Having Type 1 Diabetes is a full-time job – there are no breaks, there are no off days. When mistakes are made, they come at the detriment of your health, both mental and physical. I’ve been living with this condition for the last 5 years and while I haven’t let it dictate my life, it has been a constant feature in anything and everything I do. It’s sort of this constant hum in the back of your head – what’smybloodsugardidItaketoomuchinsulinmaybeIdidn’ttakeenoughwhat’smybloodsugar? It never really goes away, but you do start to learn how to tune it out so you can focus on living your life.
That’s something that I feel as though I can handle. When it’s just me vs my blood sugars, I’m usually pretty confident that I can come out on top – it’s when I’m around other people that I find that things get a bit more complicated. Because it’s no big deal to inject yourself as many times as you need to when you’re alone, or inhale an entire box of orange juice during a low blood sugar in your own kitchen, but it’s a whole different story when you’re out with your friends and you feel your blood sugars starting to dip.
On more than one occasion, I’ve felt the all-too-familiar signs of a low blood sugar coming on and not spoken up about it or even asked for help. I’d just try to stop my hands from shaking and wipe off the beads of sweat starting to form as I hunted for a source of sugar. If you’ve ever seen me go really quiet on a night out before ordering a Coca-Cola and then chugging the entire thing in about three seconds, I was probably having a low blood sugar (no one’s that thirsty).
I do this quietly mostly because I don’t want to be an inconvenience, or worse still, be seen as overdramatic. People hear the term ‘low blood sugar’ and pass it off as something minor, when really an untreated low blood sugar can lead to you fainting, and even dying in some really severe cases.
I remember being late to a meeting and explaining how I had had a low blood sugar on the way, which caused me to have to stop and pick up a sugary drink from a convenience store. It was 100% true, and I was still trying to recover from it at that very moment, but out of the corner of my eye I caught a couple of people rolling their eyes – as though I was making it out to be a bigger deal than it was. Granted, they probably had no idea about Type 1 Diabetes or low blood sugars or daily injections, about carb counting or glucose meters or test strips, about HbA1cs or the difference between short and long acting insulin.
But that shouldn’t be an excuse. So if you’re going to take away anything from this article, let it be this: If you don’t know the reality of what a person is going through, reserve your judgement. Little interactions can leave a mark and make things even more difficult for people who already have a lot on their plate.
Hear more about Sheena’s experience here.