MENTAL HEALTH: BEING DIAGNOSED WITH TYPE 1 DIABETES

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Almost a year ago today I was rushed into hospital with possible Diabetic ketoacidosis and spent three days on a drip as they tried to get my condition stable. I was quickly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and was told that my life was going to have to change drastically. I was told that from now on I would be injecting myself with insulin multiple times a day and be responsible for controlling my own blood sugar levels and remaining safe. Keeping myself in range would involve drawing blood from my fingers throughout the day and having a glucose monitor and various supplies on me constantly. I was confused and I struggled to understand how any part of my life was going to remain the same. My head was racing and for a moment I was totally convinced my life would never be easy.  It turns out i was wrong. 

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I have actually been putting off writing this post for a while. I don't know that much about the science behind this disease and weirdly felt unqualified to talk about it. Then I realised that during those first few days the last thing I wanted was more hard to understand science information.

What i really wanted to know was that I would be okay, that my life wasn't over and that I could still have fun. And so, I thought seeing as I was coming up to one year with this disease, it would be a fitting time to reflect and offer a little bit of what I've learnt along the way.

So here it is. If you are newly diagnosed, struggling or frightened i want you to know that my life didn't end the day i was diagnosed. In fact it was the start of a new chapter that although challenging, has made me stronger, more confident and happier than I ever was before. 

Before I start though, I'm just going to post a few lines about what exactly Type 1 diabetes is as many people either don't know or have wrong information about the disease.

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So, Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that causes the insulin producing cells in the pancreas to be destroyed, preventing the body from being able to produce enough insulin to adequately regulate blood glucose levels. It is not directly caused by diet, exercise or other lifestyle related issues. It is a chronic disease in which the trigger cause is yet to be discovered, although many interesting theories do exist.

Now that's out the way, let's get to what helped me survive those crazy, overwhelming first few months.

Acceptance // 

The most important thing I did when I got diagnosed was to accept the reality of the situation. That is so much harder than it sounds I know but for me it was something that made all the difference. I knew I had to make a decision on whether to run away and hide from my disease or face it head on. I choose to fight. I choose to move forward and i haven't looked back since.

Finding a community //

Finding like minded people on the internet has been life changing for me. In my darkest days they were a light and I owe so much to every person who took the time to talk to me in those early days. I have made true friendships through my type 1 diabetes and we have a truly fantastic community ready to support, encourage and inspire.

Here are a few of my favourite Type 1 accounts. 

Asking for help // 

A few years ago I hated asking for help. Now you can't shut me up. Funny thing is, since I started opening up and asking for help my happiness has improved dramatically. This has never been more true than with Diabetes. I joined a few support groups early into my journey and they have been incredible. You can honestly ask them anything and within seconds you get a wealth of first hand experience and advice coming back at you. My suggestion is to join a few and let them know you are struggling or have recently been diagnosed. They will help however they can.

 I am a member of the following...

Doing Research (When Ready) //

 Something you may have heard in your early days is that you are the person in control of your diabetes. When you don't know the difference between Insulin and carb counting that is bloody scary. Luckily there are a few great sources of information out there that are easy to read, understand and digest. The book that is a MUST HAVE for any newly diagnosed diabetic is Bright Spots & Landmines. It's written by Adam Brown and is basically the guide he wishes he was given when first diagnosed. It is filled with amazing information and you can actually download it for free / donate from his website in PDF format. 

Another one which is super popular with people is 'Think like a pancreas'. This is better suited when you are ready to learn more but has become the unofficial textbook for type 1's.

Keep it in the day // 

 I learnt to just take it moment by moment. Sure enough time passed, days became weeks and before I knew it months had passed and those injections i was so worried about had become second nature. Life was continuing in the same way and I was slowly starting to learn more about this disease and how to manage it on a daily basis.

Now, I'm very aware that I have put a positive spin on this post and I want to make sure I'm being honest and open. Of course I have days where I want to give up. I don't want to be painting a picture which is false. I've had days where I've had to ask stranger on the tube for sugar because I was low and had run out, I've had days where my alarm was set every half hour through the night because I felt my levels were unstable and i was scared to sleep. I've had moments where I wished I didn't have this disease. Theres been dark days for sure, but the point's I mentioned above kept me moving forward. I now try to see my diabetes as a blessing.

That sounds strange I know but over the last year I have learnt more about myself and other people than ever before. Diabetes has forced me to see the good in every day and every moment. It has taught me empathy and to understand that everyone has a story and a struggle, whether it's visible or not. It has taught me to ask for help, to be open and be honest. It has taught me to be kind to myself and to others. In the year that I have been diabetic I have achieved goals, become a father and hung out of a helicopter over New York. I have become part of online communities, met people from all around the world and shared powerful experiences with strangers. 

If you are struggling, feeling overwhelmed or angry then please don't worry. I have felt the same way. Life is more than our diabetes though. It's more than glucose monitors and insulin pens. Life is an adventure so go and live it. We are all behind you.

David Gibbs.

P.S - if you want to ask questions, chat or geek out about the freestyle libre and other cool diabetes gadgets, don't hesitate to get in touch ;)

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