By: Keith Carroll
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on June 25, 2009. At the time, I was a few weeks shy of my nineteenth birthday and had just finished my first year of college at the State University of New York at New Paltz.
I’d always been relatively healthy apart from the occasional flu or stomach bug, but in the weeks leading up to my diagnosis, I gradually started noticing that something was wrong.
It started with frequent urination. I wasn’t one to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, but one night I got up six times, starting an unpleasant, sleepless trend. I assumed that I kept having to go because of all the water I was drinking. I was constantly thirsty, and no matter how much I drank, it was never enough.
Then my weight became an issue. I came home for the summer weighing 160 pounds. I dropped to 145 pounds, after having spent much of the previous weeks lounging around my house eating junk food.
I finally decided to go to the doctor after my vision started to blur. It got to the point that I couldn’t drive and had to strain to read large text. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t convince myself that all of my symptoms were a coincidence.
On the day I was diagnosed, my blood glucose level was 580 mg/dL. My doctor immediately injected me with insulin and threatened to send me to the hospital if it didn’t rapidly improve. I saw an endocrinologist early the next morning and have been using insulin pens ever since.
I adjusted my lifestyle quickly; I didn’t have a choice. I learned how to inject myself, how to check my blood sugar, and what the warning signs of high/low blood sugar are. I began drinking diet soda, and Splenda became my friend. I started carrying a bag of Skittles with me for emergency purposes.
But even as my health improved, I was still miserable. I’d spent 19 years being able to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, without a second thought. Raspberry Snapple was my drink of choice, and I ate pasta like it was my job.
My favorite part was explaining to people that I have type 1, which means that the copious amounts of Taco Bell I eat had nothing to do with my getting sick. Even now, that conversation never gets old.
Two years later, I still struggle with it sometimes. I get jealous when I see someone eating cotton candy, and I miss the taste of grape soda. I still don’t know why it happened. The strangest part is that diabetes doesn’t run in my family, although autoimmune conditions do, so there may be some connection.
All things considered, I’m pretty lucky. I didn’t have to go to the hospital, and I got things under control pretty quickly. My family was a huge help in helping me adjust to my new normal.
And that’s what diabetes has become for me: normal.