Being told you have diabetes is extremely challenging. For me, when I first found out, it really did feel like my whole world had been turned upside down. However, I found quite quickly that fear and despair subsided and turned into mostly positive energy and motivation. You could say that, in many instances, I managed to turn the negative experience of getting diabetes into a positive one.
In this piece I will explore the feelings I felt when receiving my diagnosis, how I dealt with these feelings, the positive lessons I took from becoming diabetic and how that has actually improved my life since. All in the hope it will help you, or someone you know, do the same!
How Does It Feel To Be A Type One Diabetic
During your initial diagnosis you feel all the emotions you would expect. On the day of me finding out, and during the following months, I would say that the most significant feelings I had were fear, uncertainty, frustration and anger.
My fear came from the fact I was quickly aware of the terrible side-effects I could experience, no one wants to go blind or lose a foot do they? I didn’t really understand the condition at all at that point either so some of my fear also came from the new experiences I was forced to familiarise myself with. Such as regular hospital visits, making myself accountable for everything I eat and drink, regularly testing my blood glucose, injecting myself a lot. I’m happy to be able to say that for me quite quickly this fear subsided as I began to understand more about my condition and more about the day-to-day management of it and I believe that’s the same for a lot of diabetics.
Receiving a diagnosis of being a type one diabetic raises an unbelievable number of questions, which it feels like no one can really answer, other than yourself. There are the obvious ones like:
Am I going to be okay? Will this kill me? Am I going to go blind?
And a million others such as that.
But there are others still. Ones that every consultant in the world can’t help you with. Questions such as:
Will people still find me attractive? Is this going to hurt my family? Am I still going to be able to achieve what I want to in life? Will I still be able to have a family?
Personally, in my experience I have found these questions are unnecessary ones to ask (and this is someone talking who has asked himself all of the above and many, many more). Really, by asking yourself these questions you are creating problems that don’t even necessarily exist.
Over time, as you become familiar with your condition and you start to understand that life really does go on, these questions will fade off into the distance. Something might happen every now and then which brings them back into focus but for the most part they won’t bother you. Eventually you will even be able to answer some of them yourself, through your actions or the steps you take in your life.
Diabetes is extremely frustrating. The biggest of all of these frustrations for me lies in the fact I’m still not entirely in control of it and truthfully I never will be. As someone who likes to know where they stand in life, who appreciates organisation and likes to have expectations set and met, this is quite hard to really come to terms with. However I need to, and so do you. Diabetes is an unpredictable illness, there will be days where you do absolutely everything right and then you have a hypo or go hyper.
There is no rhyme or reason to this, as time goes on and you become more accustomed to your illness you may notice that on days you’re particularly tired you need less or you need more insulin. Maybe it’s the same on days when you’re really stressed, or possibly it’s on days when the weather is a bit hotter than usual. Either way diabetes is something you can control to the best of your ability but you can’t truly control 100% of the time.
This is frustrating in itself, but even more so when it impacts your quality of life in terms of getting in the way of something you’re doing. Such as having a hypo halfway through a football match, or going hyper when you’re out for dinner so you have to take a corrective dose and avoid your favourite food. Ultimately, this is what it is and unfortunately there is little you can do about it other than come to terms with it and do your best to deal with it.
For me the anger related to diabetes is twofold. There is an initial anger that comes from questioning:
Why me? What have I done to deserve this? It’s not fair!
Like some of the questions and other feelings related to diabetes this quickly subsided for me. This was certainly partly down to the fact I came to terms with the fact there is no logic. The other anger that comes and goes is caused when it it really impacts on my life. Often, at those times you become frustrated with your diabetes and angry too.
When you’re out and about with your mates or your partner and have to stop what you’re doing because you go low, or if you become hyper during a social gathering and your mood changes, this can all lead to an upswelling of anger. Ultimately, it’s up to you to harness the energy and channel it into something positive.
This is quite often something that’s easier said than done but it is achievable. Next time you’re sitting there, in the depths of a tough low, take a second to think about all the ways in which that moment could be so much worse while you pop another glucose tab in your mouth.
Diabetes is shit, but there are many things worse than it and it’s important to try and give yourself that context when you feel your anger building.
How Does It Feel To Be Diabetic A Few Years On
If all the above sounded a bit morbid and serious I have some good news for you. From my perspective, being type one diabetic 4 years post diagnosis does still carry all those feelings and emotions sometimes. However, for the most part they are minimised and infrequent.
Really, life with type one diabetes is life, but just a little more complicated. I can’t say I miss out on much at all, there are very few decisions I have made differently due to diabetes than if I didn’t have it and I believe this to be true for most of the diabetics I know.
How Does It Feel To Have A Hypo – Low Blood Sugar
After reading up on what other diabetics experience and feel when they have a hypo it’s clear to me that, although there seem to be a few common themes there also seem to be a lot of differences. So, for me, the main characteristics of a hypo are: racing heart, cold sweats, lightheadedness, dizziness, sickness but also severe hunger.
If you’ve never experienced low blood sugar it’s hard to paint a true picture of how all these things feel together. It is extremely uncomfortable at the best of times and, at least a couple of times for me, it’s been genuinely scary. I am quite hypo aware, which means I generally catch a hypo before it gets too severe. However, the few times I have gone very low I have been close to collapsing with my heart beating out of my chest, my vision closing in and my legs ready to come out from underneath me.
With that being said though, if you can keep on top of your hypo symptoms and test and correct early on when a hypo is developing you should be absolutely fine. Further to this, on the few times a hypo may get ahead of you, correct it properly, take care of your wellbeing and don’t be too hard on yourself. Hypos can get the better of all of us!
How Does It Feel To Be Hyper – High Blood Sugar
Being hyper has far less of an immediate threat to a diabetic’s existence than going hypo. And, expectedly, the effects are similarly less imposing. For me, going hyper makes me feel hot, itchy, irritable and thirsty. The number one indicator for me that my blood sugar is too high is being way too hot. If I’m sat relaxing of an evening and suddenly start to feel hot all over, the first thing I will do is go and check my blood sugar.
If I am hot and my mood suddenly shifts then I am almost certain my blood sugar is too high. It’s important to understand that the less serious immediate symptoms do not result in less severe long term consequences. Low blood sugar has the immediate threat to life whereas high blood sugar is the long term enemy. Consistently high blood sugar kills blood vessels and nerve endings which leads to all the horrible results of diabetes that you hear about.
Of course, like going low, going high is an inevitable part of being a type one diabetic and it’s important to not be too hard on yourself when it happens. As long as you’re testing frequently and correcting properly you should be able to limit any negative effects.
The Positive Feelings Of Being A Type 1 Diabetic
At the risk of this page being all doom and gloom there are definitely some positive feelings I sometimes get off the back of being a type one diabetic. Do they outweigh the negatives? Definitely not, but they’re still worth thinking about from time to time, especially if you’re having a rough time of it.
You’ve overcome significant adversity – which is character building and gives you perspective
You understand so much about the body and how it works – allowing you to develop better overall health, both in yourself and your loved ones
You understand so much more about foods and healthy diets – allowing you to make sure you and your loved ones eat well and nutritiously
You can empathise with the challenges others are facing – making you more empathetic and supportive of them
You’re fighting every day – and becoming stronger every day because of it