Diabetes

Hi, my name is diabetes

When first diagnosed with a chronic disease such as type 1, there is a lot of coping to do. You are confused at first. This is your life. This is your new life. This is the way it will be for the rest of your life. Eyeing a plate-full of spaghetti and seizing up the carb count. Checking your blood sugar several times throughout the day, and taking shots of insulin every time you eat.

Its a lot to absorb.

And it’s a lot for others to absorb as well.

I’ve never specifically tried to hide my disease. But there are circumstances where it is just not easy or socially acceptable to introduce yourself by your disease. Only people who know me well, know that I have diabetes. Because we have come to some circumstance where I have had to make it known, for my own health, that I have a severe condition. For example, at lunch I will pull out my meter and take a finger stick and pull out a device that looks like an ipod, attached to me with a single clear tube to take insulin. IMG_3119

Seeing how this might seem scary to someone unfamiliar with the disease?

The plain cold truth is that people without diabetes just don’t understand. And quite frankly, if I didn’t have diabetes it would probably look scary to me too.

That is why it is hard to introduce my self. “Hi, my name is diabetes—-I mean, uh, I have diabetes”  “I mean uhhhhhhhh my name is Sydney.” That’s what it would sound like if I was frank right off the bat. But its hard to reach that point of familiarity with a stranger in which it feels okay to tell them. I recently got a small job, and at the place where I work, no one knows that I have diabetes. I don’t know them that well yet. And what would they say if I told them? This is why I sneak off to the bathroom every couple of hours to take a blood sugar and insulin injection.

At prom a few months ago, I went with a date. A friend, whom I knew pretty well, we were close, but not “Hi, my name is diabetes close.” When I took my blood sugar at the table, he looked at me like I had four heads. I said, “Oh yea, by the way, I have type one diabetes.” He smiled and said, “Oh, that’s OK. My grandma has diabetes,” at which point a good friend from across the table said “How has this never come up before?”

There were several things wrong in this situation. One, he identified my type of diabetes as the same which his grandma had, which was most likely type two. Second of all, we were still getting to know each other and I couldn’t have just said, “I have diabetes,” could I? Third of all, my friend called us out on this DRASTIC piece of important information that he apparently should’ve known. Like she was thinking, “anyone who knows Sydney knows that she has diabetes,” which should just be a given, but not necessarily.

I have shared this feeling with my mom, where she says, “It is scary to other people too. So all you have to do is let them know that you are OK. “IMG_2990

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Diabetes, Uncategorized

I Hate Needles

“OMG!!! How do you do that?”

“You mean, you have to take a shot?”

“You have to prick your finger?”

“I HATE needles!”

Quite frankly, no one really likes needles. I mean, how often do kids go skipping off to the doctors office, gleefully singing, “I get a shot, today I get a shot today.” Not very often. Unless they are thinking about the lollipop afterwards.

I don’t like needles either. It is not comforting to think that I have to prick my finger eight times a day and take a shot whenever I eat. (Ever since my pump broke I have been on shots again.) But its something I’ve gotten used to. I tolerate shots. And if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here today.

When I explain my disease to others, or they see that I have to do the grotesque motions to manage my health I often get these comments. But they upset me. Because I have no say in the luxury of hating shots. It is simply what I have to do every day to keep myself alive. And when people ask if it hurts, I don’t know what to say. Because it doesn’t really, to be honest. The needles available nowadays are really small. And the fact is, I’m used to it.

But if I say no, it makes me seem like some sort of superhero who is immune to the pain and disgust of needles. But if I say yes- am I playing the pity card?

I still remember the first time I pricked my finger, at Children’s National Hospital. All the things that were happening in the hospital seemed surreal- like something I just had to endure for a few days and before I knew it, it would just be that time I had an IV and took a few shots in the hospital. But no, it was now part of my everyday life. Imagine being told at seven years old, that you will have to prick your finger and take shots everyday for the rest of your life.

Yea, I didn’t like that idea either. At the beginning it was rough, I used to hide when my parents had to give me a shot. And I would cry. And they would feel bad and wonder why this happened to me.

But I got over it. Because there was no sense in hiding, I was just going to get the shot anyways. So I surrendered, put my guard down and began to tolerate needles.

Because I no longer had the luxury to hate them.

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Baggage

As some fellow Diabetics may know, diabetes comes with many “bags”. Shopping bags, pharmacy bags, meter bags, kit bags, hand bags, and under eye bags- due to lack of sleep.  Yes, diabetes comes with all of these tangible bags for our necessary needles, strips, supplies and items, but their is also a type of bag that it comes with that others do not see.

Just plain and simple- the baggage of having type one diabetes.

This is a large, very expensive bag that hangs over our heads at all costs. It is there throughout every aspect of our daily  lives. Anytime a person with diabetes wants to run, exercise or participate in some form of activity we must prepare adequately. We have to worry about checking our blood sugar, bring along our blood sugar meter, sugar or snacks and adjust our insulin. Once before cross country practice when getting all my gear together I joked with a friend, “I wish I could just spontaneously go for a run.” But the plain fact is spontaneous is not exactly a word that goes with diabetes.

Fortunately those who have Continuous Glucose Monitors have the ability to see where their sugars may be headed but it is still a constant worry. Those with insulin pumps are able to turn down our basal rate, or the insulin we get throughout the day when active to receive less insulin. However, in order to adjust, those who take injections must think hours in advance when taking insulin.

The baggage is there every time we go to drive a car. Is my blood sugar stable? Am I wearing a medical ID bracelet?

And if the nervous jitters come before a presentation, interview or skating competition, I have to ask myself, “Am I shaky because I am nervous or because I am low?” The two can be hard to discern at times. baggage 2

This baggage is also lurking in the back of my mind for future decisions. In high school it is a constant prep for college and deciding on a career for the future. My parents have taught me to be realistic with myself and my disease. I need a job that pays the bills, will include medical insurance, and have enough money and benefits to purchase all of my diabetes supplies.

College is a big worry- for anyone. It is a major life change from high school to independence. I also have to consider a school that provides healthy food options to keep my blood sugar stable, a mini fridge in my room- for insulin and snacks (but mostly snacks LOL).  Safety on campus is also a factor to consider knowing that i can have peace of mind that my supplies will be left untouched. With safety comes party scene, but that’s a topic for another post.

Diabetes is always there and the bag is always hanging above your head. But its up to you whether you use it as a pendulum to drag you down or a carrot above your nose, motivating you to rise above and achieve bigger and better things.

 

 

 

 

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In the beginning

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“I just don’t understand.” Mom cried as she stood over the screen of the blood sugar meter that read 65. At the time I stood next to her, my hands shaking, unfamiliar with the unsettling feeling of low blood sugar. Dad, as any engineer would, pulled out the “Pink Panther’s guide to type 1 diabetes” and tried to quickly explain the reading on the meter. There really was no explanation for the reading after three days in the hospital, a two hour car ride, and a Quizno’s sub. The only thing we could do was treat the low, as the pink panther had stated.

So dad pulled two packs of Smarties out of the pink camouflage bag that the hospital had provided for us. I, utterly confused, took the candy, unaware of the reason candy was being thrust upon me and the new substance it was to me. I was a child, blinded to the new changes I’m my life that would suddenly flash before me.

Three days before, mom had grabbed my hand, crossing the street into the lobby of St. Mary’s Hospital. I, seven years old, again did not know what to think. I had just come from the pediatrician who had told be that my bed wetting was not an infection, and naturally I was halfway between embarrassed and again confused. All I knew was that he had sent my sister and I into the hallway while he told mom something very disturbing. Mom came out of his office crying, and a few minutes later I found myself sitting in a chair, my arm being squeezed by the blue band, and a needle just inches away from drawing blood from my veins.

Little did I know of the long weekend that lie ahead of us, and of the reoccurring times that I would stand in the kitchen, my arms shaking while downing a pack of Smarties.

…..And this is just the beginning of my journey with type one diabetes. What’s your story?