So, I’ve been living with type 1 for 16 years now. That’s over half of my life. We’ve had our ups and downs, me an ol’ diabetes, but now I’ve reached my 30’s (gasp) I feel more at peace with it all than I ever have before. Don’t get me wrong, there are serious downsides. There’s no cure, we have to plan a lot & take extra care, not to mention really scary stuff like the looming possibilities of blindness & loss of limbs (always really cheery thoughts for day to day life, eh? Stick with me here) but alongside this, I actually think my best attributes can be linked to having type 1 & that makes me feel quite lucky. Let me explain.
There’s nothing like testing your blood sugar 8 times a day, pumping 4 times (goodbye injections, I don’t miss you one bit!) & constantly being prepared with emergency sugar supplies to make you super organised. I’m so organised I made a career out of it for years. Organised = Event Coordinator = not too shabby for Sarah.
Empathy. Living with a condition every single day, that people can’t really see makes you realise that other people are going through all kinds of things that we don’t know about & even if people say they’re ok, they might just be hiding something pretty upsetting. I’ve learned to talk things through and really listen to people – as I’m lucky enough to have some people in my life who’ve really listened to me.
Living for the moment & planning for the future. Gasp. You CAN do both. Knowing that my health will seriously suffer if I don’t keep my blood sugars stable makes me realise how precious life is, so I always try and do things that scare me (in a good way) spend loads of time with my beautiful family and have some fricking fun.
It also makes me think of the future. My body is in it for the long haul. I already have medium diabetic retinopathy (scary eye problems, all you non diabetics) and I don’t want any other problems, thank you very much! Luckily I haven’t needed treatment for my eyes and I’m making sure I won’t need it in yhe future, too. So many people waste a lot of life and I know with absolute certainty that I am making the most of it. This makes me feel pretty damn good. Strength. I recently read than the vast majority of diabetics have suffered depression at some point in their lives. Been there, done that. A few months after I was diagnosed, a painfully skinny, tired, sick shell of the sporty, happy early teen I was before, I started having panic attacks. Waking in the night not breathing, panicking every time I had low blood sugar – that feeling took a while to get used to. I don’t know about you other type 1’s, but I liken it to feeling like the life is being sucked out of you (dramatic, me? But it’s true) your body is shutting down and when it’s new to you it’s terrifying.
It took me a few years to get through the worst and I put my health second to ‘having a normal life’ far too many times. Hence the retinopathy from high blood sugar throughout my late teens (naughty diabetic, normal teenage behaviour) As a result of seeing the other side of reactive depression, my mum and then my husband were the only people who knew what I was experiencing and living with type 1 for half of my life, I feel like a pretty strong person now (cue #WhoRuntheWorld etc) I know of type 1’s who’ve had to give up careers because their health took a huge hit and I totally get that. I will never let this happen to me.
I imagine if you asked a lot of colleagues and contacts from my Events time, they wouldn’t have a clue I had diabetes and now I realise that’s not such a good thing. I was always so determined that it wouldn’t stop me doing anything that I would hide it and ignore highs and lows (until close to passing out) because I thought it would make me seem less efficient professionally and I’d be seen as a burden. I now realise how stupid that was. Now, if people don’t get it, I try and educate. If they still don’t get it, then screw them. I’ve still got a lot to learn and I’m far from perfect (how boring would that be?!) But I believe having type 1 has made me make the most out of life and to give people a break sometimes, when maybe I would’ve been quicker to take things as face value. But hey, that’s just me!