Coincidentally enough, November is both Diabetes Awareness Month and Epilepsy Awareness Month – and I happen to have both conditions!
So I’m going to dedicate two posts this month to Diabetes Awareness Month, and two to Epilepsy Awareness Month.
First of all- shout out to JDRF and Diabetes Canada for being awesome organizations that do amazing and important advocacy work, educate, fund-raise, and provide me and my fellow T1Ds opportunities to connect (T-ONE-D program) while learning super helpful info for managing this disease.
T1D Q & A:
Also shout out to my friend Lily who came up with some questions she thought people might have about diabetes, so I could do this style of blog post!
1. What is the difference between the two types?
I’m going to link to Diabetes Canada’s page on this, so click here for more info! However, I’ll do my best to answer this as well.
There are actually several types of diabetes, but the most common are Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2. Basically, type 1 occurs when your immune cells mistakenly identify the cells that produce insulin as “bad” cells and thus, destroy them, leaving type 1 diabetics completely unable to produce insulin. The trigger that causes this auto-immune reaction is still unidentified, and therefore, there is no cure! Type 1 diabetics are completely dependent on insulin injections to keep themselves healthy and well.
Type 2 Diabetes, I do not know as much about, as I do not live with it, however it differs from Type 1 in that the body still produces insulin, but it is sluggish to metabolize it or does not use it as effectively as it should. Type 2 Diabetics closely watch their diet, take oral medication, and sometimes, insulin, to manage their disease. There a lot of factors regarding the cause of type two, such as genetics, lifestyle factors and more! Neither disease simply results from eating too much sugar, as many are led to believe.
Please follow the link I provided if you want more info!
2. How do you treat type one?
Mainly, insulin therapy. But there is a lot to it, and many options when it comes to insulin regimes. I personally use an insulin pump (and no, it doesn’t “do all the work for me”), others use pens to inject their insulin, or the classic syringe. But insulin therapy consists of a lot more than just injections.
Treating type one consists of counting and calculating the number of carbs in everything you eat, giving insulin accordingly for everything, calculating dosages for your “background insulin” or the little spurts of insulin (or long acting doses in larger quantities) you take to mimic your pancreas, taking your blood sugar (at least 5 times a day), recording it, and evaluating patterns and trends and adjusting insulin dosages accordingly, accounting for activity level, sickness, stress, emotions, hormones, and so much more! It consists of treating low blood sugars, high blood sugars (both of which are awful and annoying and ultimately frustrating), visiting an endocrinologist about every three months, and basically, factoring your diabetes and blood sugar level into everything you do!
3. How do you handle a chronic illness on top of being in uni?
Ah man. Honestly, half the time I don’t know myself. Somehow I make it work. When it really comes down to it, it is all about prioritization. Using the days where I am feeling well to be productive, resting when I need to, putting my health above everything else, being honest with my professors and classmates about my conditions and utilizing any accommodations available are all things I do to make sure I can keep up to school. Usually, when things get chaotic, it’s often a game of figuring out which classes I can afford to miss to both get my upcoming assignments done while still maintaining enough energy to attend those that I need to. It’s a balancing act, and a tough one at that. There’s always a point where it gets to be too much, and usually, after a bit of a breakdown, (haha), I re-evaluate this balancing act and figure out which activities I can afford to cut, or need to, to maintain both my physical and mental health!
4. Does it affect your relationships in ways you didn’t think it would?
Not really, I guess? Like, maybe the start of relationships and stuff – I’m always worried about how people might react to finding out that I have diabetes, and what sort of questions or misconceptions they will throw at me. But everyone in my life has been extremely supportive and understanding, and for the most part, it hasn’t been as issue.
I do feel, sometimes though, feel like a burden, or feel guilty, for say, cancelling plans, or being extra exhausted because of my illnesses, or for complaining too much when I’m burnt-out…and this sometimes does affect my relationships negatively, because I feel like there’s just a bit of a divide between me and my “healthy” friends and family, based on the differences of our lived experiences and what it is actually like to be chronically ill. So yeah, I mean, sometimes it means I miss out on things, or disappoint people, or myself, but overall, everyone has been great, and I really am so unbelievably fortunate to be surrounded by such awesome people.
5. What do you wish the world understood about type one diabetes and the people who live with it?
Oh man! There is so much I could say to this. But to sum it up rather quickly, I wish that people understood that diabetes is a) not caused by eating too much sugar, b) a really complex disease to manage and deal with, both psychologically and physically, and because of this, is extremely tiresome, c) (in the case of type 1) has no cure, and d) affects every aspect of our lives in someway! it is overwhelming at the best of times.
If you made it through this all, thank you.
go hug a diabetic and spread some awareness for this deeply misunderstood disease!!