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19 Lessons from 19 Years of Type 1 Diabetes

First of all, hello everyone! Thank you for bearing with me in my silence, I have not been in a great headspace and every time I open my laptop, nothing comes to mind. Its all part of the journey I suppose.

Life has been very busy at the minute, myself and partner are getting married in a couple of months so wedding planning has completely taken over my free time! Our dog Lola is just an absolute joy, she is just a darling! Keeping us active but that is never a problem.

On the 28th January 2023 will be my 19th diaversary.  19 years of insulin injections and finger pricks, 19 years of struggle, 19 years of pushing myself to new limits I wasn’t aware of. So below is a short and sweet list of everything I have learnt with diabetes!

1. Diabetes is hard. Do not let anyone ever tell you that it is just 4 injections a day or only 5 minutes of thought. They do not know anything. Diabetes never leaves our minds, how much insulin do I need to give for this biscuit, are my sugars out of range or is my heart just pounding that little bit harder, how do I get a full nights sleep without my blood sugars going out of range. It’s a constant and will never leave so needs these permanent thoughts. If someone says this to you, just try and educate them. You are allowed to be upset is someone ever says this.

2.Diabetes management runs in peaks and troughs. This is not a linear disease. Some days will be utterly perfect, whilst others are a complete struggle. This does not mean you are doing bad job, every diabetic has times like this. If you are having a bad day and are struggling, just set one small goal for yourself such as give insulin for dinner, and work towards that.

3.Diabetic technology might not be right for you at this current moment in time but do not say no to it forever. It is always developing and improving, you might find that a couple of years down the line its something that you are interested in. It took me a couple of years to move onto the Freestyle libre and now I cannot go a day without my Dexcom G7 being connected!

4.Its okay and actually very normal to see a Diabetic psychologist. You can feel completely isolated going to see them but actually majority of diabetics have been to see them at some point. They are so informative but know about diabetes as well so have some understanding on how you think of your diabetes. Their knowledge comes in handy when giving you tips and tricks to work on as they are diabetes focused.  

5.Everything happens for a reason. I know it is very cliché to think like this but I fully believe that this is true. If I hadn’t been diagnosed with diabetes I would have never met my future husband. A number of different decisions had to be changed because of my diabetes, leading to the two of us meeting!

6.Parents/careers do know best! As much as you do not want to hear this. But when I was growing up through my teens with my diabetes, I went out of my way to ignore my mum’s help and advice when that is actually what I needed to do. Her constant care was one of the only things that kept me alive through my darkest of days. I will always be internally grateful and extremely sorry for how I acted through those times. She still comes with me to my appointments because I need my mum!

7.Being open and upfront about your diabetes is key. This is extremely important to help you be provided with fair opportunities and help for your diabetes. People are a lot more understanding if you just tell them what is going on. Whether that is to a new employer, family or friends. If you explain your diabetes and anyway they can help you, 99% of the time these requests will be made.

8.You can still live a very normal life. I drive, I own a home, I work a full-time job, I plan on having my own family in the near future. Just because I’m a type 1 diabetic, does not mean I won’t live till I am 90 or have normal life achievements. There might just be some added diabetic complications in there.

9.You can recover from your lowest points. If you want some more detail, please read ‘My Scariest DKA Experience’. These are extremely painful memories as I was in such a bad way, for years leading up to this experience as well. And in all honesty, some of the thoughts I had back then are creeping into my head now. But due to years of therapy, I know how to deal with them. As I said above, diabetes is a peaks and trough situation. At the minute I am in a definite trough but this is a million times better then what it was before. And that is the progress I am focusing on.

10.Do not give up on yourself. You will experience burnout. You will experience negative association. You will experience so much but you are so much more than your diabetes. Anything that you are struggling with right now will get better, it might be worth telling someone how you are feeling or writing thoughts in a journal, or on a blog for example. But you live your own life and your diabetes is just taking a ride with you.

11.It is okay to give yourself a break if you are hypo or hyper. Now this one definitely takes a lot of time to get used to! Especially if you don’t like putting yourself first. But there is no point trying to continue working if you are not feeling well. When your sugars are low or too high it severely impacts your brain cognition, so taking 15 minutes out from whatever you are up can make the world of difference to the quality of your task but also your ability to think!

12.Sometimes decorating your diabetic devices can make the difference! I know that this seems a really simple thing but sometimes making your DEVICES look a lot less medical can make you feel proud of them, and you want to show them off! I have personally always hidden my diabetic devices to avoid those conversations but when you put pretty stickers on them, you want to show them off and it becomes a lovely conversation starter!

If you are from the UK check out, Type 1 Toucan, Emma does the best stickers with such a variety as well!

13.You can make some amazing friends through the Diabetic community. Having access to social medias can be a blessing and a curse. But it has allowed me to connect with other diabetics and share my story. And meet some truly amazing people! If you feel alone with your diabetes, this can help connect you to likeminded people which has been an incredible turning point for me!

14.HB1AC is not everything! This is actually a very outdated measurement. It shows an average blood sugar of the last 3 months from looking at the health of your white blood cells. But that’s exactly what is outdated about it, it is only an average. It does not take into account the amount of hypos or hypers. What should be looked at is the Time in Range % if you use a CGM or FGM. This highlights your trends a lot better and shows what you need help with. Are you having loads of hypos, an adjustment can be made to counteract that. It shows a much bigger picture and I have found the help I have received when nurses are looking at Time in Range has been incredibly helpful!

15.It is very normal to ask for help with your diabetes! Most people, like myself, can see/saw asking for help as you have failed. That is not the case in the slightest. Managing your diabetes is a monumental task. The amount of extra decisions each day that you have to think of to just survive is crazy. So, passing on some of the challenge can be extremely refreshing and give you a much needed break.

16.Have your diabetic care managed at the hospital. In the UK you tend to be given a choice between having your diabetic care managed at your local doctor surgery or at your local hospital. Always choose the hospital! They have the latest pieces of equipment along with the updated guidance and information helping to make your care as easy as possible! It’s definitely the best thing you can do for your care!

17.Exercise can do miracles for blood sugars. I find that if I am having a tough day and struggling to reduce my blood sugars then going out for a walk makes the world of difference for insulin absorption. A simple 15 minute walk can be exactly what my body needs be able to use the insulin that I have injected. But saying that, when my blood sugars are high, the last thing I want to do is go for a walk and can be a complete battle but you win some and loose some!

18.You do not need to change your diet because you are a diabetic. Many people believe that you require a special diet because you are a diabetic. THIS IS NOT TRUE. You can eat exactly what you want. Just have to make sure you are giving insulin for the food. With that being said though, food must be eaten in moderation with a big serving of fruit and veg – like the advice is for every single person on the planet!

19.Every day is different. This is one of the most important ones. Not only do your feelings change about your diabetes every day, but so does your bodies reactions to your diabetes. Just because one thing worked for you one day does not mean it’ll work for you the next. You need to expect changes and understand how many different factors affect your blood sugars.

Cheers to the following year to make it to a double decade!

Please enjoy the collection of images below showing my life with diabetes!

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