A Day In The Life: Type 1 Diabetes


Every day is different when you are managing diabetes. I have Type 1 Diabetes and this is my fourth year since diagnosis. I was just seventeen at the time, it completely changed my life in every possible way and I had to grow up quicker than other people my age.

This type of diabetes is an auto-immune disease where the insulin-producing cells in a person’s body have been destroyed and no longer produce insulin. This, for me, results in a lifetime of daily self-administrated injections or, for other diabetics, an electronic pump attached to the skin.

Insulin is a hormone produced in our bodies that helps your body convert the glucose in your blood into energy. For someone with Type 1, the body does not produce insulin. This can be dangerous because the body searches for glucose to break down and, when it cannot be found, the body will start to eat away at fat and protein instead. Pre-diagnosis, or when a diabetic is not receiving the insulin the body needs, it can lead to extreme weight loss. Prolonged high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia) can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) which can be life threatening if not treated as soon as possible.

To give you more of an idea about what all of this means for me, here’s a snapshot of an evening for me.

A couple of nights ago, I had a late-night snack of two slices of toast and I administrated 6 units of insulin to cover the meal. I eat my toast and an hour later I feel extremely tired. It’s late, almost midnight so I assume it’s just tiredness and get into bed. Then my body begins to shake and my vision blurs.

Begrudgingly I get out of bed and check my sugars. They read 3.6, which is low. Ugh. Another episode of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) where there is too much insulin in my body. This can happen after a too high dose of insulin for meal as sometimes you can make a mistake with the portion of your meal and with carbohydrate counting. It can also happen after exercise, or consuming alcohol. On this occasion, I injected myself accidentally with too much insulin. It happens, and it’s a learning process.

I feel weak, my hands are shaking and I am desperate for sugar to bring my sugars back up to  normal reading. I eat raisins. Then I eat some complex carbs, in this case I over-eat – a common problem when a diabetics sugars are low. You are so desperate for this strange and scary feeling to pass that you eat everything to make it better, which ultimately ends up with an extremely high reading. It is an endless cycle. I get back into bed, shivering and shaking. My symptoms of a low blood sugar frequently change. Sometimes I’m freezing, other times I’m sweating. By now, I’m exhausted. I just want to sleep. I prick my finger and test the blood again, it’s 1am and they are 13.1 which I figure is okay to sleep on.

The next morning after an expected bad night sleep, I check my sugars. 20.0. Too high. Far too high. I need water, litres of it and I need it now. I feel sluggish, sick, thirsty and hungry. And much more exhausted than last night.

I make breakfast, my normal routine of porridge with soya milk and sliced banana. My blood sugar monitor allows you to input the amount of carbohydrates you will be consuming, and based on the ratios you have figured out for carb to insulin, it works out your insulin dose. Technology is wonderful, sometimes. It saves me all the mathematics hassle, although I still count the carbohydrate content of my meal. The monitor tells me 15 units of insulin, it seems a lot but I need extra units because of the high. The injection hurts more than normal. I pinch the bit of skin I plan to inject in, the thin needle breaks the skin and it’s so painful. In a moment of ‘DIABETES I AM SO DONE WITH YOU TODAY’ I have a little cry because, man, it sucks.

It may suck, but some days I forget I have diabetes because everything runs smoothly, no problems, no highs nor lows and no painful injections. It’s something I simply must get on with, there’s nothing I can do, yet, to make it all go away. Until then, every day is different. Every day comes with different meals, different emotions and different plans for the day.

There is not yet a cure, nor a definite reason for why the body’s cells attack themselves but every day I am full of hope for a breakthrough.

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