What’s it really like to have type 1 diabetes? Every morning I start the day with a finger prick and two insulin injections. It doesn’t matter if I don’t feel like it. It doesn’t matter if I’m tired. There is simply no room for pre-coffee dosage errors, excuses, or whining. Some mornings are good and some are bad, based upon my blood glucose reading. Its level varies greatly depending on whether my liver has released large stores of glucose during the dawn hours.
I wish the difficulty ended there, but we are just getting started. After taking my shots, eating a healthy breakfast, and (hopefully) fitting in some exercise, I head to work. A short while later, depending on my next finger prick, I decide whether a snack or a shot is in order.
Lunch cannot take place until another finger prick and careful carbohydrate calculations determine the amount of insulin I must inject to keep my blood sugar stable. It doesn’t matter that math was far from my best subject in school. I must perform accurate calculations to figure out the proper amount of insulin to take based on the carbohydrates in my food.
When I’m dealing with low blood sugar, I get confused, sweaty, and shaky. I need fast-acting sugary snacks or juice immediately, even if I’m not hungry, to bring my blood sugar levels back up to a safe level. I carry glucose with me and in my car at all times, and juice boxes fill a spot in the refrigerator at work.
When I’m dealing with high blood sugar, I need yet another shot based on a sliding scale. It’s not just food that affects my blood sugars. So many things influence blood glucose levels, including hormones, physical activity, stress, and illness.
At dinner time, I check my blood glucose again, take another injection, eat, and wait. I need to allow two hours between dinner and bedtime for my last blood glucose check and my final shot of the day. It doesn’t matter that I might be tempted to fall asleep on the couch and have my contact lenses be my only worry. For the rest of my life, the worry will be about my blood sugar. My blood sugar at bedtime must be high enough to ensure that I will not end up unconscious and have a seizure in my sleep. At the same time, it must be low enough to keep me healthy and avoid complications.
Diabetes feels a little like rocket science at times. When I hear people judging how a person with diabetes takes care of herself, I want to challenge them to walk in our shoes for a while. It isn’t easy. People with diabetes never get a day off. We take care of ourselves, even when we are moody, tired, busy, sick, or stressed. Our lives depend on it.
We all have obstacles in life to deal with. Our obstacle may be diabetes, but we do what we have to each day. Diabetes will not stop us.