I need to mark it at all.

I've got some great friends within the Diabetic Online Community (#doc) as well as some great relationships I've formed with people I've met via hospital courses or through my local Voluntary Group.  I'm sure tomorrow will be like many others in a lot of respects in that I'll experience a few highs and lows (physically, metaphorically and blood glucosely) and that I'll chat some of the same nonsense I always do.

After a little contemplation, I decided that I'll rock up to work in a blue shirt and tie (repping the IDF colours) and that I'll try and "live tweet" my day as a Type 1 diabetic.  I'll post my blood glucose readings, my meals, my carb calculations and some of the emotional responses that a "typical" day with diabetes can elicit.  (There's a lot of talk around the associated mental health problems people with diabetes can face that you may not be aware of).

If you want a snapshot into the world of a diabetic, or might know someone else who'd be interested, you can follow me on Twitter at @BroomOwl I'll do my best to tag my posts with #WDD and #DILOD (Day In the Life of a Diabetic) depending on character limits and all that.

I suppose tomorrow will be a chance to reflect and be thankful that whilst having diabetes can suck some of the time, I'm lucky to be alive in a time where modern medicine means I've got a pretty decent shot of living with it for years to come.