Friday, 30 November 2018

Common Misconceptions about Type 1 Diabetes

As with everything, there are so many misconceptions about type 1 diabetes, mostly made worse by the stigma the media causes. Here are some questions and comments someone living with type 1 diabetes can get:

At least its not cancer
Cancer and Type 1 Diabetes are not comparable at all, and by saying this you are making light of how hard type 1 diabetes can be to live with!

Invisible Disability - Someone living with Type 1 Diabetes
looks the same as everyone else!

Wow, you must have ate too much sugar as a kid!
Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which means the immune system essentially attacks itself, it has nothing to do with eating too much sugar or being overweight.

You can reverse diabetes if you lose weight, can't you?
This is a confusion between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, it can *sometimes* be put into remission through dieting, but with type 1 diabetes you are insulin dependant for life, as the cells in your pancreas don't work anymore.

I would rather die than inject myself everyday!
This one is quite insulting actually. If I didn't replace the insulin my body doesn't make, it is a death sentence. You get used to it, because you don't have another choice!

Can you catch type 1 diabetes from someone who already has it?
No! Diabetes isn't contagious, it is genetic.

Should you be eating or drinking that because of your diabetes?
People with type 1 diabetes can eat anything, they just have to know how many carbohydrates are in the food, give insulin accordingly and know how each food affects their own body. We are recommended to eat the same healthy diet as everyone else!

Someone living with type 1 diabetes can eat and
drink anything (within reason!)
Basically, Type 1 Diabetes should not hold you back. It is hard to live with, it requires constant control, but you can live life to the full nevertheless. Someone with type 1 diabetes will be dependant on insulin to live for the rest of their lives, it's not something you can grow out of.

Asking questions is a brilliant way to get to know what someone goes through, so please keep them coming, but also be sensitive about it!

Until Next Time,

Alyssa x

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Natalie Balmain - More Than Just a Type

I asked my friend, 'Natalie Balmain', who is founder of Type 1 Clothing, to write a blog for me talking about her life as a whole, both positive and negative. When living with type 1 diabetes, it is easy to let it take over , and Natalie talks about how living with type 1 diabetes has played a part in hers. Please read it until the end! - Alyssa

"I've been thinking of how to start this blog for a long time. I don't generally find it difficult to write about my opinions or experiences, but I do find it hard to be vulnerable.

You see, I have a lot to be vulnerable about. I've felt every hollow, stinging, shot-to-the-heart pain you can imagine, but because the foundation of my soul lies in loving everyone, (whether they be an old friend or someone I've just met on Facebook), I've never wanted anyone else to feel the pain I've felt. So, I never shared it.

When you watch my vlogs, or see me speak at an event, you'll see that my message is a positive one. My drive is to inspire others and make everyone around me happy. By nature, I'm a people person, and if I only achieve one thing in life it would be to help everyone else know that they can overcome anything, and live happy, fulfilling lives. Especially my type 1 family, because in all honesty, they are the some of the truest friends I've ever had.

So it upset me recently to hear stories from some of the young people I seek to inspire, saying that either friends, family, or they themselves, have used me as an example to demonstrate that 'controlling' type 1 diabetes should be easy, and if I can manage it so well, why can't they? And my heart sank. I've always sought to uplift people with the positives, but in that moment, I realised that the negatives are just as important. So, I decided that I'm going to share mine.

Firstly, I would like to make it very clear that controlling type 1 diabetes is NOT easy. My favourite meme on the subject describes it as "Walking a tightrope. Except you're on fire, the tightrope is on fire, and everything is on fire". Yup, pretty much sums it up. Over my 12 year tenure as a T1D, the most part was spent with an average HbA1C of 12. That's pretty horrific. I've had touches of neuropathy, signs of kidney damage, and a blue-light trip to hospital in 2017 in severe DKA with a blood PH of 7.0 (when I later saw the healthy blood PH range chart, 7.0 was labelled as 'Death').
Its only in the last year and a bit, and only because I've been fortunate enough to have access to technology like my Dexcom CGM and an insulin pump that I've been able to bring my HbA1C down from 12 to 8. And even that brought on haemorrhages in my retinas. It's still not perfect, but I'm getting there. Perhaps I'll even manage to avoid some complications, despite being told at diagnosis that complications were 'inevitable'.

So, maybe some of you reading this are not type 1 diabetics, and maybe you need an explanation as to why I'm still struggling after all these years to 'manage' my condition. (I can't tell you the number of times I've wanted to scream in someone's face when I've told them I'm a type 1 and they have responded with 'but it's manageable isn't it?')

Well the dirty little secret is, none of us are JUST type 1 diabetics. We are human beings with the same real lives and stresses and emotions as any of you, AND we have type 1 diabetes on top of that. Perhaps if none of us worked, or cried, or danced, or ever had a heartbreak or lost a loved one; if we had no lives at all, then maybe we could all have perfect blood glucose levels all the time. But life isn't simple like that.

On top of the fact that everything we eat has a different effect on our levels (even the same food eaten at different times of day requires different doses); exercise, having your period, stress, excitement, heat and so many more things impact your blood glucose, and that's before we even factor in mental health and life.

Mental health is the biggie for me. You see, I suffered with depression even before my type 1 diagnosis. When I was 5 years old, I lost my Mum to cancer. I only found out recently from a cousin that I didn't speak for months after that happened- my brain had blocked all those early childhood years out. 

And maybe it was the fact that I didn't have my Mum around, that I was desperate to be loved. Whatever the reason, being desperate is a sure-fire way to NOT make friends. I remember being at primary school and hearing my child minder ring up other kids’ mum's to invite them round to play. I could only hear one side of the conversation, but it was always "Ahhh.. ok, never mind", as those kids' parents made excuses for their children who didn't want to play with me.

Over the course of my young adult life, I got into trouble a lot. I hung out with bad crowds just to feel part of something. When I got my diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, the guy I had been seeing for just a couple of months couldn’t cope with it (and my severe depression), but I guess he felt too much pity for me to break up with me, and so I stayed in a 7.5 year relationship with someone who cheated on me from the first day to last, hoovering up any shred of self-worth I might have had left. (I'd like to add at this point that I don't actually blame him, we were both young and my diagnosis and depression was too much for either of us to deal with well).

When I eventually found the strength to leave, after a period of living on my friend's sofa because I had no home and no job, I got a place by myself and let strangers party in my flat just, so I wasn't alone. I ended up being assaulted in my own house. Since then, I've kept myself to myself because being alone has seemed preferable by comparison.

Even writing this now, I feel an overwhelming urge to apologise to you all for burdening you with this. But perhaps if I lay all my cards out on the table, it might make it easier for you to understand why managing type 1 diabetes isn't just about finger pricking and injections.

You could probably understand why people who have gone through things like that might have mental health issues, or even feel suicidal. But let's put that into perspective: what if someone with those struggles ALSO had type 1 diabetes, and was responsible for keeping themselves alive every minute of every day? Could you understand why that person just might not always feel like it's worth the effort? Why do we try so hard to stay alive when life itself can be so tough?

Now I'm not suggesting for a minute that everyone has been through things as extreme as I have (although many may have dealt with worse), but every one of us has struggled at some point. We've all lost loved ones, dealt with heartbreak, been fired from jobs or fallen out with friends. We all have good days and bad ones too. And those struggles impact us emotionally, and in turn, affect our strength and our motivation to look after ourselves. How many of you have gotten drunk to cope with things? You know it's bad for you, but you still do it. Well, type 1 diabetics know that not being on top of our control is bad for us, but we are only as human as you are.

So perhaps next time you judge a type 1 for not having good control, remember that berating us is only adding to the problem. Child or adult, all anyone in this world really needs is love, and support.

Love Natalie"

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

First dates with Type 1 Diabetes!

When you live with a physical disability that is visible to the people around you, it is hard to control how you are viewed because of previous stigma. Having an invisible disability means that you can control how people view you, and it means you have to decide how and when you let people in on what you deal with. On a normal day, I am very open to talking about living with Type 1 Diabetes, however when you go on a first date, it is very different!

Going on any first date is really nerve racking to begin with, knowing how to conduct yourself and how to act. You have to try and impress without being over the top, try and get to know the person your dating, and health issues aren't always on the top of the conversation agenda, however often they are really important to bring up. When I try to impress someone, I personally don't feel it is very 'inviting' to tell someone that I wear a cannula and an insulin pump 24/7, that I can get very easily get unwell and I might need someone to look after me. I always get afraid that they may feel it is more trouble than it's worth.

When I first started dating, I never brought it up until the second date, as I honestly didn't know how to handle things in that situation. Even testing my blood sugar and taking insulin, I would go to the toilet and take it to hide it more, but I feel now that it wasn't the best tactic to take.

I then tried to be honest about it, and mentioned it in the first date, but I was nervous about doing this and I made too big a deal of it, made it a big drama and went into the details. Living with Type 1 is a big part of my life, but it is only a small part of me and my personality. By doing this I made it seem like it was the only major part of my life.

I now tend to wear a small part of diabetes show, to try and give the impression that I have nothing to hide (which I don't!). For example, I will have my insulin pump visible by clipping it to my skirt/trousers, or I'll have my cannula from my insulin pump showing on my belly. I don't even mention it until my date asks, and I just get on with things, check my blood sugar and take my insulin as normal. Even though I'm not often confident about opening up fully, confidence is key because it isn't a topic I can or should avoid at the end of the day.

I have very limited experience on this topic, and this only really counts if you go on a date with someone you've never met before, but it has been a bit of a nerve-racking experience for me in general. First dates are difficult in the first place, but I added extra pressure onto myself that I really didn't even need to!

Until next time,

Alyssa x