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Diabetes Victoria Blog


Join the discussion in our blog where a variety of writers from all walks of life take a stance on current diabetes issues.
 

We’re in this together: 4 relatable type 1 diabetes experiences



Hello there, diabetes community. My name’s Steph, and I’ve been living with type 1 diabetes for almost 7 years, since I was 19.
 
I know as well as any person living with diabetes how tricky it can be to manage. And while you may have a great support network helping you with the day-to-day challenges, sometimes friends and family don’t quite ‘get’ it. The good news is, you’re definitely not alone in your diabetes journey. There are heaps of us living with diabetes – about 1.7 million of us in Australia, in fact – and whether we know it or not, we’re all doing this diabetes thing together.
 
For that reason, I’d like to share how I deal with some of the most common diabetes experiences – which I’m sure you’ll relate to – and some tips for how to stay positive and take care of yourself.

1.Inconvenient hypos

Okay… I guess there isn’t ever a ‘convenient’ time to have a hypo. But I’m talking about the ones that come up when you really just don’t need it. Like when you’re:
  • sitting in a meeting
  • driving
  • on a date
  • feeling unwell in some other way (i.e. a migraine) and you can’t tell what’s what!
Hypos at really inconvenient times are something we can all relate to. They can be stressful, and sometimes embarrassing if you need to explain to people that you need to go and eat something.
 
When I feel hypos coming on at inconvenient times, I sometimes find myself being tempted to ignore it as long as possible – particularly when sitting in on an important work meeting or something I can’t excuse myself from easily. Obviously, this is not a great idea. Low blood glucose means your brain isn’t getting the energy it needs to function properly and needs to be treated as soon as possible.
 
I find it best to not make a big deal about the hypo. There are a few things you can do in a situation like this:
  • Don’t ignore it! Acknowledge that it’s happening and do a quick blood glucose check to confirm if you are low.
  • Hopefully you’ll have some hypo food on hand. If you feel uncomfortable about eating in front of people, you could always offer it around the room – making sure to take care of yourself first.
  • If you don’t have hypo food, slip away to get some jelly beans, juice or a snack.
  • Whatever situation you’re in, people will always understand your need to treat a hypoglycaemic reaction, so don’t be afraid to briefly explain what’s happening if you feel like you need to.

2.Injecting insulin in public

This is the worst, isn’t it? Whenever I need insulin in public, I’m always looking around wondering if anyone is watching and wondering what I’m doing (“it’s not illegal drugs, I swear!”). I spend a lot of time commuting on trains, and sometimes I’m hungry and need a snack while I’m travelling. There’s not much room to move in peak hour traffic, and I’m always terrified of people bumping me. Even just standing on the station platform peeling back my various layers of winter clothing to find an injection site while juggling my bags and laptop and everything – it’s annoying and I feel like I’m drawing attention to myself.

Then of course there’s being out in public for a meal – whether you’re meeting a client for lunch, or out with family for dinner. It’s great when there’s a table to hide behind, but I still worry that people are watching me fumble about with my NovoRapid pen – the bright orange colour really doesn’t help…
 
What I’ve come to find is this: No. One. Cares. I’ve never in my 7 years of having diabetes (and LOTS of injecting in public) found someone gawking at me while I brandish my needle. If injecting in public stresses you out, keep in mind: 
  • You’re probably being more subtle than you think.
  • Most people are in their own bubble not looking at anyone else. On public transport especially, people are focused on their phone screens or their books.
  • Have you ever noticed another person with diabetes injecting in public? Perhaps it’s just me, but I never have! So chances are, no one has noticed you doing it either.

3.Finger food

It can be really tricky navigating meals or events that involve grazing on finger food. Sometimes I come up against this for work events, or social events like engagement parties or birthdays. In the lead-up to Christmas and the holiday season, I know there are going to be Christmas parties and work lunches that involve this. Not to mention Christmas Day itself! My family always over-caters, and it seems to be a day of constant nibbling.
 
Eating bits and pieces constantly over a few hours is not the most convenient format for injecting. How you approach this style of eating is up to you. You may decide to:
 
  • Eat what you’re going to eat all at once and calculate your insulin intake based on that.
  • Take a dose at the beginning for what you know you’re going to eat straightaway. Have a nibble, then see how hungry you are and calculate an insulin dose for some more food if you want it.
  • Eat what you like, check your blood glucose at the end, and then take a dose to correct if it’s high.
I’m not going to lie – I love eating. For me, nibbling on snacks is the epitome of enjoyment, so I don’t let this food format get me down. I tend to do a bit of all three of the above options, and maybe take a couple of injections throughout the event. The most important thing is not letting it upset you, and keeping an eye on your blood glucose levels over the few hours you’re nibbling. Chat to your diabetes educator, dietitian or endocrinologist for advice.

4.When it doesn’t make sense

I’m almost certain you know this one. You check before dinner and your blood glucose is perfect, say 5.5. Then you eat nought but a few lettuce leaves for dinner, test afterwards, and your reading is 15.3! Whaaaaat?! Sometimes, our bodies just don’t make sense. You can be in a really good place with your blood glucose monitoring, and have an awesome system in place, and then, all of a sudden, things just change for no reason. It can feel like you’re not doing it right or are not on top of your own diabetes management, and that’s not nice.
 
Just know that diabetes is not as black and white as you may think, and your diabetes healthcare team will agree. There are so many factors that play into your management, from what you eat, to how you exercise, to your hormones, to your stress levels, to the weather, to the position of the stars (maybe not quite… but you get my drift). The point is, don’t feel disheartened when your management gets thrown out of whack by some unknown force. It happens to us all, and doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. Try and keep an eye out for patterns. Journaling can help you keep track of when things change, and what’s going on around you to possibly trigger those changes.
 
Managing type 1 diabetes can be hard. But you’re definitely not on your own. I hope these examples go to show that we all experience the same tricky stuff, and while it’s hard and frustrating, we’re in this together! You can share your experiences with others via online diabetes forums, or on the Diabetes Victoria Facebook page.
 
One final word – you’re doing absolutely great! Only someone else with diabetes could relate to how difficult and stressful this can be, so I truly think you’re a champion for taking care of yourself as best you can. You’ve got this.
 
About the author:
 
Stephanie Underhill is a copywriter and content strategist who loves words and food, and words about food. She also lives with type 1 diabetes and is passionate about living a full life regardless. Steph lives in Melbourne with her husband Josh and their little Westie named Harvey.

 

 
All views, opinions, product endorsements, advice and/or dietary recommendations expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, advice, product endorsements or dietary recommendations of Diabetes Victoria, or its affiliate organisations. Any medical advice should be sought from an accredited diabetes educator. For further information Please call 1300 136 588.