I don't think that many people actually appreciate what it takes for a type one diabetic just to be able to get through the day. It takes a lot of effort and diabetes requires 24/7 attention- so even the simplest of things aren't so simple anymore after being diagnosed with type one.
First of all, before I even go downstairs in the morning I need to rummage around on the floor or in my bag for my blood sugar kit and my levemir pen. I test my blood sugar- if it's good then that's fabulous, the chances are I'll have a good day of stable blood sugars, low? I have to rush downstairs to drink some juice and have something to eat...I'll probably feel pretty lethargic for a little while afterwards though. High? Immediately feeling thirsty upon waking up, legs feel like lead, head is pounding...makes getting ready for school a massive job because of lack of energy; need to give short acting insulin to correct. Then have to wait a little bit to actually eat breakfast because I need to give the insulin a chance to work. Test for ketones- if yes, morning routine just got a lot more clustered...more testing, more injecting, more water. No? Continue as normal as possible with morning routine.
Before type one, I never saw the importance in eating breakfast and felt that I didn't really need to, besides- I'm never hungry in the mornings. After type one, I now know that eating breakfast is essential if I want to avoid a low and feeling exhausted all day. Before being diagnosed if I did feel like breakfast I could just make a piece of toast or eat some cereal quickly...now, if I want some toast or cereal; first I need to calculate the carbohydrate content in the food, this normally requires some weighing scales, the food packaging and a calculator; once that is done it's onto insulin. I need to work out my insulin dose depending on my blood sugar and on the amount of carbohydrate in my food. Grab novorapid pen from upstairs, inject. Will I hit a nerve? Will it be okay? It's just my luck that I almost always seem to catch a nerve- let out a wince. Rub injection site to stop the stinging; go and brush teeth.
Teeth brushing can sometimes depend on my blood sugar. If I'm low or feel as though my blood sugar is dropping then I can't brush my teeth just yet as I'd have to eat again to correct hypo. If my blood sugar is good then that's fine, even if it's a bit high I can still brush them. It's just low blood sugar that proves to be the major problem. Before I could just go ahead and brush them...nothing to take into consideration.
Getting dressed- when I was on my insulin pump, I would either have to let it swing around freely from my stomach or I would hold it in my mouth until I was done. Neither were great choices but they were the only choices. Being on injections getting dressed doesn't pose as much of a challenge; however it is frustrating if I am dressed in a particular way that makes it difficult to get to my stomach or leg to do my injection.
Going to school. Before being a type one diabetic, my school bag was purely my lunch, maybe a bottle of water, maybe an umbrella and my books and stationary items. It's safe to say that the mass weight of my bag increased considerably five years ago...the additional items that reside in my school bag are my insulin pens, needles, spare needles, my blood sugar meter, spare test strips and lancets, if I have high blood sugar that morning then I would bring my ketone meter to school with me, if I have low blood sugar that morning I would most likely bring in extra gluocose tablets...not to mention two or three bottles of water just on a general daily basis- this is in case of a high blood sugar because trust me...I drink so much water when my blood sugar is high. I also have extra blood sugar meter and ketone meter batteries somewhere in my bag.
Being at school:
Like I said type one diabetes requires 24/7 attention and this doesn't stop when I get to school. Normally, when I get into school I will test my blood sugar to see where they stand after breakfast time. If they are fine then I can get on with my day, if they are high I will be thirsty, tired and feel very weak, need to test ketones, do more blood sugar checks and give correction doses of insulin. This will make it a billion times harder to get through the school day. If they are low, then I will need to correct that low blood sugar and probably won't go to class or participate in my first class for about the first half an hour. The intense demands that diabetes puts on my shoulders are very difficult to fit into my school life.
Break time is the same, high? low? good? routine. I normally have a snack at break time. I have to look at the little piece of paper that my mum writes the carbohydrates on for me in the mornings, I then need to add these up and calculate the carbohydrates. My friends can just get on with their food as normal...five years ago I used to partake in that same "normal" routine. Now my "normal" is very different.
Diabetes can interrupt my classes. If my blood sugar is unstable either high or low, it makes it very difficult to concentrate in lessons. High blood sugar makes me feel very tired and fidgety, and uncomfortable. A bout of low blood sugar will make me feel sweaty and lethargic. testing, insulin or glucose tablets normally occupy a significant proportion of my lesson time. If I manage to get my blood sugar back to normal again then I can continue with my lesson- before type one diabetes I didn't have to worry about any of this.
Lunch time is pretty much the same as break time. Then we all get to go home. I normally like to check just before leaving school to make sure I don't go low on the way home, if I feel an imminent low blood sugar I force myself food to correct it. Sometimes if I am high this requires an injection on the bus and draws some strange looks.
If I have had a day of high or low blood sugar I am very tired when I get home. I fall asleep on the sofa most evenings. Dinner time requires more testing and injecting- I tend to finish my food a little bit later than everyone else because I'm pre-occupied with dealing with diabetes before I can even think about eating my food. I used to have a lot more energy before being diagnosed diabetic.
It's more effort than you think.
I have to inject my levemir and then test my blood sugar, if they are okay then I can go straight to sleep, however I need to take into account things like exercise that I might have done that day that could affect my blood sugar through out the night. If they are high I need to stay up a bit longer and do correction doses and keep testing my blood sugar- this is especially annoying if I am extra tired that day, the same goes for low blood sugar but instead of doing correction doses I am force-feeding myself glucose tablets. If you look beside my bed before I go to sleep there is normally a big glass of water and glucose tablets, I remember before being diagnosed type one and I could easily get through the night with just one sip of water.
During the night:
Sometimes I can wake up sweaty and shaky, this means my blood sugar has dropped during the night and I need to correct it fast. Whenever I wake up with a low blood sugar I almost feel a sense of relief because I actually woke up to treat it before anything terrible happened. If I have high blood sugar I may not be able to fall asleep at all because my night would be occupied with running back and forth to the loo, injecting insulin, testing blood sugar and running up and down the stairs to get drinks of water. Nights like these absolutely exhaust me.
Then when I finally get to sleep, I do it all over again.
A life with type one diabetes requires a lot of effort- it also takes a lot of responsibility. It is tiring but it is also rewarding because on the days that i triumph with my blood sugar I feel a great sense of pride. When I walk into school in the morning, only I know how much background work was put into me even being there; people don't realise exactly what it takes.
And even though I've told you what my days are typically like with diabetes...if you aren't diabetic, or if you aren't a parent to a diabetic, then it is unlikely that you will fully understand even a fraction of what it's like. I can tell you what happens, but I am the one who lives a life with type one- who feels every finger prick, injection and blood sugar fluctuation.
But with out doing all that I do each and every day, I wouldn't be alive right now. I feel like I'm my own life-saver every second, minute...hour of the day- but it pays off because I want to feel good throughout the day. I have days where I slack in doing what I'm supposed to but try doing all of that each and every day and it gets tough...
but I know that I was given a life with type one diabetes because I am strong enough to live it.