Diabetes has made me a stronger person
I am the healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been
I’ve always been an active individual, and eaten a fairly balanced diet. I enjoyed alcohol, and the odd fizzy drink, as everyone in their twenties does, but as far as I was concerned I was young and could get away with it.
But my life suddenly changed in November 2011 when I was out shopping one day with my ex-girlfriend. During the day I became more and more dehydrated. Nothing would quench my thirst. I chose sugary drinks – I didn’t understand what was happening – but for that reason, my mouth continued to feel like cotton. It was just so dry. My vision was growing more and more blurred. On a related note, I had been aware that over the last couple of weeks I had lost a lot of weight. I checked later, and it was actually around three stone. I felt weak and it was like I wasn’t in the room.
When we went back to my ex’s house I told her dad my symptoms. He was a GP and checked my glucose and ketone levels, then decided we should wait until morning to see if my blood glucose levels dropped over night. The next morning I was taken to hospital. After several tests, lying on a hospital bed, I was told that I was a type-1 diabetic and days away from slipping into a diabetic coma.
That night, I’m not afraid to admit I cried. I was upset that my body had attacked itself; I felt like it was very unfair. My life had changed dramatically overnight. I felt overwhelmed.
After being discharged, I knew I had to look after myself. I had to eat well and exercise more. It was the only option I had. My mum was upset, so I told myself that I would do it for her. I would try and manage my condition as best as I could so that she wouldn’t have to worry about me.
With that motivation, I was able, over time, to take better control of my diabetes, through diet and exercise and monitoring everything as best as I could. I started taking real care of my body. I ate well, exercised plenty, learnt all about stress management and developed a real passion for health and being healthy. I’d always been fit and active, played plenty of football and ran around a lot but this was something else. I read plenty of textbooks, articles, listened to podcasts, watched YouTube videos – anything I could do to learn and help me to manage my diabetes and become healthier, both mentally and physically.
I just wanted to absorb as much information as I could. There was even a time that I thought I would be the first person to beat Type 1 diabetes (we can all have a dream). Though I have managed to complete a half marathon as well as the 2014 Tough Mudder. These are events that I worried- when I was diagnosed – that I’d never be able to do again. Having diabetes has made me a harder worker, it’s made me healthier, it’s taught me so much about my own body and it’s actually made me far more confident: I like that there’s something different about me.
My advice to anyone in their twenties is to always look after your health and I want everyone to be aware of the symptoms for diabetes. Having diabetes is scary at first but once you accept that monitoring your blood sugar and injecting yourself with insulin is part of your life, it’s much easier to deal with. There are plenty of gadgets you can use to manage your diabetes, I use the app Dario – which is a brilliant device that monitors your blood sugar levels from your smartphone. The app can also be set up to alert important contacts of mine of potentially dangerous changes in my glucose levels. Dario also logs my meal and carb count, which are vital pieces of information to keep a track of.
I’m in a much better position. My physical health is on track. I’m in the best shape of my life and I feel awesome. Mentally, I feel good. There are bad days – but they’re outnumbered significantly by good days. I have my family and I have a wonderfully supportive girlfriend who has been my rock over the last year and does everything she can to make my life easier – even when I’m struggling and not much fun to be around. I have a great group of friends who understand my condition and just “get it”. I have found that having a close support group around you makes the world of difference.
My life is so much better and healthier all round than it was four and a half years ago. I am a much stronger version of myself. Diabetes is tough; there are so many complications. But I feel that without it, I wouldn’t be anywhere near as healthy and as happy as I am today.
This story is an adapted version from Dan’s blog, The Healthy Diabetic.
This piece is part of a series on health and mental health. If you have a story you want to tell, email [email protected] to get involved.