Diabetes seems to interfere with many aspects of life such as eating, showering, relationships, driving… the list could go on and on. I have received many questions about how to handle diabetes while at the same time being a “normal” person. Although I haven’t had much experience in some of these areas, I know that if there’s a will, there’s a way:
1) Tell people you are a diabetic
Believe me, I know that being a diabetic is not the first thing you want to say about yourself, but it is so important for the people around you to know how to take care of you if something were ever to go wrong. I understand that many people are shy about having this disease and they want to keep it to themselves, but it is too important of a subject to hide. Diabetes sets you apart, but it doesn’t have to be in a bad way! Many of my friends were really interested when I told them about it! One way to get people to know about this disease is through your local Walk to Cure Diabetes. Awareness and fundraising are fun ways to get people to learn more about this disease that affects many aspects of life.
2) Eating in public
It is really hard to count carbohydrates with the kind of portions that are given in restaurants. On top of looking like a chemist trying to measure your amounts of food, you then have to give yourself a shot or a dose from a pump. I hate doing this in front of people! Of course, my family and friends are comfortable if I just use my pump and the table, but sometimes, I get the weirdest looks from people that have never eaten with my before. They freak out when they hear a beeping noise, or when they see that the thing on my belt loop is not an iPod. To make yourself look more “normal,” my best advice would be for you just to excuse yourself to use the bathroom, and use that time to give yourself a shot. As far as measurements go for food, use what you eat at home to practice eyeing serving sizes, and that way you will just know what to do when you go out with friends or family.
I really don’t know what to say in this arena, but just make sure you are monitoring you diabetes. Based on your blood sugar numbers you can be the judge what you can do. Just be aware and know what can happen if, for example, you take your pump off for a long time, or go dancing for hours on end.
Again, not an area I am familiar with. I do know, however, that alcohol acts first as a carbohydrate, sending the blood sugar skyrocketing, but then the alcohol blocks sugars going to your brain. This causes blood sugar to go very low, even into dangerous levels where a coma is possible. In short, if you drink, you will be a human yoyo, as far as blood sugar goes, while you have alcohol in your system. My best advice would be to have a friend with you that knows your low blood sugar symptoms, and of course, always drink in moderation. Testing your blood sugar periodically while drinking would be good idea. It is a tough call, so just be careful!
5) Water and bathing suits (ladies)
As a diabetic on the pump, summers are hard for me. I love swimming and lounging in the pool, but I can’t leave my pump off all day. Also, today’s bathing suit fashions make it hard to accommodate wearing a pump. I have no solution for the diabetic fashionista, sadly, but let me know if you have any ideas! As far as a day at the beach, I just keep my pump in as I lay out in the sun with a great book. When I want to take a dip, I test my blood and if it is good, I disconnect and go swimming for a little while. The only thing that I keep in mind is to keep track of my blood sugar. Also, it might be wise to bring a cooler or something so the insulin in the bottle or pump does not get overheated!
6) Driving and diabetes
I struggled a lot with driving and diabetes in high school. It is imperative that a diabetic tests their blood sugar before going out on the road! This is where the saying “I wish I would have listened to my mom” would be appropriate. I was not allowed to drive unless I tested my blood first when I was in high school, and I got the car taken away about 3 times because I didn’t poke myself! Even though it hurts and takes about a minute of time, testing before driving is completely necessary! Just think about it: not only are you putting yourself in danger, but everyone sharing the road with you too! That’s really the only reason I have; I know its painful and annoying to test blood sugar levels, believe me! However, I also value my life and want to be around for awhile, so I take care of myself.
Don’t let diabetes get in the way of life! I am going to Uganda this summer for goodness sake. It is so important to take care of yourself, but not if you cannot enjoy life. Go out there and have a great time with friends, travel, and make the most of life, just remember that diabetes is a part of your life, not the whole thing!
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