Tuesday, November 9, 2010

6 things i want you to know about [Type 1] Diabetes~

Today is national D-Blog Day, in which all of us D-Bloggers (aka, Diabetes Bloggers) are invited by the wonderful Gina Capone over at DiabetesTalkFest to blog about the chosen topic for that year. She's been doing this for 6 years, and I feel honored and excited to be invited to share with you....
just how much diabetes sucks.
Well, and a few other important things....:)

In my case, we're talking about Type 1 Diabetes:

1.
Ya, that's right. TYPE 1 Diabetes. For the love of God, get it straight.
I don't have Type 2 diabetes. I don't have Gestational diabetes. They are all separate, and if you have one, you can't have the other. I won't bore you with too much detail, but here's the gist:
-type 1 diabetes is an Autoimmune disease. Just like Multiple Sclerosis or Lupus, the immune system begins to attack a certain part of the body because...well, that's the million dollar question, isn't it? But the point is, it attacks the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas and voila! No.More.Insulin. Without insulin, you die. Doesn't matter if you're a dog, a pig, a horse, or a human....you'll kick the bucket. Why? Because insulin is literally the only "key" that opens all cells up to receive sugar---which is our fuel. Without sugar, we're like a car that runs out of gas. Without gas a car dies, right? Well, don't tell me about some special fuel (herb, drink, exercise, lifestyle modification) that my car can run on instead of...*ahem* You're getting the picture, right? If the door to my car is locked, your "special" car key won't open it. If it's the wrong fuel, the car won't start. Kaput. End of story: I don't make insulin and every person absolutely needs it to survive.

2. I didn't "do anything" to get Type 1 Diabetes.
I didn't eat too much sugar. I didn't go on a weird diet. I didn't hide an out-of-control eating disorder. I wasn't overweight. I could've been a triathlete (and know some people who are) and if my body began to have the Autoimmune reaction to my insulin-producing beta cells in my pancreas...even then, in such an "elite" state of health, I couldn't have stopped it. I was a stick-thin student who ate a healthy diet and biked everywhere when I got diagnosed. And guess what I was after? A stick thin student who ate a healthy diet and biked everywhere. I'm still me. No one asks for a disease. No one deserves a disease. So please stop trying to rationalize it and figure out what I "did wrong". Oh, something went wrong alright, but it wasn't anything I had a say in, trust me.

3. My Type 1 diabetes did not get "really bad", causing me to go on the insulin pump.
Insulin pumps are one of the most magnificent inventions. They mimic the body's output of insulin more closely to that of a non-diabetic's body. I won't get into all the boring details of what pumps do, but let's just say they are very complicated---and that's a good thing. Unlike daily injections of insulin, which are just sometimes [literally] a 'shot in the dark', insulin pumps allow people who don't produce any/enough insulin to set up the way it infuses the blessed little hormone into their bodies more closely to their personal needs. A child's needs are different from an adult's. A pregnant woman's needs are different from a non-pregnant woman's. An athlete's needs are different from a couch-potato's. But at the end of the day, if they all have type 1, they all need insulin. They just need it infused in different ways. This is the beauty of the insulin pump---it makes my quality of life more like yours. :)

4. If I'm eating a treat, don't tell me I can't.
Type 1 diabetes, as we discussed before is all about helping cells to open up to get that fuel (sugar) in. But what's sugar? Sugar is carbohydrate. Read: long chains of carbon [carbo] with hydrogens [hydrate] attached to each one. They're big molecules. The point I'm trying to make is that it wouldn't matter if I only ate salad for the rest of my life, there's still carbohydrate in lettuce. Think of other [higher] carbs you know well, though: bread (including whole grain), pasta (including whole grain), potatoes (not french fries), oatmeal, fruit, milk (lactose, still a sugar!), ...even those spelt-granola-whole-grain-blahblah-muffins you might love. I listed a lot of healthy ones because why? Because they're all still carbs. Since we can't process any carb (sugar) without insulin, it doesn't matter if we eat the healthiest of the healthy carb-options (which, as we all know, is certainly the best way to go!) we all still need insulin to break it down. So what I'm saying is, everyone should eat in moderation. Everyone should get their foods from the most whole, healthy source possible---especially carbs, considering all of the refined-carbs we're all faced with everyday: candy, cookies, fries, breads. So, if I eat a healthy, balanced diet and you see me enjoying a cookie...please don't say something stupid like, "oh, you can't eat that" or I will have to pour the tea I'm enjoying with my cookie over your head. Haha, just kidding. But really, don't be silly. You know better. You yourself knows you should eat a healthy diet and that everything in moderation is about as true of a statement as we can get when it comes to healthy living. Because we now know what's pretty much going on in the body of a Type 1 diabetic, we also now know that while they need carbohydrate to survive like everyone else, they need insulin to cover whichever one they eat. And yes, carbs should be healthy carbs. But at the end of the day, I still need insulin for any carb I eat, so go easy on me and know that it's ok for me to have some treats.

5. If it seems like I check my blood sugar a lot, it doesn't mean I'm "not ok".
Knowing what my blood sugar number is helps me to make decisions about my food, my activities, ...my state of being, so to speak. And, because my state-of-being is being a Type 1 diabetic 24 hours a day/7 days a week for the rest of my life (unless there's a cure, but no one's holding their breath) I need to know what the heck is going on! Let me put it in easy terms: studies show that those who check their blood sugar more often have better control of their diabetes. Because that person knows what the heck is going on with their disease at the moment. What does that mean? Less chances of emergency situations and also long-term complications; better chances of a healthy life, a long life. And that's what we all want, right? :)

6. Diabetes royally sucks, it makes my life complicated and difficult. But...
diabetes has also taught me a lot about myself, about chronic disease, about self-advocation, about health literacy, about empathy, about....EVERYTHING!
Would I give it back? In a heartbeat. But some of these lessons, these experiences...the situations in which I learned how to be stronger and more determined about dreams, goals, hopes, expectations for my life...I wouldn't have without this beast of a burden. So just remember, some days I can be incredibly frustrated and upset about this disease that so randomly chose to come into my life. But other days, I have these moments where I'm like,
You know, I [might've] not felt as much compassion had I not been diagnosed with Type 1.

We live and learn. We grow and change. And as my little profile section says up there, "inflexible people become self-righteous and boring", I believe so strongly in my heart that I can still do anything I put my mind to with this disease. Even though sometimes it seems like my body's been invaded by aliens....;)