Sunday, 23 October 2016

Diabetes Burnout: It's Real

Diabetes Burn Out. Diabetes UK describe diabetes burn out as: Diabetes burnout, also known as diabetes distress, is a natural and rational response to living with a demanding, long-term condition.
 It’s the term given when people feel frustrated, defeated and/or overwhelmed by diabetes.

So many people I have talked that have Type 1 Diabetes have experienced this at one point or another. Everything just builds up and get on top of them, and it becomes harder and harder to control. And even though it happens to so many people, it is still a very stigmatised topic and something that is difficult to talk about. People end up feeling isolated, and frustrated, and overwhelmed.

Me Modelling "I am greater than my highs or lows" T-shirt
It is something I feel like I am experiencing now. I don't want to have type 1 diabetes anymore, and I get so frustrated and annoying by it. It does hold me back, and that's is the worst part. I can be surrounded by people, and still feel alone because no one will understand how I'm feeling. And I feel like I'm isolating myself, because I do become unwell quite a lot. And I don't want to be feeling like this anymore, but I can't help it.

Fact - Type 1 Diabetes is 24/7

There isn't a moment where I can forget about my diabetes. I have to think about my blood sugars and if I've given my insulin and if I have to adjust my insulin for the walk to the shops. It's exhausting. It is part of my reality and I find that so difficult to comprehend sometimes. It is draining having to put health on top of everything that sometimes it is easier to put it to the back of your mind and deal with it later.

The photo shown above is an amazing painting done by my best friend Lydia Parkhurst, who also writes a blog called "The Backpacker and the pod". On the left side it, shows the external appearance of someone suffering diabetes burnout. It just looks like a normal, smiling person. On the right, it shows how someone suffering diabetes burn out feels on the inside. The picture on the right shows the true feelings of the person, rather than the mask they wear on the outside.

Lydia said, "We put this pressure on ourselves to be normal and never let diabetes get in out way. I do this with my diabetes and I'm sure many other people do too. There is no such thing as a perfect diabetic! It's impossible. Yes, we all want a low HBA1C because we want to have the lowest risk of complications but at the same time Type 1 Diabetes is unpredictable."

Lydia and 1 at a conference
Her painting is amazing because it is so true. Diabetes burnout is real, but we often want to hide it from people, so we wear a smile and pretend everything is okay. But it is okay to feel this way!

I asked one of my good friends, Julia Edwards, to tell me her experiences of diabetes burnout, because she is also Type 1 Diabetic, and it is something she has been through and eventually overcame. She said "Over time I have learnt that there is no reason to beat ourselves up about this. It happens to more people than you probably realise." She also said, "DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP. You are not alone. You do great 24/7. It's ok to have an off day. Be kind to yourself."

I find it really reassuring to know that I'm not the only one who I going through this or that has gone through it. It's natural. Having a chronic disability that affects someone all the time will eventually become draining, so I just need to remember that it is normal, and I will get through it.

Julie Edwards aka Jules
If you know someone who is struggling with controlling their diabetes, please don't judge. Diabetes management is hard, and they may be struggling. It is a very personal thing, and it's something I struggle to talk about, so just support them and be there for them.

Be patient and don't judge anyone experiencing Diabetes Burnout!

Until Next Time,

Alyssa x

Lydia's Twitter: @lydiasara19
Lydia's Blog:
Julia's Twitter: @Jules1315

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Here's What you Need to Know about Type 1 Diabetes

I have met a lot of new people in the last month, and I have found it difficult to explain what Type 1 Diabetes is and how it affects me to so many people. Often I say to people I've only recently met "I don't feel well" and be very general about what's wrong and how I'm feeling. With type 1 diabetes, there are a lot of different scenarios that make me feel unwell. Here's the basics on what you need to know:

Low Blood Sugar

  • When my blood sugar is low, it means I don't have enough sugar in my body. I have to stop what i'm doing and replace the sugar. I usually use lucozade sport to do this.
  • It is really important that I don't just continue when i'm "hypo" or my blood sugar is low because that can make my blood sugar drop lower.
  • Things that can drop my blood sugar include exercise, alcohol, insulin and heat. 

High Blood Sugar
  • When my blood sugar is high is means I don't have enough insulin in my body. I need to give a dose of insulin, but that takes a while to work, so I may be feeling ill for a while.
  • When my blood sugar is high, I feel so sluggish, I have brain fog (so I may act ultra stupid), I am so tired and thirsty and I go to the toilet a lot. 
  • It takes a lot of effort to even walk up the stairs, so don't expect much from me in that period.
  • When I take about being "High", I am talking about my blood sugar, not drugs!

  • I wear an insulin pump to administer my insulin, and this is attached to my body through a cannula. It has replaced multiple daily injections which I previously used.
  • I count every carbohydrate I eat, which helps me figure out how much insulin to give for a meal. So if  you see me looking at a food packet nutritional information, do not just assume i'm on a diet!
  • Diabetics don't need to differ what they eat, just be healthy like everyone else.
  • I can still drink alcohol! I just need to plan, and make sure i'm safe throughout the night.

Type 1 Diabetes is really hard to control, so I can't always get it right!

Until next Time,

Alyssa x

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Dundee Freshers Week!

Freshers week: a week where universities tries to introduce themselves and encourage you to get to know each other as the first year starts university.

Before I arrived at my university halls, I found a couple of my flatmates on a Facebook group, Katie and Alex. They both seemed lovely and friendly, but that didn't alleviate my anxiety towards moving away and starting university. I feared not making friends and not being able to keep up, which I imagine are normal fears when starting university. When I arrived, after the madness of moving in and getting sorted, my flatmates and I sat down together, and they were so welcoming, and put me at ease at once. We were really lucky with the people in our flat. Everyone wanted to go out and be social, we even had a flat dinner out the first night.

My photo wall in my room so I don't get homesick!

What I found out is that freshers week isn't just about going out at night and drinking, it is about getting to know everyone, the city and what the university has to offer. I tried to take advantage of all the free events that were on to make the most of freshers week.

The first few days of freshers week was a blur. Lots of people were still moving in, and when we went to the nightclub in University of Dundee union, it was always packed. Dundee is a really friendly city, and it is crawling with students, so there was a great atmosphere. Everywhere you turn there is someone giving you a leaflet about the next event happening.

My Flat: Alex, Mel, Katie, Ruaridh and Stephen
On the Monday night, we decided to go to the union, and I had a bit too much too drink (I was trying to be careful). The morning after, I woke up with high blood sugar and ketones in my blood (Ketones happen when your body doesn't have enough insulin, and makes you really unwell). It gave me a shock, because I was just trying to have fun but ended up being really unwell and had to take a couple nights out of freshers week to recover. I have learned that it is okay to take a step back, know your limits, and stick to them.

There were so many events on this week. A sports and freshers fayre showing off all the sports activities and societies offered by the university, giving away free pizza and other food (one of the best parts), loads of acts in the student union including MTV, Nick Grimshaw and Blonde and an outdoor cinema showing Harry Potter (which was very cold!). All have helped me get to know the University of Dundee and the city.

Beca and I
Freshers week has been amazing, definitely a great introduction into student life. I'm dreading the workload of university now, having been given a full timetable and a long reading list, having to juggle work and social life, I feel it is going to be difficult. Trying to fit all these things in, as well as having Type 1 Diabetes, is going to be hard but I imagine it will be worth it.

Katie, Alex, Lucy and I in the Dundee Union
I have already made some amazing friends in my flatmates, Mel, Alex, Katie, Ruaridh and Stephen, and on my course, and have reconnected with a friend who I went to school with and has followed me to Uni, Lucy, and I imagine I'll meet lifelong friends.

Freshers week has been crazy but amazing!

Until Next Time,


Thursday, 8 September 2016

Volunteering.. Is it Benificial?!

I read in an article that it is more beneficial for retired people to volunteer than it is for young people. I completely disagree with this. Before I started volunteering I was shy and I would never question anything, but now I'm a lot more confident, I believe in myself and I am able to speak up for myself a lot more. It makes me feel like I'm doing a good thing,

When people ask why you volunteer you say because you want to help other people in the same situation as yourself. I volunteer for a Diabetes UK project based in Scotland called Just DUK 1t, which is a group  of young people with type 1, who have made a website, toolkit training and events for people of the same age, and lots of other amazing projects, which is run for young people by young people. It has opened up so many opportunities for me, and it is wonderful seeing the difference everyone makes, but mostly the social aspect of the volunteering is amazing.

Some of the amazing bunch from Just DUK 1t

When we meet up, we automatically have something in common. Type 1 Diabetes. There is never a dull moment, and when we get started talking it is hard to rein us in. When there is a task to be completed, we get distracted and end up going off topic, just because it is so easy to relate.

My little sister, Iona, asked me once why I volunteer for diabetes UK, and write a blog, because I don't get paid for it. I told her I love it because it allows me to be myself without people judging me. It helps me make a lot of good out of a bad situation, especially as I have met so many amazing people that help me through the hard times.

Me and some of the other volunteers with Dennis Robertson at the Scottish Parliament event

I have been given so many amazing opportunities through volunteering. I have been to the Scottish Parliament with Diabetes UK, I have been flown to Birmingham to speak at a conference, I have helped organise and hosted at Diabetes UK care event called "Type 1 in the City", just to name a few. It's exciting, and I get so much more out of it than if I was working in a normal job and earning.

Birmingham conference speaking about social media

I would say, if you ever get the opportunity to do voluntary work, jump. It may be daunting to start off with but it is so worth it in the end.

It has helped me gain so much confidence.

Me helping to host the event Type 1 in the city

And I've gained lifelong friends!

Some of the volunteers doing the Colour me Rad event

Until Next Time,

Alyssa x

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

I'm just a normal person. Except I'm Diabetic.

I talk about diabetes a lot online. Mostly because it's not difficult to answer the harder questions online, because people can't see me blush instinctively and I can take longer to think of a more meaningful answer. However, when people ask me about my type 1 diabetes when I am doing ordinary tasks and going about my everyday life, I get embarrassed. 

I like to think that I can do everything everyone else can, so when someone asks about something to do with diabetes, it interrupts what I'm doing and makes me feel embarrassed. I'll be having a normal conversation with someone when they suddenly ask "What's that sticker on your arm?" I know they are just curious about what my CGM is  and it's good for them to know what it is, but it just ends up reminding me that I do have type 1 diabetes and I'm not the same as everyone else.

It's little things that give me a reminder that I'm diabetic. Things like having to sit out of netball practice because I'm hypo and I can't see, let alone run about. Having to stop at the side of a country road while cycling because my blood sugar is dropping and I don't want something to happen on a little road no one ever goes on. Even just walking to the shops and having to walk extra slow because my blood sugar is high and my legs feel like 

I'm always told that I can do whatever I want to. Do whatever job I want. The new Prime Minister has proved that, but I don't want to be prime minister. I want to get through one day not feeling ill, not constantly have to explain why I'm testing my blood sugar, and meet new people without having to tell them why I'm carrying my pancreas in my pocket.

I can do everything non-diabetics can do, but I have to take extra precautions, make sure people around me are aware that I'm diabetic, and this can be tiresome sometimes. I do live a normal life. I play sports, play guitar, use the Internet way too much. I'm just a normal person. Except I'm diabetic.

Until next time,

Alyssa x

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

My Next Adventure - Moving to University

As of the 3rd of September I will be moving across the country for university to start the new chapter of my life in Dundee. I will be studying Community Learning and Development (it's like a branch of social work). I am scared and excited at the same time. It is such a new experience that I don't know what to expect, if I will fight or flight, if I will cope or crumple.

I find it difficult at home to control my type 1 diabetes, but I have my sister and mum to prompt to and make sure I do what I am supposed to. Sometimes it is overbearing but I appreciate it because whenever something has happened, both my mum and sister were there, making sure I was alright. At Uni, as I will be staying in halls, I will be surrounded by people who probably wont know about diabetes, which means I will have to make sure they know what to do if I'm ill. Most of the time, I will have to deal with my diabetes myself, and not have anyone to remind me that I do need to take care of myself. This is the scary part.

On one hand, moving away from home means independence. I can make my own mistakes and learn from them. On the other hand, I'll have to do everything. I will have to learn how to cook, do my own washing, do the shopping, book my own appointments, order my own prescriptions. At home, my mum does a lot for me, so it is going to be a culture shock having no one to rely on but myself.

The nights out scare me a lot. Alcohol lowers blood sugar naturally, and that increases the risk of severe hypos. Alcohol obviously gives the liver a lot of work, and because the liver is hard at work filtering out the toxins, it can't give out glucose to bring me round from a hypo, so I have to be extra vigilant. I worry that I will accidently get myself in a state and end up in hospital, or worse. I just have to find a balance and keep an eye on my blood sugar.

When I get a job I will need to explain to them about everything. At my previous job I was allowed to take a break when needed, but what if my new employer isn't as accepting? I find the "what if's" are the worst. "What if" my employer doesn't accept that I'm diabetic and I may need to take a day off if I'm ill?

As far as the University learning itself, I'm not as worried. I've met with the disability team at Dundee University and they are putting provisions in place for me. All the lecturers will know I'm diabetic in case I'm ill and I'll have advanced notes in case I'm not able to attend because of illness.

I'm both nervous and curious about what this new chapter in my life will mean for me. Meeting new people, having new experiences, all of it is daunting, and the "What if's" are scary

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

A Sister's Perspective

I asked my little sister, Iona (age 15) to do a guest blog for me. She decided to write about what it is like to be a by-stander of my diabetes. This is what she had to say:

It was the scariest thing waking up to hear Alyssa's pump alarm going off. I always feel a responsibility to help her out of her lows before she descends so low and is beyond helping. Initially, I told her to take a drink of Lucozade or take some glucose tablets, but she was still half asleep so was very stubborn. Eventually she agreed to take something. I thought nothing of it and fell back in to a relatively light sleep but kept one ear open for any signs of unusual sounds coming from the other side of the room. When her alarm went off again it really put me in to a panic. Waking her up was a scary moment because I worried that she was unable to wake but she did. Then I noticed something strange. She was jerking. When I told her to stop jerking, I realised she was unaware of the involuntary movements of her body. I had found out from previous experiences that this "jerking" was an early sign of an oncoming seizure. After learning this information I REALLY panicked and decide this was too much for me to handle alone, and I called my mum in a panic. She started Seizing and I noticed she started to pull her hair and make a screaming motion with no sound. I was sent to fetch the Glucagon that would bring her blood sugar back up, while my mum and brother stayed with Alyssa. At this point I was in tears and was no help to anyone so I just stayed out of the way of my tearful mum. So far the Glucagon has always worked and Alyssa has eventually come round but its very scary until she does.

Me and my little sister
One of the most recent seizures she had was when we were walking home from school.  She told me she was going low and treated herself with Lucozade whilst still walking home - I know now this was a mistake and she should have stopped and waited for the Lucozade to work. We had almost made it home and were at the top of our street when she collapsed and started shaking.  I ran home and got the Glucagon while Alyssa's friend phoned the ambulance. I managed to open the box and load up the Glucagon injection but was crying too much to inject so a passer by did that for me. I had to phone my mum to come. Lots of people gathered and everyone was really nice but it was a horrible thing to happen.

Going out with Alyssa now is always a struggle for me because I am constantly worried that she will have a seizure and I will be alone and responsible for it. I tend to avoid going out with her alone to try and avoid the worry that's takes over my brain when I do. I feel really bad for that because it makes her feel upset but it's the only thing that will work for me. Sometimes she gets really angry at me because I never do things with her but It's not my fault I feel this way!