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The Difficulties of Living With Type 1 Diabetes

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My diseases are a part of me. Presumably just as much as my hair color and food preferences are. For some, the difficulty of health problems comes from accepting the reality that it challenges your existence; for others, it’s the financial burden. For me, it’s the upkeep. As someone who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was a whopping 4 years old, I don’t quite remember life without this condition. However, what I do remember is wondering why I needed multiple shots a day when my fellow kindergarteners didn’t.

The difficulty stems from how physically demanding this disease is. I mean this in several ways. In particular, frequently fluctuating glucose levels bring you from one extreme to the other. Now, compare this to a properly working endocrine system where these possibly drastic fluctuations rarely, if at all, happen. Naturally, even tipping one way can seriously throw your mood off for the day. So, by accidentally eating too many carbs when treating a low and subsequently going high, your body becomes confused. Exhausted. It’s something that shouldn’t be happening in your body and it takes a toll. I find myself at an odd intersection of annoyance and pure exhaustion when and if my glucose levels fluctuate.

The difficulty comes from the “burnout.” This is where one may become so dedicated to checking their number so many times a day, adjusting their insulin levels and being on top of this condition all the time that it wears them down. For me, that usually lasts about a week or two – sometimes a month if I’m lucky. For all you “non-betics” reading this, I like to equate this similarly to studying for a huge exam – something of MCAT proportions. You may spend weeks or months preparing for this exam, taking classes, talking to people who’ve been in your same shoes, asking for advice on the best way to tackle a particular problem. I do the same. I talk to my doctors, diabetic community, friends, asking all sorts of questions. Except I don’t take an exam. It doesn’t end for me. For you, once it’s over, studying is the last thing on your mind. However, in my case, there is no exam; the end goal is just a fleeting number that is too easily manipulated by outside factors and stressors. It can feel as though I have to keep up a sprint-worthy pace to a finish line that may never come.

The difficulty comes from the stigma. I could talk forever about physical and mental health stigmas and why I absolutely despise them. I frequently overhear and am told diabetic jokes. I guess somewhere down the line I missed the memo that my health was considered humorous. I have to admit, it’s aggravating and frustrating when friends and family make what to them is a fleeting joke about the reality I live with.

The difficulty comes from the lack of awareness. It comes from the assumptions made from other non-diabetics about what’s considered “healthy” living. It comes from unsolicited, not medically sound advice from those not properly trained. Issues with type 1 diabetes and honestly any chronic illness come from around us as well as within us. No two days are alike. Meaning one day you’re down and the next you’re up. These ups and downs, ebbs and flows are a part of my and many others’ lives. Unfortunately, these difficulties will not vanish overnight; all we can do is give it the best we’ve got, take care of ourselves in the way we and our medical team see fit and put our best foot forward, striving for a better day than the last.

Thinkstock photo via monkeybusinessimages

Originally published: April 7, 2017
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