So, here's part two of what I consider to be 20 essential things that you need to be able to cope with Type 1 Diabetes and all it can throw at you......
11. An Awareness of Long Term Complications - As well as the day to day aspects of living with Diabetes there are of course the long term complications of the condition that are always in the back of your mind. I will be the first to admit that I ignored the threat of some of these complications for a long time during my teens. I was told about them numerous times as a child and as a teenager but denial caused me to force them well and truly out of my thoughts.
Some of the long term complications are as follows:
Neuropathy (Nerve Damage)
Nephropathy (Kidney Damage)
Retinopathy (Eye Damage)
The effects of these can be devastating, resulting in - in some cases - blindness, kidney failure and amputations.
As a young person it is very difficult to imagine 'the future', especially if you are a teenager with your whole life ahead of you and the consultant is telling you what can happen to you when you are 40 or 50......that's a lifetime away to a teen!!!!
I now wish with all my heart that I had paid more attention and listened to what I was being told....it got to the point where my DSN at the time was threatening to take me to a Diabetes ward at our local hospital to see what could happen if I didnt sort myself out. It didnt come to that in the end as I was diagnosed with Diabetic Retinopathy and that gave me the harsh wake up call I needed.
I think it is essential that all Diabetics know about the long term complications of the condition and unfortunately this may involve shock tactics in some cases. If I hadnt been diagnosed with Retinopathy I think the only thing that would have made me sort myself out was seeing some of the horrors of what Diabetes can do if you dont pay attention to the disease.
I did end up in hospital a couple of times, staying on a Diabetes ward, due to repeated UTI's and if I hadn't already started to take control of my Diabetes following my Retinopathy diagnosis, then these spells in hospital with older ladies who were going blind, had kidney failure and nerve damage to their stomachs and intestines, would certainly have shocked me into changing - it was extremely upsetting and made me wonder what damage I may have already done and whether it was too late to reverse that damage.
I'm not saying shock tactics would be appropriate in all cases and I know not all teens rebel against their Diabetes but I can speak from experience when I say that complications can and will happen to you if you don't take good care of yourself and do your very best to keep your sugars under control and it's no good thinking they won't so always keep them in your somewhere in your mind.....even if it's right at the back most of the time!!!
12. A Diary - It doesn't have to be an old fashioned paper diary or calendar, it can be of the modern, electronic variety but I would certainly be lost without some way of making a note of all the appointments I have to attend......GP, hospital, consultant, DSN, physio, neurology, dietician, eye infirmary, laser surgery.....the list can sometimes seem endless!!!!
13. Great Memory – For remembering the carb values of different foods, remembering to make sure you have the necessary supplies / spares / snacks with you at all times, remembering to make sure you have enough supplies/medications and to get your repeat prescription sorted, remembering to test your blood sugar, remembering the glycemic index of foods and so on......
14. Organisational Skills - I have already kind of covered this one by talking about using a diary and remembering various things but you really do have to be organised and have the ability to multi task. It's sometimes difficult and can get overwhelming to keep up the juggling act that is Diabetes but the only way to keep all the balls in the air and keep on track is to get super organised.
15. Storage Space - Diabetics come with a huge array of 'stuff' and of course all of this 'stuff' has to go somewhere!!! The fridge of a Diabetic has a space reserved for vials of insulin / insulin pens and emergency Glucagon injections.....a cupboard or a large draw has to be dedicated to all things Diabetes.....blood testing strips and lancets, yellow sharps boxes, infusion sets, reservoirs, wipes for removing the sticky from infusion sets, glucose tablets, tablets for various Diabetes related ailments etc. etc.
16. Standard Come Backs/Ability to 'Bite Your Tongue' - Sometimes it can get frustrating when people say things like "Can you eat that if you're Diabetic?" or "You must have eaten loads of sweets when you were little to get Diabetes?" or "It could be worse couldnt it?".......It can be quite useful to have some standard lines to come back with - these can vary depending on your mood at the time!!! :o) I would tend to be quite sarcastic and say something along the lines of "Yes, you're right, my Mom fed me on a diet of only full fat coke and mars bars until the age of 10".
17. Self Awareness - Over the years you will get to know your body and how your sugar levels are affected by different foods, exercise, illness, stress, periods etc. etc. - Of course sometimes no amount of practice and experience can second guess Diabetes and it can throw you totally off guard and do the total opposite of what you expect!!!
18. Ability to Pick Yourself Up and start again when you’ve had a bad day / high sugar level / hypo / higher than expected HbA1c result or when things just dont go as you expected.
19. Trust in your family and friends to be aware of hypo symptoms and to know what to do in an emergency, trust in the medical profession and trust in yourself in knowing what to do in certain situations and to trust your instincts/what ur body is telling you.
20. Courage - It takes courage to do your first injection, it takes courage to do your first blood test, it takes courage to do your first infusion set change, parents of Diabetic kids need courage to do these things to their children when they are too young to do it themselves and it takes courage to watch your loved ones do these things to themselves. It also takes courage to carry on doing these things time and time again when sometimes the last thing you want to do is stick a needle in yourself or walk around with a 'contraption' (insulin pump) attached to your body. No matter how many years you have had Diabetes, I truly believe that every single injection, blood test, infusion set change takes courage. You tell yourself and others "Oh you just get used to it" but I dont believe you ever really fully get used to it. - even after 20 years despite the fact that I just get on with it because I know I have to, I'm not "used to it" and never will be. Diabetes is a constant challenge and is always there on our backs to try and catch us out - we can only beat it with courage......and plenty of it.
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