Continued from Part 1…
Practically, one of the most important things I did was make my diabetes easier to manage. I bought a make up bag to keep all of my diabetes things in one place, which made a simple but huge difference. I got a calendar to write in all my healthcare appointments and dates when I’d have to renew prescriptions. I bought a pill box for medication and nutritional supplements (unrelated to diabetes but still health related). I stock-bought glucose tablets so that I always had a supply. All these things helped me because I didn’t have that worry in the back of my head that I might not be able to find something, or might run out of medication. I made an expanding list of all the foods I usually ate and their carbohydrates, so I wouldn’t have to rely on looking at packets where my eyes often wondered to the calorie content. I also made sure I wrote down all my blood sugars, and with a therapist came up with the idea of making my own. This was when I was discovering my creative side and the idea of a home made personal record book instead of a clinical one helped me feel more connected.
Diabetes does affect your life and a big message I found myself thinking was ‘just get on with it’. I wanted diabetes to take a back seat so much that I refused to accept when I needed to adjust my life for it. After going into recovery and experiencing controlled blood sugars I soon found that if I was reading a book and my blood sugar started to go high or low, it would take two or three reads of a sentence to take anything in. This surprised me because I started to wonder how I’d been able to function like this, let alone study! Nowadays I am studying and before I am set to do work I take a blood sugar. If it is high or low I sort it out as a priority. Treating diabetes as an absolute priority was a new idea to me in recovery, and came to me through a therapy group which looked at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It teaches that without the physiological needs being met (breathing, food, water etc), any needs higher on the pyramid such as love, esteem, self-actualisation, e.t.c. simply can’t be met properly. This taught me that when my diabetes is poorly controlled, I can’t dedicate myself to anything else, including my family, friends, successful employment or study.
I used to be very reluctant to tell employers or people at university about my diabetes because I didn’t want them to over react or treat me differently. When I came into recovery I made a point of making sure everyone I worked for was aware. That way I could just say the word and be allowed to take a ten-minute break to sort things out. I have found all my employers to be very accepting of that and if they weren’t I would be aware that I actually have rights in this area as well. In terms of exam arrangements, back at school I would haphazardly take in a bottle of Lucozade and hope for the best. When I started university in September I made a point of having a talk with the disability advisors at my uni, and we came up with ways that could help me. As it stands I am allowed to take all my equipment into the exam, take breaks to test my blood sugar if I need to, and I am given extra time. If my blood sugar is high one morning and I know I won’t be able to focus during a lecture or seminar, I am excused. This works really well for me because it allows me to really look after myself while getting the most I can out of my life and studies.
The other thing I found difficult about my diabetes was health appointments. I found it hard to book them, turn up at them or get the most use out of them. I felt I was only going to see my blood sugar average (Hba1c). When I started engaging with my diabetes team I started getting a lot more out of my appointments. They could tell I was trying hard and they were very encouraging. I addressed my deep-rooted fear of blood tests and hospitals with my therapist at recover and began to look for meaning in the appointments. I found myself having questions which came up, and making sure I was on top of who I needed to see and when. I was lucky enough to get onto a DAFNE course which I went to and made the most of, and my motivation went even higher as I met others with diabetes and started to feel like I was really worth being cared about. This also extended to booking health appointments about other things. Of course as a diabetic I find myself having to be at the doctors or pharmacy more than the average person, and I used to ignore problems in the hope that they’d go away. Now I find it is much more effective to face the symptom and take it to a doctor before I get carried away with imagining what it could be.
How I feel now
I didn’t choose to have diabetes, and it does require a lot of self-care every day. Sometimes I still feel angry or sad because it does cause some inconvenience. But ultimately my diabetes gives me more opportunity for self-care and looking after myself, and that is something I’m grateful for because I love the feeling of being looked after by the person who knows how to do it best (myself). Granted, it’s every day, which can be a little overwhelming. But recovery is about figuring out what you need in this moment. It doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past, or what could happen, it’s about what you need right now. So I take it not even day-by-day but moment-by-moment and it allows me to accept it in a much healthier way into my life.
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