Separate names with a comma.
I'm going to break from my short lived tradition of having a moan at the beginning of my blog today. Things are just peachy! Or they would be if I ate peaches. I guess I'll go with things are just... omelettey? I do like a good omelette. Couple of eggs, bit of cheddar, some red bell pepper, you just can't go wrong. I've got a great mother, but if I needed a spare one I would choose Gwen from Gavin and Stacey. She knows how to make a good omelette.
So, I left off with me going along through university. I will never, ever look back on that time with anything but fond memories. I grew up during that time. I met the girl of my dreams, my ability as a pianist came on massively, and I made lifelong friends. I thought I had my diabetes licked too. Unfortunately, I was wrong on that count. I finished my degree in July 2008, with a 2:1 BA in Music. I was really pleased. My graduation ceremony came and went, and I wore a very nice blue graduation hat on the day. My girlfriend decided she would go back to where she grew up for a while, to live with her parents. Fear not dear readers, this was not the end of the relationship! We decided we would try the whole long distance thing for a while. I stayed in Bath, and moved in with three of my friends from my music course. Imagine if you will, the sounds that came from a house containing three pianists and a trumpet player. It was a good thing we had nice neighbours.
I realised after graduating, that I had run out of a plan. Everything in my life had led up to university. It had been a simple list. Do GCSEs, do A levels, get a degree. Now I discovered there was more to life. This was where I started a long, slow descent into the world of retail. I figured I would get a job at one of the local music shops. So did a lot of other people. Some of them managed it. I did not. So I ended up working for a cornish pasty shop instead. All day, I was surrounded by food. Most of it was the wrong type of food for a type 1 diabetic. Possibly not the greatest plan in the world. But I was in control of my diabetes, right? All would be fine! But then again...
I started having more hypos. Somehow, I avoided needing paramedics, but my housemates had to sort me out on a couple of occasions. One time we were grocery shopping, and I collapsed in the middle of Sainsbury's. Another time, I was due to start work at 10am. I was woken at 1.30pm by frantic phone calls from my boss, when my bloodsugars were 2.1. There were plenty more stories. I had a season ticket to the diabetic roller coaster. And somehow, I still managed to be in denial. The problem was, I liked hypos. Maybe subconsciously. Maybe I like to think it was subconscious, but I knew full well. Perhaps I always had. When I was little, a hypo meant that I would be allowed to eat sweets. People would make a fuss of me. A hypo was a rare occurrence back then. Now, I was scared of getting complications, but I was starving all the time. I was extremely addicted to carbohydrate, and probably had been since secondary school. If I had a hypo, it meant I could eat what I wanted. It was a very, very unhealthy way to go through life.
Despite my diabetes being a big problem, I had a good time living with my friends. I spent six months cohabiting with them. One of them was a genius. When the letting agent asked us whether we wanted to sign a six or twelve month contract on renting our house, he said let's go for six months. As it turned out, the house was horrendous. The heating broke, there were leaks, and plenty of other problems. We decided we had had quite enough of it in no time at all. And I missed my girlfriend. I would see her every three weeks or so, but it was rubbish when we had to say goodbye. She decided she wanted to come back to Bath. So in January 2009, we moved into a flat together. Once again, I made a promise to myself that I would have better control of my diabetes.
About two weeks after we moved in together, I had a big hypo. I woke up with my girlfriend trying to shove sugar into my mouth. The problem was, I didn't know who she was. I thought she was a ghost, and that she was trying to kill me. I burst into tears, and tried to force her away. Luckily she persisted and brought me out of it. Once I was back to normal, she broke down herself. It was the first time she had seen me have a proper out of it hypo. I felt awful that I had put her through that. So you might think I would change. Nope. I got firmly into the denial club, and assured myself it was a one off. Never mind about all the hypos I had when I was living with my friends. They were isolated incidents too.
Just before we moved in together, I left my job. The hours were too few, and I wanted to do something with my degree. Of course, I didn't know what that something was. So I spent six months being unemployed. I knew I didn't want to work with food again. You might think that being away from cornish pasties and the like would be good for my diabetes. Actually, it was the opposite. Without a job, I had no routine. Sometimes I would get up at 7 in the morning. Sometimes mid day. Sometimes I would be in bed at 9pm. Sometimes 5am. This was not good for anyone, let alone a type 1 diabetic. My body didn't know whether it was coming or going. I didn't find a job in music, and eventually found myself back working in the food industry. I got a new job round the corner from where I lived, in a delicatessen. I had a very nice boss, but unfortunately, I wasn't great at my job. I got on well with the customers, but I could hardly cook at all. That meant I was never in the kitchen preparing the food, which was a problem. I only had the role for about 5 months. My boss said that the financial climate was difficult, and he had to lose a member of staff. I was the logical choice. Last one in, first one out type of deal. And like I said, I wasn't really cut out for it. So another 6 months going to the job centre ensued. Less routine, more hypos, more highs.
I tried to hide my problems from my girlfriend. I knew deep down that my diabetes was not going well, but I didn't see the need to worry her. Of course, she knew something was wrong. She has since told me that she was scared to bring it up, because I would just shut the conversation down with an irritable remark. Eventually, I got a job at a local shop. It was still retail, but it wasn't food. That was in February 2010. I got a sense of routine back, and this did help my diabetes to a degree. Later that year, I also managed to find work one evening a week, as an accompanist for a choir. I figured things were really looking up for me. I had steady work, and I had a foothold in the area I wanted to go into.
Did the highs and lows go away? Nope. I was chugging insulin and sweets like there was no tomorrow. To combat hypos, I would use fruit pastilles. I bought the individual packs, because I thought it would be easier than the massive bags. Once I opened one of those, the contents would disappear quickly. However, I would get through so, so many anyway. When we did the weekly shop, I would get 10 packs of fruit pastilles. Probably, they would be gone in two days. Three tops. I have never been overweight, but i'm not sure how. I would go hypo so easily in those days. We could walk a mile into town, and that would be enough to require a pack of fruit pastilles. I lived in a scenario of go high, inject large amount, go low, have large amount of sugar. It was very trying on my girlfriend. And I was getting terrified of the longterm implications. Every time I went for an eye test or blood test, the results were coming back fine. But I wondered for how much longer?
I decided that I needed to find a solution. That was in 2012. In the next entry, learn all about my attempts to find a way to manage my diabetes properly!
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!
Welcome back dear readers. Unless this is the first entry you are reading. In which case, welcome! I started yesterday's entry with a moan. I am continuing that theme today. My arms ache. A good friend of mine asked me to help him carry some furniture yesterday. The words 'not too heavy' and 'short distance' were bandied about. It turned out that the table wine rack type thingy wasn't all *that* heavy. Just really, really awkward to get hold of. It took us 10 minutes to walk to the shop. It took us almost an hour to struggle back. My fingers, my arms and my hands are now all part of the not impressed club.
So, moan over, and on with the story! You may recall last time that I disregarded anything resembling sensible control. I ate what I wanted, when I felt like it. This was all throughout secondary school. However, I did take up a couple of activities which helped bring my HBA1C down. It came down from appalling to just awful. (I rate things on a sliding scale: Exemplary, excellent, good, ok, not ok, bad, worse than bad, awful, appalling, heart failure. Thankfully, I have yet to see the last state on the list). I found that I really enjoyed cycling, and was quite a fan of swimming as well. In fact, I enjoyed a lot of outdoor activity. Does anyone remember doing the bleep test at school? That thing where you had to run a set distance, while a machine emitted bleeps. The time between bleeps would get progressively shorter, so you would have to run faster to stay in the exercise. You were out when you couldn't get there in time. Most people hated the bleep test. For some reason, I loved it. I was a big fan of cross country as well. Don't get me wrong, I was not good at it. But I was not bad either. When all the athletic kids were off participating in school football matches, I would come in the top 10% of the ones left behind.
So I got out and cycled when I was not at school. My weekends and summer holidays were often spent on my bike. This brought my blood sugars down, although I was still way too high a lot of the time. It wasn't until I was doing my GCSE's that I moved down from awful, to somewhere between bad and worse than bad. Then when I was 16, I changed schools. I decided I had had quite enough of Grammar school. My GCSE results were as follows:. 2 A's, 4 B's, 3 C's and 1 D (Sorry Latin, you just didn't do it for me). Not bad results in my opinion. Better than I had hoped for. Technically, good enough if I wanted to stay. But I would have been grudgingly accepted. The deputy head phoned everyone on results day, to discuss the future. I will always remember what he said to me: 'Well, you can come back if you want, but I don't know that you'll do very well here. There are people who are better than you, and you'll struggle.' Thanks Mr deputy head. It didn't bother me really. I had already decided I was unhappy there. I had hardly any friends, and plenty of unpleasant memories. I had opted instead to go to the local sixth form college. It turned out that there, if you weren't amazing at maths and science, you weren't a pariah. I was ok at maths (B at GCSE), but science I was awful at.
Sixth form was the start of my attempts to take back control. Here, I found friends. I was focusing on subjects that I enjoyed, rather than a ton that I was forced to take. I had a reason to get up in the morning, and I started eating a bit more sensibly. My last appointment at the children's diabetic clinic was actually pretty pleasant. My levels were on the way down, and I made peace with the health team. From then on, I was moved to a 'half way house' between children and adult diabetic clinics. I was seen at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, and I can't thank the team there enough. They organised evenings where people could come and meet other diabetics, and share their experiences. We participated in different activities, and had a few trips out as well. My HBA1C came back into the 7s for the first time in years, and finally found its way into the high 6s. I was thrilled. In hindsight, I was still very poorly controlled. But it was better than before. That was something. I was also moved from 2 injections a day to a basal bolus regime: Lantus and Lispro. In theory, I could match my insulin to what I ate. I thought I could finally get back on track now.
The problem was, my eating habits were still unhealthy. I still ate the sugary snacks, now just giving myself large doses of Lispro to compensate. It was a lot better than the two injections a day method, but that didn't make it good. I found that I was having a lot more hypos than before. One time, I had 5 hypos in two weeks, which required either my parents to help me, or paramedics. On one occasion, I had a hypo about 2am, which caused me to have a fit. The paramedics came, and I was given glucagon to bring me out of it. The rest of the day, I was even more hungry than usual. So I ate loads, and took loads of insulin. I was exhausted from the lack of sleep caused by the hypo, so I fell asleep about 6pm. And had another hypo, and another fit. Paramedics out twice in one day. Genius.
The thing was, I convinced myself I was doing well. My HBA1C was down in the mid 6s. I failed to understand that this wasn't the only thing to consider. If you have a whole load of hypos, and a whole load of highs, you can have a low HBA1C. Needless to say, I still had a long way to go.
Next time, gasp in wonder as I recount how I left Essex, and started my time at university! You'll get the scoop on my successes, my many failures, and the one event that would eventually get me to take back control. Now I'm going to go and do some cycling.
So, here comes entry number three. This will be a fun one to write. It concerns the genius of my teenage years, and a true lack of any responsibility towards my diabetes. However, before that I want to have a moan. There are tasks in life that one must do. Some are fun. Some are less so. I have just had to do one of my least favourite tasks. I have had to... to... *gasp* the suspense!!!!... I have just had to change my bike tire's inner tube. Still, only took me half an hour this time. Last time it was at least three times longer. I always seem to get a puncture just after I have forgotten how to change an inner tube. I'm so glad another tube is there to help me. YouTube to the rescue!
So, onto the subject at hand. Last time I regaled you with a grand tale of a great young lad, who never had to worry about his diabetes. My parents did all the heavy lifting with managing my condition, so things were pretty darn great. Then I went to secondary school. At this point, I was walking on air. I passed my 11 plus (despite not realising there was a back page on one of the question papers), and was going to Grammar school. That meant I could say I was one of the smart ones. I certainly thought I was. I planned how I would make friends, and enjoy being one of the big kids at big school. Secondary school was the pinnacle of existence, the peak of maturity after all. Well it was when I was 11. My diabetes was something to think about, but I had been great up to this point. And I was one of the smart ones. I was convinced it would be no problem for me at all. Secondary school was something I would take in my stride too. I never struggled with lessons at primary school, why would the next step up be any different?
Life tried to warn me not to be complacent. Oh, how reality attempted to drop its subtle hints. Three weeks before I started secondary school, Dad was taking me and my brother camping. I was looking for some walkie talkies. I fell whilst searching, breaking my arm for the second time in my life (at the time of writing I have had three arm breaks, a fractured skull, a broken nose and two broken toes. All of these were done through brute stupidity by myself). So off I went to secondary school a few weeks later, with my arm in plaster. Perhaps I should have realised then that one doesn't merely cruise through life, not having to think.
I remember the moment that my fall from diabetic grace started. It was lunchtime on the first day of school. I had eaten my lunch as usual, and everything was fine. Then, one of my new friends asked me if I wanted a sweet. I think it was an orange tic tac. This was an unknown experience for me. I decided to go for it. I told myself to live a little, once in a while. I ate it, and found that I felt fine. It was harmless, on its own. What came next was not. You see, there was a monster at my school. It pretended to be my friend, when actually it was the worst thing I could interact with. It called itself the school tuck shop. I had never seen anything like it before. Somewhere in a school that I could go and buy whatever I wanted, this was like a dream come true.
It started off really innocently. My friends would go to the tuck shop at lunch time, and I wanted to be part of the gang. I couldn't do sport at the start of term, because of my arm being in a cast, so I felt a bit left out of the social bonding experience. I asked my parents for lunch money, so I could get the odd diet coke. They consented, and I would buy myself a sugar free drink. To begin with. You see, the shop also sold packs of skittles. I loved skittles. When I was at primary school, I would ask if we could walk home instead of being driven. It was about two miles. That way, I would be allowed a pack of skittles to keep my blood sugars from going too low. Important note; I was allowed one of the 'fun size' packs that cost 10p at the time. What I started buying now was the full sized bags. Because after all, I was just a child at primary school. I was much bigger, a whole three months later, obviously. I needed more food to keep me going.
I suddenly noticed that something strange was happening. My parents were starting to look at my bloodsugar results, and say that they were going too high. At diabetic clinic, my doctor noted that my HBA1C was going higher than usual. Nothing to worry about, but not the norm. When asked if I was eating anything different, I said no. After all, I had always had the odd pack of sweets, right? Mum asked if readings got more erratic during puberty. The doctor said this could be what it was down to. I agreed. This was nothing to do with me, there was no way it was my fault. So I continued going to the tuck shop. I also realised I would have money left over if I didn't fancy a diet coke as well as a pack of skittles. Well, I wouldn't want it to go to waste. I had about the right amount for a pack of starburst as well (or were they still called Opal Fruits back then?). So now, I wasn't buying a diet coke. I was buying a pack of skittles and a pack of opal fruits/starburst. But come on. I was a growing lad! I was going through puberty! (I wasn't yet, It took me until I was 15 for my voice to break, and even longer to get any facial hair). I was running round at lunch time, I'd hate to have a hypo.
Naturally, things progressed exactly as you would expect. My HBA1C continued to rise. I was also high on sugar the entire time. I couldn't concentrate on anything. My schoolwork went to hell. I used to be top of the class at primary school. I looked forward to end of year exams, because I would ace them. Not this time. At the end of year 7, I came bottom of my class for over 60% of my subjects. I know this for a fact. At grammar school, you're a statistic, not a person. Your grades are the important thing. On our exam results, they would give you the position you came in class. I came 32nd out of 32 on a lot of subjects. Other than music and english, I bombed hard. I got 35% for Geography. I thought about how unfair it was. Obviously this still wasn't my fault.
At this point I did the sensible thing. I sought help, got my grades back on track, ate sensibly and all was fine. Oh wait, no, it wasn't quite like that. Sorry, let me rephrase. I became withdrawn from my parents and healthcare team, continued to trail behind at school, and just kept getting worse and worse. However, I pretended everything was fine. I came up with a cunning plan. Seriously, this was genius. I tested and injected myself, and had done for a few years now. My parents knew my blood sugars were high because I told them my results. So instead, I made them up. And it worked! '5.6, well done!' Mum would say. 'Things are getting back on track, I'm so pleased'. She had no reason to doubt me. I had always had good control before. She didn't see me at school, stuffing sweets into my mouth. Things got into a nightmarish status quo. every three months I would go to diabetic clinic. My HBA1C hovered around the high 7s, before inevitably finding its way into the 8s, the 9s, and finally the 10s. I think my worst was 10.8. I couldn't lie to myself all the time, and hated writing down my results. So I stopped. Then, I would have a massive panic when I went to clinic, because if I had not been writing my results down, I would get in trouble. I didn't care about my poorly controlled diabetes. Complications happened to other people. I cared that my specialist nurse would tell me off, and my Dad would shout at me when I got home. So I would 'nip to the loo' when we got to clinic, and furiously write down 3 months of forged results. No one was fooled. My DSN would ask me to look her in the eye and tell her these results were true. Unfortunately, I had become good at lying. I would glare across at her and say 'I swear hand on heart that these results are all true'. All the frustration I was feeling, every bad decision I was making, I blamed her for. If I could get her off my case, I had won in my view.
Only I wasn't stupid. Not really. Only acting like I was. I knew that I was potentially damaging myself, and I was terrified. I dragged myself into a miasma of misery. I would run to the loo five or six times a day, checking my urine for blood. I was convinced I would see it every time I did. At night, I would lie there and promise myself that I would eat sensibly the next day. Inevitably, lunch time the next day would come around, and I would cave within minutes. I started getting wild highs and plenty of hypos too. I decided that as I was eating loads, I needed loads of insulin too. I was on a twice a day regime at that point. each injection had 75% long acting, 25% short acting insulin. I think I was meant to give myself around 25 units each injection. The dial went up to 60. So I just started injecting the maximum. My blood sugars were a bouncy ball. Crash, rocket, crash, rocket, the cycle continued. My parents tried to talk to me. They tried shouting. They tried being on my side. They were the best parents anyone could ask for when it came to my diabetes. But I was my own worst enemy. There was only one acceptable thing in my view; that I be allowed to eat what I wanted, when I wanted. Anything else was unfair. Except at night, when I was in bed, worrying. Constantly worrying.
So there you have it folks! Today's post was all about how I ruined my teenage years, and sowed misery amongst my doctors and my family. And of course, a warning about the pitfalls of getting a bike puncture (I already shudder at the thought of the next time I have to change an inner tube). Next time, read about my later education years, and the start of the turnaround! Sorry it was a grim one today, but them be the facts of the matter.
Anyone who read my last entry will notice my wonderful ability when it comes to continuity. I mentioned hats last time, and what do you know, I did the same with the title of today's entry! I think I'm done typing about hats now. They actually have nothing to do with my journey with diabetes. So last time, I went into my diagnosis. This time, it's all about what happened next.
It didn't take long for me to grudgingly accept the blood tests and injections. Eventually, I stopped trying to hide whenever the needles came out. Because you know what? My parents were cunning. They always went and found me. This was genuinely confusing. I thought I was amazing at hide and seek. Mum would count to 20 (or some other high number I couldn't yet count to), and I would rush off to hide. It would take her ages to find me. But now, she got me every time when I needed an injection. It was almost like she was letting me win when we were just playing.
Once I had accepted the routine, it was just something that happened to me. I did what I was told, because I was a young child. My parents on the other hand, they had to learn. They went to the meetings with the diabetic specialists, the dietician, and got thoroughly acquainted with how to manage a child with type 1 diabetes. I was in good hands. I had a mother who always put others before her, and had plenty of intelligence to back it up. I also had a father who applied his degree in engineering to everything. In his eyes, my body was a machine that needed the right fuel, and the right insulin amount to use it. So on the one hand, I had dad's calculating accuracy, and on the other, mum's gentle help. It was a great combination. My control was pretty amazing for the first few years as a diabetic. Of course, it didn't always run smoothly.
I have a habit. It's not a good habit. I subconsciously choose the worst time to experience misfortune, and go and experience misfortune. One time, I sprained my ankle when I was walking around with my (future) wife looking for wedding reception venues. And then there was the first time I had a big hypo. I was at infant school, in assembly. It was probably about two years after I was diagnosed. I was at a healthy weight, my broken arm had healed nicely, and all was going well. However, the thing about young children, they tend to use energy as and when they feel like it. I had been running around with my friends at break time. Afterwards, we went to the assembly hall. There was a general atmosphere of infant school children still wanting to mess around in the playground. My teachers were on the lookout for kids misbehaving. One of them noticed me, laying backwards and rolling about. She came over and said 'Young man, stop lolling around on the floor this instant!' Generally, I was fairly well behaved. My teacher looked over and saw me, and she knew this was out of character for me. Mum had also told her about my diabetes. The penny dropped, and she shot over. I was quickly rushed to the medical room.
MEANWHILE... Mum and Dad didn't get much time to themselves these days. Mum had two young children to manage, and Dad commuted daily to London for work. Therefore, Dad decided to take a day off. They would go out for a nice meal, and enjoy some time to themselves. Picture the scene. Two people having a relaxing day. They get ready to go to lunch. They are about to leave the house. Perhaps there is laughter. Was there an embrace at some point? There may have been, dear reader. Then, the phone rings. Oh, it's their son's school. He's collapsed! Day cancelled, drama ensues. Thankfully, I avoided hospital thanks to some dextrose tablets and Mum's hurried instructions.
Generally, hypos were very rare for me as a child. The occasional one happened, but Mum had the hypo stop and dextrose tablets on hand just in case. I got on well with childhood. Diabetes was there, but it was just a thing. I even enjoyed some benefits. Every now and then, I would get to go on trips. They were organised by a local charity, with the backing of The British Diabetic Association (Which is now called Diabetes UK). I got to go to Chessington World of Adventures one time, with a coach load of other diabetics and their parents. As far as I was concerned, Diabetes wasn't that big a deal. My parents were responsible for my meals, so I ate what I was given, when I was told to eat it. Planning my meals was fairly straightforward for my parents as well. You see, I had a phobia of food as a child.
To this day, I don't understand what I was scared of. If I had not tried something before, there was no way that it was going into my mouth. I could be extremely stubborn, and there was no way to change my mind. While my younger brother enjoyed cheese, pizza, curries and all sorts of other things (occasionally and in moderation), I would not go near them. I would feel extremely sick if someone tried to make me eat something unusual. I stuck to peanut butter sandwiches, sausages and burgers. And plenty of vegetables. I absolutely loved carrots and cucumbers. The dietician looked at my diet, and said I actually wasn't missing much. However, I wouldn't drink milk, so I was prescribed a calcium supplement.
This was a mixed blessing for my parents. While they had to make me separate meals to the rest of the family, it meant that my eating habits were predictable. I think that's probably what made my infant and primary school years so successful in terms of diabetes management. When Mum told me that some people poorly controlled their diabetes, I literally could not understand why. When I went to diabetic clinic, I loved it. My numbers were great, and the doctor and nurses were really friendly. At this point in my life, diabetic clinic meant that I was getting at least half a day off school.
In summary, at this point of my life, diabetes did not control me, or worry me in the slightest. To find out how that all changed, come back for my next entry! I reckon I will call it something like 'The plot thickens!' or something of similar intrigue.
Ok, so the title gave it away. This is my first ever blog post. I'll start with an introduction. My name is Charles Robin. Well, sort of. Ok, not really. My username is Charles Robin. Charles is my middle name. Robin is the animal that was on a Christmas card I happened to glance at when I was setting up my account. When I post on a forum, I prefer not to use my real name. That way, when someone looks at my business card and googles my real name, they don't have to sift through a whole load of stuff regarding my posts on random forums, before arriving at my website.
So, kind of introduction over! This is going well. Onto another introduction. My story, with particular reference to my diabetes. Today's entry: THE DIAGNOSIS! (Subtitle: DUN, DUN, DUN!)
I have been part of the diabetes club for a while now. I was diagnosed in 1990, at the ripe old age of 3.5 years of age (When you're 3, those half years are really, really significant). An important point; I did not get diabetes at this age. I may have had it since babyhood, if that's a word. My Mum tells tales of me drinking constantly, and weeing just as often as an infant. However, the fine healthcare team that dealt with me assured my parents that I was not a diabetic. No way. Don't be ridiculous. For about a year, as my weight reduced to half what it should be, the nurse my mum saw at the hospital dismissed her claims that something was up. 'He's got an infection, children get those. No, it's not diabetes. I checked. All them diabetics, they're different to your son, everyone knows that. He's just a child and he's light as a feather' Etc, etc. Readers wanting to unite their face with their palm at this point, I fully understand. I'm afraid I don't have the name of this fine healthcare professional, so the lynch mob will sadly need to be put on hold. Perhaps you could send some mean tweets to UKIP instead.
I look back fondly on the day I was diagnosed. It's one of my earliest memories. I was due to go and see my auntie. For a three year old (sorry, three and a half year old), this was momentous. I was going to be made a fuss of. Maybe there would be presents! I strongly remember standing in the hallway, waiting to go. Then, a long pause, as my mum fixed me with a lingering stare. She said 'I don't think we can go to see auntie today darling. I don't think you're very well'. I took this news poorly. As far as I was concerned, an unofficial christmas had just been cancelled. I tried to scream and cry, and throw the world's most convincing tantrum. Only I was tired. Very, very tired. The kind of tired that comes from sustained ketoacidosis. The kind of slipping into and out of a coma tired that repeatedly undiagnosed diabetes causes.
We went to the GP. He did a urine test. For anyone in the know, the dipstick should have been a light blue. Instead, it turned a bit darker. You know, the type of shade that a goth points to, and says 'Yeah, I'll paint everything I own, I'll paint it that colour.' My GP said 'Your son needs to be seen at the hospital'. Mum started asking how soon she should book an appointment. The GP wasn't listening, he was too busy calling an ambulance. Once I got to hospital, I was formally inducted into the type 1 diabetes club. I don't think there was a ceremony, or a rite of passage. I was probably too out of it to remember. My memory of being three pretty much stops here. According to reliable sources, I quickly became very practised at hide and seek. I decided to play this game every time one of those nasty people in white coats came at me with a needle. I didn't really understand I would be getting used to injections pretty quickly.
Now, the happy part! I got setup with insulin. Once my medication started, my weight gradually went up to what it should have been. Apparently, my main worry was that I would be in hospital over Christmas. That didn't happen. I was discharged, and my parents had christmas with a son who was healthier than they had ever seen him. Mum has since told me that she was relieved by my diagnosis more than anything. My condition had a name. It was a chronic condition, but it was manageable. I stopped wasting away, and everything was just peachy. Right up until the point I fell off a climbing frame and broke my arm at the age of 4. I still have a lovely scar on my left arm from that. I'm actually rather fond of it. My wife tells me it was one of the things that impressed her about me when we first met. (Never mind my grade 8 on the piano, I was a clumsy moron as a child. That's the thing for us to pass onto our kids).
So dear readers, that was the start of my journey with type 1 diabetes! I hope that you managed to hold onto your hats for long enough to read about it. If you don't own a hat, do yourself a favour and get one. I got bought a woolly hat for Christmas. My ears have never been less worried by the cold. But I digress. Part two of my blog will come soon. What will happen? Will there be villains? A dark castle? A valiant knight perhaps? Or just an account regarding further details of my journey with diabetes? Return and find out! Thanks for reading, and seriously, go and get a hat.