A Day in My Life With Insulin-Dependent Diabetes

Meagan Esler

| Jan 1, 2012

What's it really like to have type 1 diabetes?  Every morning I start the day with a finger prick and two insulin injections.  It doesn't matter if I don't feel like it.  It doesn't matter if I'm tired.  There is simply no room for pre-coffee dosage errors, excuses, or whining.   Some mornings are good and some are bad, based upon my blood glucose reading. Its level varies greatly depending on whether my liver has released large stores of glucose during the dawn hours.

I wish the difficulty ended there, but we are just getting started.  After taking my shots, eating a healthy breakfast, and (hopefully) fitting in some exercise, I head to work.  A short while later, depending on my next finger prick, I decide whether a snack or a shot is in order.

Lunch cannot take place until another finger prick and careful carbohydrate calculations determine the amount of insulin I must inject to keep my blood sugar stable.  It doesn't matter that math was far from my best subject in school.  I must perform accurate calculations to figure out the proper amount of insulin to take based on the carbohydrates in my food.

When I'm dealing with low blood sugar, I get confused, sweaty, and shaky. I need fast-acting sugary snacks or juice immediately, even if I'm not hungry, to bring my blood sugar levels back up to a safe level.  I carry glucose with me and in my car at all times, and juice boxes fill a spot in the refrigerator at work.  

When I'm dealing with high blood sugar, I need yet another shot based on a sliding scale.  It's not just food that affects my blood sugars.  So many things influence blood glucose levels, including hormones, physical activity, stress, and illness.

At dinner time, I check my blood glucose again, take another injection, eat, and wait.  I need to allow two hours between dinner and bedtime for my last blood glucose check and my final shot of the day.  It doesn't matter that I might be tempted to fall asleep on the couch and have my contact lenses be my only worry.  For the rest of my life, the worry will be about my blood sugar.  My blood sugar at bedtime must be high enough to ensure that I will not end up unconscious and have a seizure in my sleep.  At the same time, it must be low enough to keep me healthy and avoid complications.

Diabetes feels a little like rocket science at times.  When I hear people judging how a person with diabetes takes care of herself, I want to challenge them to walk in our shoes for a while.  It isn't easy.  People with diabetes never get a day off.  We take care of ourselves, even when we are moody, tired, busy, sick, or stressed.  Our lives depend on it.

We all have obstacles in life to deal with.  Our obstacle may be diabetes, but we do what we have to each day. Diabetes will not stop us.

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Categories: Accurate Calculations, Blood Glucose Reading, Carbohydrate Calculations, Carbohydrates , Diabetes, Diabetes, Finger Prick, Food, Glucose, Healthy Breakfast, High Blood Sugar, Insulin Injections, Liver, Obstacles in Life, Snack, Type 1 Diabetes, Type 1 Issues

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Posted by Anonymous on 1 January 2012

As a type 1 diabetic, it sounds more to me that you are letting your diabetes control you, rather you controlling your diabetes. Maybe your doctor can give you some advice on how to make your day easier, e.g. with an insulin pump with CGM, instead of seeing diabetes as a large barrier, which I certainly don't think it is. I was diagnosed with diabetes 14 months ago, and after accepting it with a rather rational "Alright, now I am here, where do I go next?", I've managed to live a life that hasn't been changed except for the monitoring and injections - but hey, that's part of it. I even travelled most of South America as a backpacker, some of United States, and will be going to Australia to study. I hope you manage to accept your diabetes, we can't change it - yet..

Posted by Anonymous on 2 January 2012

My son lives your life too! I guess I live it with him. He is 11yrs old. I am terribble at math, but I am the one who does the math to figure out how much insulin he needs at every meal. Thanks for posting your story. I know that it isn't easy but it is something that you can live with and work with. Look up and not around. GOD is good.

Posted by Anonymous on 2 January 2012

I just read your story to my family in the car. You couldnt have told it any better. My 10 yr old was diagnosed 2 years ago and we go threw this same routine everyday. It is a challenge but with God we make it.

Posted by Anonymous on 3 January 2012

Your article came at the PERFECT time! I am in a new relationship (after a 32 year marriage) and my friend has little to no knowledge of diabetes. While I am on the pump, my routine is similar (and I was taking 6 injections a day before I went to the pump). I was just discharged from the hospital due to an infection. It was difficult for him to understand that the constantly high glucoses and the infection attributed to my irritability. He needs a diabetes 101 crash course but your article can begin to show him the intensity and work it takes to stay healthy.
Best wishes for health in 2012,

Posted by Anonymous on 3 January 2012

Great article. It's such a routine for us Type 1s which can be tiring but it's the way of life. It's not the testing that bugs me, just the balancing without a day off. But at the day's end, you've done it again and close the book thanking God it usually was a fine day. I've done it for 35 years. All's well with no complications for lucky me. Adding celiac disease to the day's balancing act is another issue for me. You do what you have to do.

Posted by Anonymous on 3 January 2012

Why whine about it? There is nothing unusual about your story. It seems that your diagnosis is fairly recent. Get over it, and get going. I'm saying this about the article because I have had type 1 for 43 years. Hopefully, you will last this long.

Posted by Anonymous on 3 January 2012

Meagen, I know exactly what you are feeling & expressing. I have been living with Type 1 for almost 30 years now, diagnosed when I was 14. Your routine is very similar to mine, 2 years ago I started using a CGM, Dexcom. I love it, it is very useful info on what your BS is and most importantly where it is headed based on diet, insulin & exercise. I highly recommend that you consider it. It frees you, reduces finger pricks, and provides high & low alerts to help head off any problems before they occur. I too had many scarey low blood sugars while sleeping or upon "attempting" to wake up.
Good luck!!
Melissa Doughty

Posted by kdommer on 3 January 2012

I know there are so many of us out there who deal with this every day but it sure is nice to see it and know how others are doing the same thing. If not for doing what you're/we're doing,we would have significant health issues. It is so very true that we NEVER get to take the day off from diabetes. I've been a type 1 diabetec for over 30 years and it's my constant diligence that has kept me from having any major complications. Thank you for this article - it is appreciate. Keep up the good work!

p.s. Look into an insulin pump - it sure makes the adjustments a lot easier!

Posted by Anonymous on 3 January 2012

This article could have been written about me. You described our daily lives as Type 1 Diabetics just as it is....no skipping, no days off, no choice but to think about what goes in our bodies 24/7. They say "misery loves company" but we do have a "voice of choice" to manage our "disease". I think of other people who have had the "choice" taken out of the equation. This is the case with my brother who is dying from cancer. That is why I refrain from whining about my condition. It puts it all in perspective. There is ALWAYS someone worse off than me.

Posted by Anonymous on 3 January 2012

Yeah girl, I've been type 1 diabetic for 6 years and you hit home with your frustrations. It would be great to have a day off from diabetes, and not so I could eat cake! But I love your attitude in the last paragraph, thanks for writing.

Posted by Anonymous on 3 January 2012

Thank you for sharing your "day". Having type 1 diabetes is a very difficult burden to carry, and I appreciate the way you told your story without complaining. My heart goes out to you. My husband also has type 1 diabetes. I know very well that there is never a day off. (Are you a candidate for a pump? It's not a magic bullet by any means, but it can make some things a bit easier...less finger sticks, less calculating, etc.)

Posted by Anonymous on 3 January 2012

great article! she hits life as a type 1 right on the nose!

Posted by Anonymous on 3 January 2012

Very well written, Meagan. You described the daily ins and outs of living with diabetes to a T. This disease is always on our minds 24/7/365 for the rest of our lives. Thanks for putting it in writting, now let the average/normal person read.

Posted by scolberg on 4 January 2012

While I appreciate your overall sentiment, my view on daily diabetes management is completely different. Having had type 1 diabetes since I was a child (diagnosed in 1968), every morning I get up, I am grateful to be able to prick my finger and actually find out what my blood sugar is instead of having to guess. I'm grateful that I have insulins that will quickly bring down a high reading and the ability to adjust my insulin doses (based on BG meter readings) so that I can manage them effectively. I am grateful that I have a manageable disease and the tools I need to manage it with--unlike the old days when I was diagnosed. I don't use my meter and insulin as justification for eating whatever or doing whatever I want with abandon, and my health is better because of it (and better than most people without diabetes that I know). At this point, my diabetes is a blessing, not a curse, and I choose never complain about having it or having to manage it.
Sheri Colberg, PhD (and author of Diabetic Athlete's Handbook)

Posted by Anonymous on 4 January 2012

I and many others suffering from this disease couldnt have written better..

Posted by cuemark on 4 January 2012

This is EXACTLY spot on !! Thank you for sharing, as many times we feel all alone, and fall prey to the "why me" syndrome.

Posted by Anonymous on 4 January 2012

There seems to be a split amongst readers who either agree with this article or not and I'm definately in the disagree group. I'm Type 1 too, and this article is so depressing it isnt funny. If a newly diagnosed person read this, honestly they would probably want to throw themselves off a bridge. Yes diabetes is hard, yes its a pain in the *** and yes we all wish there was a cure. However, with your attitude I fear that like the below reader has commented you are letting your diabetes control you rather than the other way around.

I understand that you may be writing this to people from a non-diabetes perspective to give them the idea of the challenges we go through, but the downside from this is that this articles full of negativity. I have a full time job, go to the gym 5 times a week, studying for extra qualifications and plan to move abroad later in the year. The simple answer is to diabetes is hard work, like everything else. We have to work harder, sometimes much harder, sometimes only a little bit extra than the "average" person to get through life, and if you do it right 99% of the time it will not hold you back.

Although diabetes is a serious condition, and can be life-threatening, compared to conditions other people go through (cystic fibrosis, leukaemia to name just a few), I think its not that bad is it!? As for people who judge us diabetics; which in my experience the ones who do use negative judgements are usually just in need of some friendly explanation - or failing that a punch in the face.

Posted by Anonymous on 4 January 2012

I also have type 1 diabetes .I have had it for 36 years I want a cure more than anything. I have the Insulin pump I have had it for 13 years The lows are better, but if the infusion comes out without you knowing I go into ketones with in a couple hours.As for complaining I think we all need to vent from time to time. some of us can not afford a cgm I have 7500 dollar ded. I have to pay for all my pump supplies out of pocket.

Posted by Anonymous on 5 January 2012

I read all the comments and recognize it is amazing so many of us are surviving so long. I just celebrated 47 years of survival...yes, I said celebrate. Unlike other serious illnesses, we are taught to mangage the day to day levels of Blood sugar. Cancer survivers celebrate, Why can't I? When I do the work under the guidance of my MDs.

Posted by Anonymous on 5 January 2012

After 45 years of type 1 diabetes, I can certainly appreciate your story, but I don't think it really has to be that hard. I am 51, in great shape, and I eat right and exercise every day. I test my blood 9-11 times a day, and I take 4 injections per day (I just feel like I have better control than with a pump). I have found, over these years, that attitude has 99% to do with the diabetes in my life....worry and ore-occupation can be detrimental to a diabetic lifestyle.Sure, I have had some scary low blood sugars, and some worrisome highs, too, but I deal with them and move on. I feel that I have a choice in the fact that, although I have diabetes, I can be as UN-stressed and happy as I choose to be, and keep my attitude positive!

Sure, it can be very tough at times, but we all have to play the hand we are dealt in life, so why not do it with a happy and UN-stressed attitude?

Posted by Anonymous on 5 January 2012

I have had Type 1 diabetes since 1968. I've dealt with hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia, but I've never had a "seizure." I really take exception to the use of this term. Normally, it's used by the press who really doesn't know any better.

Posted by Anonymous on 5 January 2012

I've been a type 1 since 1965. It is SO much easier being a type 1 now than it was then. Having at home glucose monitors to check your blood sugar levels instead of using ketodiastix, which were used to check urine ketone and sugar levels. That is how we decided how much insulin to have.

It does sound like you are a new diabetic. And to me, anyone who has diabetes less than 10 years is a new diabetic. When you've had it at least 20 years, YOU know when you're high or low. You may not know what you are, but you know you're one or the other so you go check yourself.

Being a diabetic isn't all that bad. There are diseases that are incurable, or not manageable. Diabetes is manageable.

Posted by Anonymous on 6 January 2012

I totally agree with you. As a mother of of a 15 year old who was diagnosed as Type 1 at 8 1/2 years I can understand the amount of frustration she under goes. Of course she has to face it but when she moves around with other normal children her age and seeing them live life without any control it really frustrates her.God help cos it is God who destined it.

Posted by Wayneman1000 on 10 January 2012

I can totally relate the the idea of never having a day off. It occurpies your mind constantly. Nearly everything you do (or don't do) affects where your blood sugar is headed - and it's always headed somewhere. Certainly it helps to have a positive attitude, but who can maintain a posiitive, upbeat attitude 24/7, 365 days a year. There will be times when the daily grind of it all gets to you. Those are the times when having a daily, established routine is so important.

Thank you so much for sharing your insights indo dealing with this manageable, but at times difficult and frustrating disease.

Wayne - A 40+ year type 1 diabetic

Posted by Anonymous on 10 January 2012

Life with type 1 diabetes is a sick joke! It's a wasting away death sentence one organ at a time. After 30 years of all the false prophets, rip-offs and empty promises I believe the discovery of insulin was simply a curse and not a life saver. If anyone thinks there will be a cure or a means of delivering insulin without needles, they are a fool. Kids today will most likely have heart disease in their 30's facing by=pass surgery in their 40's because thats what this disease does to us, and it's getting worse. Now you have people that are actually being diagnosed type 1 and type 2 due to the weight gain afforded by the insulin pumps and eat what you want mentality. Wait 'till the AP, the dual diabetes diagnosis will really skyrocket.... Ah, life with diabetes is so grand........

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