I have had Diabetes since the age of three, in fact I can’t remember what it felt like to eat something without having to think about insulin, BG testing or the sugar/carb content.
As with many people diagnosed at such a young age, my parents tended to do virtually EVERYTHING for me with regards to my Diabetes control, which actually had many negative effects….. RELIANCE/DEPENDENCY.
When I hit my teens, I was so reliant on my parents that I found self-management VERY difficult to maintain, whereby I became incredibly in-denial and tended to ‘forget’ a lot of the important behaviours involved in effective Diabetes management (especially BG testing!).
What didn’t help was the fact that during my teenage years, I didn’t know anybody else with Diabetes – which caused a lot of problems such as de-motivation, feelings of loneliness and in-denial. I would eat foods that would not compliment my BG levels and accidently miss injections, as I had nobody to influence me or remind me (poor excuse I know!).
It wasn’t until I was 18 that I changed my behaviour for the better to compliment my Diabetes control, which was shaped by two things – shock and peer support.
At the age of 18, I went to my yearly eye screening, which I thought would be the same as all my normal appointments – “Some small changes but nothing to worry about, come back next year”. However, even though the appointment was the same as usual (awful eye drops and prodding of the eyeballs), it was the letter that followed a week later that made me crumble to the floor. I read on my NHS letter “We have detected Diabetics Maculopathy/Retinopathy that needs to be treated immediately”.
A lot of diabetics are aware of what Retinopathy is – changes to the blood vessels at the back of the eyes, but it is when those blood vessels begin to burst in your central vision that you are then diagnosed with Maculopathy. I hated myself. All of the neglect towards my Diabetes as a teen had caught up with me, and I felt so angry and disappointed with myself.
Then it hit me….. I could lose my vision, I could soon become blind if I continued to behave the way I did towards my Diabetes. So this is where shock played an important role in kicking myself into shape. At the same time, I was sat in the dinner hall at college when I noticed a blue and orange pen in a young girls hand. I then realised…the pen was insulin! I felt overwhelmed as I had never been in such close contact with somebody who also suffered Diabetes.
I went over to her and introduced myself, whilst explaining that I too suffered from Diabetes. For around an hour, I asked so many questions and we shared so many experiences, which changed my whole perception of Diabetes, and also made me realise how important close monitoring and control was.
The girl I met had perfect control and was incredibly clued up with how to maintain good BG levels, something that I needed to do. I then felt something that I had never felt before regarding my Diabetes management…. MOTIVATION.
I kept in close contact with this girl, who was providing me with constant peer support, in order to motivate me to control the condition as best as I could. My BG levels began to slowly level out, I had more energy, I felt healthier and I was sleeping like a baby.
I was finally gaining control of the condition. As I felt so strongly about the positive effect peer support had on my motivation and control, it was then that I signed up to volunteer for Diabetes UK, whereby I managed and hosted the peer support services available from 2013-2015.
These included Skype calls that people could sign up to, to discuss issues involved in Diabetes self-management, as well as a peer support phone service that ran 7 days a week. I loved volunteering for Diabetes UK, as the experience was not only improving my own control, but also the control of others. In 2013, I was then awarded the regional volunteer award by Diabetes UK, something that I was so overwhelmed to receive.
Therefore, this is something that myself and Georgia want to continue to provide people, as it is such an important aspect of effective self-management. Over the past couple of years, like Georgia, I have become more and more interested in nutrition and weight training to help compliment my Diabetes, something that I have found to have a positive effect on my Hba1c and daily BG levels. By choosing the correct foods to compliment my BG levels, whilst cutting back on foods that have a detrimental effect, not only has my diabetes management improved, but my overall physical and mental health. I then chose to study nutrition and weight management in order to help inform, guide and educate other Diabetics who want to improve their overall fitness, health and Diabetes control.