1. Get the Diabetes Forum App for your phone - available on iOS and Android.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Guest, we'd love to know what you think about the forum! Take the Diabetes Forum Survey 2020 »
    Dismiss Notice
  3. Diabetes Forum should not be used in an emergency and does not replace your healthcare professional relationship. Posts can be seen by the public.
    Dismiss Notice
  4. Guest, stay home, stay safe, save the NHS. Stay up to date with information about keeping yourself and people around you safe here and GOV.UK: Coronavirus (COVID-19). Think you have symptoms? NHS 111 service is available here.
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Find support, ask questions and share your experiences. Join the community »

Entry Number Five: The University Years (Ending with the wearing of a graduation hat).

Published by Charles Robin in the blog Charles Robin's blog. Views: 258

Back by precisely no form of demand, I mentioned hats again. I don't know where this theme came from. Generally, I don't wear them very often. In other news, by writing this blog, I am halfway between productivity and procrastination. I made a faithful promise to myself that I would do some writing today. I have an aspiration to one day publish a novel. I put together a first draft last year, and now I need to make it worth reading (at the moment one has to look where they're going, lest they fall into the gaping plot holes). So I have convinced myself that putting down some words in Blog town is a good warm up. I know, it doesn't sound like a good excuse to me either. Still, onwards with the tale of my journey with type 1 diabetes!

Sixth form proved to be a lot better than secondary school, but my control was still a long way away from ok. As university loomed, I knew I needed to get my control onto more even ground. I was going from Essex to Bath, to study music at Bath Spa University (Bath is a small city, but it manages to have two universities, Bath and Bath Spa. Woe betide anyone who gets the two mixed up when talking to someone who goes/went to one of them). Almost 200 miles would separate me and my family, so they couldn't come running if I had a hypo. My safety net was disappearing fast, and I was going to be on my own. And I couldn't wait. School had been awful. Sixth form had given me a taste of freedom, of friends, and of being my own person. I saw university as the experience that would define me as a person. It lived up to that expectation.

I arrived in Bath in September 2005, my worldly possessions clogging up my parents' car. (I had spent 18 years not cleaning my room properly. Do you have any idea how much dust can accumulate in a room in that time? When I cleared everything out, I actually couldn't go back in there, the dust made my eyes sting so much). We eventually found my off campus halls of residence. I got to the front door of my new home, and spent a minute or two working out how to unlock the door. It involved swiping a card across the handle, which I will admit, I was more excited about than the situation warranted. I went inside, and there were two of my six new flatmates. One of them became, and is, a good friend of mine. The other one was first a friend, and then something more. Eventually we would share a surname. And she would come to save my life. Indeed, to save me from myself. However, I'm afraid that is a tale for another entry. We still have a few years of poor control to get through first, dear reader!

As I said, there were seven of us in our flat. Through some miracle, we all got along fantastically. I had some apprehensions about my diabetes, but my flatmates took it in their stride. They were fascinated by my injections, and blood testing devices. A couple of them even asked if I would give them a test. I obliged (Changing the finger pricking needle before and afterwards of course), ruling them out of the diabetes club. And things started off well. My parents had instilled a strong sense of financial sense into me. I had worked over the summer, and built up a fair amount to see me through the semester, along with my student loan. However, I wasn't going to waste money where I didn't need to. My student halls were about four miles away from campus. Most of my friends bought bus passes to get to lectures. I decided I would cycle instead. So five days a week, I would cycle an eight mile round trip. This really helped my blood sugars. I was desperate to be independent, so I tested more, and snacked less. At school, I would test once, maybe twice a day. Now I upped it to four times a day. I still didn't do sensible things like noting down the results, but it did give me more of a feel for how I was doing. I registered with the university doctor, run by a surgery which sent healthcare professionals to campus for appointments twice a week. I would see them every month or two to get my prescription, and discuss how things were going.

So there were some successes in managing my condition. Huzzah! There were also failures. Far less huzzah. Before university, I had only a small amount of experience with alcohol. The odd drink at family parties. I didn't see what the fuss was about. Now, everyone was going to the student's union, or out into town, to go drinking or clubbing. I wanted to be part of the group. During fresher's week, someone offered me a glass of Strongbow cider. I tried it and like it. I didn't get that cider is a bad, bad drink for diabetics; plenty of sugar. I had heard that alcohol lowered bloodsugars. I took this to mean that if there was sugar in a drink, the alcohol would just cancel it out. What a simple, easy system! Feel free to face palm at that logic. Fortunately, it was soon quashed. I went out with my flatmates, and drank about four pints of Strongbow. We also went to the burger van, and I had a burger and chips. Never mind that I had eaten dinner earlier, we were clubbing! I didn't want to have a hypo after all. Later, we got back to our flat. I tested my blood sugars. The meter just said 'high.' It could read up to about 35, so this was really, really bad. I was shocked and terrified. The last time I had been off the scale was when I was 9. I had pulled a brick archway down on myself and fractured my skull and nose. The adrenaline had also pushed me off the scale then. The next day I booked an appointment with the doctor, to discuss my control. He suggested limiting myself to two drinks on a night out. I did this to begin with. Two pints of cider was still way too much, but thankfully I didn't drink it for much longer. The night before we broke up for christmas in my first year, we went out for drinks. I was in a bad mood. I didn't want to go back to Essex. I already had a massive crush on my flatmate, and even though we weren't seeing each other, I didn't want to be away from her. I was also going back to the job I had done over the summer. I didn't enjoy working there, it was just a means to an end. So we had a few drinks. I decided 'What the hell, it's christmas!' and broke my two drink limit. All in all, I drank 7 pints of Strongbow. This led to an important part of most young people's lives; The first time alcohol makes you ill. After that fateful night, I have never been able to drink cider again. Just one sip of it, and I feel queasy.

Once I returned to university after christmas, things went pretty well. I stuck to the two drink limit. However, I was now drinking things like vodka and diet coke. In small quantities, that was fine as a diabetic. I was pleased when my first university assessments got good grades. And I got into going to nightclubs with my friends. I was very, very self-conscious. I am a good pianist and I can sing well. I cannot dance at all. However, my friends were going to clubs, so I went too. And I found something strange happened. When I had a couple of drinks, my nerves disappeared. I could dance, and not care how I looked. I came up with another cunning plan. If I drank a lot more, I would feel a lot better. So I did. When we went out, I would get through a lot of vodka and diet coke. I also discovered the delights of sambucca. Somehow, miraculously I avoided any incidents related to my diabetes in my first year. Looking back, I don't know how I managed it. One time, I went to a friends' flat. We started drinking there, then went to a pub, and then to a club. I don't remember leaving the flat. The only reason I knew I had been further was because I had a stamp on my hand from when I paid to go into the club. Then the semester ended, and I went home for the summer. I spent three months working solidly, and didn't have anything to drink during this time. Maybe it explains what happened next.

September 2006, and the start of my second year. This was where the grades started counting towards my degree. I moved into a house with some of my previous flatmates. There were six of us now. Thankfully, the girl I had a thing for was still one of them. a week or two in, some of my friends on my course said we should go out to celebrate the new semester. After three months away from alcohol, I didn't think that maybe I needed to start off slow. I had about two thirds of a bottle of vodka to myself, as well as an unspecified number of sambucca shots. This is the one and only time that I have thrown up in a public place since I was in infant school. Frankly, I was lucky to survive this one, let alone avoid hospital. My friends made sure I got back to my flat ok. I collapsed into my bed about 2am, where I stayed for the next 16 hours. I had lost everything I had eaten from the day before, and then been unconscious through that day. My flatmates were worried. They came to check on me. Somehow, miraculously, I woke up. I was in bad shape. I didn't know where I was, my head was throbbing, and I couldn't focus. I guess through instinct, I shoved some dextrose tablets in my mouth. Slowly, things came back to me. I ate breakfast at 6.30 in the evening, and promised myself I would never repeat that experience. Since that day, I have only broken that promise once. About four months later, I was in prague with some friends. I drank some czech beer that was far stronger than I expected. It made me ill again, although not to the extent of the first time round.

Other than that, I drank a lot less, and was much happier for it. So was my wallet. I never touched my overdraft in university, but it was a close thing when I was drinking ungodly amounts. I focused on my studies, and in 2007, I finally asked out my flatmate. She said yes, which delighted and terrified me in equal measures. At this point, I just generally let my diabetes sit in the background, and didn't pay it much heed. Therefore, I can't tell you for sure what my bloodsugars were like, because I don't know. I'm guessing that they weren't anything to be proud of. I went with the idea that I would eat when I felt like it, because my body was telling me to. That is a slippery slope indeed my friends. I was still testing, but more often than not I would leave my blood test meter at home during the day. So I slipped back to only testing morning and evening. If my blood sugars were normal, I would decide 'Good, I can eat something!' If they were in the 10s or low teens, I would think 'Well, at least they're not in the 20s, that's where the damage really happens!' I thought I was in control. I told people I was in control. I was not in control.

Next time, find out how life changed when I graduated, and how I reacted to diabetes out in the real world!
HazelD likes this.
You need to be logged in to comment
  • Meet the Community

    Find support, connect with others, ask questions and share your experiences with people with diabetes, their carers and family.

    Did you know: 7 out of 10 people improve their understanding of diabetes within 6 months of being a Diabetes Forum member. Get the Diabetes Forum App and stay connected on iOS and Android

    Grab the app!
  • Tweet with us

  • Like us on Facebook