The Complications of Type 1 Diabetes

The other day, on another blog I write called Resparkable Vintage, I posted about my contribution for the upcoming JDRF Dream Gala Auction.  That website is really all about my repurposed vintage handmade designs, but in that particular post, since I mentioned the JDRF Gala, as well as the fact that I’m a Type 1, I gave a brief explanation about Type 1, thinking probably most of the readers over there don’t know much, if anything, about it.

Mainly, I just said Type 1 is an auto immune disease, and that our bodies don’tt produce insulin on their own, so therefore we have to inject synthetic insulin multiple times on a daily basis to survive.  I also mentioned that it’s a complicated disease.

And it is.  It’s hard to explain to someone what all of that means- Because what does insulin do exactly?  And that thing I mentioned about having to take synthetic insulin- how do you know how much to take? And when to take it? And what happens if you take the wrong amount?

Because, as anyone who lives with it knows, there’s no obvious or predictable formula for getting dosing amounts correct.  And the way a low blood sugar or a high blood sugar makes one feels varies from person to person, and from day to day.

Here’s a small, seemingly unimportant example of what it’s like to have Type 1 that I experienced today. I can never be spontanious about eating something.  If I’m at an event, as I was earlier today, and they happen to be serving lunch, I can’t just pop food into my mouth on a whim.  If I had wanted to eat at this luncheon, I would have needed to know what exactly I would be eating, at least 30 minutes before eating it, so that I could take what I hope is the right amount of insulin to cover it.  But since I didn’t know in advance, and they put a plate in front of me, I just said, “Oh no thanks, I already ate a late brunch.” It was a lie.  And truth be told, I was getting a little hungry.  But if I don’t take my insulin pretty well in advance of eating, my blood sugar will soar, and I will be on the diabetes roller coaster of high to low blood sugar for a good part of my day.  And it will likely make me feel like crap.

So, I keep it simple.  I say, “No thanks” to unplanned food.  I eat my same (some would say boring) lunch most days because it’s just easier.

I also happen to be a picky eater by nature, so most people who know me (including my husband) just sort of roll their eyes at me, assuming it’s all about my pickiness when I say no to food.  But I don’t even know which came first, my extreme pickiness, or just keeping my diet simple to avoid… well, COMPLICATIONS.

I don’t bother to explain these things.  It’s easier just to tell a little white lie.  “No thanks, my stomach’s a little upset.”  Or, like today, “No thanks.  I ate a late breakfast and didn’t realize there would be food here!”

Type 1.  It’s complicated.

Type 1 Isn’t Just for Juveniles

There are a lot of misconceptions about Type 1 Diabetes. I’ve been told that I don’t look diabetic. I’ve been asked if my diabetes has gotten any better– as if I’m sick but on the road to recovery. I’ve had people assume I’ve had diabetes since childhood. Anyone that lives with Type 1 has probably heard these things and a whole host of others.

I was 25 years old when I was diagnosed. The misinformed often think this adult-aged onset of Type 1 is rare.  But it isn’t. I think it’s the main reason why Type 1 is no longer referred to as Juvenile Diabetes.  For one, not everyone is a juvenile when they get it.  More importantly, it isn’t just a condition you have at a young age.  Once you have it, you’re always going to have it.  Changing your diet, losing weight, taking medication, or taking some supplement isn’t going to make Type 1 Diabetes go away. You don’t get Type 1 because of your lifestyle, and you can’t get rid of it by making lifestyle changes either. It’s an auto-immune disease.

I’ve met and heard from lots of other Type 1s that were diagnosed as adults.  Many of them were first wrongly told they had Type 2 based on their age. Oral medications (often used in treating Type 1 Diabetes) and/or changing their diet did nothing to help reel in their ever climbing blood sugars. Of course, eventually, they ended up going to a doctor that actually knew a thing or two, and got the correct diagnosis before they died.

The bottom line is this.  Type 1 is an auto immune disease.  Type 2 is NOT. Age is NOT the defining difference between the two conditions. Type 1 effects people of all ages. It is not simply Juvenile Diabetes.