One Year After Diagnosis

One year ago today, it was confirmed that I had Type One Diabetes.

The time between then and now has passed far faster than normal, which is a pleasing silver lining.  I’m sure I have learnt a lot in that time; certainly – considering the other traumatic events of 2010 – I have learnt more about myself than any other year.  But at the same time, I don’t feel I have progressed enough.  I don’t feel I have as much control over it as I should.  I know Diabetics don’t get a total grip over their condition in a year, and considering the serious distractions that come with a loved one’s serious illness being more than an ample distraction, I still feel I should have done more.  But it still feels like only a few months ago that it was confirmed.  In contrast, the day of diagnosis itself was a very long one.

I had more or less come to the conclusion that I had Diabetes before I stepped into the doctor’s office, but while that made the confirmation easier, it didn’t mean it was easy to hear.  From the doctor’s to the Diabetic clinic in Bridgend, I absorbed a lot of information that day.  I’m amazed I took so much of it in.  The nurse commented then as she has in almost all of our appointments, that I seemed to take it very well.  There was a wave of numbness fighting to overtake me all day; it was certainly there in the periods of blank staring I did throughout the day, but when I was talking to the nurse I knew I had to engage. Face it, head on. Run at it screaming, instead of away from it crying.  I’m not saying there weren’t tears; there have been plenty.  But one of the few things I’m most proud of is not caving to the internal desire to dive sobbing under the covers, hoping that it’ll just go away if I get upset enough.  It won’t though, and I knew that.  This is with me until the day I die, and unless I face it, that day will be a lot sooner than it need be.

“More susceptible to…” These three words I now loathe.  Thanks, pancreas.  Heart attacks, strokes, nerve damage, infections, tooth decay, the list goes on.  I don’t exercise enough, and I know I should.  I should anyway, but with the higher risk of heart conditions I should do something to keep myself in good shape – or at least a better shape than I am right now.  But I would hazard a guess that I am healthier than I was.  My diet didn’t really go through a massive change; I already made sure I had my fill of fruit and veg and ate enough fibre to be classed as part-loaf.  Cutting out the chocolate and sweet treats from my life was surprisingly easy.  Others find this baffling – less cake? Less chocolate? Madness – but when you consider that to keep eating this stuff all the time means a higher chance of dying… it’s not that hard to cut these things back. (Cut back. Remember that, non-diabetics. Cut back, not cut out).

But I still need to exercise more; I have an exercise bike upstairs so it should be easy.  Thankfully, my job is active; I frequently tackle up to six flights of stairs that beat most stairmaster workouts, with the advantage of being paid to use it instead of paying for it.

“Diabetes revolves around your life, not the other way around.”

This is another phrase I’m not a fan of, but for different reasons.  I am yet to get a handle of this.  I am sick of having to consider everything I do.  ‘Going out’ has a number of implications; Are we eating? If not do I have time to fit in food without having insulin doses too close together?  What do I take with me? Will I be staying out overnight? Do I take a bag or keep all my equipment in pockets?
I’m sure in time I will be better at this – I certainly hope so – but it has killed the notion of spontaneity considerably.
Not having a grip on these questions makes me feel like a burden to those I will be with. Unnecessary, as whoever I am with would strongly deny thinking of me as any such thing, but that doesn’t stop me being frustrated that something as simple as popping out for lunch or to ‘watch the game’ on the weekend requires fiddly consideration.  If I go to a club, will they have a cloakroom for my insulin pens? Will they cause a scene when they find needles on me without knowing what they’re for (they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, but this would be attention I do not want)?

I am beginning to have a better gauge on how much insulin I need from meal to meal, but my blood sugar levels continue to give me readings I don’t expect. The professionals tell me that I am doing well with my control, but the erratic numbers I get make it hard for me to believe that. I’ll frequently give myself the same dose for the same meal and get a different reading later without really knowing what it is that’s caused it to be lower/higher this time.

There have been a number of reasons why I feel so ‘behind’, however.
The most minor being Christmas. While I did a better job of avoiding the overindulgences of the festive period than I thought I would (me and Christmas food have been good pals for many years), a few readings breached the 15 (mmol/L) mark, leading to my weekly/fortnightly/monthly averages being above 7.  I got it back down, but since then, all my average readings have been the very top end.  Today, the 30-day reading is 6.8.  If it stays this way until my next appointment and my nurse again says I’m ‘the model patient’, then I will be crushed, as it will surely mean that it is just something they say to make you feel more confident.

Having my wisdom teeth out towards the end of the year didn’t help things.  The resultant diet of soup was frustrating for more than the fact I loathe soup with a passion. I had to reduce my levels of insulin radically.  Hypos were frequent.  Going to sleep at night was a little more worrying.  But – just like the rest of the year – I made it through without waking up in an ambulance.

But the biggest obstacle to my progress has been my father’s illness.  Most of it is catalogued over the course of this blog. The harrowing nature of dealing with that made me face my first hypos induced by stress, but more than that, it taught me a lesson in not becoming too self-involved with my condition.  During these months, I managed quite well not having my life revolve around the condition.  It made me stronger as a person.  I didn’t really believe this – it certainly didn’t feel like it – but the amount of praise saying so forced me to accept it.  I’m not sure I can express how grateful I am for some of the things said to me.

Knowing that support is there is a great help.  I may be open about many things, but when it comes to the serious things in life, I clam up.  But just because I don’t talk to anyone about these things (apart from you, internet blog accessible by millions of total strangers) doesn’t mean that I’m not bolstered knowing that I can.  Since diagnosis, while I am yet to come into contact with another Type 1, I have met a high number of people who are close to one.  In work, I have a colleague who has a son with Type 1, her daughter also works with us, and she in turn has seen two friends of hers be diagnosed (leading to jokes that maybe she’s the unknown cause of it!), another has a fiancée, and one of our managers somehow ended up living with two in university.  We’re everywhere, living among you, just waiting for the time to rise up and make chocolate fudge cake illegal…

Helping me greatly is my sense of humour. I enjoy laughing. A lot. And when something like this happens, you have to see the funny side or you’ll spend an eternity in tears.  Thankfully, the wide scope of my sense of humour (bear in mind I’m talking of what I find funny, not how funny I am; that’s another matter altogether!).  When my sight went as my body readjusted to insulin, I was incredibly scared – though everyone said it would come back, there was that part saying “what if it doesn’t?”.  So the best way of dealing with it was laughing about the ridiculous things that happened in that situation; sitting in a light-drenched room at the breakfast table, munching my Alpen in sunglasses. Indoors.  Watching a Six Nations match where the Irish team on their bright green pitch became invisible but for the white shorts moving around the pitch.  When trying new things, I often mentally follow this train of thought “Go for it. What’s the worst that can happen? Oh, a diabetic coma… well… let’s do it anyway.”  Gallows humour isn’t a constant, but a regular dose of it helps clear the self-pity excellently.

This is essay length now, so I suppose I should leave it here. If you’ve read this far, well done. To sum up, although I have obviously learnt a lot over the last year, I was hoping that I would be able to believe it. I was hoping to be in control. Put that down to my cautious nature. It has only been a year, and I have been frequently told it takes more than that to properly adjust to Diabetes.  I just need to believe that I have made good enough progress when this first year had such a horrific distraction.  But when you’re faced with a condition that means you have to inject something four times a day to survive, having a parent play Knock Knock Ginger on Death’s door is an effective way of combating self-pity.  I have my moments – we all do, whatever situation we’re in – but I keep going.  That’s what you do.  If you shut down psychologically, it’s only going to make things harder.  So you remind yourself of how much worse it could be (again, a loved one getting a form of cancer will help with that, but I wouldn’t recommend it), you tell yourself to face it, as running from it won’t help anyone.  Being able to do this has surprised me; I’d even go as far as to say that I’m proud of how I’ve faced it.  I wouldn’t call myself a coward, but I’ve never felt particularly brave.  But there’s no escape from it, so fuck it, what’s the worst that could happen? Oh… a Diabetic Coma. Well… let’s do it anyway. I’d rather look it in the eye than have my eyes clouded with tears.

Here’s to the next year.


3 Responses to One Year After Diagnosis

  1. Phillip says:

    Phill, what to say that doesn’t sound trite…nope I’ve got nothing.

    On a separate note your writing is truly exceptional…but that doesn’t really address the content. I gave this post and the blog a shout out on Twitter, I hope there are Diabetics out there who will come across it and take some comfort from a personal experience so eloquently expressed.

    I wish you and yours all the very best.

  2. teacherface says:

    I’m a little late to the party but I’ll admit I find it surprising it’s been over a year since you were diagnosed – it truly seems as if it were only yesterday.
    And maybe that’s it. It’s not curable but it’s liveable (good grammar) so you have time to come to terms with it and deal with it as only you can. The pressure you heap upon yourself must be immense – you’ll always want to do better but whose to say what’s not good enough? I think you’re doing just fine and you still have a smile on your face.

    That counts for so much.

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