Every type 1 diabetic (and some type 2’s, I’m sure) has those moments when you first tell someone you are a diabetic. Their expression sinks, and maybe they get a bit of a questioning look. They ask you all the same questions and make all the same comments you’ve heard a million times before. The only thing going through your mind is, “where do I even begin to explain this to them so they will understand?”.
A diabetic life is not everything you imagine. In fact, unless you live with a type 1, you probably imagine a lot of restriction and pain. That’s not all wrong, but it’s not all right, either.
Let me lay out the common questions, comments, and misconceptions I get when someone first finds out I’m a type 1 diabetic, and the answers and explanations of how it really is, at least for me. BTW, this is a similar post to one I wrote before, you can read that one here: An Interview With A Type 1 .
“So you take shots? Ouch. How often do you have to go through that torture?” Yes, I do take shots. I am soon to be a pumper, but right now I use insulin pens. I’ve been taking shots since I was nine years old. I take a minimum of four shots a day, but it can be even more than that depending on my blood sugar and what and when I eat. Shots can hurt a bit sometimes, but most of the time there is nothing felt. They can be annoying because it’s just one more thing you have to do every meal time and at bed. You get used to it. I’d rather take shots than die a slow painful death.
“You can’t eat sugar?” Ho-hum, yes, I can eat sugar, I just have to keep it to a minimum and I have to calculate the carb count and take insulin to counter those carbs in order to keep my blood sugar from going too high. It’s not just sweets diabetics have to be careful about, we have to count our carbs (all forms of carbs, these are found in everything from sweets to breads to starchy vegetables to fruits, and more), protein, and fats in order to keep our blood sugar normalized and our diets healthy.
“You have to do the finger prick thing? And shots, too, geez, I hate needles.” It does get old. Yes, I check my blood sugar by finger prick several times a day. The finger prick thing doesn’t hurt most of the time. Sometimes it does a bit, especially if I prick a spot that was just pricked not too long before and still healing. But I usually rotate fingers to avoid that. I also use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) which is a device inserted under the skin of the abdomen that reads my glucose every five minutes to help me keep track and be able to better control my diabetes. This is changed once a week, so, yes, that’s another injection. And, no, it doesn’t usually hurt, either. Needles aren’t worthy of your fear, they really don’t cause pain like people think; and when they do it’s so little and lasts so short a time it’s just not worth it to be afraid and shy away.
“I hear diabetes is very time consuming. All the blood checking and shots.” It does take extra time for the carb counting, blood checking, shot taking, doctor appointments, lab appointments, and everything else. But you get used to it, you know how much time you need and you make room for it in your daily schedule. Just like people do for other things.
“I hear having diabetes is very expensive.” Ain’t that the truth! I have pretty good insurance coverage. My doctor visits, hospital stays, procedures, labs, etc. are all low out-of-pocket cost. My CGM and pump and their supplies were all 100% covered which is amazing and wonderful. But my prescriptions: pills, insulins, test strips and other supplies are all fairly expensive out-of-pocket costs for me. There are a lot of supplies that go into having a healthy life with diabetes. And a lot of supplies means a lot of money.
“You’re diabetic, oh, OK, I’ll make sure to have plenty of veggies and diet soda at the party.” Thanks, but the normal spread will be just fine. I don’t need or want any special treatment. 🙂