Tuesday 4 May 2010

All the small things

Although I am supposed to be writing about my experiences with CGM at the moment - I read a comment today on the Facebook site for Diabetes UK which made me think about how many 'small things' there are about diabetes, which only diabetics or those who are close to them will know all about.

Much in the same way that anyone may have hobbies or pass-times which come with pitfalls, the foibles surrounding being a diabetic, soon become commonplace to all those who share the disease. I thought it might be a welcome break from all things heavy to list a few of the 'silly little things' you learn as a diabetic.

I have no doubt that every diabetic who has had the disease for more than 5 minutes, will know that when it comes to retinal screening, the only way to do it is with a strong pair of sunnies! Why, because when they dilate your pupils so they can take a really good look at the back of your eye - to check for bleeds, breaks or hemorrhages - the pupil is forced open, letting in every little bit of light. This means that when you leave the screening centre, you feel like you are staring straight at the sun. I made this mistake many a time and ended up being led to the car with one hand over my eyes, laughing at the situation, and cringing at the 'pain' all the way, looking a little like I was taking part in a bet.

Every diabetic knows that when it comes to explaining diabetes, there will always be the one person who knows it better than you. They will question whatever you say, because a friend of theirs had an uncle who knew someone who thought he had diabetes. Because apparently life-time membership to the D club doesn't come with knowing anything about it. Because if I say I can eat the cookie because I can take an extra bolus for it, I'm probably lying. Because that's human nature - to question.

Every diabetic knows that when it comes to holiday, planning which bikini to wear or what maxi dress goes well with a tan is the bottom of your agenda. Instead, as a diabetic, you need to plan how many testing strips to take, how many glucose tablets you'll need. How many needles or cannulas you'll need and so on and so forth. It's basically the equivalent to gaining an A-level in maths before you even get to working out the exchange rate and how much dollar you'll get for your quid!

As a pump-user, you get used to the fact that there are more alarms on the damned thing than there are letters in the alphabet. Depending on whether you are too high, too low, running out of insulin or have forgotten your latest test, it never fails to tickle me that when my chest beeps (thanks to where I keep it), I almost never have a clue what its shouting about, and I have to start self-frisking wherever I am, much to the amusement and often embarrassment of the people around me.

As a diabetic, you learn that sometime, most likely when you least expect it, your diabetes will throw a hypo in front of someone who doesn't really know what to do. You know you'll be fine and all you need is a juice and five or 10 minutes to compose yourself and get the grey matter working again, and yet the person looking at you appears to have lost the ability to blink, and may in fact pass out before you even get a chance to say 'I'm fine, it's just a low'.

As a diabetic, you learn that while the rest of the world think junk food from a chain is bad, thanks to the money grabbers at the top of the food chain (no pun intended - but you have to admit its a good one!) the portions are so uniform and standardised that carb counting becomes as easy as "I'll have a Big Mac please". It almost becomes healthy to go, because you could set your watch by how predictable the outcome will be. It's almost like a free meal!

As a diabetic, you know that at some point in your life, you will do something realllllly stoopid when you're low. Lows themselves are not a laughing matter but what you do when you are mid hypo - in my book, is. I for one have gotten out of bed and because I'm low and not thinking straight, have been totally convinced that I've gone blind as a result of going low. I mean completely blind. My partner was trying to calm me down, and somewhere beneath the shouts of "Oh my god, I'm scared I can't see, I've gone blind", I heard him say "Wait there, I just have to turn the light on". PING, on goes the light, and I realise I'm not blind, but I'm still stood there with outstretched arms, bent knees and craned back, because that's how all blind people get around, apparently!

When you're a diabetic, you know that no matter how hard you try to clear up after yourself, all the tiny little tabs and flaps which come with your medical equipment get EVERYWHERE! When my childhood friend moved out of her house, she found 37 little white tabs, which would look like nothing more than a discarded bit of paper to those not in 'the know', but which were in fact the sterile tabs which covered up the needle on the pen-tip you just changed. The number of testing strips currently nestled in forgotten corners of our flat gathering dust, probably reaches into the hundreds because the little blighters get everywhere.

There are many things that diabetics get used to with this disease. Many of them are demanding, saddening and sometimes, destroying. So its important now and then to remind yourself of the small things. There must be something about diabetes which has made you laugh. Something silly you did during a hypo. A hilarious reaction you got from someone when you talked about blood tests or injections, which made you chuckle at their ignorance or squeamishness. There must be something.

You have to take time to remind yourself about it and giggle at the silly little things. As 'they' say, laughing is the best medicine.

Probably can't replace my insulin with it just yet though :)

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